Only got one day in Vancouver? Strap in for one of Canada’s finest urban experience. Vancouver is the third-biggest city in Canada and the largest city in the western province of British Columbia. And this buzzing West Coast Canadian city is never short on activities.
Even if you can only carve out 24 hours in Vancouver, you’ll experience plenty. You’ll peruse museums & art galleries and eat Canada’s finest culinary creations. You’ll relax in parks and wander around its shopping districts. With an extended Vancouver itinerary, even more hangs at your fingertips. You’ll be able to take advantage of the city’s spectacular location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and along the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Not sure where to begin exploring Vancouver in one day? Start planning your trip with this complete 1-day Vancouver itinerary.
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Where to go in Vancouver in one day: A complete 1-day itinerary
One day in Vancouver offers just enough time to see a few of the city’s top attractions. Most of the sites are clustered around Vancouver Harbour and connected via walkable stretches of road.
As with most of our one-day city itineraries, this Vancouver itinerary includes a lot of walking. You can travel between most sites on foot. However, the occasional taxi or bus ride can shave a few minutes off your travel times.
The tour takes you through the city’s top parks, gardens, museums, and landmarks. You’ll also enjoy several stops for food and shopping. Let’s get started!
Grab a coffee and explore the walking paths at Stanley Park
With just 24 hours in Vancouver, you’ll start on the west side of the city and work your way across the downtown area. As soon as you arrive or leave your hotel, travel to Stanley Park. The park is located at the northwestern tip of the peninsula.
You’ll likely pass at least two or three Tim Hortons on the way to this massive urban park. Stop inside for a traditional Canadian fast-food breakfast of a coffee and a donut.
After brushing off the donut crumbs, enter Stanley Park. It’s the largest park in the city, covering 1,001 acres just northwest of the West End. It’s mostly covered in dense forests with over half a million trees.
Either walk around the sprawling park or rent a bicycle and cycle around the seawall. Bike rentals are found near the entrance. You can also walk part the seawall route. It extends for about 22 kilometres, so chances are you won’t have time to walk it all.
If you cycle around the Vancouver Seawall, look to the south as you around the outer rim of the path. You’ll see the Port of Vancouver and the downtown skyline.
If you skip the bike ride, Stanley Park still has plenty of other sites to explore. You can take a stroll near the Lost Lagoon or simply walk through the forested paths. The forested trails take you past several monuments, playgrounds, and a rideable miniature railway.
Examine hundreds of species of marine life at the Vancouver Aquarium
No matter if you ride the seawall or stroll the trails, work your way to the eastern edge of Stanley Park to reach the Vancouver Aquarium. The aquarium is inside the park and includes several outdoor facilities.
A trip to the aquarium isn’t cheap but it contains dozens of habitats to explore, including the main aquarium. It covers about 9,000 square metres and holds over nine million litres of water.
You can see a diverse range of marine life. Take a trip to Penguin Point to see African penguins. Or visit the Treasures of the BC Coast with its collection of octopuses, sea urchins, and rockfish.
The aquarium also has an Amazon Rainforest section. Try to spot the various species of snakes, sloths, birds, fish, and other rainforest creatures hiding in their natural habitats.
The aquarium has over 50,000 creatures. You won’t have time to see all of them when travelling across Vancouver in 24 hours. Spend an hour or two appreciating the beauty of the animals before moving on.
Shop the boutiques on Robson Street in the West End
After the aquarium, you get to hit the streets of Vancouver, starting with busy Robson Street. It’s located in the centre of the West End and has the widest selection of boutiques and cafes in the city.
This street is a major thoroughfare, reaching from Stanley Park to BC Place Stadium. It’s one of the oldest commercial streets in the city. Walk east on the street, admiring the skyscrapers and browsing the shops.
As you travel east, you’ll notice that the atmosphere starts to change. The western end of Robson Street is chic and bohemian with its assortment of small shops and galleries. As you approach downtown Vancouver, you’ll find more high-end shops and fewer boutiques.
The entire path also includes many restaurants and dozens of noodle shops. Unless you’re starving, hold off on lunch until you reach the next destination.
Fill up on tasty street food at Granville Island Public Market
Instead of taking Robson Street into the centre of the city, skip the downtown area for now. Head south to Granville Island. Take any of the streets south until you reach Pacific Street. Follow the road to Granville Bridge.
While Granville Island isn’t very big, it contains a few attractions including the sprawling public market and a water park.
If you plan a longer Canada itinerary, you could spend more time on Granville Island. In fact, you could spend an entire day at the water park. For now, you’ll only have enough time to browse the market and find something to eat.
The public market is home to vendors and merchants selling produce, seafood, baked goods, and various snacks. It’s one of the busier areas of Vancouver. Many visitors compare it to Pike Place Market in Seattle.
Browse the stalls until you find something that looks appetizing. If you don’t want to walk and eat, you may be lucky enough to find an open seat at one of the snack bars or small eateries inside the market.
Browse artwork and interesting exhibits at the Vancouver Art Gallery
After you finish with lunch, travel north on Granville Street into the heart of downtown Vancouver. When you reach Robson Square, cross the street to the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG).
The VAG is a large art museum with over 11,000 pieces in its permanent collection. It also showcases various travelling exhibits. You’ll always find something new.
The collections and exhibits cover a wide range of mediums. It holds paintings, sculptures, multimedia installations, and a large collection of photographs.
The most viewed collection includes works from Canadian painter Emily Carr. You can also view pieces from indigenous Canadian artists.
As with the aquarium, the entrance fee is a little steep compared to museums in other major cities. If you want to get your money’s worth, take the guided tour and learn more about the pieces that you examine.
Spend two to three hours on the tour or walking around the museum before taking a small detour to the gift shop. You can pick up a few souvenirs or rest your legs for a moment.
Along with the art gallery, the downtown area is home to some of the top things to do in Vancouver. If you come back for a longer trip, you could spend an entire day exploring the various galleries, theatres, and public squares.
Get a bird’s eye view of the city from the top of Vancouver Lookout
When you’re done admiring the art, it’s time to see more of the city from the top of Vancouver Lookout. Walk north on Hornby Street, located behind the gallery, until you reach West Hastings Street.
Turn right and Vancouver Lookout is just a couple of blocks away. Due to the height of the tower, you can’t miss it.
You can’t visit every site in Vancouver in one day but you can see most of the city from the top of the lookout point. The tower stands almost 150 metres high.
You ride a glass elevator to the top with views of the city as you reach the observation deck. The deck provides a 360-degree view and includes the typical gift shop and pricey lounge.
If you time the trip right, you should arrive at the best time to see the city. As the sun sets, the lights from the buildings create a stunning view.
Spend the evening walking around Gastown and the Port of Vancouver
From the Vancouver Lookout, it’s a short walk to the Gastown Steam Clock and the dozens of restaurants and bars located near the waterfront. First, check out the Steam Clock.
The clock isn’t technically steam-powered anymore. Due to the noise of the steam engine, it’s now powered by an electric motor. It’s still a cool attraction, producing a puff of steam every hour and whistling a short tune every 15 minutes.
After inspecting the clock, explore the rest of Gastown and the Port of Vancouver. These are the oldest parts of the city with Victorian-style architecture and rows of brick buildings. Stroll the waterfront and the cobblestone streets of Gastown looking for a place to eat or drink.
Finish off your trip around the city with dinner or a nightcap near the waterfront. If you’re not ready to call it quits, travel back to the West End for its vibrant nightlife.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Vancouver
As Canada’s third-biggest city, choosing where to stay in Vancouver can sometimes present a challenge. There’s a tremendous diversity of neighbourhoods in Vancouver each with its own advantages. For most first-time travellers with a quick layover in Vancouver, the downtown area is the best place to stay. Here are a few hotel ideas to start your search…
- Blue Horizon Hotel offers an excellent its location on Robson Street in the heart of downtown. This hotel is perfectly situated to take on the best attractions with gusto. Book yourself into a corner room to chill out on your balcony to spectacular city views.
- Hotel BLU offers spacious rooms and a host of superb amenities. This centrally-located 4-star hotel is a comfortable pick in the downtown area. The hip Yaletown neighbourhood is a quick walk away.
- L’Hermitage Hotel is located close to BC Place Stadium and Vancouver Art Gallery. This elegant hotel is a fantastic choice for foodies and culture-lovers alike. The outdoor pool and patio area is great for relaxing after a day of sightseeing.
More Vancouver itinerary ideas
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Got an extra day in Vancouver? First in line should be Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Located 15 minutes from downtown in North Vancouver, the park is one of the area’s most pristine slices of nature.
The park is named for the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The world-famous bridge was built in 1889. It spans 137 metres across Capilano Canyon, suspended 70 metres over the Capilano River. Walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge to marvel at spectacular views across the canyon and to the primeval forest. You’ll also find the world’s largest private collection of totem poles.
Besides the bridge itself, carve out time to visit the park’s Treetops Adventure. This series of bridges drifts between towering thousand-year-old Douglas Fir trees. The bridges float 30 metres above the forest canopy. As you’d imagine, the forest views are breathtaking!
For an even wilder adventure, check out the park’s newest addition, the Cliffwalk. The walk takes place over a series of cantilevered bridges and stairs hanging on the edge of the canyon.
Hikers will also love the nearby Capilano River Regional Park. Its easy 2.6-kilometre trail through the canyon is a great option for hikers of all fitness levels.
Want to experience Vancouver’s natural side? Cross over the Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver to check out Grouse Mountain. The mountain, rising 1,250 metres over the city, is one of Vancouver’s most popular attractions year round.
In the warmer months, ramp up the adrenaline with one Grouse Mountain’s adventure activities. You can warm up with a 850-metre upward trek on The Grouse Grind. The challenging trail is one of the best places to hike in Vancouver. You’ll get an intense thigh workout while enjoy some of the city’s finest scenery. Grouse Mountain also offers more high-octane pursuits like ziplining and paragliding.
In winter, Grouse Mountain teems activity, too. The mountain’s slopes are among most accessible for skiing in Vancouver. It offers runs for skiers & snowboarders of all skill levels. Elsewhere in the area, you’ll enjoy snowshoeing, ice skating, and sleigh rides.
Perched upon the harbourfront, Canada Place is one of Vancouver’s most recognizable landmarks. Its distinctive roof, designed like sails of a ship, is often the first sight for visitors entering the city on a cruise. Besides being a cruise ship terminal, Canada Place hosts a convention centre, hotel, and a sightseeing tour bus hub.
The real reason to throw Canada Place into your trip plan is to check out FlyOver Canada. On this immersive flying ride, you’ll hang suspended for a 8-minute journey across Canada. It whisks you through the country’s most iconic scenes with all their sights & sounds.
When you’re done with the FlyOver Canada ride, head outside to the promenade. You’ll enjoy amazing views of Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, and the North Shore mountains.
English Bay Beach
Want to experience Vancouver’s urban seaside comforts? Pop over to English Bay Beach. The beach is located on the eastern shores of the downtown peninsula. It’s pleasant 30-minute walk from the heart of the city.
Thanks to its accessibility, English Bay Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Vancouver. The Stanley Park Seawall biking & walking route passes along the beach’s eastern edge. If you’ve got a Vancouver cycling & walking adventure in the works, it’s a lovely stopover.
Built up an appetite? Be sure to check out the Cactus Club Cafe. The restaurant is a fantastic place to enjoy happy hour drinks to a spectacular Pacific Ocean sunset. The modern Canadian cuisine and sommelier-approved wine selection is also a hit with patrons.
When to visit Vancouver
The best time to visit Vancouver is between April and October. In these months, Vancouver is at its warmest and sunniest. Unlike other destinations in Canada, Vancouver rarely gets too hot & humid in summer. The Pacific Ocean breeze help to regulate summer temperatures. The crowds in the summer months, however, can get overwhelming in the more touristy parts of the city. Room rates are also at their highest and occupancy at its lowest in summer.
Even if you can’t make at this time to year, Vancouver is a year-round destination. Along with nearby Victoria, Vancouver is one of the mildest major cities in Canada. The typical cold & snowy Canadian winter doesn’t apply here. Instead, expect grey and rainy days between November and March.
How to get to Vancouver
Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The airport is located in the suburb of Richmond, about 12 kilometres from downtown. Several major Canadian & international airlines fly into YVR, including Air Canada and West Jet. Vancouver International Airport is a major hub for flights from North America to Asia.
Getting to Vancouver by road offers some of Canada’s finest road-tripping experiences. Vancouver’s location, wedged between ocean & mountains, means that beautiful landscapes unleash at every approach. Nearby destinations and approximate fastest driving times include:
- Banff (9h22m)
- Calgary (10h39m)
- Edmonton (12h9m)
- Jasper (8h22m)
- Kelowna (4h19m)
- Seattle (2h32m)
- Whistler (1h41m)
Ferries from Victoria to Vancouver depart from Swartz Bay, 32 kilometres south of Victoria. The ferry from Vancouver Island takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes. It arrives at Tsawwassen, 32 kilometres from Vancouver. Between the two downtowns, expect about 3.5 to 4 hours travel time.
From Nanaimo, Tofino or Ucluelet, ferries arrive at Horseshoe Bay. The Horseshoe Bay terminal is 23 kilometres northwest of the city centre. The trip between Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and Horseshoe Bay also takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes.