No Western Canada itinerary or trip to British Columbia is complete without checking out the best things to do in Vancouver. The modern city of Vancouver, known for its popular theatre, music, and art scene, is one of the main reasons to visit the beautiful west coast of Canada.
From hip galleries to trendy shopping districts, the top tourist attractions in Vancouver include something for everyone. Visit museums and parks while navigating a diverse city that is lined by the ocean to the west and The Rocky Mountains to the east. With so much to see and do in Canada’s third-biggest city, planning a vacation in Vancouver can be overwhelming.
Vancouver, with its generally mild climate, is the perfect place to take advantage of everything a world-class city has to offer while enjoying the outdoors as well. Vancouverites feel very close to nature, and there are many hiking trails and impressive parks to explore right within the city limits.
Don’t know where to go in Vancouver? Begin plotting your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Vancouver…
What to do in Vancouver
Experience the diversity of the region with a trip to Stanley Park
A trip to Stanley Park is one of the best things to do in Vancouver as the sprawling park is full of fun attractions. If you’re planning on spending just one day in Vancouver, start at the park.
Covering over 1,000 acres, Stanley Park has standard features such as walking trails, picnic areas, and an abundance of trees and plant life. It’s also home to Vancouver Aquarium, the Seawall, and several scenic destinations.
The aquarium houses over 58,000 animals including beluga whales and dolphins. If you want to enjoy the ocean breeze, travel the Seawall. It’s one of the longest uninterrupted waterfront paths in the world, spanning over 28 kilometres.
Walk around the trendy neighbourhood of Granville Island
If you want to know where to go in Vancouver to shop at public markets and hipster boutiques, visit Granville Island. The peninsula is across from the downtown area under Granville Street Bridge. In the centre of the peninsula is a large public market packed with with produce, fish, meat, and cheeses. You’ll find over 50 vendors offering fresh meals, snacks, and candy.
To reach Granville Island, consider taking one of the mini tugboats that ferry people across False Creek. It’s also fun to walk around Granville Island Marina and the harbour area, checking out the expensive yachts and impressive sailboats. If you explore the surrounding streets, you’ll find a variety of boutiques and coffee shops to explore as well.
Enjoy the fresh air in Queen Elizabeth Park
While Stanley Park is at the top of the list of Vancouver attractions, Queen Elizabeth Park is also worth exploring. A former rock quarry, the park is located on Little Mountain. It’s the highest point in the city, offering views of the surrounding landscape.
While it doesn’t have a zoo, Queen Elizabeth Park offers a variety of grassy knolls and flower gardens. It covers about 130 acres with several garden areas. As you wander the paths, try to uncover some of the park’s attractions, including several sculptures, fountains, and plazas. If you happen to visit in the spring, you’ll have the chance to view the cherry blossoms.
Discover hip back-alley restaurants around Gastown
Gastown is a downtown neighbourhood near the waterfront. It’s also the oldest commercial district in the city with well-preserved Victorian-style architecture lining the streets. Along with Granville Island, Gastown is one of the hippest spots in the city. The old architecture hides a wide range of exclusive night clubs, dive bars, fancy restaurants, and high-end shops.
The Steam Clock in Gastown is one of the top points of interest in Vancouver. Many tourists visit the neighbourhood just to see the clock. Built in 1977, the clock is now powered by an electric motor but you can still see the old steam engine that powered the clock through the glass on the sides of the frame.
View ancient artifacts as you tour the Museum of Anthropology
Some of the top things to see in Vancouver are found in the Museum of Anthropology. With a massive collection of First Nations artifacts, you’ll learn more about the peoples that originally populated the region. Many of the artifacts are ancient sculptures carved thousands of years ago.
It holds over 50,000 items, so you won’t be able to see everything during one trip. While the museum is mostly dedicated to the indigenous people of Canada, it also houses artifacts from other cultures. The African collection includes over 2800 items including masks, carvings, and weaponry. When you’re done viewing the artifacts, visit the gift shop to pick up a few souvenirs.
Let your kids experience the hands-on exhibits at Science World
Science World stands out as one of the top tourist attractions in Vancouver. It’s packed with fun, interactive exhibits that will captivate children. Keep in mind that Science World isn’t geared toward adults. It’s intended for younger children with a variety of attractions aimed at kids between the ages of 2 and 12.
If you’re not travelling with the family, a trip to Science World may not be one of the best things to do in Vancouver. However, travellers of all ages tend to enjoy the Imax Theatre featuring interesting short films on space exploration and other science topics.
Go kayaking or scuba diving in the waters of English Bay
English Bay is one of the most scenic Vancouver points of interest. It’s located in Stanley Park and reachable via the Seawall. As you travel around the Seawall, take a break from your Vancouver sightseeing tour to enjoy the view.
If you’re visiting during the summer, English Bay is one of the best places to visit in Vancouver for water activities. Rent a kayak and go for a ride around the waters or join a scuba diving tour and explore life under the water. If you’re not feeling active, the area is also home to some great restaurants and pubs with views of the bay.
Navigate the maze at VanDusen Botanical Garden
Deciding what to do in Vancouver isn’t easy as there is no shortage of attractions, including VanDusen Botanical Garden. It may not appeal to everyone but the sprawling oasis in the centre of the city covers over 55 acres. It’s a large park with over 7500 species of plants.
One of the more interesting attractions in the garden is the large hedge maze. It’s one of only six hedge mazes in North America. It includes 3000 pyramidal cedar trees that are carefully pruned to form the maze. Before entering, get a view of the layout from the observation terrace to help you plan your route.
Get wild at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
British Columbia has no shortage of places to test your fear of heights, but in Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge reigns supreme.
Located about 15 minutes north of downtown Vancouver, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a pristine slice of nature. The park is centred upon the Capilano Suspension Bridge, originally built in 1889 to span across the Capilano Canyon with the Capilano River 70 metres below.
Obviously, the first line of business in any visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is to walk the bridge itself. As you trek across the 137-metre bridge, you’ll be treated to spectacular views across the canyon and the surrounding primordial coastal forest.
Besides the suspension bridge, be sure to carve out time to tackle the park’s Treetops Adventure, a series of bridges floating 30 metres above the ground amid towering Douglas fir trees dating back over a thousand years. The newest addition at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, the Cliffwalk, is equally gravity-defying, negotiating the canyon’s edge along a series of cantilevered bridges and stairs.
While visiting the park, carve out some time for the nearby Capilano River Regional Park. There’s an easy 2.6-kilometre hiking trail winding through the canyon that’s among the best hikes in Vancouver for visitors of all fitness levels.
Where to stay in Vancouver for sightseeing
As the third-biggest city in Canada, figuring out where to stay in Vancouver isn’t always easy. For cashing in on the top points of interest in Vancouver, the areas in & around Downtown are the best places to stay. Here are a few of the best hotels in Vancouver to start your search…
- Blue Horizon Hotel: Located on Robson Street in Downtown, this hotel puts you face-to-face with the best attractions in Vancouver. Splurge on a corner room with a balcony for awesome city views.
- Hotel BLU: This central 4-star hotel offers spacious rooms and a great lineup of amenities just minutes away from the cool Yaletown neighbourhood.
- L’Hermitage Hotel: With BC Place and Vancouver Art Gallery at its doorstep, this elegant hotel is a great choice for culture-seekers. There’s a cool outdoor patio area with a pool to chill out after your day of sightseeing.