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Best of Vancouver: The Ultimate Travel Guide & Travel Tips

Press Trip

Vancouver – you dream city! When it comes to Vancouver and us – it was love at first sight. It’s not the typical sights that make Vancouver so special. Rather, it is the relaxing flair, the abundance of water and close proximity to wild nature that rightfully give Vancouver its fantastic reputation.

It’s no wonder Vancouver is frequently voted one of the most liveable cities in the world. And if you bike through Stanley Park or admire the sunset at English Bay Beach, you will see why. Vancouver simply has it all!

Perhaps you are planning to travel to Vancouver and are looking for the best tips and the perfect travel guide? You’re in the right place! In this travel guide we show you the most beautiful sights and day trip destinations and reveal our personal tips for really cool tours, cafés and restaurants.

Coal Harbour Vancouver

1. Vancouver: Overview of Initial Travel Tips & FAQs

What makes Vancouver so special?

  • Untouched nature on your doorstep: Sounds like a cliché, but it’s a reality in Vancouver. Vancouver is nestled between mountains and the Pacific – it doesn’t get much nicer than that. So if you are interested in a city trip combined with a healthy portion of nature, Vancouver is the right place.
  • Water, water, water: Related to the previous point – water is omnipresent in Vancouver. Afterall, Vancouver is located on the Straight of Georgia, an arm of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Great gastro-scene: Whether hip cafés or trendy restaurants – if you enjoy good food and drinks, you will love Vancouver. The Granville Public Market is also awesome, but more on that later.

How many days should I plan for Vancouver?

There is a lot to see in Vancouver. We ourselves were in Vancouver for almost a week and found this to be the perfect amount of time. We dedicated one day to taking a day trip up north to Whistler. Then there was still enough time to extensively explore Vancouver and its sights.

In our opinion, the absolute minimum stay in Vancouver is two nights. All of the sights are a bit scattered, so you need adequate time to gain a good insight into the city.

Which sights in Vancouver should I not miss?

Before we go into details in the next chapter of this travel guide about all the sights in Vancouver, here is our small but mighty bucket list to give you an initial overview.

  • Marvel at the view from the Vancouver lookout.
  • Discover the hip peninsula Granville Island and enjoy the treats at the Public Market.
  • Cycle around Stanley Park along the Seawall Promenade.
  • Try out the cafés in the trendy Gastown.
  • Take a stroll across the dizzying Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Vancouver Travel Guide
Granville Island Bridge

2. Vancouver Travel Guide: The TOP Sights in Vancouver

Stanley Park: Bike Tour along the Seawall Promenade

Park? More like a nature oasis! Stanley Park is a peninsular of over 400 hectares and definitely one of our favourite sights in Vancouver.

Our tip: we can highly recommend walking around Stanley Park and along the Seawall Promenade. Depending on your pace, you should allow around 1.5 to 2 hours for the 9 kilometre long stretch.

There are no bikes to hire in the park itself, but there are right outside the entrance, more precisely at the north end of Denman Street. Many hotels also offer their guests bicycles to use for free. 

Ride a bike Stanley Park
Stanley Park Vancouver

Coal Harbour & Canada Place

South of Stanley Park is Coal Harbour – a combination of a residential area, marina and shopping district. If you feel like taking a stroll along the waterfront, you are in the right place. A promenade runs along the shore here.

The iconic small sea planes also leave from Coal Harbour. If you want to watch them take off, or perhaps even take a round trip yourself, you can do it here. A round trip is no cheap undertaking, but of course it is a very special experience.

To the south of Coal Harbour you come to Canada Place, a building that looks like a ship and houses a congress centre, among other things.

Marina Vancouver
Coal Harbour Vancouver

Gastown: Vancouver’s hipster district

Gastown is a historic district in Vancouver. With its brick houses, retro shops and many cafés, Gastown exudes a historic charm that you can’t find anywhere else in Vancouver.

The main attraction in Gastown is the famous steam clock. It looks very old at first glance, but is actually from the 70s. It plays music every 15 minutes, so crowds regularly gather in front of the clock.

Gastown is the perfect spot for a coffee break, because there are many hip cafés to be found here. Two of our favourites are the charming “Nelson the Seagull” and the pure minimalist “Nemesis”.

Vancouver Lookout

Possibly the most famous viewpoint in Vancouver is the Vancouver Lookout. The viewing platform can be found at the top of a high-rise building and offers an incredible 360 degree panorama view.

A glass elevator takes you comfortably up to the 169 metre high viewing platform. The one downside: the lookout is only indoors, there is no outdoor terrace. Nevertheless, you can still take great photos from here.

Our tip: if the opening times and weather allow, then it is best to come at sunset. Vancouver looks pretty impressive from this height when the sun casts a soft light on the skyscrapers and the mountains beyond.

You can book your ticket in advance here: Vancouver Lookout

Vancouver Lookout Experiences
Vancouver Lookout sunset

Granville Island and Public Market

Granville Island is a very hip peninsula south of the city centre. It is home to arguably the most famous market in Vancouver and one of the city’s most popular attractions, the vibrant Granville Island Public Market.

It opens its doors daily at 9am. Food is sold from all over the world: from tropical fruits to seafood, from what is said to be the best bread in Vancouver to unbelievably delicious donuts. Here are a few solid tips for really great market stalls:

  • Lee’s Donuts: The best donuts far and wide.
  • Terra Breads: Said to be the best bread in Vancouver.
  • JJ Bean Coffee Roasters: Delicious coffee.

We ourselves explored the Public Market on a food tour, which we can warmly recommend.

You can book the tour here: Foodtour Granville Island Public Market

English Bay Beach

There are several beaches in Vancouver. One of the most popular is English Bay Beach, which in our opinion offers the perfect spot for a visit at sunset.

You can stick your toes in the sand and listen to the street artists in the distance while watching the sun slowly sink into the ocean on the horizon. If you would rather have a sundowner in a bar, you will also find what you are after.

English Bay sunset

Queen Elizabeth Park

Stanley Park’s little sister is Queen Elizabeth Park. In contrast to Stanley Park, this green oasis is not located by the water, but in the South Cambie district in the south of Vancouver.

A beloved local recreation destination awaits you here as well as the highest point in the city, the so-called Little Mountain. From here you have a nice (although not overwhelmingly spectacular) view of Vancouver. Overall, definitely one of those sights we would recommend when you have already seen plenty of Vancouver.

Queen Elizabeth Park Vancouver

3. Eating & Drinking: Culinary Vancouver Travel Guide

The gastro scene in Vancouver is huge. There are countless cool cafés and restaurants, deciding on one is very difficult. In this chapter of our travel guide we reveal some of our favourites.

Café Medina: one of the most popular brunch spots in Vancouver. People line up in front of the café for their Mediterranean-inspired dishes and the tables usually fill up very quickly on the weekend. Be sure to try the fresh waffles (salted caramel – yummy)!

Nelson the Seagull: Hip café in Gastown that also serves homemade sourdough bread. Perfect for breakfast or a coffee break in between.

Belgard Kitchen: This restaurant is part of the craft brewery Postmark Brewing. It is located east of Gastown and serves fusion dishes in small portions to share: from classic burgers and burrata to roasted cauliflower, it has it all. There are also enough options for vegetarians. The atmosphere is great: a bit industrial, not too fancy, but still very hip.

Guu with Garlic: A rather small japanese restaurant that cuts, roasts, boils, fries and serves before your eyes. A really nice experience!

You can find even more tips for really cool cafés in this travel guide: Cafés in Vancouver.

Belgard Kitchen Restaurant

4. Tips for Tours in Vancouver

Boat tours along the Indian Arm 

Time for a bit of adventure! It’s hard to believe untouched nature is actually directly on the doorstep of the city of Vancouver. One of the best ways to get a glimpse of Vancouver’s majestic location is to cruise along the Indian Arm, a gigantic fiord that borders Vancouver.

We decided to go with Granite Falls Tour, which we can warmly recommend. Wrapped up in thick thermal suits, you roar along the water for three hours on a speed boat and marvel at the breathtakingly beautiful nature around Vancouver from the water.

Small warning: you should not be shy of water, because you will definitely get wet during the boat ride (sometimes more, sometimes less). Take a spare change of clothes with you just to be sure, in case you are not going back to your hotel afterwards.

You can book the tour here: Granite Falls Boat Tour

Day trip speed boat Vancouver
Vancouver Water Adventures
Seals Vancouver

Craft brewery tour

Would you have thought that there are over 60 micro-breweries in Vancouver? Crazy, right? Craft beer is a huge thing in Vancouver and we can highly recommend a brewery tour as an activity.

The company Canadian Craft Tours offers tours several times a week to select breweries. You can get a look behind the scenes at the breweries and of course also taste a craft beer or two.

You can book the tour here: Craft Brewery Tour

Craft Beer Tour Vancouver

5. Day trip Destinations around Vancouver

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the sights in Vancouver and is located north of Vancouver in “North Vancouver”, around a 10-minute drive from the centre of Vancouver.

First, an important tip: Capilano Suspension Bridge is part of the park of the same name – you could also call it an adventure park. You definitely shouldn’t expect to find undisturbed wilderness here, although the nature is undoubtedly worth seeing.

The main and most popular attraction in the park is most certainly the suspension bridge itself. The free-swinging rope bridge spans 70 metres high over a river – already quite impressive we must say.

In addition, next to the bridge a type of treetop path awaits you (“Treetops Adventure”) and the Cliffwalk. We would allow around two hours all together for the visit.

You can book your ticket in advance here: Capilano Suspension Bridge

Grouse Mountain & Cypress Mountain

Grouse Mountain and the neighbouring Cypress Mountain north of the city centre, along with the rest of the North Shore Mountains, are Vancouver’s home mountains. They are all popular recreation destinations located unbelievably close to the city.

In winter you can ski on both mountains (with a view of the city!), in summer most people come to hike. A popular gondola (“Skyride”) goes up Grouse Mountain. Sporty people can navigate the “Grouse Grind” – a path that takes you up the mountain where you have to conquer around 853 vertical metres.

We ourselves took a small excursion up Cypress Mountain. A road makes its way up here – not all the way up, but at least far enough that you can enjoy a beautiful view of Vancouver. The spot is called “Cypress Lookout” on Google Maps.

Cypress Mountain-Viewpoint

Squamish & Whistler

If you want to experience more of British Columbia’s spectacular nature (the province where Vancouver is located), then we warmly recommend a mini road trip to the “Sea to Sky Gondola” in Squamish and to the Olympic Village in Whistler.

This tour makes for a great day trip because Whistler is about a 1.5 hour drive north of Vancouver. Therefore, the stretch is easily doable in one day and, above all, the landscape is incredibly spectacular.

You can find more tips in this blog: Day Trip from Vancouver to Squamish and Whistler (available soon)

Sea to Sky Gondola Suspension Bridge

6. Staying the Night: Our Hotel Tips for Vancouver

We stayed in two hotels in Vancouver in two different price brackets, both of which we can recommend. You can find an account of our experiences below. 

The Westin Bayshore: fantastic water views

This very popular hotel, The Westin Bayshore, is located directly on the harbour (“Coal Harbour”) and is therefore perfect for those longing for a beautiful view. You must to be sure to book a room with a harbour view for this.

The rooms are very comfortably furnished, the beds very relaxing and there is also everything you could wish for in a 4-star hotel.

The hotel location is great: you can quickly reach Stanley Park. (The hotel has bicycles for hire, with the first two hours free.) You can reach Gastown and Downtown Vancouver in around 15 minutes on the bus. If you aren’t in a rush, you can also walk along the harbour promenade in around 25 minutes – really beautiful!

You can book the hotel here: The Westin Bayshore

The Burrard: inexpensive & central

The hotel, The Burrad, located in Downtown Vancouver is much cheaper, but just as recommendable. This hotel is more catered towards younger people – it is much less fancy.

The rooms are very small and more functionally furnished – but you have all the comforts you need such as a Nespresso machine or air conditioning. The Café Elysian, which is directly attached to the hotel, serves very good coffee as well as some breakfast meals.

Another plus: You can hire bicycles for free at from hotel. The green, very relaxing inner courtyard is also noteworthy. Overall, a nice city hotel with good value for money.

You can book the hotel here: The Burrard

Westin Bayshore Vancouver Aussicht
Westin Bayshore Vancouver View

7. Map: Overview of all Sights and Tips

We have marked all of our tips of our travel guide on this map to help you navigate. The red dots are sights, the green cafés/restaurants, and the blue are our hotel tips. We wish you a wonderful time!

Disclaimer: Invitation & Affiliate Links

We were invited to travel to Vancouver by TUI and Tourism Vancouver. A million thanks for the many helpful tips and the amazing organising! This travel guide contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us!

Have you already been to Vancouver? How did you like it? Which sights can you recommend? We really look forward to your additional tips in the comments below this travel guide.

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