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How to Beat the Crowds in Vancouver

Avoid crowds by visiting local spots or taking private tours.

Cyclists enjoy riding through Stanley Park
Hi, I'm Diane!

Based in Vancouver, B.C., Diane Selkirk enjoys writing stories where science, history, or social justice intersect with travel. Her work has appeared in BBC Travel, National Geographic Travel, and The Globe and Mail.

Vancouver draws in nature enthusiasts, adventurous foodies, and those looking for a cool urban scene. But the city’s ever-growing scene of hip restaurants, funky boutiques, and beautiful nature mean it attracts a lot of people. Whether you’re looking for alternatives to crowded Instragram-famous eateries or hikes where selfie-taking groups don’t block the trail, Vancouver has a lot to offer. Ensure your trip is an actual vacation by visiting hidden local corners and following these tips to avoid hordes of tourists.

Find alternatives

Vancouver's Chinatown at night.
Vancouver's Chinatown.Foto: pr2is / Shutterstock

Some of Vancouver’s best destinations are local secrets.

Historic Gastown is home to vibrant nightlife, but bars can quickly become overcrowded. Swap out Gastown’s crowds for the hidden speakeasies of Vancouver’s Chinatown. At Blnd Tger Dumplings, you’ll find a 1930s-style bar behind a hidden entrance (order the #7!) where no phones are allowed, and the number of customers is limited.

Otherwise, opt for a brewery tour on the quirky East Side and take breaks to admire the colorful murals and street art of Main Street. It’s a destination that draws more locals than tourists and allows you to skip the hectic buzz of downtown.

Start early

People walk a bridge in the rainforest.
Hiking in the rainforest is always a good idea.Foto: Mike Kane / Viator

Early morning hikes offer crisp air and quiet trails.

Thanks to Vancouver’s public transit system, access to the dramatic North Shore mountains is easy even without a car. Catch a bus from downtown and start the day at Lynn Canyon Park. Go early to have the trails all to yourself.

With clear blue pools, a soaring suspension bridge, and dense cedar forests, you can unwind from the busy city at your own pace. Lynn Canyon's environment is similar to the nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, but it’s a more relaxed (and free) experience.

Expand your palate horizons

Diners enjoy the food options at Granville Public Market.
Diners at one of Vancouver's restaurants.Foto: Mike Kane / Viator

Nearby neighborhoods hide unpretentious gems.

Vancouver’s restaurants fill up quickly, especially in foodie destinations like Granville Island or Chinatown, but that just gives you the opportunity to venture further afield. Neighboring Richmond is home to traditional Chinese restaurants where you’ll find unique regional specialties.

Otherwise, stay within city limits with a trip to Commercial Drive (or just ‘the Drive,’ if you want to sound like a local.) Packed with colorful restaurants and international offerings, the Drive is the spot for Italian, Ethiopian, and Mexican food. If you have to wait for a table, the neighborhood also has quirky vintage shops to explore.

Related: How to Get Off the Beaten Path in Vancouver

Bypass busy beaches

Spanish Banks beach in summertime.
Vancouver's beaches are a dream in summer.Foto: Josef Hanus / Shutterstock

Those who invest a bit of time will find quieter patches of sand.

Sunset Beach and Kitsilano Beach are popular among both tourists and locals. Their close proximity to the city makes them convenient for everyone, but they fill up quickly, especially on summer nights.

Thankfully, Vancouver is home to other options to dive into the Pacific or sunbathe on the sand. Spanish Banks is known for its shallow, sandy beach and view of the North Shore mountains across the bay. Otherwise, take in the beaches from a different angle with a boat tour of the bay, where you can snap the perfect shot of the city skyline and admire the waterfront architecture.

Take advantage of weekdays

Vancouver's known for its vibrant markets like this one, Public Market.
Vancouver's known for its vibrant markets.Foto: Mike Kane / Viator

Discover a new side to the city from Monday to Friday.

Spots like Granville Island and Stanley Park are just as popular with locals as they are with visitors, which is why crowds tend to peak on weekends. Take in Granville Island’s famous Public Market on a weekday afternoon—it’s the perfect destination for lunch, whether you want to build your own picnic from the specialty market vendors or grab a plate from one of the food stalls.

Stanley Park offers peaceful nature right next to the city, and its surrounding Seawall is perfect for long walks, bike rides, or jogs. Whether you make a beach day of it or aim for a hike, it tends to empty out Monday through Friday.

Explore, rain or shine

A local runs by the water in Vancouver, despite the weather, in Stanley Park.
A local runs by the water in Vancouver, despite the weather.Foto: Chris Allan / Shutterstock

In a city nicknamed ‘Raincouver,’ the weather shouldn’t keep you home.

Most hunker down during inclement weather, but pack your raincoat and grab your umbrella to discover how weather patterns transform Vancouver. Located in the middle of a coastal rainforest, the city thrives in the rain—the greens appear brighter, a gentle mist rolls in, and the air smells fresh and clean.

It’s the perfect time to wander Stanley Park or head for the gardens in Queen Elizabeth Park for private, unobstructed views of the city. To warm up, pop into a café and ask for a London Fog. Invented in Vancouver in the '90s, it’s an Earl Grey latte with vanilla syrup.

Take a private tour

The Fraser Valley, its mountains and fields, in summer.
Take a private tour to visit Fraser Valley.Foto: EB Adventure Photography / Shutterstock

See Vancouver’s best attractions your way.

With so many things to see and do, a curated, private tour of Vancouver’s highlights led by an expert guide means you’ll see exactly what you want and get to relax in a private vehicle between destinations.

For those after the perfect hike, enjoy a tour of the North Shore mountains and discover the unique forests of the region. Otherwise, for a break from the crowds, opt for a private wine tour to get out of the city and into the rolling vineyards of Fraser Valley.

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