There are so many things to do in Vancouver. With its world-class cosmopolitan venues and easy access to British Columbia’s famed wilderness, it’s a favourite for outdoorsy folks and culture connoisseurs alike.
Nestled between the mountains and the North Pacific Ocean, Vancouver’s diverse mix of heritage and modernity is as electric as its landscape.
Check out Tourism Vancouver’s events calendar to find out what’s going on when you’re there. As they explain: “It doesn’t matter the time of year – there’s always an endless supply of things to see and do.
“You can hit the slopes of our local North Shore mountains in winter, stroll the city streets under canopies of brilliant pink cherry blossoms in the springtime, catch rays and play beach volleyball at English Bay in summer, and Instagram the fiery fall colours of Stanley Park. Each season brings a fresh, spectacular experience.”
From galleries to green parks, see our pick of the top attractions in Vancouver. If you fancy adding any of these excursions to your holiday, just give us a ring and we’ll be happy to book your attraction for you.
1. Capilano suspension bridge Park
Since 1889, there has been a suspended bridge over the Capilano River which travels up from the shores of North Vancouver and through the Capilano River National Park. Stretching 137 metres long and a dizzying 70 metres high, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is the oldest visitor attraction in Vancouver and has seen many an explorer tread its elevated path.
Alongside fantastic views of the river and native western red cedars, visitors are offered information about the rainforest ecosystem and sustainability action in the area through history and nature guides as well as exhibits throughout the park.
2. Stanley Park
Larger even than NYC’s Central Park, this beautiful green space boasts 500,000 cedar, fir and hemlock trees. Taking up a peninsula northwest of downtown, you can easily walk here from anywhere in the centre, and the green space both offers fabulous views as well as featuring in the best shots of Vancouver. The park is home to vibrant beaches which each have a different, laid-back vibe. The seawall surrounding the park is perfect for a scenic walk or cycle.
Stop off for lunch in the park or pop into one of the many attractions that are perfect for the whole family. The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest and is located in the centre of the park. There is a pool, a water park and a miniature railway to enjoy, too.
3. Grouse mountain
Tourism Vancouver recommends a trip to Grouse Mountain, guaranteed to appeal to adventure-seekers year round:
“In the summer, take in the stunning views of the city, watch a lumberjack show, and visit the resident grizzly bears at the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. In the winter, ski and board the snowy slopes, snowshoe along the mountain trails or ice skate on the scenic frozen pond.”
Just 20 minutes from the city centre and beyond the Lions Gate Bridge, this mountain attraction is touted as being the “Peak of Vancouver” and never fails to provide a day of entertainment for visitors. Popular Grouse Mountain activities include taking in a show at the mountaintop theatre, marvelling at nature’s finest creations in the wildlife refuge and travelling to its highest point by way of aerial tramway.
Winter sports enthusiasts can also make the most of the mountain’s slopes during the colder months. In fact, skiing in British Columbia is some of the best in Canada.
4. The Sea to Sky Highway
Highway 99 is more popularly known as the Sea to Sky Highway, and with good reason. Head out of North Vancouver and hug the coastline as you climb to breath-taking heights along one of Canada’s most scenic driving routes. Your destination at the end is Whistler – an adventure playground where you can ski in winter and mountain bike in summer. Along the way you’ll pass Squamish. This fun-filled town is perfect for adventure activities, and offers great hiking up the Stawamus Chief. Stop off in Garibaldi on the way to see the stunning glacier-fed waters of Garibaldi Lake.
5. Canada Place
This landmark is as iconic to Vancouver as the Opera House is to Sydney. It’s 90-foot sails dominate the waterfront and the stylish building offers great views across the water to watch floatplanes and cruise ships departing. At dusk and dawn, the building is lit up in gorgeous colours for the daily “Sails of Light” illumination.
This terminal is where cruise ships to Alaska depart. It’s also the location of some of Vancouver’s most plush hotels, like the Pan Pacific and the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
6. Granville Island
Granville Island is one of the most colourful and vibrant neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Reach here via the Granville Bridge, or for an unforgettable experience, via one of the bright little Aquabuses that ferry you across. Once here, you’ll discover a huge market scene offering the finest in locally-sourced, independently-made produce.
A foodie tour is one of the best ways to indulge. Sample cheeses, charcuterie, fruit, doughnuts and so many more tasty morsels, all made in and around Vancouver.
7. Flyover Canada
This amazing virtual flying ride has to be experienced to understand just how fun it is. Situated at Canada Place, the simulator straps you in and soars you in front of a huge cinema screen for an immersive experience. See the plains of Alberta, Niagara Falls and more from a bird’s-eye view. Children and adults alike are guaranteed to love it.
8. Horseshoe Bay
Visiting neighbouring Vancouver Island couldn’t be easier. Simply head to Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver to hop on a quick ferry to Nanaimo. The ferry ride across the Strait is stunning in itself. Once you arrive in Vancouver Island, (around a 2.5 hour sail) you’ll have a whole new world to explore. Old growth forest in the Pacific Rim National Park, whale watching tours from British Columbia’s capital Victoria, and black bear watching from surf-town Tofino.
9. Coal Harbour
This little neighbourhood starts at Canada Place and stretches along the waterfront to Stanley Park. Bordered by the Burrard Inlet, it is a great place to stroll, and an even better place for whale watching. A number of Vancouver’s whale watching tours depart from Coal Harbour, ready to zip you into the Strait of Georgia. Choose an exhilarating zodiac boat ride for a true adventure!
Once you are out on the calm waters, Vancouver’s ocean giants start to appear. The resident orca population lives here all year round, and there are also migrating humpbacks passing through. The whale watching season runs from May to October.
10. Hop-on, hop-off bus
This is one of the most fun and enjoyable ways to get to grips with Vancouver’s different neighbourhoods. You can hop outside the Tourist Office, opposite Canada Place, or at any of the other stops across the city. The bus will tour you through neighbourhoods like vibrant Gastown and colourful Chinatown, as well as through Stanley Park.
The excellent tour guides on the bus are the undoubted highlight of the ride. Listen as they give you the fascinating history of the city, with funny anecdotes and insider jokes to keep you laughing along. You can pick up the inside scoop on what’s hot in Vancouver here too.
11. Museum of Anthropology
Housed within the University of British Columbia, Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology provides the ideal introduction to First Nations culture and history that has shaped the city.
Just half an hour from downtown Vancouver, the soaring glass and concrete structure of the Museum’s Great Hall is a sight in itself. The museum’s collection includes world-renowned displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art. The spectacular building overlooks the province’s mountains and sea. The museum features magnificent carvings, weaving and contemporary artworks.
Particularly notable is its impressive collection of works by acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid, including his famous cedar sculpture The Raven and the First Men. The museum’s permanent galleries feature over 16,000 objects from around the world, while its temporary exhibitions showcase a range of special exhibitions on world arts and cultures.
12. Vancouver Aquarium
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is widely recognized for its aquatic conservation. Located in popular Stanley Park, the aquarium is testament to British Columbia’s passion for the spectacular wildlife and natural beauty it protects.
Visitors can spot the aquarium’s marine creatures in numerous exhibits while they learn about looking after life under the sea. Keep an eye out for neon jellyfish and the rescued harbour porpoise, Daisy.
The oceanic adventure doesn’t stop here. While Vancouver Aquarium offers tourists a chance to explore the marine world on dry land, the city itself acts as a gateway to adventure. Beyond urban entertainment, you can venture out into the wilderness of the North Pacific Ocean.
13. Vancouver Art gallery
Being the largest visual arts museum in Western Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery boasts a wide variety of exhibitions. From classic masters to cutting-edge contemporary artwork, there are collections from across the globe. Impressively, the gallery is also home to an unchallenged collection of the painter Emily Carr’s art. Referred to as “Canada’s answer to Frida Kahlo”, Carr was inspired by the First peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast.
Visitors can learn more about this collection and many more on the gallery’s complimentary tours. Tours run on Thursdays and throughout the weekend.
14. Science World
More than just an impressive icon, inside the TELUS World of Science sphere is a world of discovery for families. Exhibitions from quantum to cocktails explain the science behind our world in interactive ways. The OMNIMAX dome screen is an incredible 5 storeys high, and the wraparound screen puts you in the middle of the action. Films like “The Wonders of the Arctic” are fascinating and visually stunning.
When the rain falls in Vancouver, visitors could enjoy an afternoon browsing this treasure trove in the dry and warmth.
15. Vancouver Lookout
This must-see attraction boasts 360° views over Vancouver. From the Observation Deck at 553 feet, you can enjoy panoramic vistas across the iconic skyline with the North Shore Mountains backdrop. Even the glass elevator ride to the top is fun! The option of a guided tour lets you learn all about Vancouver’s history and landmarks.
16. Rogers Arena & BC Place
No trip to the city would be complete without taking in a hockey game at Rogers Arena. Here the resident Vancouver Canucks battle it out in a riot of excitement and hot dogs. Also in town are the BC Lions football team who play at BC Place Stadium, and the Vancouver Canadians baseball minor league team over at Nat Bailey Stadium.
17. Spanish Banks
This stretch of wide, golden sand is one of Vancouver’s quietest beaches. It’s a perfect place for families to spend the day. Parking, picnic tables, barbecues, volleyball courts and lifeguards (in the summer months) all add up to fun, relaxed and safe place to laze the day away.
This vibrant community has been busy with activity for over a century. The neighbourhood is rich in history and heritage, often colourful and always packed with delicious eateries. It is the largest Chinatown in Canada, and third in the whole of North America after New York and San Francisco. Chinatown covers around 6 blocks in the east of downtown.
19. Queen Elizabeth Park
This stunning 130-acre park features spectacular gardens, tennis courts and pitch+putt golf, but its biggest draw is the Bloedel Floral Conservatory. Vancouver’s only ‘garden under glass’, the conservatory is the second largest dome greenhouse in the world. It houses more than 500 plants, as well as exotic birds and koi carp. Spend a few tranquil hours wandering its circular, winding paths.
20. Art at Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Featuring one of the most sizable hotel-owned art collections across the globe, Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia is a sophisticated place to lay your head. When awake and refreshed the next day, take in some of the city’s best cultural offerings.
Located in downtown Vancouver, the hotel showcases 200 original art pieces. It is the result of an impressive collaboration between Farmboy Fine Arts and Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can still visit its prohibition-style bar or award-winning restaurant to take in the art.
Image Credit: Jeff Hitchcock, Kyle Pearce, Ruth Hartnup, Paxson Woelber (flickr.com), Rr parker, InSapphoWeTrust (wikipedia.org), Craig Minelly (auraphotographics.com), Vancouver Art Gallery (vanartgallery.bc.ca), Tourism Vancouver (tourismvancouver.com), Abdallahh (Flickr.com)