Vancouver Highlights: 14 Best Places to Visit in Vancouver BC

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The beautiful, oceanside city of Vancouver British Columbia, Canada, has been named the World’s Most Liveable City many times over in the past decade, and there are innumerable reasons why that title is spot on.

Not only is the city quite cosmopolitan – with fantastic restaurants, arts, and entertainment – but it’s one of the most beautiful seaside cities you’ll find, with lots of fresh air, maritime activities, open spaces to roam, and views for miles.

Vancouver waterfront - places to visit in Vancouver BC

If you haven’t been to Vancouver before, you should definitely start planning a trip. As you’ll quickly find that a lot of the best things to do in Vancouver can be found in or near the downtown area, along with a lot of great food options. These are our favorite places to visit in Vancouver Canada so feel free to pick and choose the activities that appeal to you the most! Enjoy your time exploring

» Interested in other parts of Canada? Read our full Canada travel guide for inspiration and additional tips. Also see our road trip guide. We also have info on Montreal and Toronto.

What Makes Vancouver, British Columbia So Great?

  • There are dozens of brilliant outdoor adventures to be had, from hiking and climbing, skiing (let’s not forget that Whistler, the premier Northwest ski area, is only a couple hours away), and every type of water sport imaginable.
  • The city is relatively small by big city standards — only around 650,000 residents — but it has world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment venues.
  • It’s oceanside location is an ideal setting for fully enjoying the beautiful Northwest summer, complete with pretty darn good weather.  Summers bring long, gorgeous days of near-perfect weather, making it easier to withstand the rainy season from October to March. The average daily temperature is about 52 degrees, with four distinct seasons.
  • With so many fun things to do during the day, world-class BC wine to savor, lots of great locally grown foods and cuisine to indulge in, you’ll never run out of reasons to love Vancouver.

If you’ve got kids along, check out this post for dozens of fun things to do with kids in Vancouver.

Top Vancouver Highlights

1. Granville Island

Granville Public Market
Granville Public Market on Granville Island

Formerly an industrial area across the water from the city, Granville Island has been reborn as a mecca for local produce and products and is our top choice place to go in Vancouver. The old factories have been turned into a public market where you can find pretty much any product or food item your heart fancies.

Within easy walking distance of the market are dozens of waterfront cafes, restaurants, pubs, galleries — you name it. Take the quick five-minute water taxi from any of a handful of stops on the city side (get a deal if you buy a round-trip ticket in advance).

My advice is to go there when you’re hungry because there are so many mouth-watering options for lunch or snacking as you go. On our last trip, we bought local artisan maple syrup, delicious cured meats, fresh pasta, and bread.

If I’d had room for more, I would have definitely indulged in a savory clam chowder pot pie from A La Mode. After seeing the market, don’t forget to walk around the backstreets and stop at Granville Island Brewery for a taster of their popular beers.

>> Book this Food Walking Tour of Granville Island Public Market here.

2. Granville Street

Granville street
Granville Street at night

Located right in the middle of downtown Vancouver, Granville Street is a neighborhood teeming with life. If you’re staying downtown, you’ll likely be spending at least a little of your time on Granville Street.

The main section runs from the waterfront down to Robson Street. You’ll find hundreds of high-end stores and restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and businesses, as well as crowds of all ages. This is where people go to be seen in Vancouver.

At night — and sometimes all weekend in the summer — a large stretch of the street is shut off to vehicular traffic and the younger set takes to the bars and clubs for a crazy night out. It’s a good place to go out for dinner, see a show, grab a drink at an outdoor cafe or bar, and do some shopping.

The Skytrain has a stop at Granville Street, so it’s easy to get there via public transportation, which is a much better idea than driving. If you’re staying in a downtown hotel, park your car with the valet and don’t bother with it until you leave. You can walk everywhere downtown.

3. Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive
Commercial Drive during the “Carfree Day” yearly event

Commercial Drive runs through the neighborhood of Grandview/Woodland, and it is made up of so many diverse restaurants and shops – a true international district — that it’s known affectionately as “The Drive” to insiders and locals.

I want to call it Little Italy, because of all the Italian shops and eateries, but that wouldn’t be doing justice to the dozens of other ethnicities that are represented here.

The Drive is located on the east side of the city and can be reached easily by driving (parking may be difficult), or by Skytrain. Get off at the Commercial/Broadway stop and walk north. Along the way, you’ll find a plethora of places to eat, sit down for a drink, enjoy the people-watching, or buy fruits and veggies. It’s got a whole lot of character.

4. Stanley Park

totem poles
Totem Poles in Stanley Park

Every big city has it’s signature park. In Vancouver, it’s Stanley Park. Located on a peninsula in the northwest corner of downtown, the 1,000-acre park is one of the top tourist destinations in the city.

There are miles of walking and biking trails, numerous gorgeous beaches to relax on, Canada‘s largest aquarium, plus a pool, a waterpark, a miniature railroad, not to mention all of that incredible greenspace in which to frolic on a summer afternoon. If that’s not enough, there are also four restaurants to choose from in the park.

You could easily spend an entire day (or more) in Stanley Park and not run out of things to do. It’s a bit of a hike from downtown if you’re planning to walk, or take a quick taxi ride. There are parking spaces, so driving is also an option.

>> Book this Stanley Park Bike Tour or Vancouver Secrets of Stanley Park Walking Tour here.

5. Grouse Mountain

ice skating
Grouse Mountain ice skating

Located only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is just one big playground. The Super Skyride gondola whisks you up the mountain where you’ll can participate in dozens of winter activities (skiing, sleigh rides, snowshoeing and ice skating), go hiking, ziplining, visit the animals in the wildlife refuge (read: bears!), or soak up the amazing view at one of the top-notch restaurants.

Grouse mountain can be enjoyed year-round, not just in the winter. Tickets range from $42 to $56, depending on which option you choose. The Alpine Experience ticket ($42) gets you a round-trip ride on the skyride and access to some activities up top, like visits to the resident grizzly bear!

It’s quick and easy to drive to Grouse Mountain (there’s good signage along the way), but beware that during busy times when the parking lots get full fast, you may have to park far away and walk up to the entrance.

>> Book this Small Group Tour: Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain from Vancouver here.

6. Gastown

gastown
Gastown at night

The city’s oldest neighborhood is Gastown, named for “Gassy” Jack Deighton, who opened the first saloon in the area. It’s very picturesque, with its centuries-old Victorian architecture and proximity to the waterfront. It feels as though you’ve stepped into a part of history, miles away from the new, modern parts of town.

There are tons of souvenir shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, and fashion and interior design stores to check out along the 10 or so blocks. And of course, you don’t want to miss the Gastown Steam Clock at the corner of Cambie and Water streets which was built as a way to harness the steam from the city’s steam heating system.

Just keep in mind that Gastown is slightly gritty, with a good number of homeless people, and set your expectations properly. It’s got a very unique and artsy feel to it.

>> Book this Forbidden Downtown and Gastown Walking Tour or Gastown Historic Walking Food Tour here.

7. Richmond Night Market

Richmond Night Market
Richmond Night Market (aka Magical Candyland)

I’m calling it the Richmond Night Market because I can’t take it seriously when I call it by its real name, Magical Candyland. Yes, I’m serious. But Magical Candyland does start to feel more appropriate after I’ve stuffed my face with dozens of Asian specialties like grilled squid, hand-pulled noodles, pizza-flavored Rotato, Chow Mein and Dim Sum.

The night market is open from mid-May to mid-October. The hours are Friday and Saturday from 7pm to midnight and Sundays from 7pm to 11pm. The market features dozens of vendors selling everything from cell phone accessories to cheap jewelry and every Asian food specialty you can think of.

You’ll want to take the skytrain to get there because it gets crowded and parking gets tight. Get off at the Bridgeport stop and walk across the street from the bus area, through the fence and along the railroad tracks. You’ll see the market sprawled in front of you.

Food ranges anywhere from a couple of bucks to $15 or so for a full plate of food. If you’re really into this type of market, there’s another one called the International Summer Market that’s very similar but in a slightly different location.

It runs every weekend and holidays from May to September. You can reach the market via public transportation on bus 430 from Metrotown or 407 from No.2 Road. The current location is a 10-acre site located at 12631 Vulcan Way (behind Home Depot on Sweden Way).

8. Local Craft Breweries

Micro Breweries in Vancouver
Micro Breweries in Vancouver

Microbreweries are located all over the city, so it’s high time you get out there and experience the best breweries in Vancouver. Many Vancouver breweries feature up to a dozen or more unique brews, and most of them have tasting rooms where visitors can stop in for a taster tray, a pint, or a pitcher, and even a bite to eat.

Our guide encompasses four of the top brewery clusters around the city along with details for the top breweries to visit in each location.

Read all about the best craft breweries to visit, along with a walking guide.

>> Book this Vancouver Behind-the-Scenes Brewery Tour here.

9. Capilano Suspension Bridge

capilano suspension bridge

When visiting the city, you might not even know about the Capilano Suspension Bridge unless you do research in advance. You can thank us later for turning you on to it. The bridge is located about a 15-minute drive from downtown and is a huge trip highlight.

What makes it so unique is how long it is. The swaying footbridge hangs 230 feet above the Capilano River and spans 450 feet. You can walk over the bridge and admire the views – or just hang on tight, because it’s a bit scary. Might not be your favorite place if you’re afraid of heights.

There is also a colorful Totem park, trails through the West Coast rainforest, and much more.  One of the best ways to go to the bridge is on a city tour that includes it as a stop. That way you can see a lot more along with the bridge.

>> Book this Capilano Suspension Bridge Park Ticket here.

10. Canada Place

Canada Place

The first stop for anyone coming to Vancouver should be to walk along the spectacular promenade of Canada Place at Waterfront Station. It was constructed as the Canadian pavilion for the World Expo 1986 and now houses the city’s Convention Center.

A stroll around Canada Place allows the visitor to take in the beautiful harbor of Burrard Inlet, with its vista of snow-capped mountains, Stanley Park, and the modern glass towers of Coal Harbour nearby.

Canada Place also showcases the dynamism of Vancouver’s economic might and place in the global market. The inlet seethes with container ships bound outward to China and parts beyond. In the summertime cruise ships from the world’s major lines dock along the pier en route to Alaska.

Floatplanes taking off for the wild natural coves of the Inside Passage and helicopters departing for Vancouver Island augment the energetic scene.

11. Robson Square

robson square

Situated in the heart of downtown Vancouver, Robson Square is more than just a public plaza—it’s the city’s pulsing social hub. Imagine a space where urban life and natural beauty converge, complemented by a fusion of art installations, impromptu performances, and public events.

The square is flanked by the Vancouver Art Gallery on one side and the Provincial Law Courts on the other, but the real essence of Robson Square lies in its ability to go with the flow of life around it.

In winter, the lower level transforms into a free public ice rink, drawing crowds eager to trade their walking shoes for skates.

Between the cascading water features and the hidden corners perfect for a quiet lunch, you’ll find it’s easy to spend a whole afternoon here. And if you’re into photography, the architectural designs by Arthur Erickson offer a dynamic playground for your lens. In short, Robson Square embodies the eclectic and harmonious spirit of Vancouver, serving as a microcosm of the city’s diverse offerings.

12. Sunset Harbor Dinner Cruise

vancouver sunset

A Sunset Boat Cruise in Vancouver offers a great way to see the serene and picturesque backdrop of the harbor at sunset. As the boat navigates through the city’s harbor, you’re treated to panoramic views of landmarks like Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge, beautifully framed by the setting sun. The water reflects the city lights, adding a magical touch to an already extraordinary setting. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget.

» Book your tour here.

13. Vancouver Aquarium

vancouver aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium offers a captivating and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Nestled in the picturesque Stanley Park, this world-class marine science center allows you to explore the wonders of the ocean through engaging exhibits and interactive displays. From awe-inspiring marine life, including playful dolphins and majestic sea otters, to insightful conservation initiatives, the aquarium provides a unique opportunity to connect with the beauty and importance of our oceans.

14. Taking a Vancouver Walking Tour

vancouver walking tour gastown
Gastown Steam Clock

Going on a Vancouver walking tour is the ideal way to intimately connect with the city’s vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich history.

Usually, it kicks off in vibrant neighborhoods like Gastown, where you soak up the historic vibes, check out the famous Gastown Steam Clock, and meander through cobblestone streets. The guides often throw in interesting anecdotes and historical tidbits that bring the city to life.

These tours often wind through iconic spots like Stanley Park, where you get up close and personal with nature and maybe catch sight of the totem poles or take a stroll along the scenic seawall. It’s not just about the landmarks; the guides dish out local tips, share stories, and might even point you to some off-the-beaten-path gems.

Where to Stay in Vancouver

We always choose to stay somewhere in downtown Vancouver, because of the easy walking proximity to just about everything. You can park your car and use your legs instead. Popular areas include Gastown, Yaletown and Downtown.

No matter which area you choose, you’ll find some really great restaurants and bars within a block or two that exemplify the neighborhood.

Here are our recommended hotels:

Sutton Place Hotel

4.5-star hotel in downtown Vancouver (West End), stellar location, great restaurant.

Read Reviews | Book a Stay

Listel Hotel

Comfortable 4-star hotel with a spa, restaurant, and free wifi in downtown.

Read Reviews | Book a Stay

Shangri-La Hotel

5-star luxury hotel with beautiful, well-appointed rooms and an outdoor pool.

Read Reviews | Book a Stay

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Frequently Asked Questions on Vancouver City Highlights

What’s special about Vancouver’s art scene?

Vancouver’s art scene is thriving, with the Vancouver Art Gallery being a focal point. It houses an impressive collection of indigenous and contemporary art, providing a comprehensive overview of the region’s artistic heritage.

Are there family-friendly attractions in Vancouver?

Absolutely! The Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, and the Vancouver Maritime Museum are fantastic options for families. These attractions offer interactive exhibits and activities suitable for all ages.

Is there parking available at these attractions?

Most attractions provide parking facilities, but it’s advisable to check each attraction’s website for specific information. Additionally, public transportation is a convenient option for visiting Vancouver’s highlights without worrying about parking, there are great transport options from the airport also.

What’s the benefit of taking a guided walking tour?

Guided walking tours provide an intimate and immersive experience. You’ll have the chance to interact with a local tour guide who can share hidden gems, answer questions, and offer a deeper understanding of the city’s culture. It’s a leisurely way to explore neighborhoods like Gastown, Yaletown, and Chinatown while soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying the city’s highlights. Vancouver also offers day tours that are helpful if you are unsure of what attractions you would like to visit.

Conclusion

See what I mean? So many reasons to love Vancouver British Columbia. And these 9 of our favorite places to visit in Vancouver are just the beginning. If you’re looking for a really great city to explore, with the beauty of the sea and the mountains surrounding you, and plenty of great food and outdoor activities, you can’t go wrong with Vancouver.

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Vancouver Highlights: 14 Best Places to Visit in Vancouver BC

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