Everyone who visits Vancouver seems to fall in love with this northwestern Canadian city. Why? Because Vancouver is down to earth, diverse, relaxed, and beautiful.
Some people love the food culture of the city, and it’s easy to see why. Dine on superb sushi at authentic Japanese restaurants like Miku or Toshi Sushi, sample local brews at the Craft Beer Market (85 West 1st Avenue) or shop for fresh produce on Granville Island.
For others, the great outdoors is the main attraction. During the summer, beaches like Jericho and Kitsilano are safe, family-friendly places to enjoy the sunshine. Vancouver Island offers kayaking, hiking, and climbing, and cycle paths across town make pedal-power a great way to get around.
There are festivals, shops, galleries – everything a world-class city should have. But above all else, Vancouver is welcoming. Wherever you come from, the city will offer you something to taste, see, or do.
British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The snowy slopes of the Rockies and the dramatic valleys around Vancouver are fantastic places for budding nature photographers to show off their skills, but the coastal scenery around Vancouver harbor is as stunning. Head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge for a family-friendly spot with great views that is close to the center of town.
Above all else, Vancouver residents have a passion for eating out. With a diverse population featuring large communities from China, Japan, Korea, South-East Asia, Europe, and India, gourmet food lovers will surely find something to love. Check out the sushi at Miku (200 Granville St), the Thai dishes at Sawasdee (4250 Main St), and the Korean selection at Royal Seoul (1215 W Broadway) to see why foodies rate Vancouver so highly.
If you love art, Vancouver won’t disappoint. The Vancouver Art Gallery is the place to start, with its collection of works by Canadian artists, but serious art lovers should head to smaller galleries as well. Centre A (229 East Georgia St) showcases Asian-Canadian work, and the Catriona Jeffries Gallery (274 East 1st Avenue) has a constantly changing array of works by leading contemporary artists.
Sports are a major part of life in Vancouver. It’s definitely a city where hockey is king, and watching a Canucks match at the Rogers Arena (800 Griffiths Way) is a thrilling experience. If hockey isn’t your passion, you can also watch the BC Lions in the CFL or the Vancouver Whitecaps, one of the leading Major League Soccer franchises.
Vancouver has always had a thriving alternative music scene, much like Seattle not far to the south. Venues across the city are taken over in June and July by the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, there’s the Folk Festival at Jericho Beach Park in July, while Rock the Shores features major rock artists.
Vancouver Aquarium is the city’s premier family attraction. Located in Stanley Park, the aquarium features a wide range of lovable (and not so lovable) marine creatures, including otters, penguins, white-sided dolphins, and reef sharks.
Granville Island is the city’s fresh food market and also the place to go for arts and crafts souvenirs. Shop for gifts or cooking ingredients at the markets, and round off your day by dining at one of the area’s diverse selection of restaurants like the Afghan Horseman (1833 Anderson St) or Go Fish (1505 West 1st Ave).
Vancouver has easily the largest Chinatown in Canada and one of the biggest in North America. It’s packed with architecture influenced by Chinese styles, including the Sam Kee Building, thought to be the “shallowest” commercial building in the world, at just 1.5m from window to rear wall. There are also tranquil gardens and fine eateries like Bao Bei (163 Keefer St) or Oyster Express (296 Keefer St).
Located in North Vancouver, the Capilano Bridge stretches across a deep river gorge. Built in 1889, it’s a beautiful place to take vacation pictures. The surrounding park includes clifftop walks and a network of suspension bridges slung between trees, while it’s also a regular venue for concerts by First Nations musicians.
The waters off Vancouver offer probably the best chance visitors will ever have of seeing killer whales and other whales in their natural habitat. If you visit between April and September, don’t miss the opportunity to join whale-watching cruises from the quay at Steveston. Be sure to use a cruise operator who offers shuttle buses from downtown Vancouver to make the experience as convenient as possible.
Summer is a fantastic time to visit Vancouver. The whale-watching season is in full swing, the beaches are inviting, the cycle paths are open, and the whole city is at it's best when the sun shines. There are also summer events like the Pacific National Exhibition (August 20-September 5) at the Playland Amusement Park, which mixes rides, food, and animal shows. Then again, winter brings the chance to hit the slopes at resorts like Whistler, free ice skating on Robson Square, and sales at the city’s fashion stores. Spring sees the suburbs erupt into a riot of pink as the cherry blossom blooms, while during the fall the city hosts its International Film Festival. So there really is no bad time to visit.
Most visitors to Vancouver will fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which is just to the south of the city. The easiest way to reach the center of town from the airport is by catching the SkyTrain which costs C$14, but there are also taxis and limousine services from the International Terminal as well. Expect a taxi from the airport to cost around C$50. Some visitors may also choose to land at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. In that case, the best route to Vancouver is via direct bus or train, which take about 3 hours.
Many people choose to take the train across Canada or the U.S. Northwest, which includes some of the most beautiful scenery on any rail routes. For travelers coming from California and Washington state, Amtrak provides the Cascades route, which terminates at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station (1150 Station Street). VIA Rail also run the Canadian rail link to Toronto, while the Rocky Mountaineer service links Vancouver with inland cities like Edmonton and Calgary.
Motorists coming from the east can take Canadian Highway 1, which runs through Kamloops and Calgary, and crosses the Canadian mainland. Those driving from cities on the American west coast can take I-5, while I-90 connects Vancouver with Chicago and cities in the east.
Traveling by bus is an excellent way to reach Vancouver from locations in the United States. The major operator is Greyhound, which connects the city to Seattle, San Francisco and more distant U.S. destinations and also provides links to Canadian cities like Whitehorse and Edmonton.
Other bus companies running services into Vancouver include:
Quick Coach – Runs express bus services from Seattle Tacoma Airport.
Bolt Bus – Link Vancouver with Seattle and Portland.
Pacific Coach Lines – Runs buses to towns on Victoria Island.
Vancouver offers plenty of choice for vacationers who want somewhere comfortable to stay. The Holiday Inn (711 W. Broadway) is a good, solid family option in the Downtown area, while you might try the Fairmont (900 W Georgia St) for a luxury alternative. The Victorian Hotel (514 Homer St) offers great value while the Cambie Hostel (515 Seymour Street) is a great choice for backpackers. Suburban hotels worth checking out include the Granville Island Hotel (1253 Johnston St) and Avalon Guest Suite (3015 11th Ave.), located near the beaches in Kitsilano.
Vancouver City Center – The cultural and business hub of Vancouver, the city center is the place for art lovers and clubbers to stay if they want to make the most of their time in Vancouver. See the creations of master jeweler Bill Reid at his gallery (639 Hornby St), see elegant Art Deco towers like the Marine Building (355 Burrard St), and decide whether to dine on hearty poutine at Fritz Frie (718 Davie St) or gourmet seafood at Coast (1054 Alberni St).
Gastown – Gastown is the most historic part of Vancouver. It’s filled with attractive Victorian buildings and also hosts Vancouver’s Chinatown, one of the largest and most vibrant in North America. Don’t miss fantastic restaurants like Wild Rice (117 W Pender St) and if you love nightlife, hit the bars on Cambie Street or Alexander Street. There’s plenty to see during the day too, including the unique steam clock on the corner of Water and Cambie Streets and the restful, beautiful Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (578 Carrall St).
Stanley Park and the West End – With over 400 acres of coastal parkland, Stanley Park is the city’s most relaxing neighborhood. It’s also a center for shoppers, with the markets and craft boutiques on Robson Street and a host of great restaurants on Denman Street. The noodles at Kintaro Ramen (788 Denman St) are particularly popular, but make sure to get there early. In the summer, you can sunbathe on the local beaches, swim in safe saltwater pools, enjoy fireworks displays, and rent bikes to see the coast. For those who love to be outdoors, no part of Vancouver is more appealing.
The TransLink public transit system should allow you to get where you need to go in Vancouver, with a wide range of buses, trains, and ferry boats to use. Basic fares on all forms of transport are C$4, but day passes are a better option for most visitors and cost C$12. When using the buses, remember that you’ll need to present your ticket or purchase a ticket straight away. You can pay by cash, but the drivers won’t issue change, so be prepared.
Taxis are a relatively expensive but convenient way to get around Vancouver. The basic meter drop is C$4 for all journeys, and then C$3 per mile.
Renting a car is a great way to see the city and the surrounding countryside, and most major car rental agencies are represented either at Vancouver Airport or in the suburbs. Expect to pay around C$25-35 per day depending on the vehicle you choose. The roads in Vancouver follow a standard grid system, with horizontal avenues and vertical streets. However, getting into central Vancouver can be a pain, as the downtown area is situated on a peninsula that can only be accessed by bridges. To avoid traffic jams, try to park at outlying stations and avoid driving into the center if you can.
Vancouver is an excellent place for shoppers to visit. If you enjoy window shopping for leading fashion brands or exploring tiny boutiques, Robson Street should be your first destination. There are big brands like J Crew (no. 1088) along with chain retailers like BCBGMAXAZRIA (no. 1080), and stores selling artisan furniture as well. If handmade souvenirs are your thing, head to Granville Island’s marketplace, while the Punjabi Market in South Vancouver offers an intoxicating selection of food, clothing, and artisan jewelry.
Vancouver is relatively cheap compared with major U.S. cities like New York and Los Angeles. 12 eggs cost around C$3.50, a good pair of jeans C$70, and a medium quality bottle of wine is about C$18. You can also save money during your stay by shopping at discount supermarkets like T&T, Safeway, or IGA Marketplace. If you want to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables, Granville Island is the place to go, but there are also organic stores like Whole Foods dotted around the city.
Vancouver is easily Canada’s number one foodie destination and one of the best places to eat out in North America. If you are staying in the center, Japadog (530 Robson St) offers an original fusion of Japanese flavors and traditional hot dogs, Kalypso (1025 Robson St) serve up big portions of great Greek food while Miku (1050 W Hastings St) specializes in Japanese aburi seafood (delicately seared on the outside, but tender inside). Banana Leaf (3005 W Broadway) in Kitsilano cook up superb Malaysian dishes while Vij’s (1480 W 11th Ave) on Granville Island is the best Indian restaurant in town. A high-end meal will cost anything from C$70 to C$200, but good medium price meals can be enjoyed for much less. That’s one of the things that makes Vancouver so great.