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.
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.
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.
- Vancouver city tour
- Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Granville Island Market Tour
- Whale watching Tour from Vancouver
- Vancouver Highlights Bike Tour
What to Eat & Drink in Vancouver
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
- 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
- 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:
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).
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:
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.