Thinking of visiting Vancouver? You’re in good company. British Columbia’s famous coastal city is a popular place to visit – and with good reason. The city boasts mountains on one side and ocean on the other. It means that there are tons of activities to keep you entertained on a city break out of the ordinary.
We’ve put together a suggested itinerary for five days in Vancouver. It’s enough time to do the city justice or to combine a stay in Vancouver with a second destination like Whistler or Vancouver Island.
Read on to discover how you can make the most of Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains, Salish Sea, and of course, the plentiful shopping, dining and cultural activities in the city.
Planning to spend just a few days in Vancouver? Our handy destination guides might suit you:
Day 1 – A leisurely day to get your bearings
Vancouver lookout – 1-2 hours
A fantastic way to get your bearings in Vancouver is to head up the Vancouver Lookout observation tower. At 553 feet, you’ll enjoy 360° views of the city, ocean and mountains. It’s our favourite way to begin a holiday. You’ll get to see the city streets neatly laid out below you (thank you North American grid system) which is better than any map for figuring out what’s where. You’ll soon work out how to get down to the waterfront or see the direction of Stanley Park from your hotel.
Opening hours: 8.30am to 10.30pm in summer, 9am to 9pm in winter
Admission: $18.25 for adults with discounts for seniors, students, youths and children (under 5s go free)
Granville Market – 3-4 hours
After you’ve come back down from the dizzying heights of the Vancouver Lookout, head across town to the Granville Island Market. From the Lookout, you can stroll for half an hour all the way down Burrard Street to get an idea of the shops, restaurants and galleries in the heart of town. (If you’re still recovering from jet lag, hop on a bus instead). You’ll end up at the Aquatic Centre Ferry Dock, where you can enjoy the novelty of taking a colourful Aquabus Or False Creek Ferry to Granville Island.
The scenic Granville Island Market is the perfect place to potter about, looking at local crafts and food stalls and watching the buskers. Pick up lunch from one of the hundreds of delicious stalls at the market.
Opening hours: 9am to 7pm in summer, 10am to 6pm in winter
Gastown for the evening – 3 hours
After you’ve stocked up at Granville Market, take a bus or a stroll back into town to explore Gastown. This historic area is full of bars and restaurants. Take a look at the iconic steam clock before enjoying an evening microbrew or cocktail in the sun and heading for dinner.
We recommend L’Abattoir for drinks and food – think excellent cocktails and fine dining with local seafood and beef.
Day 2 – Active adventures on the North Shore
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – 3 hours
After a relaxed first day to get your bearings and adjust to local time, you’ll be raring for adventure on day two. We know that from downtown Vancouver, those North Shore mountains look good enough to reach out and touch, so you’ll be dying to visit them. Hop on the free shuttle bus from downtown for a quick and convenient ride to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
The park is nestled in the North Shore’s temperate rainforest, where you can see giant cedars and groves of hemlock. With your entry ticket, you’ll enjoy treetop boardwalks through the forest and cultural displays explaining the history of the Indigenous people in the area. You’ll also be able to walk across the park’s iconic suspension bridge, stretching across a canyon 70m above the rushing Capilano River.
Opening hours: 8am to 8pm summer, variable hours in winter
Admission: $46.95 for adults with discounts for seniors, students, youths and children (under 6s go free)
Grouse Mountain – 4 hours
From the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, it’s just a 15-minute bus ride to the Grouse Mountain Skyride. The gondola offers stunning views as it takes you up the mountain to the summit. We’d recommend having lunch here as there are some fantastic restaurants with views. Our favourite is Altitudes Bistro on the upper floor of the Peak Chalet.
After you’ve refuelled, spend the afternoon exploring the many hiking and biking trails on the mountain. You can even say hello to the resident rescue bears in the Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge.
Opening hours: 8.15am to 10pm daily
Admission: $56 for adults with discounts for seniors, students, youths, children and family tickets
Evening meal on Grouse Mountain or Coal Harbour – 2 hours
If you opted for lunch in the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, you could take advantage of the highly recommended Observatory restaurant on Grouse Mountain for an evening meal (open 5pm to 10pm). The Observatory offers fine dining with some of the most incredible views anywhere. It’s popular, so make sure you book in advance.
You could also check out the fantastic restaurants in Coal Harbour on your way back to your downtown hotel. This lively area is home to favourites like the Cactus Club Coal Harbour, Cardero’s, LIFT Bar Grill View and MIKU to name a few, all with great waterfront views and fantastic patios.
Day 3 – Nature and wildlife in the city
Cycle around Stanley Park – 1-2 hours
No visit to Vancouver is complete without cycling the famous Stanley Park Seawall. The wall is 10km (6 miles) long and circles the entire park, which is a crown jewel of the city. The park is bigger than New York’s Central Park and is a haven for winding pathways, shady trees and sea views.
Spokes Bicycle Rentals offers bike hire just outside the park for as little as $8.57 for the first hour for an adult bike. We recommended hiring for a couple of hours and stopping off for a picnic lunch at one of the beaches in the park.
You can also join a guided bike tour with Cycle City Tours. They’ll take you to the best spots in the city with bike hire included.
Vancouver Whale watching tour – 3-5 hours
With its enviable perch on the Pacific Ocean, it makes sense to get out on the water during your visit to Vancouver. The city is blessed by being close to a resident orca whale population in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Humpbacks, minke whales and sealions also call the Salish Sea near Vancouver “home”.
Prince of Whales operates whale watching tours from Granville Island. It’s an incredibly convenient departure location. Plus, the expert guides will offer interesting talks about the local wildlife and give you the best chance of tracking and spotting whales.
Opening hours: April to November. Departs 8.30am and 2.30pm June – September, 12pm Spring and Autumn.
Admission: $170 for a half-day whale watching tour from Granville Island
Day 4 – Culture and relaxation
Vancouver Art Gallery – 2-3 hours
Start your day on a cultural note with a visit to the acclaimed Vancouver Art Gallery. The gallery has a varied collection from modern art to indigenous art and Old Masters.
Opening hours: 10am – 5pm daily (late nights on Tuesdays and the first Friday of the month)
Admission: $24 for adults with discounts for seniors, students, youths and children (under 5s go free)
Swim in Kitsilano pool – 2 hours
When the day has warmed up, head over to cool Kistilano for some relaxation pool-side. ‘Kits’ is a trendy beach neighbourhood to the west of downtown. It is home to Vancouver’s only saltwater swimming pool. It’s a simply stunning setting to cool off in summer. Even if you don’t go for a swim, you can enjoy a stroll on the beach and relaxing in one of the neighbourhood cafes for lunch.
Opening hours: 7am – 8.30pm weekdays in summer. Shorter hours on weekends and other seasons.
Admission: $6.10 for adults with discounts for seniors, students, youths and children (under 4s go free)
Dr Sun Yat Sen Gardens – 1-2 hours
After you’ve enjoyed Kitsilano Beach, hop on the False Creek Ferry from the Vancouver Maritime Museum and get off at the Plaza of Nations Ferry Dock. From there, it’s just a short walk past the impressive BC Place Stadium to the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
Opening hours: 9.30am – 7pm in summer, shorter hours other seasons
Admission: $12 for adults with discounts for seniors, students and families
Dinner in Chinatown – 2 hours
Credit – Nelson Mouellic
After you’ve explored the Chinese Classical Gardens and mooched around the colourful shops of Chinatown, it’s time for dinner. Vancouver’s vibrant, historic Chinatown is one of the largest in the world and buzzes with authentic places to eat. You can find everything from buns to noodles here.
Bao Bei is a favourite restaurant for dumplings, great vegetarian options and local ingredients fused with authentic Chinese ingredients.
Day 5 – Shopping and sightseeing
Exploring West End – lunch and Robson Street – 3 hours
Spend your last day exploring the city. Now’s the time to check out Robson Street for its incredible shopping, with everything from high-end designers to high-street fashion. Bordering Robson Street is the West End, which acts as a gateway to both Stanley Park and English Bay. Denman Street is a particular highlight for great value dining.
Vancouver aquarium – 2 hours
As you meander from the West End towards Stanley Park, make time to visit the Vancouver Aquarium in the heart of the park. This enormous aquarium is filled with stunning habitats for all kinds of incredible marine life. Learn about the animals that live in the Salish Sea off Vancouver as well as species from further afield.
Opening hours: 9.30am – 6pm daily
Admission: $38 for adults with discounts for seniors, students and children (under 3s go free)
Sunset and supper in English Bay – 2 hours
Stroll through Stanley Park to English Bay with its beautiful sandy beach. Spend the evening here, where you can watch the sunset over the Pacific and dine on delicious fresh seafood with a view of the ocean.
Ready to visit?
Take a look at our 4-night, 5-day holiday package to Vancouver:
Hero Image Credit: Patrick Kuschfeld / Harbour Air Seaplanes