Things to do in Vancouver, BC

Get Your Bearings in Vancouver

By Natasha John
Vancouver Expert

Stay
Eat
See & Do
Party
Shop

Where to Stay

Getting around Vancouver is quick and convenient, meaning you’re not far from the action. Downtown is home to many familiar name brands and a handful of charming boutique hotels. Depending on your budget, you may wish to splash out and enjoy Vancouver’s most luxurious hotels that are all within a few blocks from each other. While there are plenty of indulgent properties to choose from, there are numerous budget-friendly hotels that are comfortable and convenient.  An added perk while staying in Vancouver is that you’re likely to have a stellar mountain view from hotel rooms all over the city.

Avoid:

If you're after a quiet night's sleep, avoid booking a hotel in the Granville Entertainment district.

What to Eat

Restaurants in Vancouver are as diverse as the culture found in this city. You can practically take a tour of the world one restaurant at a time. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you'll find a wide variety in Vancouver’s most popular neighborhoods: Gastown, Yaletown, South Granville, Main Street, Commercial Drive, West Broadway and West 4th Avenue.

Caution:

Restaurants in Vancouver, especially in Gastown, can fill up very quickly on weekends. To avoid a long wait, make a reservation in advance if you can.

Be Sure to Sample:

Fresh B.C. salmon that's raw, smoked, grilled, baked or fried. Sockeye is a local favorite. Pair it with B.C. wine and you're in for a treat!

Things to See

No matter the time of year, Vancouver has plenty to see and do! Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the attractions on the North Shore where there are trails for hiking in the summer and slopes for skiing in the winter. Vancouver’s Seawall is a local favorite when it comes to a leisurely bike ride or a steady-paced run. Pack yourself a picnic and dine al fresco on one of Vancouver’s plentiful beaches. Sunsets from English Bay are spectacular and not to be missed during the summer months. For those rainy Vancouver days, there are museums, an aquarium and flight simulator to keep you and the kids busy and dry.

Hot Tips:

Stanley Park is home to a number of attractions and is a great place to spend a day keeping kids busy, without having to go very far.

Places to Party

Granville Street’s entertainment district is where you'll find a large number of nightclubs in the city. Gastown and Yaletown are other neighborhoods where you can put your dancing shoes to use. The latter two neighborhoods are local favorites for those looking to grab a fabulous cocktail or watch the game with a cold pint. Commercial Drive and Main Street will keep your thirst at bay, while Davie Street boasts fun gay and lesbian friendly clubs, lounges and pubs.

Caution:

Cabs can be difficult to get when all the clubs close. If you can leave before close, you may avoid a lengthy wait for a taxi.

Hot Tips:

To avoid a line-up, it's worth checking out the nightclub's website to find out if they have a guest list that you can request to be on.

Where to Shop

Robson Street is where you will find anything from a new pair of shoes, a stylish new dress, Lululemon workout gear, sunglasses, handmade chocolates and just about everything in between from stores you’re familiar with and ones specific to Vancouver. The Pacific Centre shopping mall is perfect for those rainy days and has two fantastic department stores where you can find both luxuries and guilt-free sale purchases. South Granville, Gastown, Main Street and Kitsilano are also lovely neighborhoods to explore where you'll find a higher number of boutique stores.

Hot Tips:

f you have a car, parking can be found under the Pacific Centre shopping mall right off of Robson Street.

Best Local Souvenir:

Canadian maple syrup and other maple products.

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Things to do in Vancouver


Vancouver is known for...

Six of Vancouver's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Mountains:

The mountains definitely help play an integral role in defining this province’s reputation for being beautiful. Not only are theses mountains easy on the eyes, they attract sport enthusiasts all year round. In the winter months, locals and visitors glide down the snow-covered peaks on the North Shore, Whistler and numerous other ski resorts across British Columbia. After the snow has melted, you will find people strapping on their gear and heading for the thrill-inducing mountain biking parks, and scenic trails being used by both leisurely hikers and trail runners. Our mountains really are the best of both worlds and provide us with entertainment for much of the year. Did we mention that the views from the tops of the mountains are equally stunning, if not more, than those from the ground? 

2. Oceans:

We don’t want to come across as bragging, but Vancouver’s oceanfront setting (in combo with the mountains) makes it one of the most beautiful cities in North America.  And of course, where there’s ocean, there’s beach. Vancouver’s many beaches are summer playgrounds for sun worshippers of all ages.  And depending on what vibe you like your beach to have, chances are there’s one in the city that will tickle your fancy.  A city surrounded by ocean also gets some of the freshest seafood around.  Local crab, fish, shellfish and other treats from the sea are easily found citywide.  Try British Columbia’s wild Pacific salmon and there’s no looking back.  If you’re lucky enough to befriend someone with a boat, a sunset cruise up Salmon Arm is one-of-a-kind.

3. Chinatown:

Boasting North America’s second largest Chinatown,Vancouver offers a real cultural treat.  Bordering Gastown - an area of Vancouver that has seen exponential housing growth -Chinatown has been getting more visitors by the day.  Go there to indulge in baked goods, roasted duck, green teas, specialty items and fun home décor. While walking around Chinatown, you’ll forget you’re in Vancouver until you catch a glimpse of those aforementioned mountains.

4. Food:

Those who like to eat and drink will find themselves smitten with Vancouver’s culinary scene.  The Pacific Rim tends to have a heavy influence on West Coast cuisine; enjoy experimenting with the fusion.  Sushi joints are as abundant as New York coffee shops, while street food carts offer everything from fish tacos to tasty poutine. Vancouver loves lavish delights, but if your wallet is in need of a little restraint, there are plenty of spots that will gratify the taste buds without damaging your bank account.  This diverse city may soon have you dreaming about the Indian, Vietnamese, French, Italian,Belgium, Japanese, Latin, or Thai meal that’s left you in a euphoric state. If mixology is your thing,Vancouver will keep you on your toes.  Wine connoisseurs will appreciate the Okanagan’s bounty, found in local liquor stores and restaurants.  You could literally eat your way across the city. 

5. Hikes:

Mountains surround Vancouver and tucked away on these mountains are plenty of hikes that range from easy to multi-day treks that are only for very seasoned hikers. When going out on a hike, it's best to let people know where you're going, which trail you will be using and bring some snacks and water with you. Another important tool is to bring a GPS or compass with you. The Baden Powell trail on the North Shore is a very popular trail that has a few different off-shoots that will cater to your hiking level. Many of these trails are dog friendly, so don't be surprised if you see some four legged friends taking in a nice hike. The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is a beautiful hike that's relatively moderate. The view of the suspension bridge is a very welcome addition to the already pristine forest. Vancouver does have bears, so be vigilant and brush up on your bear safety knowledge before hitting the forest. Encounters don't happen often, but you should always be prepared.

6. Beaches:

The Pacific Ocean surrounds Vancouver and has gifted the city with many beautiful beaches. Downtown Vancouver has a number of sandy spots that are ideal for soaking up the sun and enjoying a little picnic. English Bay, Sunset Beach and Second Beach are all around the West End. They're clean, family friendly and the waters are safe to swim in. Across the bridge, you will find some larger beaches, as well as Vancouver's nude beach. Wreck Beach is the city's only nude beach and is well hidden away from the general public. It involves going down quite a lot of stairs and is not accessible for those with mobility issues. Kits Beach is always busy and full of people enjoying some sports like volleyball, football and frisbee. If you like being in the thick of the action, that beach is for you. Jericho, Lacarno and Spanish Banks are a little bit more subdued and are the perfect escape from the busy city on a hot summer day.