12 Things to See and Do in Vancouver

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  • Vancouver is framed by coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and it has easy access to both sandy beaches and scenic hiking trails.
  • Explore the unique history, culture and art scene of Vancouver by visiting modern museums and artisanal markets.
  • Featuring a diverse and vibrant foodie scene, Vancouver is an international culinary destination.

Nestled between the coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is a youthful metropolitan city with an ideal blend of culture, outdoor adventure, art, fashion and dining. There are constantly new attractions and events popping up, making the city a haven for both cosmopolitan and outdoor adventurers.

To help you choose between the city’s many exciting offerings, check out the top 12 things to see and do in Vancouver.

1. Granville Island

Once an industrial site in the 1970s, the historic Granville Island has since transformed into an artistic and cultural hub along the urban waterfront. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., it features vendors serving renowned culinary experiences and many artists giving performances. Make sure to pick up handmade soaps and jewelry from artisan vendors, grab a craft beer at the Granville Island Brewery and finish off the visit with a treat from Rogers’ Chocolate.

You can drive to Granville Island, but many visitors opt for a scenic bicycle path along the south shore of False Creek Inlet. Pedestrians and cyclists can also take a short ride on the rainbow-colored Aquabus.

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2. VanDusen Botanical Gardens

Named for local lumberman and philanthropist Whitford Julian VanDusen, the VanDusen Botanical Gardens span across 55 acres in the heart of Vancouver. They feature over 7,500 plant species from around the world as well as an Elizabethan hedge maze.

Visitors can enjoy the serene environment and take in the tranquil lakes, waterfalls, sculptures and architecture. Avid birders can test their skills by identifying some of the 85 bird species recorded at VanDusen.

The garden oasis hosts events throughout the year. Check out the Guardians of the Garden challenge, the summer food truck series or the Festival of Lights.

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3. Rogers Arena

Rogers Arena is home to the Vancouver Canucks, the Vancouver Warriors and many major concerts and events. Opened in 1995, the arena was previously known as General Motors Place until 2010 and was once home to the Vancouver Grizzlies of the NBA. It also hosted several events during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Visiting Rogers Arena and seeing a Canucks game is a must for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in Vancouver sports culture. If you’re more of an eSports fan, check out the Vancouver Titans, Vancouver’s resident Overwatch team.

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4. Museum of Anthropology

The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is a teaching museum home to thousands of artifacts and works of art. The museum places a special emphasis on the First Nations peoples and other indigenous communities of British Columbia, and it has a large collection of sculptures, textiles, canoes and totem poles. It also features ethnographic objects from around the world and previously hosted exhibitions, such as:

  • Contemporary Korean Art: Wire Sculptures by Key-Sook Geum
  • Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia
  • Contemporary Art from Afghanistan: Graffiti Works by Shamsia Hassani
  • Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience by Kent Monkman

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5. Explore the Food Scene

Vancouver is an acclaimed city for foodies and has been named one of the best food cities in the world by publications such as Condé Nast Traveler and Olive Magazine.

Because Vancouver is a coastal city, fresh seafood is a major part of the local food scene. Vancouverites love sushi restaurants with fresh salmon and prawn dishes, but you’ll find a diverse dining scene that includes Korean barbecue, dim sum, Indian, ramen and more.

Most brunch spots and food trucks have long lines each day, but they’re almost always worth the wait. Some local brunch favorites include Catch 122 Café Bistro and Twisted Fork, and Tacofino and Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck are crucial food truck stops.

6. Visit the Local Mountains

Vancouverites have easy access to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world. As rain falls in the city during the fall and winter, you can watch the snow line slowly creep down the North Shore mountains. Some popular nearby resorts include:

  • Grouse Mountain: 26 runs and two terrain parks
  • Cypress Mountain: 52 runs, cross-country trails, snow tubing park and snowshoe trails
  • Mt. Seymour: 40 runs, four terrain parks, snow tubing and snowshoe trails

The internationally acclaimed Whistler-Blackcomb resort is also only 75 miles away from Vancouver. Ski Whistler for the second highest vertical drop in North America, or rent a pair of snowshoes if adrenaline sports aren’t your thing.

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7. Sea to Sky Gondola

Take a short drive to Squamish to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola. The floor to ceiling glass gondolas provide passengers with incredible views of Howe Sound, the dense coastal forest and towering nearby mountains on their way to the summit.

At the gondola summit at 2,800 feet, you’ll have access to several hiking trails and viewing platforms, as well as the impressive Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and multiple dining attractions. Use the gondola to bypass a few miles of grueling hiking and take the summit trails to some of the world’s best hiking and backcountry routes.

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8. Visit Local Beaches

You’ll find beaches around every corner in Vancouver. Kitsilano Beach, known as Kits Beach to locals, is a sandy stretch stocked with volleyball and tennis courts, grassy hangout spots and a heated saltwater pool. English Bay Beach is one of the busiest beaches downtown and ideal for relaxing strolls and rollerblading adventures.

For a more adventurous excursion, check out Wreck Beach. The 4.8-mile beach is located down a long flight of stairs next to the University of British Columbia. Prepare your eyes if you visit though, as it’s Canada’s largest clothing-optional beach.

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9. Capilano Suspension Bridge

For a natural thrill, visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Towering 230 feet high and spanning 450 feet across the Capilano River, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a mettle-testing experience that provides incredible views of the rainforest and local wildlife. Originally a footbridge of hemp rope and cedar planks, the bridge has seen several iterations of engineering.

Entry to the 30-acre park grants visitors access to other attractions, including the Cliffwalk, the Treetops Adventure, and various historical and educational activities.

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10. Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a 400-hectare beloved urban park located on a peninsula at the edge of downtown Vancouver. You can explore the 17.5-mile Seawall pathway by foot, bike or rollerblades, or sightsee through the park by joining a guided tour bus or horse-drawn carriage. The Stanley Park Train is another popular option. It allows passengers to ride a vintage train throughout the park.

During your exploring, you’ll find First Nations artwork, beautiful gardens and famous landmarks. Keep an eye out for some of the 500 wildlife species found in the park, including beavers, bald eagles and harbor seals.

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11. Gastown

The original settlement that eventually evolved into the core of Vancouver, Gastown is named for steamboat captain and barkeep Gassy Jack Deighton. The historic neighborhood retains its charm today and is home to Victorian architecture, trendy restaurants and independent fashion boutiques.

Gastown spans 12 city blocks and houses over 100,000 residents, making it one of the densest and most lively neighborhoods in Vancouver. During the summer, find pop-up outdoor music sets throughout Gastown as you hang out on a balmy summer patio or stroll along the cobblestone streets.

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12. Richmond Night Market

Founded in 2000, the Richmond Night Market is an annual night market held during the summer months and the largest of its kind in North America. This major attraction and its many vendors bring in over a million visitors per year.

The market is open until late most nights, but time whizzes by as visitors indulge in incredible foods, including barbecue squid, Japanese poutine, Afghan bolani and Brazilian pastries. Take a break from shopping at the many retail stalls to check out live musical, dance and martial arts performances.

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Tim Kaechle

Tim Kaechle

Tim Kaechle is a freelance writer and digital nomad who loves learning and creating things for the web. When he’s not busy writing about his myriad of interests, he’s brushing up on his programming and digital design skills, all while wandering the world. He’s currently kicking around in Brazil and planning his next big adventure.

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