The complete guide to the best things to do in Vancouver, Canada!
Located on Canada’s west coast in the province of British Columbia is the vibrant and bustling city of Vancouver.
This coastal city is a well-travelled location for visitors from all over the world and has quickly become one of Canada’s most popular destinations year-round.
Boasting the most temperate and mild of climates in Canada, Vancouver does not see the crazy cold that the rest of Canada does.
READ MORE: Check out the complete guide to travelling in Canada!
Nor does the city see as much snow making it more accessible in the winter months.
Summer in Vancouver is incredible, with the sunshine lasting well after 9 pm. It is also the driest time of the year in a city that is known for its precipitation.
Home to iconic neighbourhoods such as Gastown, Kitsilano, Yaletown and North Vancouver you will find so many varied areas to explore.
The Best Things to Do in Vancouver
If you’re after a holiday mostly in the mountains, that is definitely an option!
If you want to eat and drink your way through some of the country’s and the world’s best restaurants, you’re in luck.
Want to take in a show, or more than just one, Vancouver has that too.
This multicultural city is overflowing with experiences for every style of traveller on every budget.
From the saving savvy backpacker to the luxury-loving visitors, there are plenty of things to do in Vancouver.
READ MORE: Don’t miss our brand new guide on how to spend 3 days in Vancouver!
No matter what you’re in the mood for the city is your oyster and has so much on offer.
Vancouver is consistently named as 1 of the top 5 places to live in the world and it’s no wonder with all it has to offer.
An incredible urban infrastructure, lush green spaces almost everywhere you look, a city by the sea and close enough to the mountains you can be there in 30 minutes or less!
What more could you want?
Well add on a city full of history and culture, an incredible foodie scene and also the endless entertainment opportunities, it is never a surprise why people want to visit Vancouver!
With endless opportunities to take on in the city here is a list of things to do in Vancouver that will help make the most of your trip.
1) Head to Granville Island
Okay, maybe Granville Island isn’t exactly an island. But this peninsula across the way from False Creek is worth a visit.
Once an industrial area, Granville Island is now home to some of Vancouver’s best restaurants, shopping and entertainment areas around.
The massive public market is a major draw too. There are over 50 permanent retailers, a farmers market, artisan food, drink and crafts on offer as well as a garden centre.
Grab a bike and cruise across the Granville Street bridge down onto the “island.”
Or hop on a ferry at any number of spots including False Creek and Sunset Beach for a quick ride across the water.
Granville has tons of restaurants to choose from including The Bridges Bistro, Tony’s Fish & Oyster Cafe and the dozen food stalls within the public market.
In addition to all of those great places, The Granville Island Brewery is here serving up perfect pints to try.
Take a tour of the brewhouse, stop in for a tasting flight & lunch or grab something from the retail shop.
Cycle around the quaint streets and gorgeous parks on the island or opt for a kayak or paddleboard rental to take to the water for a little adventure and some fantastic views.
2) Get Lost in the Woods
Lynn Canyon Park is located in North Vancouver and is home to some of the most beautiful woods the city has to offer.
Accessible via public transit as well as cars, this location has a great range of trails for all.
This is also a great free option if the Capilano Suspension Bridge proves to be a little bit out of your budget.
Plus in the winter this is the best thing to do in Vancouver to beat the crowds as there is potential that you’ll have all the trails to yourself too.
First opened in 1912 and only covering 12 acres, the park now encompasses 617 acres of beautiful woodlands trains, a gorgeous suspension bridge and swimming hole throughout.
The trails are well marked and there are maps located throughout the park to ensure visitors’ safety while enjoying their time here.
In the summer months, there are hundreds of visitors coming into the park daily not only to hike but to cook off in the beautiful freshwater lakes.
There are several locations known for cliff jumping, one of which is referred to as 30 Foot Pool.
This is most likely because the water is said to be about 30 feet deep.
As this is still a nature park there are no lifeguards and it is a swim/jump at your own risk location.
There are a lot of spots where the water is calm and perfect for setting-up camp for an afternoon with friends or family.
But it always pays to be cautious where the water is not so calm, but still beautiful.
This is definitely the coolest thing to do in Vancouver on a hot summer day!
READ MORE: Don’t miss out on all the amazing things to do in Banff!
3) Set Your Sights on Stanley Park and the SeaWall
Possibly the most iconic and top stop on everyone’s Vancouver sightseeing list, Stanley Park and the famous SeaWall.
Stanley Park covers 405 hectares surrounded mostly by the waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay.
Rent bikes from downtown and circle the park taking in the breathtaking views, as well as the infamous totem poles near the aquarium.
Cruise over to Prospect Point for incredible views over the massively impressive Lions Gate bridge, before heading back to the trail and continuing onto the beaches and into the West End.
One of the best things to do in Vancouver would be to start out at the SeaWall and marvel at the rainbow-coloured houseboats and the seaplanes taking off over the mountains.
Then grab a coffee before continuing into Stanley Park either on foot or by bike.
There are plenty of places to stop along the way for a picnic or even stop in at the Stanley Park teahouse for lunch.
If you are staying in the West End you can start off here and follow the same route (backward though) and end up in the heart of downtown.
No matter how you get onto the trail (walking, cycling, rollerblading) or which direction you choose to go this should definitely be on everyone’s list of things to do in Vancouver.
4) Check out the Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery was originally founded in 1931 in a totally different location than it stands today.
This national historic site of Canada is home to over 10,000 works of art and can be found on Hornby Street in a building that once was the Provincial Courthouse.
Today the gallery extends over 3 city blocks and connects to the Robson Square shopping centre via an underground tunnel.
The permanent collection includes works of art from both Canadian and international artists, those of which include Emily Carr, Jeff Wall and Marc Chagall.
In addition to a vast number of art pieces, there are photography exhibits in the gallery as well which is something a little different.
The gallery is also home to a library and archives which houses 45,000 books, 500 files on Canadian artists and 100 journal subscriptions.
A cafe is here and open to the public and offers a sidewalk patio facing a pedestrian section of the block where live music can be heard and street performers frequent.
An added bonus – Tuesday evening tickets are discounted so you’ll be able to visit and save a few dollars.
5) Beach Hop
While the west coast of Canada is renowned for the mountains, some might be surprised to hear that Vancouver is home to about as many beaches as mountains near downtown.
Sunset Beach is perfect for, well its name gives it away, but sunsets!
Watch the sky turn pink then orange and fade into the night on a blanket here before heading out for a night on the town.
Second and Third Beach can be found along the Stanley Park SeaWall and are perfect spots for resting your legs as you make your way around.
Kitsilano Beach is chock full in the summer and also has a seaside swimming pool if you don’t fancy a dip in the ocean.
Jericho beach is located at the far end of the Kitsilano Neighbourhood.
It is one of the more quiet beaches, perfect for volleyball or frisbee, great for watching the fireworks on Canada Day.
It is even home to a hostel open throughout the summer months.
While summer may not last all year round, the views from these beaches are some not to be missed no matter when you visit.
To find out more, visit the City of Vancouver website.
6) Suspend Your Senses at Capilano
When it comes to what to do in Vancouver, everyone you speak to will tell you to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
And everyone is not wrong! Welcoming 1.2 million visitors annually, this is one of the most popular Vancouver attractions.
The bridge stretches 460 ft from end to end and is suspended 230 ft above the river below.
It can get quite busy here year-round so it’s best to head out first thing to miss out on the lines that form to cross the bridge.
The park is so much more than just the infamous suspension bridge. It includes a story centre full of history of the area, the bridge and the surroundings.
In 2011 the park unveiled its newest attraction: the cliff walk.
The suspended walkway extends out from the cliff face and a see-through glass walkway allows people to see the area like never before.
Walk between the giant douglas fir trees among 7 smaller suspension bridges and give a look at the resident owls that are kept here.
If your visit should bring you to Capilano during the holidays (November – January) you’ll be able to feast your eyes on Canyon Lights.
Hundreds of thousands of lights are installed throughout the park and across the bridge to create an enchanting wonderland to explore.
- Location: 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver V7R 4J1
- Hours: 9 am – 5 pm (or 7 pm in Summer)
- Tickets: $53.95/adult and $16.95/children
7) Get Down to Gastown
The oldest neighbourhood in the city, and possibly the most charming one too is Gastown.
Gastown is the original settlement that birthed the current downtown core of Vancouver and named by a Yorkshire seaman.
“Gassy” Jack Deighton arrived in what is now Vancouver in 1867 and opened a saloon in the now known as Gastown.
This part of this city will make you feel like you’re strolling around one of Europe’s oldest cities, with its cobbled streets, charming storefronts and of course the iconic steam clock.
Built-in 1977 to cover a steam grate, this clocktower is not only beautiful but powered partially by steam and chimes every 15 minutes.
Gastown is the perfect neighbourhood to go in search of restaurants too, some of which include The Flying Pig, Tacofino, and Steamworks Brewery.
You’ll find countless galleries, pubs, cafes and souvenir shops in the area as well.
If you’re looking for a more unique experience in Gastown then book yourself in on the Lost Souls of Gastown walking tour.
The tour will take guests through the neighbourhood on a lamplighter tour of the gruesome underbelly of Gastown history including stories of murder, mayhem and deadly fire.
8) Get to Grouse Mountain
One of the North Shore mountains that should be at the top of anyone’s things to do in Vancouver list is Grouse Mountain.
With an elevation of over 4,000 ft at its peak, Grouse is the perfect place to hit the slopes during the winter months.
With 26 runs ranging from beginner to intermediate, there are also a series of snowshoe trails, a skating rink and a gorgeous chalet to warm up and relax in.
With that being said, it doesn’t mean you need to wait for the snow to get out there.
The Grouse Grind aka Mother Nature’s Stairmaster is a 2.9 km trail up the side of the mountain.
Used daily by locals as a way to get out of the gym and get their steps in and is a pretty great workout.
Alternatively, there is the BCMC trail just to the left that allows for a less crowded hiking experience.
Hikers can opt to trek up and take the chairlift back down at the end to rest their weary legs.
If you fancy a more exhilarating experience why not opt for a zipline adventure on Grouse Mountain?
Or for something a little more low key there is the annual light walk to check out.
During the winter months, a portion of Grouse is transformed into a magical walking trail covered in thousands of lights for visitors to explore on foot or by snowshoe.
A truly breathtaking event as you can also see the city below lit up in the dark.
READ MORE: Plan your trip to explore Victoria on Vancouver Island!
9) Eat Your Way Through The Richmond Night Market
For less than $5.00/person you’ll gain access to the largest night market in all of North America.
The Richmond Night Market located in the suburb of Richmond is definitely one of the top things to do in Vancouver for food lovers.
Operating from May to October the market welcomes over 1 million visitors every year and has grown tenfold from humble beginnings in a small shop.
Spanning over 18 acres, the market boasts over 100 food stalls and 200 retailers throughout, focusing mainly on Asian flavours.
With a large Asian population, the founder of the market has brought all the tastes of Asia to Vancouver with a few additions of North American flavours.
Try the rainbow grilled cheese from Say Cheeeeese Toast, or the Agedashi Tofu Poutine from Okonomibites.
Everything you’ll find here is delicious beyond belief.
There are also carnival-style games and amusements on offer at the Night Market making it the perfect night out when visiting Vancouver.
10) Escape to the Cove
If you ask a local what one of the top things to do in Vancouver is, they will likely reply with “escape to the cove.”
Deep Cove is located on the Northside of Vancouver and is a great place to find yourself in nature.
This is the perfect place to get out on the calm waters of the Burrard inlet in a kayak, canoe or paddleboard, or if you have a friend who has a sailboat in the marina that works too.
The town itself is small but quaint, offering a fair amount of local shops and some delicious restaurants and cafes.
This includes Honey Doughnuts, where you can find the best sweet treats on the North Shore.
The Baden Powell trail intersects in Deep Cove and leads to the Quarry Rock trail.
The relatively quick hike takes you through the trees and is well marked from the road.
In about an hour’s time, you’ll find yourself coming to a clearing and looking out over the town below.
These spectacular panoramic views are a reward, especially on hot sunny days.
Perfect for picnics, watching the sunset or just enjoying the view.
It can become quite crowded in summer but as the top part of the small peak is not massive there is never a wait for a place to sit.
And if you’re lucky enough you may lay your eyes on some famous Deep Cove residents.
For instance, Ben Affleck is said to have a home here.
11) Find Your Zen at Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden
If you’re looking for the best place to find a little bit of peace and quiet, look no further than Dr.Sun Yat Sen Garden in Chinatown.
The gardens are the first Chinese Scholar gardens built outside of China.
Built in 1985 and opened just in time for the Expo in 1986 the gardens are a longstanding part of Chinatown’s history in Vancouver.
Because the winter climate in Vancouver is similar to that of the Suzhou region, where the flora in the garden comes from, the plants here thrive year-round.
Named after the Father of Modern China, the gardens boats lush green spaces while tranquil ponds and vibrantly coloured flowers.
There are events put on throughout the year, including tea ceremonies, art exhibitions and even Tai Chi in the garden.
Come for a stroll to clear your mind and admire the beautiful surrounds that exist right in the middle of the city.
12) Channel Your Inner-Child at the PNE
The PNE or Pacific National Exhibition is one thing to do in Vancouver if you love amusement parks.
In the summer months, you’ll be able to visit PlayLand with wooden roller coasters, extreme rides, a Ferris wheel and all those classic amusement park games too.
In addition to a wicked amusement park, the venue hosts a multitude of other amazing Vancouver activities including Hasting Winter Market (November – April) and the incredibly magical and festive Aurora Winter Festival.
For six weeks starting in November, The PNE is transformed into a whimsical winter wonderland.
With a massive skating rink, an inner tube slide park, a multitude of giant sculptures all decorated in lights.
Whatever happens, to be on at The PNE is well worth the visit no matter the time of year, the thrills are there to be had.
READ MORE: Here’s our list of all the best things to do in Calgary!
13) Cruise Around False Creek
Vancouver is super cycling-friendly and it’s one of the best ways to explore the city.
Hire a bike or hop on your own and go out to explore.
A great thing to do in Vancouver is cruise along False Creek from Charleston Park to BC Place and into Yaletown.
False Creek is a small inlet that separates downtown and the rest of the city and has some fantastic views towards Granville Island and out to the Vancouver Science Center.
With a few green parks dotted along this area, it is the perfect place to cycle around making stops along the way for picnics, a game of frisbee or a run around with your dog.
Admire the view as you come over to the Science Center and into Yaletown where you’ll find a ton of restaurants, pubs and cafes to refuel after all that cycling.
14) Venture Out to North Van
North Vancouver quick jaunt from the city but is some to some of the greatest things to do in Vancouver too.
Hop on the Seabus from Waterfront Station downtown and take the ferry across to Londsdale Quay where you’ll find a public market with tons of vendors and food stalls.
What brings most people to this part of Vancouver are the multiple trails and wooded areas to explore.
Some of the trails worth checking out are The Baden Powell Trail which is part of a 48 km series of trails from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay.
If you’re looking to chase some waterfalls be sure to make out Norvan Falls located in the lush Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.
This trail can take some time to complete but the falls are worth it and perfect for a swim in the summer.
If you’re looking for a shorter trail, Cleveland Dam trail will take you around the Capilano reservoir and you’ll be able to look down over the 91m high concrete dam.
For a casual stroll to get a feel for this part of the city it’s totally worth checking out Waterfront Park and Victoria Park.
Park & Tilford Gardens are also a lovely place to explore too if you have the chance.
15) Get Your Science On
Just look for the giant silver ball on the water. Okay, well not on the water exactly but it sure does look like it’s floating in the inlet at False Creek.
The gorgeous building that houses Vancouver’s Science World was originally built for the World Fair Expo in 1987.
Experience interactive displays and exhibitions. Immerse yourself in the incredible world of science by attending live talks by scientists in all sorts of fields.
Or maybe take in a film at the onsite Imax theatre.
The Science Center isn’t just for the kids in the group either!
Attend Science World After Dark events where you’ll get to experience multiple exhibitions and interactive and live science shows all with a drink or two in your hand.
For more details and dates check out the Science Center website.
The Science Center also holds additional events throughout the year such as The Science of Cocktails, The Science of Superdogs and even a virtual reality experience sure to blow your mind at new heights.
- Location: 1455 Quebec Street Vancouver, V6Z 2Z7
- Ticket: $27.15/adult and $18.10/child
- Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily
16) Multiple Museums to Visit
When it comes to things to do in Vancouver on a rainy day (and there are a few of those days) never fear.
The museum scene in Vancouver is incredible. With so many to choose from you’ll be able to cozy up in the gorgeous buildings as the rain falls outside immersing yourself in some serious culture.
Visit the Museum of Vancouver, which is the largest civic museum in Canada and home to award-winning exhibits showcasing the city’s history.
Or head to the Vancouver Police Museum in a beautiful heritage building to learn all about the history of the police force in the city.
The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is one unrivalled by others.
Here you’ll find inspiring sections on First Nations Band Governments and even a European ceramic gallery.
There is also the Pacific Museum of Earth at UBC which is small but chock full of incredible moments in natural history.
And for all those sports lovers there is also the BC Sports Hall of Fame to be explored.
No matter what you’re interested in there is a museum to keep you entertained for hours.
READ MORE: The ultimate guide for hiking in Banff National Park.
17) Visit the Queen’s Park
During the autumn months, one of the best things to see in Vancouver is the colours changing around Queen Elizabeth Park.
Situated in the city on the adorably named Little Mountain sits 130 acres of gorgeous greenery.
Named after Queen Elizabeth herself for an impending visit in 1993, the views here are regal.
Take your bike up here to cruise around or grab a coffee and stroll in to enjoy all the park has to offer.
The park offers incredibly beautiful views back to the city, and in the fall the leaves on the trees turn golden and rust coloured making the view even better.
Open year-round, Queen Elizabeth Park is a Vancouver attraction that brings countless visitors.
In addition to the gardens, there are also sculptures throughout, an arboretum, a conservatory for flowers, a pitch and putt site and even tennis courts.
Keep your eyes out for events happening during certain holidays as the park has been known to host special events.
For example, a winter wonderland at Christmas was once installed at the top of the park complete with a Ferris wheel and poinsettia garden.
18) Find a Fabulous Food Tour
With dozens of different cultures and nationalities running through the veins of the people who call Vancouver home it’s no wonder why the city has some of the best food in the country.
One of the top things to do in Vancouver for foodies is to get yourself booked on a food tour.
From seafood to Indian delicacies, perfect bowls of ramen and vegan friend comfort food there is something to be found around every corner of the city.
Get in touch with Secret Food Tours Vancouver for their food or beer tour.
The team here will take you around Gastown on the food tour or around the Olympic Village for the beer tour, either of which will be fantastic!
If you’re visiting during the holidays, check out the Christmas Classics Market tour to get into the Christmas spirit while touring Granville Island.
The Original Vancouver Food Tour has tons of options for tours from the Richmond dumpling trail to a vegan food tour and even the modern Chinatown tasting tour.
Whether you’re looking to try new and exciting types of food or expand your tastes with some local delicacies the city is full of food tours for everyone’s taste.
Be sure to wear your stretchiest pants to make the most of it!
19) Hit the Slopes at Mt. Seymour
High above downtown, you’ll find a perfect place to do some Vancouver sightseeing on a whole new level.
When it comes to what to see in Vancouver, you’ll be able to see it all up from the peak of Mt Seymour on the North Shore.
Strap on your skis or snowboard and hit the 23 different runs the mountain has to offer.
If you’re looking for a different way to take in the views, strap on some snowshoes – which can be rented at the hill – and head around the numerous trails in the Provincial Park for a slower-paced adventure.
Summer travellers don’t despair, the summer options at Mt. Seymour are also endless.
With 15 + trails to get out on you’ll have your pick of some many different types of trails.
Some top choices include Flower Lake Loop, Old Buck trail, Mystery Lake and even the intermediate Mt. Seymour itself.
A favourite from locals in summer or winter is the trail up Dog Mountain.
This moderate level hike can be done on snowshoes in the winter and is relatively hilly in the summer as well as winter.
Once you reach the top you’ll be gifted with the most amazing views out over the city and on the clearest of days you might even get a glimpse out to the islands.
20) VanDusen Botanical Gardens
When it comes to things to do in Vancouver for those who love a good garden, VanDusen Botanical Gardens should not be missed.
Located on the grounds that was once a golf course, these gardens were opened in 1975 and named after a local lumberman.
Covering about 55 acres here you’ll be able to find local and native flowers and plants, a totem pole garden and a vegetable garden.
Operated and kept by numerous volunteers the lush ground of VanDusen are some of the most well kept in the country.
In the spring you’ll be able to see gorgeous colours blooming around every corner.
One of the most impressive sights is the rhododendron garden bursting with beautiful flowers.
There are also special events that take place throughout the year that visitors are encouraged to take part in.
For example, the bird walks, an annual plant sale and the incredible Festival of Light event over the holidays.
Vancouver Travel Guide
Now that you know what to do in Vancouver, we want to help you make your other plans as well by sharing the best accommodations and places to eat in the city.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Vancouver is a city full of life and that doesn’t stop when it comes to accommodation options either.
After a full day of taking in the incredible Vancouver attractions, you’ll want somewhere perfect to rest your head before heading off again in the morning for more!
Budget Accommodation – HI-Vancouver Downtown
For those visiting the city on a budget look no further than HI-Vancouver Downtown.
Located in the city’s West End you’ll be close to the beach, the shops and museums all while enjoying a quiet place to sleep.
The hostel offers a free breakfast which is a nice little bonus, as well as a fully equipped self-contained kitchen if you fancy cooking your own meals.
With a HI-Hostels membership, you’ll not only save on a night’s stay but also a great number of activities offered through the hostelling network.
Mid-Range Accommodation – Rosewood Hotel Georgia
The Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver’s downtown core has been around since the 1920s.
156 rooms occupy this beautiful hotel that was recently renovated and is now as exceptional as it was the day it opened.
Rich colours and cozy furniture occupy not only the guestrooms here but can be found throughout the hotel making you feel like you’ve stepped into a home rather than a hotel.
With a scrumptious cafe, divine restaurant and iconic bar onsite you’ll enjoy coming back as much as you did exploring the city.
Luxury Accommodation – Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
When it comes to luxury the Fairmont range of hotels knows exactly how to do that.
And nothing could be truer than in Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel.
Created and opened for the 2010 Winter Olympic games, this luxury property offers up 367 rooms all with state of the art technology.
Add in the beautiful and serene Willowstream spa with an outdoor firepit and packages for all.
The lobby bar and lounge offer up live music most nights to set the mood while you await a world-class dinner at the numerous restaurants.
And to top it all off, the rooftop pool and hot tub situation are spectacular.
Views of the mountains and the city during the day quickly turn even more magical as night falls on a day of Vancouver activities.
Where to Eat in Vancouver
In a city with so many different cultures, it should be no surprise that the food selection showcases that.
From fresh seafood, vegan comfort food, classic Canadian fare, to ramen and sushi options that will have you transported to Asia in one bite.
There is something here for everyone’s taste and everyone’s budget.
Located just a few blocks up from the start of the seawall trail, Marutama Ramen is a cozy corner dedicated to amazing ramen and a great selection of Japanese favourites.
While the space is small, the wait is well worth it for authentic Japanese noodle dishes full of flavour.
With 2 locations (Main street and Gastown) MeeT was created by 3 Vancouverites who wanted to connect people and food.
The menu is plant-based and aims to show diners that a vegan menu is so much more than tofu.
Try the mac and cheez bowl or the oyster mushroom calamari and you’ll see exactly what they mean.
Located at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, Seasons In The Park this restaurant serves up exquisite food with a spectacular panoramic view of Vancouver.
Impeccable locally sourced ingredients paired with the most thoughtful wine list, this is luxury on a whole different level.
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