Essential Travel Guide to Vancouver British Columbia

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Vancouver is a city with vast beauty and heaps of charm. It’s a great place for adventure travelers who like to hike and bike, as well as foodies who enjoy beer, great food, and markets.

In order to find all the best parts of the city when you visit, we’ve put together this essential travel guide to Vancouver that will lead you to all the best things to do, see, eat, and drink in the city.

downtown vancouver - essential travel guide to Vancouver

The beautiful city of Vancouver is located in the southwestern corner of British Columbia, Canada; on the coast of the Pacific ocean. Being overlooked by the Coast Range Mountains and surrounded by water on three sides, the city has a landscape that truly takes your breath away.

Greater Vancouver has everything from beaches, mountains, and 192 beautiful parks to a cosmopolitan downtown area, fabulous shopping and entertainment. In fact, Vancouver itself is made up of 23 different neighborhoods – each having its own distinct character – so there’s an endless supply of new things to see and do.

Foodies will love the city’s street food and markets, like the one on Granville Island, plus the many cocktail bars and craft breweries.

» 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.

When to Visit Vancouver

There is no “best time” to visit Vancouver. The weather is a bit drizzly in the winter, but it never really gets too cold or two hot. Summers are downright incredible, but there are plenty of things to do in winter too.

Due to it’s location, it has a mild climate, which means not too much snow in the winter and pleasant temperatures in the summer, but it does tend to have a lot of rain. The average annual rain and snow fall is 1219mm.

During the winter, Vancouver is a great place to be for skiers and sledders, because of the many mountains and snow sports options, including nearby Whistler ski resort.


Vancouver’s Best Neighborhoods

Gastown is the historical part of the city with cobblestone streets, heritage buildings, shops, restaurants and galleries. It’s located just south of the harbor and is a vibrant part of the city.

Located just under the Granville Street Bridge is Granville Island Market which offers a mix of food, arts and crafts, shopping and theaters. Water taxis ferry shoppers to and from the market or you can stroll there.

Stanley Park, located close to downtown, has over 1000 acres of forest and is a firm favorite with both locals and tourists. The park has many miles of pathway, an aquarium, a pitch and putt golf course, a miniature railway, tennis, restaurants, beaches and on summer evenings live theater.

Robson Street is in the heart of downtown and offers boutiques, side walk cafes, world-class shopping, and restaurants.

Commercial Drive, also known as “the drive” is a confluence of international culture and cuisine. You can walk along the drive and eat at any of dozens of international restaurants.

How to Get Around in Vancouver

There is an excellent public transport system which consists of buses, Seabus, Skytrain and a commuter rail service called the West Coast Express. This is an integrated system and you can use the same tickets for different modes of transport.

There is also an extensive system of bikeways, so cycling is another good way to get around. The city has many tree lined streets and no highway cutting through the city so walking is encouraged.

It is illegal to cross the street anywhere but at a marked intersection crossing in the city.


What to Do in and Around Vancouver

Vancouver is alive with activity at all times. We love to just wander around the downtown core, popping into shops, eating street food, and visiting the Granville market. There are tons of breweries, distilleries, and cocktail bars to enjoy. If you’re up for a walk, you must check out Stanley Park and it’s incredible walks and views.

Fun Things to Do

  • Hike around Stanley Park
  • See the Gastown steam clock
  • Hang out at Katsilano Beach
  • Visit Grouse Mountain (skiing, see the bears, ride the gondola)
  • During summer, check out the Richmond Night Market
  • Get an adrenalin rush at the Capilano Suspension Bridge
  • Granville Island Public Market

What to Do When It’s Raining

  • Vancouver Art Gallery
  • Science World
  • Vancouver Aquarium
  • Afternoon tea

For a comprehensive list of the top things to do in Vancouver, read this post, and check out the infographic at the bottom of this post.

Tours & Day Trips in Vancouver

Want to plan ahead and book a few of the things we’ve mentioned to do? It’s always a good idea to pre-book for popular tours. They sell out fast. These are our favorite tours that can be booked (with our affiliate links) on Viator.

What to Eat & Drink in Vancouver

Poutine is one of Canada's specialties. Find it on this Vancouver BC food tour.
Poutine is one of Canada’s specialties. Find it on this Vancouver BC food tour.

Vancouver has a plethora of great food, from street food to international cuisine and local specialties. You’ll definitely want to plan to include some of these top food activities and restaurants in your itinerary.

Where to Go For Brunch


There are so many great breweries in Vancouver. Check out our full post with details on where to go beer tasting.

  • 33 Acres
  • Main Street Beer
  • Brassneck Brewery

Top Restaurants

  • Vij’s – celebrated Indian food restaurant
  • Miku – delicious Japanese food
  • Au Comptoir – Parisian bistro in Kitsilano
  • Maenam – Thai dishes with a B.C. twist

Wine, Cocktails & Distilleries

  • The Diamond
  • The Keefer Bar
  • Pourhouse
  • Long Table
  • The Liberty Distillery
  • TWB (The Wine Bar)
  • The Narrow Lounge (Main Street)
  • Uva Wine Bar

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

More on Canada

Shortcut Travel Guide to Vancouver, British Columbia

(Note: This graphic guide is no longer being updated. It may not contain current information).

Vancouver essential guide

You might also like this post: Weekend Trips from Vancouver (from Carpe Diem Our Way blog)

Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:

🧳 Travel Packing List | ✔️ Why You Need Travel Insurance | ✈️ What to Do Before You Leave Home


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Essential Travel Guide to Vancouver British Columbia

24 thoughts on “Essential Travel Guide to Vancouver British Columbia

  1. Erin says:

    What a great guide! I have only been to Vancouver once so this is really helpful. Now there is Japadog poutine?!?! I definitely missed out!

  2. Cherri Megasko says:

    What a useful compilation! I’ve been to Vancouver a few times, but it’s never been an actual destination. I would love to visit these markets and that suspension bridge looks awesome!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      It’s definitely worthy of visiting it as a tourist. There are so many things to do and see there. I really love it.

  3. Julius from Traveltipy says:

    I have never been to Vancouver but I already heard so many about and seen so many pictures, that I should really come and visit it finally. 🙂

  4. Jema says:

    I really want to visit and try out that suspension bridge too! I really like this visual guide. It is so nice to just see what my choices are for fun and food!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Yes, the suspension bridge is awesome! It’s a bit expensive to go there, but it’s worth it.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      We really do too. Hopefully we’ll call it home sometime in the future. It’s a great place to live.

  5. Tatiana / The Happy Jetlagger says:

    May I just say… Your shortcut guides are so useful!! Everything you need for a quick visit. Good work!

  6. Mel Jones @ Footsteps on the Globe says:

    Laura I love the way you have presented this, perfect for printing off and sticking in your bag when you’re on your travels (or the fridge in the meantime!). So useful! A great all-round guide as well, something for everyone, everything from food to where to go…Vancouver I’m coming for you 😉

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Thanks Mel. I want them to be as useful as possible. It’s pretty easy to take a one-page printout with you.

  7. Meg Jerrard says:

    Great guide Laura! We especially loved Stanley Park while in Vancouver – there’s so much to do, that we can’t wait to head back.

  8. Dawn Kealing says:

    I love Vancouver! Grew up about two hours, give or take depending on traffic, you know what I mean, from the city. The Richmond night market and China town are certainly places you wouldn’t want to miss while visiting! 🙂 Ps, love the infographic!

  9. Adelina // Pack Me To says:

    I’m from Vancouver and love dawdling over a good meal out. You’ve picked some really great restaurants.

  10. Crystal says:

    Great list, but I have to point out that Kitsilano beach is spelt incorrectly. I think also, highlighting other areas locally would be a great addition. I much rather prefer White Rock Beach or Crescent Beach, but it’s also a fair distance from downtown Vancouver so I can see why people wouldn’t travel that distance.

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  13. says:

    wow, is an amazing article I like it so much, you give me an opportunity to know more about it, vancouver is my favorit city
    thank you for sharing with us this

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