Fresh mountain air, dense rain forests and the sparkling Pacific converge on the doormat of the city of Vancouver. Vancouver offers something for everyone in a densely populated, multi-ethnic setting. Whether you’re looking to make the most of the thriving art and music scene or plan to maximize the amount of fresh air in your lungs, this quick guide to Vancouver ensures you don’t miss out on some of its best angles.
Photos by abdallahh, Nick Harris and Amar Dhari CC BY
Canada Line – Rapid Transit Line from YVR airport
This is a fast and easy way to get to the city center (26 min) or Richmond (18 min). You can access trains from both the International and Domestic Terminals.
Hours: First Train: 4:48 a.m. – Last Train: 1:05 a.m.
Cost: $9 adult
Service available at taxi stands located on Level 2 of the Domestic and International Arrivals Area.
Hours: Available 24/7
Cost: Prices depend on the zone you are traveling to, but range from $20 – $39.
Where To Eat
A Special Dinner: Bacchus
Sink into the luxurious chairs in the dining room of the Bacchus Restaurant located inside of the Wedgewood Hotel. You can expect classic fine dining in a beautiful traditional setting. Try the Taste of British Colombia Menu which is filled with locally-sourced ingredients and rotates with the seasons.
Hours: Monday – Friday 9: 00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 11:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.- 10:00 p.m.
For Happy Hour: The Dubh Linn Gate
With an extensive beer list and live music every night of the week, the Dubh Linn Gate makes for a great place to catch a pint after a day of exploring Vancouver. They have daily happy hour specials with discounts on appetizers and drinks.
Hours: 11:00 a.m. – midnight
Late Night Eats: Fritz European Fry House
An essential meal while visiting Vancouver is the cheese curd and gravy covered fries known locally as Poutine. The dish tastes much better than it looks, especially after a night out . Dreamy melted cheese meets savoury and salty gravy on hand cut and Canadian grown fries and nobody in town makes it better than Fritz’s, according to the locals.
Hours: Closed Mondays, Tuesday & Wednesday 5:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 a.m., Sunday 1:00 pm. – 2:00 a.m.
What to See
Explore Vancouver’s busy inner harbor aboard a Harbor Cruise. Take in the scenes as the captain brings you along some of the city’s best sights. Narrated by an informative guide, you’ll see Stanley Park, the busy cruise ship terminals, the fabulous city skyline, historic Gastown, and the North Shore Mountains.
Location: Departures at 501 Denman Street
Hours: April 23rd to Sept 30th, 11:00 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:30 p.m. & 2:45 p.m. daily
Cost: Adult $34.95, Senior (60+) $28.95, Youth (12-17) $28.95, Child (5-11) $12.00, Child 4 and under Free
Photos by the authors and Hubert Figuière CC BY
Shop and explore the Gastown district
Gastown is a designated National Historic Site and one of the oldest and most vibrant of Vancouver’s many neighborhoods. The area is brimming with shops, restaurants, and bars and is an easy place to spend the afternoon wandering its unique streets. Don’t miss the steam-powered clock which is a centerpiece of the neighborhood.
Every year, starting in March and continuing through October, thousands of whales swim through the waters of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Vancouver. Known as one of the prime whale watching destinations in the world, your chances for spotting a whale are high.
Many species of whales pass through the surrounding waterways and annual fixtures include humpback whales, orcas, gray and minke whales. While you’re whale watching, it’s also possible to see some impressive seabirds like pelicans and tufted puffins, maybe even a bald eagle if you’re lucky.
As an indicator for the city’s oftentimes rainy forecast, German artist Inges Idee created a 65ft tall giant raindrop sculpture with Styrofoam, blue polyurethane, and steel, located at the Bon Voyage Plaza. Locally it’s known simply as ‘The Drop’ and at night it makes for an interesting photo op along with the nearby Canada Place Terminal.
The Eye of the Wind
High on Grouse Mountain sits the Eye of the Wind, a giant wind turbine, similar to ones found all around the country, but with one major difference: the turbine is pimped out with a full 360 degree observation deck right under the massive spinning blades. It offers sweeping views of Vancouver.
Cost: $19.95 Winter / $15 Summer – Mountain Top Access not included
Looking for more Van activities? Check out another Weekend Guide To Vancouver.
What To Do
Skiing & Snowboarding
While snow rarely falls within the city limits, great skiing can be had all over the nearby regions. A few of the favorite local runs include: Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Seymour. Cypress is only 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and was the official Freestyle ski & snowboard venue for the 2010 Olympic Games.
If you are visiting in the wrong season for skiing but are still craving some adventure head up to the Grouse Mountain and strap in for a zip-line adrenaline rush.
Hours: Year-round (Weather permitting)
Cost: $119 5-lines, $80 3-lines
Hike up Grouse Grind
The famous Grouse Grind hike is a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts. Your legs might hate you following the 2,800 ft to the top, but the views are incredible. Hiking up is free, though you’ll need to pay $10 for the gondola ride down. If the hike is too difficult for you, alternatively you can ride the Skyride. The Skyride is the largest aerial tram system in North America with a 1600 meter (1-mile) long ride, at an elevation of 1,100 meters (3,600ft). No matter how you make it to the top, the 360 degree panoramic views of Vancouver and beyond are worth it.
Location: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
Where To Stay
Pan Pacific Vancouver
With easy access to the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal, Pan Pacific Vancouver is an ideal base in the city. The modern hotel is located on the Vancouver waterfront and offers unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean. There is an outdoor, heated saltwater pool as well as an on-site gym. The hotel has four dining outlets and an award winning spa.
Amenities: Coffee and tea making facilities, minibar, iPod docking station, pillow menu and luxury toiletries. WiFi is available for a surcharge.
The Wedgewood is a luxuriously elegant boutique hotel located in the heart of Vancouver near Robson Square. Exemplary service, fine dining and stunning views are the hallmarks of this highly regarded, family-run establishment. The hotel has 83 plush, traditionally decorated guest rooms, a full-service spa, sauna and fitness center. Dry cleaning, laundry and concierge services are available from the 24-hour front desk. Valet parking is provided (fees apply).
Amenities: Walk-out balconies, marble bathroom, LCD HD TVs, iPod/iPad docking stations, stocked minibars, in-room safes, and high speed Wi-Fi. Penthouse suites boast fireplaces and garden terraces.
The Burrard is located in Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance to many of the area’s most popular districts including trendy Yaletown, the drinks and food of Davie Street and the shops of Robson. The hotel has undergone renovations, granting guests a nostalgic stroll through the glory of the pastels and punchy colors of the 1950s. Guests can enjoy tropical surroundings in the courtyard coupled with a pleasant and sophisticated atmosphere.
Amenities: TV, coffeemaker, mini-fridge, safe, en suite bathroom, and Wi-Fi. Children under 12 stay for free and dogs are allowed for an additional fee.
Looking for hotels where you’re guaranteed a celebrity spotting? Vancouver has plenty — check out our list for more inspiration on where to stay in Vancouver.
Insider Tips from Getting Stamped
Ask for Lugi
Luigi isn’t a guy, it’s a restaurant. To be specific, Ask for Luigi is an Italian inspired restaurant with a cult-like following. Their short, but delicious menu has the place sold-out almost every night. Note: They don’t take reservations and you should expect a line up with about an hour of wait time. They take a maximum of six per group.
Take a Gourmet Ice Cream Tour
If visiting in the summer months join the sweetest tour in town! Vancouver is home to a lot of good ice cream, let the guides at Off The Eaten Track take you on an ice cream adventure around Vancouver. Visit four local shops with samples of what they do best….ice cream!
Cost: $30 includes all samples
Dates: June 1st till Sept 31st on Wednesdays from 5:00 p.m. -.6:30 p.m.
And Where to Next?
Take a Scenic Drive
Take the legendary Sea-to-Sky Highway to get to Whistler and see the stunning coastline that turns to rugged mountains through winding roads. Whistler has plenty to keep you busy no matter the season. Come winter, it boasts the title of biggest ski destination in all of Canada. Summer is filled with hiking, biking, and limitless amounts of fresh air.