Things to do in Vancouver

Things to do in  Vancouver

Full of color, full of life

Vancouver shines by the sea, the green glass of its skyscrapers seeming at home among the surrounding forests and mountains. This coastal city is known for its nature, but there are more things to do in Vancouver than endless hiking and biking. Check out the bakeries and hole-in-the-wall restaurants of Chinatown, spend the day discovering Main Street’s vintage stores and quirky cafés, and pack a picnic to watch the sun set from one of the city’s several urban beaches (takeaway sushi is a local favorite).

Top 15 attractions in Vancouver

Stanley Park

Vancouver’s Stanley Park enjoys a stellar natural setting, surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and set against the backdrop of the snow-capped North Shore Mountains. At nearly 1,000 acres (405 hectares) in size, it offers a combination of coastal red-cedar forest, lakes and lagoons, and scenic meadows. A walk along the public park’s seawall is an essential Vancouver experience.More

Downtown Vancouver

Surrounded by water on three sides, downtown Vancouver is the place to go for sea views, bright lights, and action. The city’s commercial core, it encompasses several distinct areas including shop-lined Robson Street, the green expanse of Stanley Park, historic Gastown, and one of the largest Chinatowns in North America.More


One of Vancouver’s oldest and buzziest districts, Gastown is packed with Victorian architecture and cobbled streets. Named after John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, an English mariner who opened a saloon in the area in the 19th century, the district is filled with heritage buildings now hosting boutiques, coffee shops, hip restaurants, and bars.More

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Admire Vancouver's natural beauty at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, a quintessential British Columbia experience and one of the Pacific Northwest's most popular attractions. The highlight includes walking out onto the 450-foot (137-meter) suspension bridge as it sways between the temperate rain forest over the rushing Capilano River below. With plenty more to see and do besides, it’s a must for adventurous visitors in Vancouver.More

Granville Island

Overflowing with art studios, theaters, restaurants, and kid-friendly activities, Vancouver’s Granville Island is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. The “island”—really a small peninsula—is an ideal getaway from the bustle of city life, with waterfront views, scenic alleyways, and a thriving food and art culture.More

Lions Gate Bridge

The impressive Lions Gate Bridge spans the Burrard Inlet, connecting North and West Vancouver with the downtown area. This suspension bridge originally opened in 1938, and is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. At the bridge’s south end is leafy Stanley Park, another major attraction in Vancouver.More

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens, established in 1904, treats visitors to an enchanting floral show that changes with the seasons. Covering 55 acres (22 hectares) on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the botanical space is intricately laid out into separate themed gardens with landscaping that impresses and inspires gardeners and nature lovers alike.More

Canada Place

Opened in 1986, Canada Place is hard to miss: The complex was built to look like a ship, and its five large fiberglass “sails” are visible above the Vancouver waterfront. This is the city’s main cruise ship terminal, and the complex is also home to a convention center, a hotel, and FlyOver Canada, a flight-simulation ride.More

Port of Vancouver

Vancouver Cruise Port serves as the home port for Alaska-bound cruise ships, as well as for vessels traveling south to locations along the Pacific Coast and Hawaii. Located on the Vancouver Harbour waterfront, the Canada Place Cruise Terminal is right in the heart of the city, providing easy access to downtown and to the North Shore Mountains.More

Robson Street

Locals and visitors alike flock to Robson Street for shopping, dining, and people watching. It’s the biggest retail street in the city with department stores, chain stores, and high-end shops, plus a variety of eateries, all located near downtown Vancouver’s attractions and waterfront.More

Vancouver Chinatown

Established in the 1890s by migrant workers, this Vancouver neighborhood is now among the biggest and most vibrant Chinatowns in North America. It’s packed with Asian grocers, Chinese herbalists, dim sum restaurants, trinket stores, and meat shops filled with tempting displays of hanging char siu and roast ducks.More

Vancouver Lookout

Perched atop a downtown high-rise, this circular observation platform yields panoramic views of glassy skyscrapers, Vancouver Harbour, and the magnificent peaks of the North Shore and Olympic ranges. A glass-enclosed elevator zooms up to the platform so that street scenes seem to shrink before visitors’ very eyes.More

English Bay

Situated between Kistilano and Stanley Park, English Bay is one of Vancouver’s best spots for water sports, such as swimming, kayaking, and fishing. Two popular beaches—Kitsilano Beach and English Bay—face out onto the bay, as does part of the Stanley Park seawall, a waterside promenade used by cyclists and walkers.More

Sea to Sky Gondola

During the 10-minute ride to the 2,900-foot (884-meter) summit station, passengers of the Sea to Sky Gondola are treated to sweeping views of some of British Columbia’s most epic landscapes. The floor-to-ceiling windows of the gondola cars reveal the sky-piercing peaks of the Coast Mountains and the glittering fjords of Howe Sound.More

Grouse Mountain

The summit of Grouse Mountain features some of the best views in all of British Columbia—from Vancouver’s downtown towers to the green expanse of Stanley Park and the entirety of Fraser Valley. Visitors can ride the Skyride aerial tram or hike up to the 3,642-foot (1,110-meter) peak for panoramic vistas and a variety of outdoor activities.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Vancouver

Vancouver City Tour Including Capilano Suspension Bridge
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Victoria and Butchart Gardens Tour from Vancouver
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Vancouver Seaplane Tour
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Vancouver Seaplane Tour

Whistler and Sea to Sky Gondola Tour
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Victoria and Butchart Gardens Day Trip from Vancouver
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Vancouver City Hop-on Hop-off Tour

Vancouver City Hop-on Hop-off Tour

Half-Day Whale Watching Adventure from Vancouver
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Whale-Watching Tour from Vancouver

Whale-Watching Tour from Vancouver

Vancouver City Sightseeing Tour: Granville Island & Stanley Park
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Post-cruise: Vancouver Tour with Lookout & Capilano Bridge
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Whistler & Sea to Sky Gondola Small-Group Day Trip from Vancouver
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All about Vancouver

When to visit

Vancouver has plenty of things to do at all times of the year, but the busiest time tends to be the summer and winter. Summer is warm and dry, and locals gather at Kitsilano or Jericho Beach to cool off before grabbing dinner at one of the dozens of sushi restaurants. In the winter, the nearby mountains are full of skiers and snowboarders, and events such as the Eastside Culture Crawl showcase the city’s artistic side.

Getting around

Vancouver has an expansive and convenient public transit system that links the surrounding communities to the city via bus, train, and ferry. The bus lines even include stops at popular hiking spots so you can explore the outdoors without needing a car. Just use your credit or debit card to tap the sensors when using transit. Vancouver is also a city for cyclists, and the Mobi bike-share system has stations around the city for easy access.

Traveler tips

Don’t let the rain stop your plans. Vancouver is located in the temperate rainforest, and rain makes the city bloom with green vibrancy. Pack your raincoat and an umbrella, and head to Queen Elizabeth Park. As the highest point in Vancouver, you’ll get sweeping views over the city and a chance to explore the popular gardens. To warm up, take a stroll through Bloedel Conservatory, which features exotic plants and tropical birds.


A local’s pocket guide to Vancouver

Rosie Boosey

Rosie's sister lives in Vancouver and she visits whenever she can. Find her exploring the city’s best hangouts, cycling endlessly up and down the tree-lined avenues, and skiing on Cypress Mountain.

The first thing you should do in Vancouver is...

rent a scooter from Cycle BC to zip around the city and get familiar with all the sights.

A perfect Saturday in Vancouver...

starts with brunch at Heirloom, before riding around the False Creek seawall and stopping at Granville Island Market for Lee’s donuts. In the evening, play Spike Ball on Kits beach or take a brewery tour.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Stanley Park. There are lots of trails, a shrinking lake, and even a city beach where drum circles gather on sunny Tuesday evenings.

To discover the "real" Vancouver...

head down Commercial Drive in East Van and explore the many bars, restaurants, and local shops.

For the best view of the city...

go to Queen Elizabeth Park, the highest point in Vancouver with lots of lovely gardens. For a closer view, visit Vanier Park instead and make sure to walk across Burrard Bridge.

One thing people get wrong...

is not realizing Vancouver's weather is actually pretty lovely in the summer—there are even days with no rain.


People Also Ask

What is Vancouver famous for?

Vancouver is known for its scenery and proximity to the great outdoors. While it certainly has its fair share of skyscrapers, its numerous parks and easy access to old-growth forests, beaches, and mountains add a sylvan twist to the urban vibe. Vancouver’s also known for food, with restaurants representing cuisine from across the globe.

What should I not miss in Vancouver?

Many of Vancouver's not-to-be-missed attractions revolve around the natural world, from Capilano Suspension Bridge Park to massive Stanley Park, home to the popular Vancouver Aquarium. Historic Gastown is another must-visit for its architecture alone, and is a great place to get a taste of the city’s fantastic culinary scene.

How can I spend 2 days in Vancouver?

Spend your first day exploring downtown attractions such as Canada Place and Gastown before heading out to visit Granville Island and its famous market. On day two, make your way out to Stanley Park and then continue up to the North Shore to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

What is the most beautiful part of Vancouver?

The most beautiful part of Vancouver varies by who you ask. Nature lovers will find areas further north, particularly on the North Shore, to be the clear winners. For fantastic views of the cityscape against a mountainous background, head up to the Vancouver Lookout at the top of the Harbour Centre.

What can you do in Vancouver for free?

Many of Vancouver's most interesting attractions won't cost you a penny, from checking out the historic architecture in Gastown to taking a seaside stroll in scenic Stanley Park. The Gothic Revival-style Christ Church Cathedral is also free to visit, and the Vancouver Art Gallery is free on Tuesday evenings.

Is Vancouver very expensive?

Vancouver can be expensive, and while you can easily find plenty of great food to eat on a budget, accommodation tends to be on the higher side. If you don’t need to stay right in the heart of the city, you can find affordable hotels in nearby communities such as Burnaby and Richmond.

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