Vancouver is situated on Canada’s West Coast between the mountains and the sea, making it an ideal destination for city lovers and adventure seekers alike. Our post includes a local guide to the best things to do in Vancouver.
With its scenic views, diversity, and friendly people, Vancouver is known worldwide as a popular tourist attraction and a great place to live. Its moderate oceanic climate makes it one of the warmest cities in Canada.
You do not have to go too far to find some fantastic mountain views, beautiful parks and waterfalls, stunning coastal routes and eat world-class cuisine. And you can do all of these in one day!
Vancouver is full of pleasant surprises and beauty. We know the city well because we visit regularly. To get to Vancouver, we usually catch a ferry from Victoria, where we live right now.
Best Things to Do in Vancouver
We include all of our favourite things to do in Vancouver in this post. While the area we cover is quite large, you can get around to many places on foot or by bike. You can rent bikes and helmets at various locations throughout the city. To get to the farther destinations, we recommend renting a car.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Located around 25-minutes from the city centre, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the region. The bridge is 140 m (460 feet) long and sits at 70 m (230 feet) above the Capilano River. It is also one of the busiest tourist attractions in Vancouver.
The sight from up on the bridge is rather impressive. It allows you to experience breathtaking natural views and smell the cedar-scented rainforest air. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park tickets are about $63 for adults and $34 for youth.
With your entrance fee, you will also have access to the Treetops Adventure and Cliff Walk. From here, you will experience even more of the rainforest vegetation scenery from up high. The park is also known for housing the most extensive private collection of totem poles.
If you plan to visit in December, consider exploring the park at night, when the park hosts the Canyon of Lights event. The bridge and other attractions throughout the park are illuminated by hundreds of festive lights, making them even more magical. You can journey into the beautiful rainforest and walk high above the forest floor between the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world on Treetops Adventure.
Explore Stanley Park
Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis located on the Downtown Vancouver peninsula. For most of the part, it is surrounded by water and is one of the best places to visit if you like some relaxing time in nature. The coastal route around the park is stunning, and you can enjoy scenic views of the mountains, sea and majestic trees along Stanley Park’s famous Seawall.
The park offers a wide range of unforgettable experiences for all ages and interests. Discover kilometres of trails, rainforest ecology, ancient cedars, beautiful beaches, gardens and local wildlife. Stanley Park has Canada’s largest Aquarium, a Theatre under the stars, an outdoor swimming pool (Second Beach pool) and tennis courts.
You can take a horse-drawn carriage to make your exploration even more impressive. If you are visiting the park with kids, be sure to check out the Stanley Park Miniature Railway and Prospect Point totem poles. If you feel hungry, there are plenty of cafes along the park trails where you can enjoy a light brunch or lunch.
The Vancouver Aquarium is a center for marine conservation and animal rehabilitation. It is located inside Stanley Park and is one of the most popular attractions in Vancouver.
The Aquarium is the largest in Canada and one of the largest in North America. It covers over 100,000 square feet and is home to more than 50,000 animals. Some of the highlights include sea otters, sea lions, penguins, and a rain forest exhibit with birds and sloths.
English Bay Beach
English Bay Beach, also called First Beach, is located at the west end of Denman Street in downtown Vancouver. Here you can relax and enjoy picturesque views in every direction. The Stanley Park Seawall, a popular running and biking route, runs along the east side of the beach.
On New Year’s Day, the beach serves as the starting point for the annual Polar Bears Swim, when hundreds of Vancouverites go swimming in the freezing ocean the morning of January 1st. During the warmer months, you can rent a kayak, sunbathe or go swimming. If you get hungry, visit one of the many great restaurants, ice cream stores, and coffee shops close by.
English Bay is also home to the city’s annual Celebration of Light fireworks festival. The festival takes place on three separate nights in late July and early August. Sunset Beach, Kitsilano Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach are also very popular.
Visit Granville Island
One of the best places to see in Vancouver is Granville Island. It is situated south of the downtown peninsula, surrounded by the waters of False Creek. Once, it was home to many of the city’s factories and sawmills, but today, Granville Island houses a public market, restaurants, theatres, artisan shops, galleries and craft studios.
Granville Island Market is one of the most popular features of Granville Island, thanks to the colourful produce stalls, handcrafted products and unique gifts. Here you can find everything from locally grown fruits and vegetables and homemade gelato to freshly made donuts. The Public Market is also a great place for souvenir shopping.
When you walk around Granville Island, be sure to view the Burrard Street Bridge, floating water homes and Giant’s Silo Mural. If you like to relax, you can sit by the water and watch the mini-ferries sailing back and forth. You can also visit one of the many restaurants or coffee shops in the area; we had some tasty sweet potato fries with a lovely homemade dip.
Take the Aquabus or False Creek Mini-Ferry
See Vancouver from a different perspective and enjoy the ride! Aquabus and False Creek Ferries transport passengers in cute little mini ferry boats to tourist attractions throughout Vancouver’s False Creek region.
The mini-ferries provide an amusing way to get from the Science World at one end of the waterway to Hadden Beach at the other. Some of the other stops include Yaletown, Granville Island, Sunset Beach and more. The stops differ a bit between the two companies, so make sure to check their websites for more details.
Visit Science World
Anyone interested in science will enjoy Vancouver’s Science World. The institution has both permanent science displays and some fascinating exhibits that are great for a family visit.
The Science World is located to the east of downtown, and it is one of the best places to see in Vancouver when travelling with kids. Many of the displays are interactive, and the centre also houses an Omnimax theatre.
Walk Around the False Creek
False Creek is a short narrow inlet in the heart of Vancouver, separating the Downtown and West End neighbourhoods from the rest of the city. It is one of the four bodies of water bordering Vancouver, along with English Bay, Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River.
A lovely sea walk runs along the bay, from the Science World to Granville Island. From here you get one of the best views of the city. The area is trendy for walkers, runners, cyclists and skaters.
READ MORE: Our Guide to False Creek – Vancouver, BC
Go Whale Watching
Vancouver is one of the best locations in the world for whale watching. Whales frequently swim through the Strait of Georgia and around the Gulf Islands, which means you can easily see them on your visit to Vancouver. The season typically runs from March through October, when thousands of whales migrate through this area.
Many companies in Vancouver offer whale watching tours. Some of them have equipment that will allow you to hear the sounds of whales under the water. Typical animals seen during the trip include orcas, dolphins, sea lions and other marine mammals.
The excursions last from three hours to a full day and often feature an onboard naturalist who can tell you about British Columbia’s ecology. It is often much colder on the water than onshore, so it is good to bring some extra layers.
Scenic Views in Lighthouse Park
Located on the coastline of the Burrard Inlet in West Vancouver, the Lighthouse Parkis one of the most scenic parks you will see on the West Coast. There are many hiking trails throughout the park; most are easy to moderate difficulty.
Some trails lead to rocky bluffs with stunning coastline views, and others loop through the forest. A short 10-minute walk from the parking lot will bring you to the Lighthouse Viewpoint.
Inside the park, you can enjoy a walk through a 75 hectare (185 acre) lush virgin rainforest and admire old giant trees. Some have grown to 200 feet (61 meters) and are approximately 500 years old.
Lighthouse Park is open year-round, the park gates close before dusk.
Walk or Bike the Seawall
Vancouver has the world’s longest waterfront path, named the seawall. The seawall refers to the 28 km walking, jogging, cycling and inline skating path that lines Vancouver’s waterfront from Canada Place on the Burrard Inlet (Coal Harbour), around Stanley Park and False Creek, past Granville Island and ending at Kitsilano Beach Park. The bicycle route extends beyond Kitsilano Beach Park. Here you can see the map.
The Seawall is divided into two marked sections. The path closest to the water is for walkers and joggers, and the path next to it is for cyclists and inline skaters. Be sure to follow the signs to safely use the seawall, especially on sunny summer days and weekends when the area is busy.
Located at Harbour Centre, the Vancouver Lookout is an observation deck that sits 168 m (553 ft) above the city. The views are incredible as you can see a 360º aerial view of Vancouver, the surrounding mountains and the ocean. You will travel to the top by a glass elevator in 40 seconds.
You can also soak in views of Gastown, Coal Harbour, North Vancouver, and downtown Vancouver’s ever-changing skyline from the lookout.
Gastown and Steam Clock
Gastown is the oldest and one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Vancouver. It is known for its whistling steam clock run by steam that plays a little melody every quarter-hour. The steam clock was built in 1977 and is the world’s first steam-powered clock.
With old-fashioned gas lamps lining the cobbled streets and historic architecture, you will fall in love with Gastown. Here you will find old Victorian houses, trendy fashion shops, gorgeous boutiques, galleries, coffee shops and some of the best food in the city. Gastown is located on the north side of downtown, between Richards Street, Main Street and Hastings Street.
Walk Around Canada Place and Coal Harbour
Canada Place is located on the Burrard Inlet and is probably the most famous building in Vancouver. It resembles a ship and houses businesses like FlyOver Canada, the Vancouver Convention Centre, Pan Pacific Hotel, Cruise Ship Terminal and more.
While you are at Canada Place, try the virtual FlyOver Canada ride that will take you on a flight across some of Canada’s most beautiful places in less than 10 minutes. After visiting Canada Place, you can walk to Coal Harbour around the seawall.
Relax at Harbour Green Park
Harbour Green Park stretches along Coal Harbour. From here, you can enjoy spectacular views of Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains. It is a great place to relax in the sun and watch the seaplanes take off and land.
The Vancouver Sea Walk runs along the north side of Harbour Green Park and connects Canada Place to Stanley Park. There is a water fountain and cafe in the centre of the park.
Take a Floatplane or Helicopter Tour
By far, the most awe-inspiring way to see Vancouver is from above. Book, a floatplane or helicopter tour, to soar above the skyline or glide past the mountains. Harbour Air and Sky Helicopters both offer spectacular air tours.
With Sky Helicopters, you can take a backcountry flight and discover the incredible diversity of British Columbia’s west coast. From majestic mountain peaks to alpine lakes and glacier streams. With Harbour Air, you can fly to Whistler, Victoria, Salt Spring Island and other places.
Queen Elizabeth Park
If you are looking for some more outdoor time during your visit to Vancouver, consider going for a walk or bike ride in Queen Elizabeth Park. The park sits atop a small mountain at 125 m above sea level, and it is the highest point in Vancouver and has spectacular views of the city and the North Shore Mountains.
Queen Elizabeth Park is located about a 10-minute drive south of downtown. The 52-hectare park is home to the stunning Bloedel Conservatory. There is also a gorgeously landscaped quarry garden with pathways, bridges and mini waterfalls set amongst hundreds of plants and flowers.
Do not miss the Arboretum, which has more than 1,500 trees from all over Canada. The Rose Garden is a must-see; it is stunning if you happen to visit during the rose season.
Bloedel Floral Conservatory
Bloedel Conservatory is a domed lush tropical paradise located in Queen Elizabeth Park atop Vancouver’s highest point. Here you can wander among over 120 colourful, free-flying exotic birds and see around 500 exotic plants and flowers which thrive within this temperature-controlled environment.
Discover red, blue, and dwarf Macaws, African parrots, exotic Finches and Chinese pheasants. And do not be surprised if they answer when you say hello. The Bloedel Conservatory is unique in that it contains three separate climatic zones under one roof: Tropical, Subtropical and Desert.
Tropical rainforest habitat is the most complex and diverse ecosystem on earth. One hectare of some rainforests has been found to contain more tree species than exist in Canada. Bloedel Conservatory offers a taste of this paradise.
Van Dusen Botanical Garden
Van Dusen Botanical Garden is a 55-acre oasis in the heart of Vancouver. The garden is home to over 7,500 plant species, tranquil lakes and unique architecture. You can check out the Garden’s Bloom Calendar to see what will be in bloom during your visit.
The Garden makes a perfect home for wildlife such as birds, bees, turtles, coyotes, squirrels, geese, ducks, and fish with plenty of food and shelter. If you like to have a bit of fun, you can explore the Elizabethan hedge maze. Afterwards, you can have a bite to eat at the Truffles Cafe or Shaughnessy Restaurant, or you can go and browse the garden-themed gift shop.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
The lesser-known Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is located in North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park and was officially opened in 1912. The bridge towers 50 meters (160ft) over a canyon. And there is no entrance fee!
The Lynn Canyon Park is an excellent location for a family picnic or a refreshing swim in one of the many swimming holes. There are also quite a few hiking and walking trails, including the popular Baden Powell Trail. Other things to see are the Twin Falls, 30 Foot Pool, Pipe Bridge, and an Ecology Centre.
After exploring the park, you can enjoy some snacks and tea or coffee at the Lynn Canyon Cafe. Here you can view the Lynn Canyon Park map.
There are several popular shopping streets, districts and malls in Vancouver, Canada. Some of the most popular ones are Robson Street, Granville Island, Granville Street at Broadway, Vancouver West-4th Avenue and Pacific Centre Shopping Mall.
Robson Street is a shopper’s paradise. It is a popular dining and shopping street and fashion district in downtown Vancouver that runs from Burrard Street to Jervis. Granville Island is our top pick for grabbing some souvenirs and goods. There are almost 300 stores on Granville Island.
If you’re looking to buy or rent some outdoor gear, visit the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). The shop has been around since 1971 and runs as a co-op by members. To shop in MEC, you need to buy a $5 membership.
Vancouver Art Gallery
Housed in the former provincial courthouse, the Vancouver Art Gallery is the largest gallery in western Canada and the fifth largest in Canada. The gallery was founded in 1931. Inside, you will find a range of contemporary art from Canadian and international artists and First Nations Art.
Along with the permanent exhibits, the gallery features interesting temporary exhibitions. Visit the gallery’s website to find out what displays are on during your stay.
Hike to Bowen Lookout
Bowen Lookout is located at Cypress Provincial Park, and it is a short and easy hike to get to it. If you visit in early June, there might still be a few snow patches that should disappear by the end of the month.
- Distance: 4.3 km
- Estimated Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Elevation Gain: 150 m
The route to Bowen Lookout involves a few trail junctions, but if you pay attention to the signposts and bring a park map or have an app (we recommend AllTrails), it is easy to follow.
From this lookout, you will enjoy great views of Bowen Island, Gambier Island, Howe Sound, and the Sunshine Coast. It is also a great spot to watch the sunset. If you want to do more hiking, you can continue up the trail from the junction and hike St. Mark’s Summit.
Hike St.Mark’s Summit
St. Mark’s Summit offers spectacular views of the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound and Vancouver Island. The peak is part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail that spans 29 kilometres from Cypress to a point along the Sea to Sky Highway near Porteau Cove.
- Distance: 10.5 km
- Estimated Time: 3.5 – 5 hours
- Elevation Gain: 587 m
Overall, the hike is not too strenuous, with only 587 meters of elevation gain, making St. Mark’s Summit one of the more popular hikes on the North Shore. Hiking the mountain is not recommended during winter due to icy conditions and high avalanche risk in some areas.
READ MORE: Beautiful St.Mark’s Summit Hike
Cypress Mountain Viewpoint
Take a scenic drive up Cypress Mountain to visit the Cypress Mountain Viewpoint; you will find it at the second turn. This elevated vista lets you gaze down on the Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park, and Vancouver’s west side. The lookout is a popular viewing area and can be very busy at times.
Cypress Falls Park
West Vancouver’s Cypress Falls Park features a beautiful canyon, 300-year-old trees and two gorgeous waterfalls. Enjoy walking amongst the old growth and relax with the soothing sounds of the water flowing down Cypress Creek. This is a short and easy hike for the whole family.
- Distance: 2.7 km
- Estimated Time: 1 – 1.5 hours
- Elevation Gain: 124 m
The best time for viewing is during the spring, as the melting snow makes the waterfalls rush with water. Its low elevation makes Cypress Falls Park a good option when many other trails are covered in deep snow during the winter.
READ MORE: Cypress Falls Park – Guide to Visiting
Go Kayaking or Sailing
There are many excellent places in Vancouver to enjoy water sports such as rowing, kayaking and canoeing. They include False Creek (from Granville Island to Science World), Coal Harbour (near Stanley Park) and Deep Cove (North Vancouver).
Vancouver is also an excellent location for sailing. The Gulf Islands to the southwest, the San Juan Islands to the south, the Indian Arm to the northeast and Desolation Sound to the north are popular sailing and yachting destinations accessible from Vancouver.
Plan Your Trip to Vancouver
- Travel Insurance: Do not forget travel insurance! Protect yourself from possible injury, theft or a cancelled trip. World Nomads offers excellent coverage and competitive rates.
- Accommodation: Our favourite hotel search engine is Booking.com. Discover savings on hotels, apartments, resorts and villas in 80,000 destinations worldwide.
- Experiences: Make your trip extra special and memorable. Get Your Guide and Viator offer fantastic tours and activities.
- Car Rentals: Rental Cars and Discover Cars are excellent sites for comparing car prices and finding great deals.
- Flights: Our favourite search engine for airline tickets is Skyscanner. Compare millions of flights and discover the best fares for standard and budget flights.
Read More Vancouver Travel Guides
We hope you enjoyed our guide on the Best Things to do in Vancouver. Let us know in the comments below. Here are a few of our favourite articles to inspire your travels around Vancouver.
- Our Guide to False Creek – Vancouver, BC
- Beautiful St.Mark’s Summit Hike
- 27 Epic Things to Do in Whistler
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