As the urban centre of Canada’s Pacific Northwest, Vancouver is jam-packed with attractions. The city offers culture, culinary delights, parks and beaches, and with Vancouver as your basecamp, the region’s rivers, mountains, or forests are on your doorstep. Vancouver perennially tops lists of the most liveable cities in the world, but recently it also won a vote of the world’s most welcoming cities. After a week here, you may find yourself wishing to become an adoptive Vancouverite. Join us as we run through some of the activities you won’t want to miss during your 7-day trip. And, if travelling during the winter season, you may also wish to take a look at our Day Trips from Vancouver in Winter.
Getting to know the city
Upon arriving in Vancouver, consider getting to know the city with a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour. There are a few providers offering bus tours of the city and with departure points in the heart of the downtown area, this is often a great way to get the lay of the land. With stops dotted across the city, you will be able to get out and explore at your own pace. Alternatively, a beautiful introduction to the city can be enjoyed by boat: the city’s SeaBus ferry will take you from downtown to North Vancouver providing wonderful views of the city and North Shore Mountains. Be sure to also take in views of English Bay and Burrard Inlet from Stanley Park — the city’s largest park.
Only established in 1886, Vancouver is a young city. However, as the most densely populated metropolitan area in Canada, you’ll find there’s no shortage of fantastic museums and historical sites to visit. One of the city’s best museums, and a site that should be on every visitor’s itinerary, is the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology. Located on the university’s campus, this museum, which dates back to 1947, is home to an extraordinary collection of First Nations artworks and artefacts, including displays of traditional tribal dress and utterly captivating totem poles. With over half a million archaeological items in the building, you will come away with a richer sense of the region’s history.
Sometimes referred to as the “Hollywood of the North”, a great number of major motion pictures have been filmed in the city, so you may find yourself thinking, ’that building looks familiar’ as you walk the streets. We recommend visiting the Marine Building located at 355 Burrard Street. Widely recognised as one of the most important Art Deco buildings in the world, this early skyscraper was once the tallest building in the British Empire. Its iconic style has led to it featuring in many superhero movies in recent years. Another similarly popular landmark in the city is Raymond Saunders’ steam-powered clock found in the Gastown neighbourhood. For history lovers, the Roedde House Museum is a window into a bygone era.
If travelling with children, the Science Museum offers interactive, educational exhibits that are sure to keep young minds entertained. Partially housed inside an enormous geodesic dome, the museum carries exhibits covering subjects such as the human body, sound, and physics. A similarly popular attraction for families is the Vancouver Aquarium located within the beautiful Stanley Park. Home to a range of marine animals, the aquarium is always a hit with young children, while in recent years the aquarium has made concerted efforts to spread a worthy conservation message.
Food and Drink in the City
With foreign-born residents making up around 40% of Vancouver’s population, this is one of the most vibrant, culturally diverse cities you are likely to visit and this multiculturalism has brought with it a bountiful range of markets and eateries to explore. The Granville Island market is an excellent starting point. The loaded stalls of fresh produce make for a feast for both stomachs and eyes. The market is open seven days a week and provides an excellent window into Vancouver life. Foodies can also pay a visit to the ever-popular Main Street and Yaletown markets.
For dining out, you can’t go wrong with the Commerical Drive neighbourhood. Once predominantly an Italian district, this neighbourhood now offers an eclectic sweep of international cuisines. Next to Italian restaurants, you will find Ethiopian, Belgian, Mexican, and Caribbean food among much else. Dive into the city’s diversity and indulge in flavours from across the world.
We’re sure all your exploring will give you a thirst, so why not enjoy Vancouver’s exciting craft beer scene? The city is now home to around 40 breweries and the number seems to be growing all the time. We would go as far as to say that Vancouver is one of North America’s beer capitals. Head to the Mount Pleasant or East Vancouver regions and you will have a plethora of first-class bars and breweries to choose from.
Vancouver’s Parks and Beaches
When you are tired of walking through urban streets, take time to chill and visit some of the city’s picturesque parks and beaches. Vancouver’s Stanley Park is 10% bigger than New York’s Central Park and it offers splendid waterside views and densely wooded areas for relaxing walks. Within the park, you will also find lakes, stretches of beach, a miniature railway, restaurants, and children’s play parks. It is no surprise that it was recently voted the best city park in the world. For a tremendous view of the city’s skyline, try Queen Elizabeth Park, which sits atop the highest point in the city. In Queen Elizabeth Park you will also be able to enjoy public gardens and delightful water features.
If the weather is fine and you want to hit the beach, Vancouver offers several choices. The most popular beach in the city is Kitsilano which is a leisure area for people of all ages. Whether you want to bathe in the sunshine, take a stroll, or play sports, you can do it on the Kitsilano strand. Facing the English Bay, you will also have great views of the North Shore mountains from this location. If you are seeking to avoid the crowds, travel to the West End neighbourhood and relax on the idyllic Sunset Beach.
Day Trips from Vancouver
If you want to take time away from the Vancouver metropolitan area, there are many unforgettable excursions you can make within the surrounding regions. From Granville Island, you can take whale watching tours. These tours normally last the whole day and you will journey out to sea to observe local killer whale populations in their natural environment. If you have not experienced this before, we cannot recommend it enough.
Grouse Mountain is one of the North Shore Mountains visible from Vancouver city. This 1,200 m mountain can be reached within about 20 minutes if you are driving from downtown or in about an hour if using public transport. Take the Grouse Mountain Skyride — a cable car which will lift you to the mountain’s peak and provide you with unmissable views in the process. Once on the mountain, there are a variety of activities on offer, from helicopter rides, to guided walks, and demonstrations with birds of prey. If you simply want to soak up the scenery, dine in the resort’s restaurant while gazing out at Vancouver spread before you.
Accessible through the same highway as Grouse Mountain is the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. Attracting over a million visitors every year, this suspension bridge takes you through the treetops of a towering evergreen forest. The 70 m long bridge has been open since 1889 and is certainly worth the trip.
So ends, our rundown of some of the must-visit places and attractions on any week-long visit to Vancouver. Did we leave anything out? If you have any suggestions or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. If you are planning a trip to the region but hope to get out into the wilds and escape the bustle of the city, please have a look at our Whistler Waterfall Tours which explore a range of the most beautiful waterfalls British Columbia has to offer.