Home CanadaBritish Columbia 3 Days in Vancouver – 10 Fun Things To Do

3 Days in Vancouver – 10 Fun Things To Do

by Valerie Vanr

Explore Vancouver’s huge Stanley Park. Visit world-class neighbourhoods, North Vancouver and its Coast Mountains. We’ve got 10 fun things to do in Vancouver with our adjustable 3-day itinerary.

It’s all waiting for you in Vancouver, Canada.

Vancouver Itinerary

A 3-day visit is the perfect amount of time to see the highlights of Vancouver. If you don’t have that much time, this adjustable itinerary will let you sample the best of Vancouver depending on the time you have. This is our recommended 3-day Vancouver itinerary.

One Day in Vancouver

2 Days in Vancouver

On your second day, tour North Vancouver’s spectacular natural attractions.

3 Days in Vancouver

On your third day, choose from a variety of activities.

Vancouver Tourist Attractions Map

Vancouver attractions map
Click on the above Vancouver Attractions map for an interactive version.

10 Fun Things To Do in Vancouver

  1. Bike the Stanley Park Seawall.
  2. Sample the culinary delights at the Granville Island Public Market.
  3. Explore Grouse Mountain on a Zipline tour.
  4. Test your nerves on the Cliffwalk at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
  5. Enjoy the entertainment district at The Shipyards.
  6. Visit Queen Elizabeth Park’s Quarry Gardens and the Bloedel Conservatory.
  7. Hop on and off the False Creek Ferry to explore the area’s hot spots.
  8. Relax on Kitsilano Beach.
  9. Experience all the Museum of Anthropology has to offer.
  10. See the public art along the waterfront at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
People path Lions Gate Bridge mountains
The view of Lions Gate Bridge on the Vancouver skyline from beautiful Stanley Park is an iconic image.

Stanley Park

The 1000-acre park is one of North America’s largest urban green spaces. It is very popular with locals and visitors.  It remains densely forested with some trees over 75 metres tall and hundreds of years old.  The park supports many species in its forest, wetland and ocean shore habitats. See squirrels, beavers, river otters, herons and more. The park, named after Lord Stanley, opened in 1888.

The park is within walking distance of downtown Vancouver hotels. If driving, there are plenty of parking lots throughout the park. Parking can be purchased by the hour or day.

Biking Stanley Park

Take a walk or a cycle through the forest and along the ocean. Twenty-seven kilometres of trails criss-cross the park and 9 kilometres of the Vancouver Seawall surround it. Watch for signs as bicycles are only permitted on select forest trails and pedestrians and cyclists have their own Seawall lanes.

Woman bicycle Vancouver marina background
I’m ready to explore Stanley Park’s extensive trail network which includes the Vancouver Seawall. The trail network is well set up for use by cyclists. We highly recommend renting bikes!

Stanley Park Bike Rental

There are several Bike Rental shops on Denman Street, near Stanley Park.  We grabbed a bike from Spokes Bicycle Rentals.  Simply sign the waiver and then pedal away to enjoy Stanley Park.

There are also a number of Mobi Bike Share stations in Stanley Park if you decide to rent a bike after walking the park for a bit.

Stanley Park Seawall Bike Route

The Stanley Park section is the Seawall’s most popular piece.  Wheeled travellers must travel in a counterclockwise direction and are separated from walkers. It takes about 1 hour to bike all the way around on the seawall or 2 hours to walk. But why rush it? Give yourself lots of time to enjoy the stops along the way. The views of downtown, the Lions Gate Bridge and English Bay are worth it.

Starting from the southeast side of the park, these are some great stops along the Seawall.

Get a picture of the beautiful Vancouver Rowing Club’s clubhouse which opened in 1911. The club is the city’s oldest amateur sports club.

After about a kilometre, Deadman’s Island and the HMCS Discovery Naval Reserve are on the right. It is an active naval training base and, generally, not accessible by the public.

3 pictures - top building boats left lighthouse right cannon
Clockwise from the top: Vancouver Rowing Club’s 1911 clubhouse, Nine O’Clock Gun and Brockton Point Lighthouse.

The Nine O’Clock Gun, at Hallelujah Point, has been fired every evening at 9:00 pm since the 1890s. The firing of the 12-pound, muzzle-loaded navel cannon allowed residents and sailors to set their watches and clocks each night, before electric clocks and cell phones.

Brockton Point is the perfect spot for views of the Port of Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge. See boats of all sizes and shapes transiting Burrard Inlet. The point’s first lighthouse was built in 1890 and replaced by the current lighthouse in 1914.

The Totem Poles are on the left in about 250 metres. The first four totems from Vancouver Island’s Alert Bay region were installed in the early 1920s. The display grew over the decades to include totems from Haida Gwaii and Rivers Inlet along British Columbia’s central coast. The original totem poles have been sent to museums for preservation.

6 totem poles surrounded by trees
The first totem poles were erected in the park in the 1920s. The poles are now one of the park’s tourist attractions and offer a chance to learn about the Northwest Coast First Nations.

Returning to the seawall, watch for Elek Imredy’s life-sized sculpture of a Girl in a Wetsuit on a large boulder. During high tide she often appears to be floating in the water. It is meant to represent the city’s dependence on the sea. A replica of the RMS Empress of Japan’s figurehead is nearby. The Empress, owned by Canadian Pacific Steamships, regularly crossed the north Pacific between Canada’s west coast and Asia from 1891 to 1922.

The iconic Lions Gate Bridge is at the northern tip of the peninsula. It connects the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver. Enjoy the amazing view of the Coast Mountains to the north from beside the Prospect Point Lighthouse.

seal on rock girl sculpture on rock water
Girl in a Wetsuit was set in place on a rock 25 metres from shore on June 9, 1972. She’s become a landmark for Stanley Park visitors and boaters.
Man standing path beside cyclist
Andy has to watch where he stands on the path as there is just enough room for the seawall’s two lanes between Siwash Rock and the steep, sandstone cliff.

For the next kilometre, the seawall hugs a shear sandstone cliff face. Looking west, Burrard Inlet opens to the Strait of Georgia which is between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia.

Siwash Rock is all that remains of an igneous dike intruded into area sandstone 32 million years old. Wave action has eroded the sandstone leaving the big basaltic rock. According to First Nations legend, a man was transformed into Siwash Rock as a reward for unselfishness.

Continue south along the Seawall to Stanley Park’s beaches which are very busy during the summer.

Beach water inlet swimming pool
The first pool at Second Beach was a ‘draw and fill’ pool, which was filled by ocean water at high tide. The current pool is a heated, graduated-depth pool.

Just before the Second Beach Swimming Pool, the bike route moves off the Seawall and splits into two branches. One parallels the seawall, travelling south, out of the park, to English Bay, False Creek and beyond. The other branch heads east, remaining in the park, where there is more to explore.

Stanley Park Attractions

Enjoy a picnic at Second Beach Picnic Area where the kids can go wild at the Ceperley Playground.

Continue east to Lost Lagoon, a freshwater pond. It is home to geese, river otters, blue herons and more. The Stanley Park Nature House at Lost Lagoon has exhibits about the park’s animals and plants.

The east side of the park has a number of kid-friendly attractions. The Vancouver Aquarium is dedicated to education and conservation of aquatic life around the world. Canada’s largest aquarium is home to over 50,000 animals from many different habitats including local waters.

Train car track trees behind
The railway travels through the tall, majestic forest of Stanley Park. Some of the trees were standing long before the park was created in 1888.

The Stanley Park Railway, a park favourite since 1964, travels a two-kilometre, 20-inch gauge track through the forest over bridges and through tunnels. It operates daily in the summer months with three special trains during the rest of the year.

Enjoy a meal at Stanley’s Bar & Grill in the 1911 Stanley Park Pavilion. The pavilion makes a beautiful backdrop for the Stanley Park Rock Garden. Two more beautiful Stanley Park gardens are nearby.

Pond garden building background
The pavilion was designed to resemble a Swiss chalet using fieldstones and wood and is still beautiful over a century later.

Prospect Point Lookout is the place to go for the perfect view of the Lions Gate Bridge or to watch a beautiful sunset at the end of the day. A picnic area and the Prospect Point Café are nearby.

Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tour

Looking for another option to tour the park? Horse-drawn trams have been touring visitors through the park since the early 1890s and still are.

Horses pulling people filled trolley
Enjoy a horse-drawn tour through Stanley Park narrated by a professional guide.

Concession stands and food trucks operate throughout the park along with several full service restaurants. There are plenty of picnic areas to enjoy a picnic basket of food.

With Stanley Park fully covered, continue exploring the Seawall beyond the park’s boundaries.

Vancouver Seawall and Seaside Greenway

This 28-kilometre, flat path connects parks, beaches, museums and so much more from Coal Harbour to the Spanish Banks. The Vancouver Seawall circles Stanley Park and continues to English Bay. It follows the bay south and east up False Creek to Science World and then west to Granville Island. It continues to Kitsilano Beach, a total distance of 22 kilometres. The lane closest to the water is the actual seawall and only for walkers and joggers. The inside lane, for bikers and inline skaters, is often separated a bit from the seawall.

The last 6 kilometres of the Greenway, from Kitsilano to the Spanish Banks, is a multi-use path.

Man path on wall by water
The Vancouver Seawall surrounds Stanley Park. We had a sunny day to tour the park and get some exercise.

Watch for and follow the signs, especially during the summer and weekends when it gets very busy. It is an easy ride or walk and perfect for all ages and abilities.

See the North Shore Mountains, the Lions Gate Bridge, Burrard Inlet, and the downtown Vancouver skyline. Explore English Bay beaches and their public art before ending the day watching a stunning sunset over the waters of the Straits of Georgia.

The Greenway winds through Granville Island, an area definitely worth spending some time in.

Granville Island

The island is man-made. The area was a mud flat, used by Indigenous people as a fishing ground for millennia. By 1916, the island had been created with material dredged from False Creek.  Sawmills, factories and plants were built to support the growing city of Vancouver and the province.

These industries continued through World War II but gradually industry moved elsewhere and the island became rundown and abandoned. By this time, the waterway to the west had been filled and Granville Island was physically no longer an island.

In the 1970’s an effort was made to rejuvenate the area. The Public Market opened in 1979 followed by shops, restaurants, a hotel, theatres and artist studios. It was a huge success. Granville Island is a local favourite.

Van beside large industrial building sign along top
This large market is in 6 former industrial buildings built in the 1920s.

Enjoy the entertainment in the theatres and restaurants. See an art show or take a kayaking or paddle boarding tour of False Creek. Granville Island Brewing has been brewing beer here since 1984. Take a tour of Canada’s oldest microbrewery and, of course, enjoy some beer in the taproom.

One of the biggest attractions on Granville Island is the public market.  These six buildings originally held companies who manufactured and sold equipment beginning in the 1920s.

Granville Island Public Market

The huge industrial buildings have rows of stalls selling fresh produce, gourmet foods, baked goods and seafood. Two seating areas offer sit-down and take-out food of many international origins. There are a mixture of day vendors and permanent stalls.

Colourful vegetables displayed stands along aisle
The Granville Island Public Market has been a local favourite since opening in the late 1970s.

The courtyard outside the market is a great place to enjoy your food purchases and free entertainment from local buskers.

False Creek Ferries

The easiest way to get to Granville Island from Downtown Vancouver, or from anywhere along False Creek, is on the tiny “tug-boat” ferries. The docks are well marked where ferries from both Aquabus Ferries Ltd. and Granville Island Ferries Ltd. pick up passengers. Bikers and people needing to stay in their wheelchairs for the journey can be accommodated on Aquabus Ferries. Children should be removed from strollers. Fido must stay leashed onboard.

Tiny Aquabus boats condos behind
Colourful Aquabuses are one of the 2 ferry options carrying people between docks around False Creek.

In addition to Stanley Park and Granville Island, North Vancouver is a must-do.

North Vancouver

Cross the Lions Gate Bridge and explore what makes North Vancouver special. Some of the finest views of the city of Vancouver, Stanley Park, Burrard Inlet and the surrounding mountains are from North Vancouver.

The best place to start a visit is the mountain at the northern edge of city’s residential area.

Grouse Mountain

Over 1200 metres high, Grouse Mountain has been attracting skiers since the 1920s. But the fun doesn’t end when the ski season does.  There are lots of summer activities at the peak. Take a day to do it all!

Vancouver Grouse Mountain skyride arriving
The Grouse Mountain Skyride is the main way to get to the top of the mountain which has over a million visitors every year.
Trees foreground Capilano Lake middle trees ocean back
Get a bird’s eye view of Capilano Lake created by the Cleveland Dam on the Skyride up Grouse Mountain.

Your first adventure is taking the Skyride to Grouse Mountain’s alpine station. Each of the two tramcars holds 100 people with windows on all sides. Be sure to find a spot by the windows for an unobstructed view of the dense Douglas Fir forests, mountains, downtown Vancouver and the Burrard Inlet. With clear skies visibility is about 80 kilometres from the peak. For a more exciting Skyride, enjoy an open-air ride from the special viewing platform on the tram car’s rooftop.

Active adventurers can hike the Grouse Grind Trail to the top. The 2.9-kilometre trail climbs straight to the top. Wear hiking boots and carry water. It is an hour for serious hikers and at least ninety minutes for the rest of us. A one-way Skyride ticket is available for hikers.

Construction has begun on a new gondola system to open by 2025 with 27 cabins, each holding 8 people. It will be in addition to the Skyride to get more people to the peak.

At the summit, the Peak Chalet has lots of food options in a range of price points. The Observatory, a fine-dining restaurant, is open only in the summer. The Chalet also houses Grouse Mountain Outfitters and the Spirit Gallery Gift Shop.

In the summer, a number of activities are included with the purchase of a Skyride ticket.

The Peak Chairlift takes riders to the peak for more stunning views of the mountains, ocean and the city below. In the winter there are four lifts which service the mountain’s thirty-three ski runs.

Beside the Peak Chairlift, the Grizzly Bear Habitat and wildlife refuge provides a home and a second chance for orphaned grizzly bears. Since 2001 the habitat has been home to Grinder and Coola who both arrived as cubs.

Grizzlie bear background people behind fence
Both of the bears at the habitat arrived in 2001 after being orphaned. They will live out their lives here.
2 men balance log rolling in water
Grouse Mountain’s Lumberjack Shows are a fun way to learn about lumberjacking in the early 20th century.

The wildlife refuge is also home to several species of owls born in captivity in other places. Rangers host talks on the bears and owls at various times during the day.

Cheer on your favourite lumberjack at the Lumberjack Competition. Learn about the power and majesty of raptors at the Birds in Motion Demonstrations.  The kids will have fun in the Tree Canopy Adventure.  There is also a Mountain Disc Golf Course.

For an additional charge, take a five-zipline tour through the treetops of Grouse and Dam Mountains or try the Mountain Ropes Adventure.

Winter activities depend on temperature and snowfall to begin operations. It is always best to check the Grouse Mountain website before arriving.

Val standing on rock with Grouse Mountain buildings below
I had the perfect spot from the top of Grouse Mountain to see all that the mountain has to offer and more.

Another option when visiting North Vancouver lies just south of Grouse Mountain in the Capilano River’s deep canyon.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

The Capilano Suspension Bridge hangs 70 metres above the Capilano River, with strong, steel cables holding the 145-metre long bridge. The first suspension bridge, built in 1889, was made of rope and planks. The area has been a tourist attraction ever since.

Walk the Treetops Adventure 33 metres above the forest floor. Seven suspension bridges hang from eight viewing platforms. Each platform is attached to a 250-year-old Douglas Fir tree.

Cliffwalk is a 210-metre walk over a series of narrow bridges, stairs and platforms along the granite cliff high above the Capilano River. Take a deep breath and enjoy this exhilarating walk.

See more than 30 totem poles and beautiful perennial gardens.

Across the bridge, learn about the biodiversity of the West Coast rainforest walking through the Living Forest Exhibit. From May to October, handlers from Raptors Ridge Birds of Prey bring hawks, owls and falcons to the park each day.

The park is open daily. All of the Capilano Suspension Bridge Attractions are included in the price of admission. Allow around 3 hours to enjoy them all.

Just want to explore the rainforest and the canyon without paying a hefty admission price? The Capilano River Regional Park has several hiking trails along the river. Hike the 2.6-kilometre Capilano Canyon Trail which starts at Cleveland Dam. Parking is available just off Capilano Road.  The dam was built in 1954 creating Capilano Lake. This reservoir stores water used for city drinking water. The trail passes the Capilano Fish Hatchery which is free to visit. The hatchery was opened in 1971 to try to strengthen salmon stocks which were severely impacted by the construction of the dam.

End your day at North Vancouver’s vibrant waterfront.

Val and Andy with the Lonsdale shipyards background
We enjoyed the former Lonsdale shipyards, now a trendy public space with bars, restaurants, a splash pad in the summer and ice rink in the winter.

Lower Lonsdale

This is one of the city’s oldest and fastest-growing urban neighbourhoods. With a rich shipbuilding history, the Shipyards District in Lower Lonsdale has quickly become a hub of independent shops, restaurants, specialty food stores and more. And, a bonus, it is only a 12-minute Seabus ride from Downtown Vancouver.

Opened in 1986, the Lonsdale Quay Market was one of the first commercial uses for the buildings in the former North Vancouver shipyards. Explore its variety of fresh food vendors, local shops and restaurants. The 70-room boutique Lonsdale Quay Hotel is also in the building.

Bakery vendor aisle Lonsdale Quay Market
Enjoy the unique treats at the Lonsdale Quay Market in operation since 1986.

From the Q Tower, on the southeast corner of the market building, see a panoramic view of the area. See the Shipyards to the east, Vancouver’s skyline to the south, Stanley Park to the west and the soaring North Shore Mountains to the north. To get to the tower, take the stairway from the walkway on the southeast side of the building. Keep walking to the far end to find the stairs up the tower.

Next door to the market, the modern Polygon Gallery exhibits photography and media-based art.

Q Tower Red zigzag staircase landings to top
Climb the Q Tower for the perfect overview of the area around the Shipyards.
Andy on wooden boardwalk shipyard crane background
Andy with the overhead crane at the Burrard Dry Dock Pier in the background. The crane was used in the heyday of the shipyards.

At the foot of Lonsdale Avenue, the Burrard Dry Dock Pier and the Shipyards are a major year-round destination.  Find restaurants, cafes, shops and services, hotel, space for concerts, a splash park in the summer and outdoor skating in the winter. The area is bigger than a professional soccer pitch or five hockey rinks. What a great place to relax and soak up the community vibe!

Take the SeaBus back to Waterfront Station SeaBus Terminal next to Vancouver‘s Coal Harbour.

Coal Harbour – Vancouver’s Waterfront

This quasi-triangular-shaped neighbourhood has a mix of businesses and residences from the water’s edge to West Georgia Street and from Canada Place to Stanley Park. In the early city, it was industrial lands housing a shipyard and railway terminus. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the cafes and restaurants around the marina today.

Canada Place

The huge facility was built in the early 1980s on the century-old Canadian Pacific Railway pier. The five, white, Teflon-coated, fiberglass sails stand out on the horizon. Canada Place debuted as the Canadian Pavilion at the Expo’86 World Fair.  Today it is the starting point for many Alaskan cruises as the Port Metro Vancouver’s cruise ship terminal. It is home to the Vancouver Convention Centre East, a hotel and office tower. 

People walkway white sales left cruise ship right
The five white sails at Canada Place provide a distinct landmark on the Vancouver Waterfront. The cruise ship terminal is located inside.

At the Port Metro Vancouver Discovery Centre, inside the cruise ship terminal, learn about port facts and dockland history .

FlyOver Canada, on the facility’s northwest corner, takes visitors on an aerial journey across Canada from coast to coast using state-of-the-art 4D-technology. Feel mist from Niagara Falls, the breeze flying over the prairies and the pulse of urban nightlife. The complete experience is about 25 minutes long.

Vancouver Convention Centre West

The west building was added in 2009 housing the International Broadcast Centre for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It has a six-acre living roof, the largest in Canada.

Outdoor public art surrounds the Convention Centre. At the northeast corner, the Drop is a huge raindrop about to hit the walkway. This 2009 sculpture by Inges Idee honours water and the forces of nature.

Floatplanes along floating dock Vancouver Harbour
The Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, opposite the Convention Centre, is the city’s floatplane terminal. It opened in May 2011.

Continuing north, there are interpretive panels along the walkway presenting some harbour history. Watch floatplanes taxi around the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre. Stanley Park, North Vancouver, and the North Shore Mountains are visible in the distance.

Doug Taylor’s kinetic weather vane memorial, Wind Wheel Mobile, recognizes the fight to have asbestos banned in Canada. Airborne asbestos fibres resemble the rotating spokes on the wheels of the mobile and the structural parts represent our lungs and bronchial airways.

The Jack Poole Plaza is on top of the Convention Centre, one level above the public walkway.  Grab a bite to each or take the staircases and ramps to the grassy deck above.

The Digital Orca, a pixel-art killer whale in mid-leap, was designed by Douglas Coupland.

The 2010 Winter Olympic Cauldron stands 10 metres high. It was lit in February 2010 after the longest national torch relay in history at 45,000 km.

3 pictures: left blue raindrop top art crossed sticks over pool bottom Orca sculpture
Clockwise from the top right: The Olympic Cauldron is lit for special occasions. The Digital Orca sculpture is made of aluminum on a steel frame. The 20-metre Drop honours water and the forces of nature.

Just east of the Convention Centre is Vancouver’s central transit hub.

Waterfront Station

This beautiful building was the end of the line for westbound Canadian Pacific Railway passenger trains between 1914 and 1979. In 1977 the waterfront SeaBus Terminal was connected beginning the station’s transition to an intermodal transit hub. Today, the station is the terminus for the Seabus, the Expo and Canada SkyTrain lines and the regional West Coast Express. The West Coast Express connects downtown Vancouver with the Metro Vancouver cities eastward to Mission.

For a bird’s eye view of the city, walk a block south.

Vancouver Lookout

A quick elevator ride ends at the Harbour Centre’s observation deck, 165 metres above the street. In addition to 360 degree views from anywhere on the deck, see the information panels with facts about Vancouver.

One of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods is just to the east.

Vancouver’s Gastown

Tiny Gastown is roughly five blocks long and three blocks wide bounded by Richards, East Hastings, Main and the railway tracks. For the first several decades of the 20th century, this was the commercial centre of Vancouver but by the 1960’s it was rundown and seedy. The community came together in the 1970’s to bring the neighbourhood back to its former glory.

Outdoor large antique clock people around
The Gastown Steam Clock is powered by steam from Vancouver’s distributed steam-heating system.

Enjoy a stroll on Water Street past vintage lampposts and buildings built in the late 19th century. They house trendy shops and many excellent restaurants. A popular photo stop is at Water and Cambie Streets.

Gastown Steam Clock

The 2-ton Gastown Steam Clock was built in 1977 to commemorate the community effort to save Gastown. Five steam whistles signal every 15 minutes with a “finale” on the hour. It’s a steamy performance.

A block south on Cambie Street, the Woodward’s Development is the entire block along West Cordova Street.

Woodward’s Development

The core of this office-residential complex is the 1908 Woodward’s Store. Woodward Department Stores began in Vancouver and grew to 26 stores until selling to HBC in the 1990s.  Their famous “W” sign is lit in neon above the complex.  In the lobby, the architect added a functional piece of art, the Spiral Staircase to Nowhere. It is a staircase to the second floor which spirals further up to an abrupt end with a view of the lobby below.

A block south, at the intersection of East Pender and Abbott Streets, Vancouver’s Chinatown begins.

Vancouver Chinatown

One of North America’s largest Chinatown districts, it was established in the 1890s.  Its historic core is around Pender and Carral Streets.

The Chinatown Millennium Gate, a classic Chinese entrance gate, was erected in 2002 replacing the first one which had stood since 1912.

4 pillared Chinese gate Vancouver
The four-pillared gate stands three storeys high.

Early Chinese immigrants settled in Shanghai Alley, off Pender Street just east of the gate, between 1899 and 1920.  Information panels near the West Han Dynasty Bell, in the alley, provide more information on the early days.

Some of the city’s oldest storefronts are on Pender Street, such as the Sam Kee Building at Pender and Carrall Streets. It is claimed that this is the world’s narrowest building at only 6 feet wide.

The first classical Chinese Garden in Canada, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, is just south on Carrall Street.

The Vancouver neighbourhood called “Downtown” is to the northwest of Chinatown.

Downtown Vancouver

This is the core of Vancouver and the city’s main business district. Generally shaped like a backward letter “L”, Coal Harbour and Gastown are its eastern edge. Chinatown and Yaletown border it on the south and West End is both its western and northern limits.

Robson Street is Downtown Vancouver’s best known shopping area and one its oldest streets.

Robson Street

Walk anywhere on Robson between BC Place Stadium and Stanley Park and find locals going about their daily journeys. Thriving shops, office buildings and restaurants line the street.

Starting in the south, these are a few interesting places on or just off Robson.

BC Place

This is the home of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Learn about the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the city’s professional sports teams and local sports heroes.

Two of Vancouver’s pro-sport teams play here: Canadian football’s Lions and North American soccer’s Whitecaps. The city’s third professional team, the Canucks of North America’s hockey league, plays just across Griffiths Way at Roger’s Arena.

Huge circular romanesque building people-filled street
The Vancouver Central Library opened to the public in 1995. Its green roof was redesigned in 2018 to include an 8000 square foot roof garden accessible to the public.
People filled atrium high walls ceiling glass
The library’s atrium is the perfect place to enjoy a beverage.

Vancouver Public Library

The Central Library resembles a Roman amphitheatre and has been a backdrop in several Hollywood films. Designed by world-renowned Safdie Architects, this nine-storey library has more than 1.5 million books, periodicals and reference guides. Enjoy a coffee and the beautiful architecture in the glass atrium or in the outdoor public park at the top.

Four blocks north is the heart of Downtown.  Robson Square is spread over three blocks. Two blocks house the Provincial Courts and the University of British Columbia’s downtown campus. The plazas, gardens and walkways are open to the public. The Vancouver Art Gallery is on the 3rd block, in the former Provincial Court House.

One block further north, Hotel Vancouver on West Georgia sits between Hornby and Burrard Streets.

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

This luxury Fairmont hotel, once a grand Canadian railway hotel, opened in May 1939. The building has a steep, copper roof and carved stonework complete with gargoyles.  It was designed to look like a castle from France’s Loire Valley.

Directly across the street is the oldest church building in Vancouver.

Multi-storey sand-coloured building green-coloured roof
The Hotel Vancouver stands 110 metres tall and has 17 floors with over 500 guest rooms.

Christ Church Cathedral

The stunning sandstone church was built in the late 1890s. Its roof is supported by trusses inside similar to those in large 14th-century English halls and churches. Its original wooden flooring, tongue-and-groove ceiling and stained glass windows were fully restored in 2004.

Vancouver Museums

These are a few of the fine museums and galleries in the city. A visit to any of them is time well spent.

The permanent collection at the gallery includes over 12,000 works by Canadian, Indigenous and international artists. One of the largest art galleries in Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery presents both historical and contemporary art.  The art of the Asia Pacific region is highlighted as well as important local artists such as Group of Seven’s Emily Carr and Indigenous artist Bill Reid. Internationally acclaimed travelling shows compliment the gallery’s permanent collection.

Andy by front steps to 4-columned entrance of the Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery is in the former provincial Court House, the building behind Andy.

The gallery showcases contemporary Indigenous Art of North America’s Northwest Coast. Named in honour of Haida artist Bill Reid, the Bill Reid Gallery houses Simon Fraser University’s Bill Reid Collection. Reid created over one thousand original works during his fifty-year career including both sculptures and paintings.

Museum of Anthropology at UBC

Overlooking the ocean with mountains in the distance, the museum’s setting plays a fundamental role in the art it houses. Its collection of Northwest Coast First Nations artworks is known around the world. The Museum of Anthropology is also home to thousands of pieces from almost every part of the world, along with 535,000 archaeological objects.  Free daily tours are available. Allow at least 2 hours.

Green jade canoe animals men
Local artist Bill Reid’s The Jade Canoe at the Vancouver Airport depicts a canoe filled with human and animal figures.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

The University of British Columbia’s biological collections showcase the world’s rich biodiversity. Discover where the 26-metre-long blue whale skeleton in the atrium, BC’s dinosaur tracks and humankind fit in the earth’s 4.5-billion-year timeline. With over 500 permanent exhibits and additional regularly changing ones, the Beaty Museum has something for everyone.

Vancouver Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum’s library and archives have thousands of items documenting the maritime history of the west coast. The collection of vessels includes the St. Roch, a National Historic Site. Learn about this historic British Columbia-built vessel which, in 1944, was the first to make it through the entire Northwest Passage in one season. 

A-frame building Vancouver Maritime Museum
The museum has thousands of items documenting the maritime history of the west coast including plans and models of ships.
Circular space-ship shaped white building
The Space Centre and the Museum of Vancouver are side by side in beautiful Vanier Park.

Museum of Vancouver

Vanier Park’s Museum of Vancouver presents the history of the city from 1900 to 1970. Investigate the connections between Indigenous history, nature and the city today. Hear stories, see objects and learn about experiences which have enriched the city over its history.

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre

Next door, at the Space Centre, learn about the wonders of space, look into the galaxies at the observatory and find the constellations in the Planetarium. There are live demonstrations and much more.

Science World

Science World is a huge exhibition space and outdoor park crammed with hands-on fun.  Learn about the human body, earth’s geology, the dinosaurs, space and more through exhibits and live science demonstrations.

Vancouver Gardens

The city’s climate, generally mild and wet, allows gardens to flourish. See gardens with flowering bulbs in the spring, annuals and perennials in the summer and professional botanical gardens.

These are several options to explore.

Stanley Park Gardens

The Stanley Park Rose Garden, first planted in the 1920s, dazzles with blooms throughout the summer. There are over 3500 bushes and a stunning arbour covered by climbing varieties.

The forty-five tree species found in the Shakespeare Garden are those mentioned in the Bard’s famous plays and poems.

The Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden surrounds the Stanley Park Pitch & Putt with a beautiful display of colour from March through early summer.

Every park garden shows off flowering bulbs in the spring and annuals and perennials in the summer.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Chinatown

Enjoy covered walkways, beautiful pavilions, soothing water features, miniature trees and more in this beautiful Classical Chinese Garden. Created in 1986, it provides an oasis in the middle of the city. The entry fee includes a 45-minute guided tour.

Queen Elizabeth Park

This 128-acre park is built around the city’s highest point, at 150 metres above sea level.  This is the site of two former quarries that were mined for road building materials in the early 20th century. The quarries are now beautifully landscaped with trees, shrubs and gardens. Queen Elizabeth Park has a rose garden, lawn bowling club, pitch ‘n’ putt golf course and lots of parkland. Enjoy fine dining at Seasons in the Park or a picnic. The star attraction is the domed conservatory.

Multiple fountains front dome-shaped building
The Dancing Waters fountain has 70 jets of water which spurt high and low. Behind the fountain see the glass dome of the Bloedel Conservatory which houses a botanical garden with plants from around the world. Over 100 exotic birds fly free inside.
Colourful flower beds lawn Vancouver garden
The Quarry Gardens both include trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and annuals. The larger western garden includes a stream and cascading waterfall. The smaller north garden has a beautiful arched bridge crossing a dry stony streambed.

Bloedel Conservatory

You will likely see rain during your visit to the city. If so, then a visit to the Bloedel Conservatory is a great rainy day activity in Vancouver.

The indoor climate-controlled Bloedel Conservatory has more than 100 exotic birds, including Macaws and African parrots, fly throughout the building. The garden supports over 500 plant species from three different regions; the rain forest, the subtropics and the desert.

VanDusen Botanical Garden

Using over 7500 plant species from around the world, the VanDusen Garden is the perfect place to relax in the middle of the city. See wildlife from tiny hummingbirds to majestic eagles. Kids and adults alike get lost in the hedge maze. Learn more about the garden on a guided walking tour or relax on the patio of the café or in the fine-dining restaurant.

UBC Botanical Garden

Canada’s oldest university botanical garden has hundreds of species of plants. Explore the different gardens within the UBC Garden, such as the David C. Lam Asian Garden, the Alpine Garden, or the Greenheart TreeWalk adventure. There are garden tours as well.

Vancouver Beaches

Making ocean beachfront available for everyone has been a priority in Vancouver since the 1920’s. The city’s beaches all have:

  • Public washrooms,
  • Lifeguards on duty from 11:30 am to 8:30 pm, Victoria Day to Labour Day,
  • Water quality monitored weekly for E-coli bacteria from May to September, and
  • Sand volleyball courts (the number of beach volleyball courts varies by beach).

Dogs are only allowed at beaches with designated dog off-leash areas.

Finger shaped beach many dogs buildings behind
Dogs are allowed in the water at Haddon Beach. The 4-legged bathers were having a blast!

Vancouver has amazing beaches from Stanley Park around Burrard Inlet to the western tip of the Burrard Peninsula. These are the different areas and their beaches.

Stanley Park

Third Beach is a naturally sandy beach and a great sunset spot. It tends to be a bit quieter than other beaches.

Second Beach is popular with families since a playground, picnic area and pool are nearby. The Second Beach Swimming Pool is a heated, outdoor pool.

English Bay

English Bay Beach is the most popular Vancouver beach though it is known for its cold waters. The area is also popular with people using the Seawall. Beach umbrellas, chairs and kayaks are available for rent.

There are several pieces of public art along the bay. At the north end, Chinese artist Yue Minjun’s A-maze-ing Laughter makes even the most grumpy person smile. Grab some selfies with the fourteen, laughing, likenesses of Minjun.

A gray, granite Inukshuk, traditionally an Inuit directional guide, sits at the north end of Sunset Beach. The beach is designated a quiet beach where amplified sound is not permitted. Watch the sun set from the beach or a nearby café.

3 pictures: Right inukshuk Top man sculpture man bottom huge engagement rings
The public art around English Bay clockwise from the top left: A-maze-ing Laughter by Yue Minjun, Inukshuk by Alvin Kanak and the Engagement Sculpture by Dennis Oppenheim.

This particular Inukshuk by Alvin Kanak was commissioned by the Northwest Territories and gifted to the city.

The Engagement Sculpture, by Dennis Oppenheim, was created as Canada was legalizing same sex marriage. It is often a backdrop for engagement and wedding photos.

Bernar Venet’s work 217.5 ARC x 13s appears partially buried on Sunset Beach. His works explore mathematical relationships between nature, universe and life.

Kitsilano

While Hadden Beach is relatively small, dogs are allowed in the water. They take full advantage of the chance for water time fun.

Kitsilano Beach Park is a favourite of the locals and was the busiest by far with beach volleyballers when we biked by on a hot August day. There are beach volleyball, tennis and basketball courts. A children’s playground and the Olympic-sized Kitsilano Pool are nearby.

Many beach volleyball games
Volleyball on Kitsilano Beach is very popular. Many Vancouver beaches have beach volleyball courts.

Jericho Park

Jericho Beach is on the north side of this large park. The east side is typically used by swimmers while the west is the place for sailboats and windsurfers. The park has playing fields, tennis courts and lots of picnic tables.

Locarno Beach is on the west side of the park and a designated quiet beach.

Spanish Banks Park

The park is popular with walkers, cyclists, picnickers and splashing families. At low tide, the water can be as much as a kilometre offshore.

The Spanish Banks Beach is the longest stretch of sandy beach in Vancouver and divided into three sections. West is designated as a quiet beach and the extension beach is a kite-boarding launch zone.

Wreck Beach

The clothing optional beach is on the extreme western tip of the peninsula. The only way to access the secluded beach is by a steep trail down from the UBC campus.

Know Before You Go

How does the transit system work?

The Vancouver Public Transit System is run by Translink and has bus, SkyTrain or SeaBus routes. Fares are calculated based on the number of zones crossed. The easiest way to travel is to purchase a reloadable Compass Card and load it with money or full day passes.

Bus routes cover much of Greater Vancouver. A bus ride is always a “1-zone” fare. Tap your Compass Card on the card reader when boarding at any door and the fare will be automatically deducted.

The SkyTrain is an LRT System with 3 lines. The Canada Line links the Airport to downtown Vancouver. There are 3 fare zones during the day Monday to Friday until 6:30 pm. After 6:30 and all weekend, a SkyTrain ride is a 1-zone fare. Tap the card reader to enter AND leave the train.

The SeaBus is a catamaran which crosses Vancouver Harbour in a short 12-minute trip between Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It is a 2-zone fare.

Recommendation: If you intend to use transit a lot each day, the day pass is the most economical fare option.

The City of Vancouver’s Visitor’s Guide to Public Transport is a very helpful resource for trip planning.

Is it easy to use public transit from the airport?

The SkyTrain stop is conveniently located at the airport terminal entrance. It is very easy to find.

Couple behind bicycles dock water city towers behind
Enjoy your trip to beautiful Vancouver!


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