“Vancouver, you’ve gotta visit to believe it”.

While this may not be anything close to the official tourism slogan of the bustling city, we certainly back it. Vancouver is a fun, buzzing city in British Columbia, the western part of Canada, known for its refreshing, progressive lifestyle and all year round outdoor activities. There’s really not a bad time to go. Truly.

Despite the picturesque snow capped mountains- which drape the city’s backdrop, weather is actually very mild during the winter. With a diverse restaurant scene, great coffee shops, trendy neighborhoods and plenty of unbelievable natural scenery- you just have to visit! Here’s how to maximize your time…

Stanley Park next to a body of waterBreakfast

Greenhorn is one of the best coffee shops we’ve ever discovered. On a side street, not too far from Stanley Park, it’s sure to have you feeling like a very hip and well caffeinated local in no time at all. The service is super friendly and relaxed- unlike the ultra fresh (and delicious) pastries and excellent coffee to go with it, and lunch is a treat. 

If you’re looking for other great breakfast ideas: Revolver, Mōlli Café (Mexican coffee shop, also great for lunch), and Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe are all great looks! If you’re a smoked salmon fan, this is definitely a good city to find it…

a road leading to a large rockStanley Park

Stanley Park is one of the coolest parks in the world. Full stop. It’s huge, the vistas are outstanding, the air feels incredible and it’s extremely safe. Whether you cycle, run or walk it.. this is an absolute must. The redwoods- just wow. 

Almost entirely surrounded by water, you can work your way around the edge, taking in the spectacular waterfront scenery, or weave your way through dirt paths and be surrounded by the varieties of gorgeous, old trees towering above you. Perfect way to work off one of those yummy breakfasts!

a street with lights on itShopping Districts In Vancouver

If you like to do a little (or a lot) of shopping on your weekends away, you’ve really come to the right place. Vancouver has something for everyone, from your general high street shops and mall offerings on Robson Street or the CF Pacific Centre to far more independent offerings elsewhere.

For more independent and boutique style shops, check out Main Street between 7th and 30th ave, Gastown which has some good ones (as well as lots of good cafes, bars and restaurants), and 4th ave a couple blocks west of Burrard Street. With the Canadian Dollar floating relatively low, there are bargains to be had too…

a suspension bridge over a forestLynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge

About a 30 minute drive from Downtown Vancouver, we definitely recommend a visit to Lynn Canyon Park for some excellent trails, stunning waterfalls and a thrilling suspension bridge. If heights aren’t your thing, just ignore the wobbling structure and the lengthy view down to the surface below. It’s a lot less touristy than the Capilano Suspension Bridge (and completely free), unlike the alternative. 

Top Dinner Options In Vancouver

Vancouver is (apparently?) the most ethnically diverse city in the world, so whatever your cuisine of choice, chances are it’s here and it’s really good.

If you can’t make up your mind, we’ve got a few highly recommended spots, like: Vij’s – amazing Indian food (although they don’t take reservations so be ready for a wait), Nightingale – great food, cocktails and perfect for sharing plates, Tacofino – fun, casual Mexican food with a few different locations, Forage – seasonal menus and farm-to-table, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie – good Chinese sharing plates with walk ins only, and Minami – for some excellent sushi. You’re so close to the Pacific Ocean, after all.

a bar with many bottles and stoolsCocktails In Vancouver

Vancouver’s bar scene has it all from high end cocktails to more casual sports bars for the die hard hockey fans that populate the eclectic city. Basically, there are plenty of buzzing areas and things to do for a fun night out.

If like us, you enjoy some more experimental cocktails then check out one of these cool spots: The Diamond, Prohibition, The Keefer Bar, Long Table Distillery, or La Mezcaleria (because we love Mezcal). Just don’t try to Uber home, it doesn’t exist in Vancouver! You’ll need to pay for a taxi, which fortunately do take card, just FYI. 

a cityscape with water and mountains in the backgroundFun Neighbourhoods

Whenever we go to a new place, or even somewhere we’ve been before, we love to just walk without a direction, figuring out which neighbourhoods we like and finding cool spots as they come. Vancouver is extremely safe, making this a great place to do exactly that.

If you want a few unique places to head toward, with buzzing local districts, unique shops and some superb food, check out: Yaletown, Gastown, Main Street, and West End. And for a little directional tip, Google highlights the buzzing areas in brown on your Google Maps, in case you ever wondered why some parts were shaded!

a forest with trees and a small cabinGrouse Grind Hike

If you haven’t noticed by now, Vancouver is a very outdoorsy city with plenty of nature, trails and hikes both near and far. If you’re tired from the night before or not feeling too fit then you can skip this one… but, the 2.9 kilometer hike up 2830 stairs is well worth it. Don’t worry though, there are cold drinks and amazing views from the top – as well as a Gondola for a scenic and more relaxing ride back down the mountain. Thank goodness for gondolas. 

a view of a river and mountains from a mountainSea-to-Sky Highway (BC Highway 99)

If you’re a big skier then you’ll definitely want to go to Whistler, especially if you’re there longer than 48 hours. But even if you don’t have time to ski there’s still an amazingly beautiful drive full of waterfalls, breathtaking views and historic sites, much like the iconic train ride that passes through. It takes about 1.5 hours from Downtown Vancouver up to Whistler, and if you are going for a spot of skiing after your 48 hours in Vancouver, we highly recommend taking this scenic route!

a hockey arena with a crowd of peopleExtras

Vancouver is a cool city with endless amounts of fun things to keep you busy. If you have time or are traveling with kids, head to the Vancouver Aquarium, it’s home to over 70,000 creatures and makes for an entertaining afternoon.

Also, Canadians are rightly known for being huge hockey fans, and if you’re there during the season make your way to a Canucks game, it will be a great atmosphere and thrilling experience, unlike many sporting cities in the world. 

Featured image Copyright: kongxinzhu / 123RF Stock Photo

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Stick around Richmond (close to where the airport is located) and there’s a ton of Chinese eateries. Vancouver also has incredible craft beer and coffee scenes (Revolver is one of the best)

  2. Great post!!
    Important to mention is -especially given the 48hr time frame- is the SkyTrain! Built for the winter Olympics, it provides an easy quick, and cheap way to get from the airport to the city.
    Vancouver is my fav place in the world. Biking the seawall is a must. If you can swing it, being there for the summer fireworks competition is amazing. Many different countries compete with elaborate firework displays out on barges in the Pacific.
    So many things to do, you can never get bored. Although I do wish they’d get some new hotels…

  3. Another recommendation for food: Sal y Limón. Amazing mexican food. Not far from Main Street/Mount Pleasant. Check it out.

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