In the province of British Columbia in the west of the wonderful country of Canada, located between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific coast, is the city of Vancouver, one of the best five cities in the world to live in. Vancouver offers the perfect combination of a typical American downtown, with a historic district called Gastown, and the direct proximity to the wild nature of Canada.
The city is known not only for its high standard of living but also for its developed tourism, excellent infrastructure, and a vast number of attractive attractions. Whether you want to explore the aquarium or go hiking or skiing on one of the three local mountains, everything is possible in Vancouver.
Vancouver, also known as VanCity, has plenty of fun activities to offer. Bringing you the best only, here is our list of the best things to do and the best places to visit in Vancouver.
Like every major American or Canadian city, Vancouver has a downtown where there is a plethora of places to shop in, eat and drink, as well as museums and galleries to marvel at. The downtown in Vancouver can be explored on foot.
If you don’t feel like walking, you can also use public transportation such as buses and the Skytrain or rent a bike and cycle around the downtown on established bike paths. Vancouver downtown is located on a peninsula and is divided into the districts of Robson, Yaletown, West End, Gastown, and Chinatown.
Yaletown: Vancouver’s Hipster District
Yaletown is a hip neighborhood with lots of restaurants, bars, and cafes. It is located at the south end of downtown and is the perfect starting point for a tour of Vancouver.
One of the best places in Yaletown, especially in the summer months, is David Lam Park. Here, you can sit comfortably in the grass and look at the False Creek – a strait that separates Vancouver from the southern parts of the city.
Other places in Yaletown are BC Place Stadium, where significant sporting events like rugby or soccer matches are held. In the winter, you can watch the Vancouver Canucks play field hockey at Rogers Arena.
The Vancouver Public Library is also located in Yaletown. There are great nooks for reading here and a lovely rooftop patio with a view over Yaletown that is free to walk on. Visiting Yaletown is definitely the perfect start to your Vancouver trip.
Stanley Park in Vancouver is the largest urban park in Canada, covering 404.9 hectares. It is also the third-largest of its kind in North America. In 1988, it was designated as a World Heritage Site. Stanley Park is located at the north end of the peninsula, and it is close to the downtown, making it an ideal place to visit at any time.
A network of walking paths runs through the giant park, with a total length of 200 kilometers. So, you can stay in Stanley Park for a very long time. Along the perimeter of the park are two lakes, Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon. On the southeastern tip of the peninsula, you can view totems, exact replicas of the originals carved by locals before colonization.
The highest attraction of the park is the forest, with its Douglas firs, giant live trees; there are also the Sitka spruces and hemlocks, which take large parts of the park. Interestingly, the forest was not established but grew naturally. However, between 1934 and 2006, larger areas of forest fell victim to natural disasters.
One of the most popular features in Stanley Park is the Seawall, which runs for almost nine kilometers around the peninsula on which Stanley Park is located. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, and inline skaters feel at home here and do not get in each other’s way, as cyclists and inline skaters are only allowed to use the path in a counterclockwise direction.
The construction of the Seawall was started in 1914; it was a true century construction, the completion of the measure was declared only in 1971. The path on the Seawall and beyond begins at Canada Place; it runs around Stanley Park, along English Bay beach, around False Creek before ending at Kitsilano Beach.
However, the Seawall is only one of many beautiful walking and biking trails in Stanley Park. In Stanley Park, nature lovers and recreationists will find 64 kilometers of well-maintained trails through the park’s interior.
The Vancouver Aquarium is the largest of its kind in Canada, and it was opened in 1956. Located in Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium is another must-see sight on a Vancouver sightseeing tour.
On more than 9,000 square meters, you can observe over 50,000 animals at the aquarium. There are 300 different fish species and more than 50 different reptile and amphibian species. The aquarium is home to numerous fish, amphibians, mammals, including dolphins, white whales, sharks, sea lions, seals, and sea otters as well.
A unique animal at the Vancouver Aquarium is Schoona, a green sea turtle found in 2005. Schoona had strayed into the cold waters near Prince Rupert and was found there severely hypothermic by a local resident.
The staff of the aquarium lovingly rehabilitated Schoona, and today the Schoona is a permanent guest at the aquarium. Other injured marine animals were brought to the Vancouver Aquarium to be rehabilitated and then released into the wild as far as possible.
In addition to the turtles, there are many other animals on the Vancouver Aquarium’s list of endangered animals. For example, the blunt-nosed sixgill shark, Steller sea lions, starfish that are threatened by a mass extinction, and many more.
You can easily spend two to three hours here and learn absolutely everything about the aquatic world around Vancouver. There’s also a lot of education about ocean pollution, and you’ll learn what you can do yourself to save our oceans. Visiting the Vancouver Aquarium is a great rainy day activity for you and your family.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
The VanDusen Botanical Garden covers 22 hectares and is laid out on an area of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The garden was originally divided into several residential areas to be built on with houses. After protests, the former railroad area was transformed into a botanical garden starting in 1971.
The creation of the garden was made possible by a significant donation from Whitford Julian VanDusen. On August 30, 1975, the VanDusen Botanical Garden was opened.
The VanDusen Park is considered to be one of the best garden complexes on the entire continent. This lovingly maintained botanical garden will enchant you with its great variety of plants. The annual highlight of the garden is the Festival of Lights in the VanDusen Garden, which takes place in December. If you are in the city around this time, make sure not to miss it.
One of the most famous and popular sights in Vancouver is Granville Island. The island is located between downtown and the city’s southern districts and is especially beautiful in good weather. Granville Island was created in 1915 by a fill between two large sandbars. The peninsula, located at the southern end of False Creek, was created as a land reclamation to attract industries.
From the island, you will have an incredible view of the Vancouver skyline, along with many other activities to do on the island. One of the biggest attractions of Granville Island is the Public Market.
The Public Market offers almost everything your heart desires, vegetables, fruit, fish, sushi, blinis, and more. However, the highlight of the week is the Farmer’s Market, which is always held on Saturdays. The Granville Island Public Market offers a fascinating array of colorful stalls, uniquely homemade products, and culinary delights. All fresh from the sea, the oven, or the vegetable patch.
On weekends it can get very crowded here, but if you like to get into the hustle and bustle, then this is the place for you. Around Granville Island, water sports activities like SUP and JetSki are offered. There is also a boat rental on Granville Island.
One of the must-try activities on the island is going on a brewery tour at the Granville Island Brewery, followed by a tasting. At Granville Island Brewery, there are many types of beer to taste; there are permanently and seasonally brewed beers offered. If you don’t feel like taking the tour, you can also order a set of different beer samples at the brewery’s own bar.
We recommend going to Granville Island with the False Creek Ferries, the Aquabus. This way, you can see Vancouver and also Granville Island from the water. If you are good on foot, you can also walk along the Seawall on Granville Island.
Located in the geodesic dome on the False Creek inlet, Science World is a museum designed according to the science center concept in the Canadian city of Vancouver. Since 2005, Science World has officially been called TELUS World of Science Vancouver (after a donation and acquisition of the naming rights by the Canadian telecommunications company).
The museum is operated by a non-profit organization, and it features permanent and changing interactive exhibits. The geodesic dome was one of the main attractions of Expo86, the Vancouver World’s Fair. After the dome was rebuilt, Science World opened in 1988.
If you have your kids with you on your Vancouver trip, then you should absolutely have a day trip to the Science World science center. Here, there are a lot of interactive exhibits and attractions on topics like technology, nature, and the human body.
Science World is also great as an indoor activity when it’s raining in Vancouver. There are some exciting experiments for adults as well, making it a fun activity for the whole family.
Museum of Anthropology
The Museum of Anthropology opened in 1947, and it attracts 150,000 visitors each year. In 1976, the museum moved to a new building designed by renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. The Museum of Anthropology is among the leading museums of First Nations culture in the Pacific region. The museum is one of the major tourist attractions around Vancouver.
The Museum of Anthropology is located on Marine Drive in the University Endowment Lands, an unincorporated area west of Vancouver. The museum and its garden are home to numerous sculptures, totem poles, and other cultural objects.
Despite specializing in the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the Museum of Anthropology houses thousands of things from every continent. You will find both historical and contemporary artworks and objects on display.
Probably the most famous exhibit is the artwork “The Raven and the First People” by Bill Reid, made from the wood of the Nutka mock cypress tree. The object was depicted on the $20 bill of the “Canadian Journey” series from 2001.
There are other works by Bill Reid on display at the museum. Other works include totem poles of the Haida and artifacts of the Musqueam tribe, which were resettled early by Europeans and decimated by plagues they introduced. Visiting the Museum of Anthropology is a must on any trip to Vancouver!
Chinatown in Vancouver is the largest Chinese district in Canada and the third-largest in North America after San Francisco and New York, and certainly one of the most exciting sights in Vancouver.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is historically valuable, having existed since the gold mining days around 1858, which is why it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2011. In the 1970s, Chinatown was threatened to fall into disrepair.
However, the neighborhood recovered when many wealthy Chinese from Hong Kong and Taiwan moved to Vancouver’s Chinatown in the late 1980s. This migration intensified when, at the turn of the millennium, Hong Kong left British sovereignty and became a Chinese Special Territory. Today, Vancouver’s Chinatown is once again one of the Pacific city’s most popular tourist attractions.
In Chinatown in the heart of Vancouver, you will find Chinese flair, colorful dragons, Chinese music and characters, friendly and polite smiling people, and of course, the Chinese specialties. Even the smallest wok on a small gas stove brings the culinary world from China to Vancouver.
However, it is not only the food that will catch your eyes here; there are also pharmacies with countless herbs and essences. If you’ve always wanted to wear a silk shirt, you can get one sewn cheaply in one of the many tailor shops. And in the writing offices, you can get beautiful characters on handmade paper.
One of the biggest attractions of Chinatown Vancouver is the Dr. Sun-Yat-Sen Park, a classical Chinese garden, opened in 1986. This is a place of tranquility and inner reflection in the middle of downtown. Another not to be missed attraction is the Chinese New Year celebration. The historic buildings, the hustle, and bustle of the district are definitely worth one or more visits.
Grouse Mountain is Vancouver’s local mountain. From up here, you have a great view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Grouse Mountain rises up to 1231 meters in the North Shore Mountains, located north of North Vancouver. Climbed for the first time in 1894, the mountain was named after the then common rock grouse, the Blue Grouse.
After its first ascent, Grouse Mountain became a popular destination for mountain hikers. In winter, you can go skiing on 26 slopes, and there is also night skiing on 14 slopes, thanks to floodlights. Ten kilometers of snowshoe trails have also been created. At the top station of the Skyride, there is an ice rink.
On the summit, there are, depending on the season, different attractions and sights. In the grizzly enclosure, you can see bears up close during the warm months. Not to be missed it the lumberjack show; it will surly keep you entertained. There’s also indoor entertainment in the form of a mini-museum and video show.
There are several ways to get to the top of Grouse Mountain; you can take the Skyride to the top, or if you’re feeling athletic, you can also take the Grouse Grind to the top – a 2.9 km trail that covers more than 800 vertical feet.
Canada Place and the Waterfront
Vancouver is completely surrounded by water, and one of the best places to enjoy the water is definitely waterfront. The Waterfront Station is the terminus of the Skytrain and also the ferry terminal for the ferry to North Vancouver. Next door is the cruise ship terminal called Canada Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre, which hosts international trade shows and cultural events. In sunny weather, you can relax on the waterfront and watch the seaplanes take off.
Canada Place is a vast, 23-story building that houses conference centers, office space, exhibition halls, the Pan Pacific Hotel, and the International Shopping and Entertainment Complex. It also has an IMAX theater and the 4D simulator FlyOver Canada, which lets you fly virtually over Canada.
Gastown is the nucleus of “old” Vancouver; there is no better place that represents the past of the city than Gastown. City history was written in Gastown; this is where the city began to live.
Gastown is the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver. It was named after the Irishman John “Gassy Jack” Deighton. This is where the city originated, which can be seen especially in the beautiful old buildings.
The most popular sight in Gastown is the Steam Clock, it is a steam-powered clock, and it whistles and steams from all corners. You will also find many art galleries, boutiques, souvenir stores, and nice restaurants in Gastown.
Gastown is a great place for a weekend afternoon stroll and souvenir shopping. If you want to learn more about the history of Gastown and Vancouver, we recommend the Forbidden Vancouver tour, which has already won many awards.
Here, an actress takes you to the dark corners of Gastown and tells you spooky and funny stories about the city’s past. It is such an exceptional experience that you shouldn’t miss.
Party on Granville Street
Granville Street is the party mile of downtown Vancouver. Here, one club follows the other, and there are many bars and cozy pubs. The many neon signs make Granville Street look almost like a little Las Vegas.
During the day on Granville Street, you can find cheap food like Thai, Falafel, or the famous Canadian Poutine. You can eat here for under 10 dollars.
Eat Some Delicious Food in Vancouver
Due to the large Asian population, Vancouver has a huge selection of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and other Asian restaurants. Combined with the variety of typical Canadian and American cuisines, the Vancouver food scene offers tons of opportunities to enjoy cheap and delicious eats. Some food recommendations to consider:
Chicken wings at Wings Wednesday are a must. The Pint Sports Bar offers up to 40 different flavors of wings and the flair to go along with a field hockey game, for example. If you are into pulled pork and ribs, then we recommend going to the Memphis Blues on Commercial Drive, which offers pulled pork and ribs from its in-house smoker. If you want to try a little of each type of meat, get the “Memphis Feast” platter.
As for burgers; they are best eaten at Splitz Grill that serves handmade burgers, and it can be topped as desired. If you really don’t want to spend more than $5, you can certainly find something at Warehouse. Both restaurants are also in Whistler, BC.
Also, food courts can be found in every major shopping center, such as at the Waterfront near Canada Place. If you like tacos, you can get tacos every Tuesday on “Taco Tuesday” for $1 each.
Discover Hollywood North with a Fans of Vancouver Tour
Vancouver is the location for many Hollywood movies and series such as Charmed, Mission Impossible 4, The Flash, and Supernatural that were filmed here, among others. If you walk around the city, you’ll often find complete movie sets where, for example, a street in New York has been recreated. If you’re interested in movies, Fans of Vancouver Tours offer various filming locations tours. It is a fun experience like no other!