A collection of diverse neighbourhoods and urban greenery, Vancouver is truly vast. So much so that it can be hard to know what to pack in when visiting this laid-back, coastal metropolis. That’s where our team of Canada Experts comes in. They can offer you hints and tips on what to see in the time you have available. To get you started, we’ve come up with these must-do things in Vancouver:
Summit Grouse Mountain
Towering 1,231m over North Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is beloved for its skiing in the winter and its plentiful activities in the summer – at the top you can see rescued grizzly bears, watch a lumberjack show, and even get up close to some bee hives. But it’s also known for its hike. While the more sedentary traveller can opt to take the gondola up and down the peak, the more active often opt for the legendary ‘Grouse Grind’, known to locals as ‘nature’s stairmaster’. The gruelling hike is just that, and can take around two hours to complete. Don’t let that put you off though, nothing beats the satisfaction of reaching the top under your own steam, and gazing out at that killer view.
How to do it: Gondola tickets can be bought on the day at Grouse Mountain – get a single at the summit for the journey down if you're planning to hike up, otherwise you'll need to buy a return at the foot of the peak.
Explore the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
140m long and soaring 70m above the river below, it’s no wonder the thrilling Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the city’s most beloved attractions. Prepare for quite a bit of wobble as you make the crossing – but we think that’s all part of the fun. Stop off to see the park’s birds of prey display too, and shuffle along the vertiginous Cliffwalk.
How to do it: Our Western Canada Peaks & Cliffs itinerary includes entry to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, as well as a Vancouver city highlights tour.
Stroll the neighbourhoods
Vancouver’s neighbourhoods are what make it so interesting. There’s quirky Chinatown, the largest Chinatown in Canada; trendy Kitsilano (which has some great beaches); Gastown with its puffing steam clock; a collection of classic Canadian homes in East Van; abundant restaurants and tourist attractions Downtown; and North Vancouver, where Capilano and Grouse Mountain reside. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. The only way to really get to know this diverse city is to explore it on foot.
How to do it: Explore Vancouver on foot, or during an inclusive harbour cruise, on our West Coast Wonders Journey.
Cycle through Stanley Park
A rainforest in microcosm, it’s no wonder Vancouverites rave about Stanley Park. As the park juts out like a peninsula, on two wheels you can cycle around the whole thing along the coast, past First, Second and Third Beach. You can also weave through the interior, crossing troll-worthy bridges and stopping to see ponds, rose gardens and totem poles. With 1,001 acres of natural beauty to choose from, you’ll be occupied for hours here.
How to do it: Take the time to explore the sights of Stanley Park on our Beautiful British Columbia holiday. Our Travel Experts can give you tips and advice on the best places to hire a bike on the day.
Eat your way around Granville Island Market
From doughnuts to vegetables to wine, Vancouver’s Granville Island has it all. Most importantly, you can stroll its stalls and streets seven days a week, 10am-7pm. It’s a perfect activity, rain or shine, and is a great place to amble round if you’re having a particularly ravenous day.
How to do it: Let our Travel Experts book an Urban Adventures tour of Granville Market for you. The guides will take you to the very best food outlets and stalls.
Go whale watching
Vancouver’s Georgia Strait is blessed with a wealth of marine life, most notably humpback whales, orcas and seals. Head out on a boat from Vancouver Island or the suburb of Richmond (just 40 minutes south of the city by car), and you’ll have the chance to see these wild cetaceans up close. Nothing quite beats seeing a humpback fluking in the water, with the mighty Mount Baker as your backdrop.
How to do it: The best time to go whale watching is between 1st April and 31st October. Chat to a Travel Expert to add a whale-watching tour to your Vancouver itinerary.
Visit Vancouver Island
Catch the ferry across to this beautiful and tranquil extension of the city, and you’ll get the chance to experience the quaint streets of Victoria, the rugged Pacific coastline of Tofino and a collection of forests, mountains, lakes and meadows in between. For those who really like to get off the beaten track: here it is.
How to do it: Tag a trip to Vancouver Island onto our West Coast Wonders itinerary – our Travel Experts can help you plan it.
Fly to Klemtu in search of spirit bears
Just a two-hour flight north of Vancouver is Klemtu – a magical spot for a wildlife break. Here, at the Spirit Bear Lodge, you can spend two or three days searching the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest for the elusive Kermode or “spirit” bear. With its creamy coat and shy demeanour, it can be difficult to spot, but the guides here know exactly where to look.
How to do it: Our Vancouver & the Bears Journey will help you discover the best of this waterfront city, and also take you to the Spirit Bear Lodge.
Stare across the city from the Vancouver Lookout
Soaring skywards at 147m (or 177m to the tip), atop the Vancouver Lookout you’ll get a 360-degree panorama of the entire city. From the Observation Deck you can gaze upon Stanley Park, Vancouver Island, and all of the city’s best neighbourhoods.
How to do it: Speak to our Travel Experts about booking your Vancouver Lookout tickets in advance.