We have been living in Vancouver for over 15 years and during this time we have welcomed many first-time visitors to the city. We are often asked: “What are the most popular things to do in Vancouver?”
Our answers vary depending on the season. However, there are several places in Vancouver that we always recommend to first-time visitors. The worth seeing Attractions that make Vancouver a great city.
Last summer, we wrote a detailed post that featured 25 fantastic day trips from Vancouver. It has become a popular post on this travel blog and we have received many inquiries about Vancouver since then.
We don’t often write about our hometown because it feels so familiar. For non-residents of Vancouver, however, this waterfront city is considered a world-class travel destination.
Here’s your local’s guide to the best things to do in Vancouver.
Vancouver is not cheap, so this post focuses on the cheaper side of Vancouver. We love this city and try to get outside and enjoy it as much as possible. The list below shows the things we like to do in Vancouver when we have time to go outside and play.
You don’t have enough time for all of these 25 attractions and activities. So we start with the attractions that you have to see. If you only have a few days, start with them first.
1. Explore Stanley Park and the Dam
Stanley Park is probably Vancouver’s top tourist attraction. It is Vancouver’s first, largest and most popular city park. You could easily spend a whole day in this 1,000 hectare public park. Stanley Park is almost completely surrounded by the waters of Vancouver Harbor and English Bay.
To enjoy the full Stanley Park experience, we recommend exploring the Stanley Park Seawall, a 10 km loop around Vancouver’s most famous outdoor area, on foot or by bike. It takes about 2 to 3 hours to walk around Stanley Park Seawall and about 1 hour to walk around (assuming a leisurely pace).
Best Activities in Stanley Park:
- Totem poles in Stanley Park
- Enjoy the spectacular view Lookout point
- The legendary Siwash Rock
- Brockton Point lighthouse
- Bird watching in the Lost Lagoon
- Go under the icon Lions Gate Bridge
- Explore 27 kilometers of forest trails
- Second beach pool – heated outdoor pool (more information Here)
- Vancouver Aquarium (tickets and opening times Here)
- Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours (more information Here)
- Take the Stanley Park Train
- Bike tour around the dam (you can rent bicycles Here)
- Stanley Park Pitch & Putt (further information Here)
Here is a download Map of Stanley Park in Vancouver.
Note – If you have a vehicle and want to park in Stanley Park, you know that the entire park is chargeable. Here is a blog post about parking in Stanley Park.
Above – the Stanley Park Seawall. Is on top of the cliff Prospect point lookout.
Look for activities in Vancouver this week Here.
2. Visit Granville Island
Granville Island is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver, especially for first-time visitors. You can explore Granville Island cheaply by just wandering around the market and enjoying the breathtaking views of the water from False Creek and the United States Burrard Bridge.
The Granville Island public market is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and is home to over 50 retailers selling a variety of foods. If you are visiting on a sunny day, you will surely encounter a live Busker performance. Check the schedule from Granville Island Busker appearances.
There are many restaurants on Granville Island to choose from, including the popular terrace at Bridges Restaurant (see picture above) and the upscale Sandbar Seafood Restaurant.
However, since we focus on making Vancouver cheap, we recommend that you get food from the Public Market Food Court and take it outside to enjoy by the water (watch out for the birds, they are sneaky!).
Here is a download Granville Island map.
An entertaining way to get to Granville Island is to get on one Aquabus, shown below. The Aquabus is a small water taxi that runs around False Creek. The Granville Island ferry runs every 15 minutes. Timetables, prices and dock locations can be found here Here.
Here you will find information about how to get to Granville Island.
Relatives – The best Vancouver road trip for beginners
3. Granville Street Entertainment District
When you’re done hiking on Granville Island, cross the Granville Street Bridge and continue north Vancouver’s entertainment district. No matter what time of day, there’s always something going on in Granville Street.
Granville is the place to go if you are looking for the best nightlife in Vancouver. It’s also a great place to watch people. The entertainment district is home to the Commodore ballroom (renowned music venue), Orpheum Theater (Home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra) and legend Roxy Cabaret (longtime club with live bands).
Entertaining fact – The Granville Street Strip was previously thought to have the world’s highest neon concentration, just behind Shanghai, China.
If you are in the neighborhood, check out Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery. If the weather in Vancouver is rainy during your visit (most likely from November to April), you can seek shelter in the crowd Pacific Center Mall. Here is a Map of the Pacific Center.
4. Grouse Mountain and the Grouse Grind
One of the main attractions of Vancouver is Grouse Mountain, described as The Vancouver Summit.
The FREE way to get to the top of Grouse Mountain is to hike up the Grouse grind, also known as Mother Nature’s Stair Master. Be warned, the grouse grind is challenging and the trail can get very busy in the summer months, especially on weekends.
This hike on Grouse Mountain is 3 kilometers long and has an altitude difference of 853 meters. Therefore, it is not recommended for beginners or casual travelers. We have seen countless tourists trying to hike the grouse grind in jeans and dress shoes without water or snacks. Do not do that. This is a real hike.
Note – The Grouse Grind is closed during the winter months.
The Grouse Mountain Skyride
The other way to reach the top is the Grouse Mountain Gondola (the Skyride – A fee is charged for the Skyride It’s not cheap). The Skyride runs 365 days a year and leaves every 15 minutes from 8:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Grouse Mountain tickets vary depending on the season. Check the website for prices.
To leave the mountain you either have to take the Skyride (it will cost USD 15 per person from 2018) or go downhill again. Instead of going back up the steep Grouse Grind, take the BCMC Trail instead.
Grouse Mountain restaurants
The main restaurant is Grouse Mountain Höhen Bistro. It has one of the best terraces in Vancouver with endless views of Vancouver and the lower mainland. The Observatory restaurant is a more upscale, upscale restaurant that is only open for dinner in the evening.
We stick to the topic of keeping things cheap, and we recommend that you pack lunch instead of dining at one of the Grouse Mountain restaurants. There are many places where you can sit back and enjoy the view for free.
The weather in the capercaillie can be unpredictable (it’s a mountain after all). It is therefore best to check the forecast in advance. Here is the Grouse Mountain weather report and Grouse Mountain Opening times.
Relatives – The highlight of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
5. Lynn Canyon suspension bridge
Not to be confused with the popular Capilano suspension bridge, the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge is a pedestrian bridge inside Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver. In contrast to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Lynn Canyon Park can be entered and explored free of charge.
The freely accessible suspension bridge is 50 meters from the bottom of the canyon. It’s a narrow bridge that can get pretty bouncy when you get to the center.
While the bridge is the main attraction of Lynn Canyon Park, we prefer to spend our time on the park’s extensive forest path network. The park covers over 600 hectares Temperate rainforest.
You can explore the hiking trails near the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge or the 50 kilometers of roads and trails nearby Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, including the more demanding ones Lynn Peak hike and the easier Twin Falls hike.
Parking at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge can be challenging on weekends. It is therefore best to arrive early. Take a moment before crossing the bridge Lynn Canyon Ecology Center.
Relatives – Cliffwalk at the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Hiking in Lynn Canyon Park is a great family activity for all ages.
6. Hiking and kayaking in Deep Cove
We love deep cove. It is a picturesque community in the easternmost part of North Vancouver, at the entrance to the Indian Arm. There is a small village with restaurants, shops and the infamous Honey donut (Beware – these donuts are addictive).
Deep Cove is known for its marina and kayaking. If you don’t have your own equipment, you can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and surf skis from Deep cove kayak. This shop is very busy in summer, especially on weekends. It is best to reserve equipment rental.
It is approximately a 25-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Parking in Deep Cove can be a challenge. It is therefore advisable to arrive early (before 8:30 a.m.). You can also take public transportation from Vancouver to Deep Cove.
Another popular activity in Deep Cove is Quarry rock hike. It’s an easy hike that takes about 1.5 hours. The view from the top of Quarry Rock is fantastic (see photo below).
Related: The Best Walks in Vancouver
Get $ 45 in AirBnB accommodation credit Here.
7. Explore Cypress Provincial Park
The time of year and weather conditions decide what you do Cypress Provincial Park.
You can access one during the summer Variety of hiking trails with an incredible view of Howe Sound and the North Shore Mountains. In winter you can go snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, tubing and cross-country skiing Ski area Cypress Mountain.
Note – The hiking and snowshoe trails in Cypress Provincial Park are freely accessible. However, if you want to go skiing or snowboarding, you need to buy a day pass to use the chairlifts. Here is the Cypress Mountain ticket prices.
Located in North Vancouver, Cypress mountain Co-host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It is actually the place where Canada won first gold medal of the Olympic Winter Games on home soil.
Relatives – Snowboarding on Cypress Mountain in Vancouver
Views of Hiking Eagle Bluffs It starts at the Cypress Mountain car park.
8. Mountain biking in North Vancouver
The North Shore Mountains offer world-class mountain bike tests for all levels of difficulty. You have access to simple cross-country trails and more technical trails with obstacles such as bridges, ladders and swings.
Mount Seymour has the most extensive network of trails on the north coast. One of the most popular mountain bike trails is the CBC track, a 2 kilometer trail that starts at the top of the Seymour Parkway.
Here is a Map of Mount Seymour bike trails.
9. Gastown Steam Clock
Near Waterfront station In downtown Vancouver, the legendary Gastown Steam Clock has been attracting tourists for decades. Originally built in 1977, this working steam watch is one of the few working steam powered watches in the world.
The Gastown Steam Clock whistles and blows its steam every 15 minutes, to the delight of the audience. It’s a cheesy tourist thing, but you’ll be glad you took a few minutes to try it out.
While in GastownAdmire the old cobblestone streets and unique architecture before strolling through the many shops, art galleries, and restaurants in Gastown. We like to drink a pint of craft beer Steamworks Brew Pub. It is one of our favorite restaurants in Vancouver.
Search for the best hotels in Vancouver Here.
Above – Gastown’s cobblestone streets in downtown Vancouver.
10. Olympic cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza
The Olympic cauldron from the 2010 Winter Olympics is located on Jack Poole Plaza, next to the Vancouver Convention Center, one of Canada’s largest convention centers.
The course offers breathtaking views of the Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains. From here, you can watch dozens of seaplanes departing and arriving at the Vancouver Harbor Flight Center (see photo below).
Relatives – 25 great day trips from Vancouver
Above – the Olympic cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza.
11. Canada Place
Canada place is home to the iconic white sails that dominate the Vancouver skyline (see photo above). From here, visitors have an unobstructed view of the Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains.
It’s located next to the Vancouver Convention Center and Jack Poole Plaza (west) and Gastown (east), so you can include all of these Vancouver attractions in your sightseeing tour. You can walk from Coal Harbor to Gastown in less than an hour (at a moderate pace).
Canada Place is also home to the Vancouver cruise ship terminalSo it’s pretty busy in the summer months. This cruise terminal can accommodate up to four luxury cruise ships at the same time. It is the home port for many of the Alaska cruises that depart from Vancouver.
Search for the best hotels in Vancouver Here.
12. Horse racing at Hastings Racecourse
The Hastings Racecourse, also known as Hastings Park, is a vintage racetrack that has been around since 1947. We’re not big players, but we love spending a sunny afternoon in Hastings Park because of the spectacular views of the North Shore Mountains and their entertainment atmosphere.
Entry is free, so we don’t mind putting a few dollars on the ponies, adding to the excitement of the Hastings experience. Check the race schedule here.
Hastings Park is easy to reach by public transport. There is also plenty of parking on the Hastings Racecourse.
Relatives – 25 great day trips from Vancouver
13. Walk, run or bike the Vancouver Seawall
At the beginning of this post, we mentioned that you should enter Stanley Park Seawall. We strongly recommend that you do this section first if you are limited in time. However, if you are spending a few days in Vancouver, we recommend exploring other sections of the city Vancouver Seawall.
Walking or cycling on the dam will take you past many of Vancouver’s famous attractions, including the Lions Gate Bridge. Siwash Rock, A labyrinth laugh public art exhibition, Science world (Top picture), BC Place (football and soccer stadium), Rogers Arena (NHL hockey stadium), Olympic Village, Granville Island, Burrard Bridge and Kitsilano Beach.
Here is a printable map of the dam.
Above – colorful fall trees on the causeway in Yaletown, a neighborhood in downtown Vancouver.
14. Go across the Lions Gate Bridge
About the Lions Gate Bridge is another way of experiencing the city. The Lions Gate Bridge connects Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver to the north coast, including the city North Vancouver and West Vancouver. The photo above shows the view to the north.
The Lions Gate Bridge has cycling and walking trails on both sides of the bridge. We recommend that you go north on one side of the bridge and south on the opposite side. This gives you a variety of photo opportunities.
If you have a vehicle, plan on parking Viewpoint in Stanley Park. From here it is a short walk to the south side of the bridge. You can also park your vehicle under Park Royal Mall in West Vancouver if you want to start from the north side of the bridge.
Above – south side of Lions Gate Bridge.
15. Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver
There are several urban beaches in Vancouver. The most beloved Vancouver beaches are located either in Stanley Park or in English Bay. All of these beaches are freely accessible, but you may have to pay for parking.
Ambleside Park is located in West Vancouver, across the street Burrard inlet from Stanley Park. We have chosen Ambleside Beach because it’s an alternative to the main Vancouver beaches. The park has over 8 km of hiking trails and the view to the west is perfect for watching the sunset.
Other popular Vancouver beaches
Can you swim on the Vancouver beaches?
Yes, you can swim on the Vancouver beaches. However, we do not recommend spending a lot of time in the water. As with all beaches in the city, there is a risk of sewage and pollution from boat / boat traffic.
Popular beaches, including Kitsilano Beach, Jericho Beach, and English Bay, were closed in summer 2018 unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria.
Search for the best hotels in Vancouver Here.
Get $ 45 in AirBnB accommodation credit Here.
16. West Vancouver Lighthouse Park
While in West Vancouver, we recommend visiting Lighthouse Park, a National Historic Site of Canada. To see the famous ones Point Atkinson lighthouse, take an easy forest hike on the Lighthouse park trailpast some of the largest Douglas firs in the Vancouver area.
There are several well-marked hiking trails in the park that are open all year round. Plan to spend 2 hours in the park. We recommend that you bring a light picnic and enjoy the breathtaking sea view.
Here is a Map of the lighthouse park in West Vancouver.
17th Lonsdale Quay Market in North Vancouver
Another great place to see the impressive Vancouver skyline is at Lonsdale Quay Market in North Vancouver. The market has a variety of shops selling everything from fresh products to craft beers to souvenirs. Here is a list of Vendors at Lonsdale Quay Market.
We recommend grabbing a bowl of freshly made soup the soup master, a local favorite, and enjoy it outside on the boardwalk (see picture below). After lunch, go to The pier and historic shipyards and see the cityscapes. The shipyards host one in the summer Night market on Friday night.
To get the best views of the sunset, climb the lookout tower on Lonsdale Quay (see picture above – under the big Q) or go nearby Waterfront park.
To get to Lonsdale Quay Market from Vancouver, take the 15-minute Seabus ferry at Waterfront Station. Here is the Seabus timetable.
Search for hotels in North Vancouver Here.
Relatives – The best Vancouver road trip for beginners
18. Cleveland Dam and Capilano Lake
The Cleveland Dam, lies in the Regional park of the Capilano riveris a popular free tourist attraction in North Vancouver. There are several hiking trails in the park that lead to the view of the dam and Lake Capilano (see figure below). We often hike these trails with our boys and they go well with the terrain.
The Capilano salmon hatchery is another popular free attraction. It is a short walk from Cleveland Dam to the Hatchery or you drive along Capilano Road to get there. The hatchery is open all year round, but from late August to November there is a good opportunity to spot returning salmon jumping up the river.
If you are arriving by car, you can park in the Cleveland Dam car park on Capilano Road. You can also take public transportation from Lonsdale Quay Market or the Park Royal Mall. More transit information here.
Here is a download Map of the Capilano River Regional Park.
Above – View of Grouse Mountain and Capilano Lake from Cleveland Dam.
19. Kitsilano Beach Park
Kitsilano Beach Park, often referred to as “kits”, is one of the most popular beaches in Vancouver, both for locals and visitors. The hotel is on the northern edge of the Kitsilano neighborhoodThe beach is located towards English Bay, downtown Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains (see picture above).
Kitsilano is also home to the outdoors Kitsilano pool, the longest swimming pool in Canada and Vancouver’s only salt water swimming pool. The pool is open annually from May to September.
The best views of the city can be found at Elsje Point. You can walk to Kitsilano Beach on foot or by bike across the dam. Take a look around Vancouver Maritime Museum (Adult entry is $ 13.50) and H.R. MacMillan Space Center (Adult admission is $ 19.50).
Here is more Information about the Kitsilano Beach Park.
20. Richmond night market
Between May and September there is a fun evening activity in the Richmond night market. For many Vancouverites, this is an annual summer tradition. Entry to the night market is technically not free for adults, but entry is only $ 3.00. Children under 8 and seniors over 60 are free.
The Richmond Night Market is inspired by the busy night markets in Asia. It houses over 100 food stalls and over 200 retail companies. We enjoy trying a variety of street foods such as tornado potatoes (see picture above), grilled meat on a stick (see below), Takoyaki, Steamed noodles, flowering onions and sweet mango desserts. Prices range from $ 2 to $ 10 per item.
Parking at the Richmond Night Market is free, but can get quite crowded on weekends. We recommend that you take the SkyTrain Canada line to Bridgeport Station and walk west along River Road (the market is just a few blocks from the train station). Here is a Map of the Canada Line stations.
The opening hours of the night market are on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 12 p.m. The market closes at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Search for hotels in Richmond Here.
Relatives – Foodies Delight in the night market
21. Stroll through Chinatown’s historic streets
Vancouver Chinatown is actually the third largest in North America by population (after San Francisco and New York). Vancouver’s Chinatown is east of the city center and is home to many historic sites, retail stores, grocery stores and cafes.
Chinatown attractions include the ornate Chinatown Millennium Gate on Pender Street and Sun Yat-Sen Park, which is the free alternative to the popular one Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classic Chinese garden (Entry is $ 14 per adult in summer).
Here is a Map of Vancouver Chinatown.
22. New Westminster Quay and Boardwalk
If you want to leave the big city, New Westminster Quay and the boardwalk are a fun day trip from Vancouver. The River market houses several shops and restaurants. New Westminster Pier Park is a picturesque riverside park that connects visitors to it Waterfront Esplanade Boardwalk.
To get to New Westminster Quay, take the Skytrain Expo Line from downtown Vancouver to New Westminster (here is one Map of the Expo Line stations). The train takes about 25 minutes. The River Market is one block south of New Westminster Skytrain Station.
23. Take pictures of East Vancouver murals
If you like street art, you will enjoy exploring the back streets of East Vancouver, especially that Mount Pleasant neighborhood on Main Street, between 4th and 14th streets. Here you will find the best street art in Vancouver.
At the beginning of August, the city houses the Vancouver Mural Festival, the largest annual free public art celebration. These Interactive map unveils all of the artwork at the Vancouver Mural Festival, including those made in previous years. Here are Photos of Vancouver murals from a few years ago.
Here is a Map of murals in Vancouver.
24. Free Vancouver Walking Tours
There are a few free hikes in Vancouver who visit many of the attractions mentioned in this post. These tours are a fun way to meet other visitors and learn the background story behind the attractions.
Here is a list of the Best Free Walking Tours in Vancouver.
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25. Drive the ocean to the Sky Highway to Shannon Falls
Ironically, one of the best things in Vancouver is to actually leave Vancouver. The spectacular Sea to Sky Highway is often ranked as one of the best drives in the world. We agree.
Forgive me for saying the obvious, but you need a vehicle to drive the ocean to the Sky Highway. Visitors can pick up a rental car at Vancouver Airport. Book online and save up to 35% on rental cars Here.
From downtown Vancouver, your journey begins by driving through Stanley Park and crossing the Lions Gate Bridge. Continue through West Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay. Hold on Horseshoe Bay Village and get a coffee. Walk around the village and watch BC Ferries’ ships leave the marina.
Keep going Provincial Porteau Cove Park. Walk to the end of the pier and enjoy the view of Howe Sound. Get back in the car and drive past Furry Creek in the direction of Britannia Beach. Stop here if you want to visit this Britannia Mine Museum. Otherwise, continue to Squamish.
Shannon Falls and Sea to Sky Gondola
Before you reach the town of Squamish, stop Shannon Falls Provincial Park. Check out the impressive waterfalls and nearby Sea to Sky Gondola. You can also hike them Stamamus Chief Trail. It’s a challenging hike, but the views from the top are incredible.
The drive from Vancouver to Squamish takes approximately an hour with no stops. Plan an approx. 4-hour return trip with a few stops.
At this point you can turn around and drive back to Vancouver. Or depending on how much time you have, you can continue to Whistler. The journey from Squamish to Whistler takes approximately 45 minutes. We recommend stopping at the Tantalus Lookout when the sky is clear.
Relatives – The best road trip from Vancouver
Spend the night in Vancouver
There is enough of Vancouver hotels to choose from, upscale five-star hotels to backpacker hostels and everything in between.
- Search for hotels in Vancouver Here.
- Wenn Sie eine Wohnung bevorzugen, erhalten Sie bis zu 45 CAD Rabatt auf Ihre erste Nacht Here.
- Die meisten der beliebten Touristenattraktionen von Vancouver befinden sich in der Innenstadt. Berücksichtigen Sie dies bei der Auswahl der Unterkunft in Vancouver.
- Hotels in der Innenstadt verlangen häufig zusätzliche Gebühren für das Parken über Nacht – manchmal bis zu 40 USD pro Nacht. Berücksichtigen Sie dies bei der Buchung von Hotels und Autovermietungen.
- Wenn Sie lieber näher an den Bergen bleiben möchten, sollten Sie im Lonsdale Quay Hotel or the Holiday Inn North Vancouver.
Vancouver Reisetipps und Wissenswertes
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