Things to do in Vancouver

Brimming in history and culture, Vancouver is one fascinating city and has plenty of sightseeing opportunities for everyone. From museums and historic and trendy neighbourhoods to botanical gardens and Granville Island, visitors will have no problem finding things to see and do in Vancouver.

Explore Chinatown and soak up the culture, colour and eateries, or visit the exciting enclave of Gastown famous for its cobblestone streets, antique gaslights and pulsing nightlife. Nature lovers should head to the VanDusen Botanical Garden, Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park for an invigorating day out, and culture vultures will love the Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

For a panoramic view of the city, climb 'nature's stairmaster' up to Grouse Mountain, or take the tram for a less strenuous trip. You can also ride to the top of Vancouver lookout for 360 degree views. The Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver allows visitors to walk from treetop to treetop on delicate walkways suspended dozens of metres above the forest floor.

Visitors should consider purchasing a See Vancouver and Beyond Card, which gives the bearer access to countless attractions in and around Vancouver as well as maps and travel tips.

Stanley Park photo

Stanley Park

The pride of Vancouver, Stanley Park covers 1,000 acres (405 hectares) and is one of the largest parks in any urban centre in North America. It's situated in the heart of Vancouver

Stanley Park

The pride of Vancouver, Stanley Park covers 1,000 acres (405 hectares) and is one of the largest parks in any urban centre in North America. It's situated in the heart of Vancouver's densely populated West End and stretches out on a peninsula.

Stanley Park is at once a refuge for visitors seeking a brief escape from the urban jungle, a showcase for the natural beauty that surrounds the city and an entertainment centre. The park is criss-crossed through its dense rainforest interior by miles of wide gravel paths surrounding Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon.

It is home to hundreds of migratory birds such as Canada geese, swans and ducks, and large populations of racoons, squirrels, skunks and coyotes. The park has a miniature railroad, putt-putt course and an aquarium, as well as routes around the long sea wall perfect for a walk, jog, cycle or rollerblade.

Address Georgia Street, Vancouver

Website www.vancouver.ca/parks/parks/stanley/

Transport

Translink bus #19

Opens Open daily

Museum of Anthropology photo

Museum of Anthropology

At the University of British Columbia on the cliffs of Point Grey, totem poles mark the way to the Museum of Anthropology, world-renowned for its displays of Northwest Coast First …

Museum of Anthropology

At the University of British Columbia on the cliffs of Point Grey, totem poles mark the way to the Museum of Anthropology, world-renowned for its displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art. One of its main features is the world's largest collection of works by internationally acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid, including his famous cedar sculpture 'The Raven and the First Men'. In the museum's unique Visible Storage Galleries, more than 15,000 objects and artefacts from around the world are arranged according to culture and use. In the grounds of the museum are two Haida houses, showing the dramatic beauty of traditional Northwest Coast architecture.

Address University of British Columbia, 6393 Marine Drive

Website www.moa.ubc.ca

Transport

The University of British Columbia is served by buses 4, 9, 17, 25, 41, 43, 44, 49, 84, 258 or 480

Opens Open daily, from 10am to 5pm (until 9pm on Tuesday)

Admission

C$18 (adults), C$16 (students). Free for children under 6, and other concessions are available

Chinatown photo

Chinatown

Vancouver's Chinatown is not only a strong, established ethnic community, but also a popular tourist attraction and prosperous commercial district. Its bustling streets are full of…

Chinatown

Vancouver's Chinatown is not only a strong, established ethnic community, but also a popular tourist attraction and prosperous commercial district. Its bustling streets are full of colour and commerce; even the pagoda-topped telephone booths add to the atmosphere. Shop displays spill onto the pavements, and tables groan with the weight of exotic foodstuffs and the strange wares of the Chinese apothecaries.

The Sam Kee Building in Pender Street is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the narrowest building in the world, at only six-foot (two metres) wide. This was the result of a local property owner reacting to the expropriation of most of his land in 1912 for the widening of the street: Chang Toy decided to build what he could on the remaining tiny strip.

Another main attraction in Chinatown is the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, enclosed behind high walls, that was built in 1986 at a cost of C$5.3 million with the craftsmen and materials all imported from China. It is a quiet haven of walkways, pavilions, gnarled trees, water features, and natural rock sculptures. Next door to the Garden is the Chinese Cultural Centre with its elaborate gated entrance hand-painted in traditional colours.

Address Downtown Vancouver

Website www.vancouver-chinatown.com

Transport

Bus or SkyTrain, to Main Street Station or Stadium Station

Gastown photo

Gastown

Alongside Chinatown, the fascinating historic enclave of Gastown transports visitors back in time to envision the city as it existed in the days of old. Set in the central core of …

Gastown

Alongside Chinatown, the fascinating historic enclave of Gastown transports visitors back in time to envision the city as it existed in the days of old. Set in the central core of Vancouver, it has cobbled streets, antique gaslights, Victorian architecture, narrow alleys, courtyards, and hidden boutiques and restaurants. Jack 'Gassy' Deighton, Vancouver's first settler after whom the town was named, has been immortalised with a statue in Maple Tree Square in Gastown.

Another point of interest is the Lamplighter Pub in the Dominion Hotel, which was the first Vancouver inn to serve alcohol to women, while the Europe Hotel was the first fireproof building in western Canada, having been built just after the major fire of 1892. Gastown keeps time with the world's first steam clock, which plays the Westminster chimes every 15 minutes on five brass steam-whistles inside its cast bronze case.

Website www.gastown.org

Transport

Gastown is easily accessible by Vancouver’s Rapid Transit System, SkyTrain, and city buses

Grouse Mountain photo

Grouse Mountain

On Vancouver's north shore just a 15-minute drive from the downtown area across the Lions Gate Bridge, waits the year-round mountaintop playground of Grouse Mountain. Ascending the…

Grouse Mountain

On Vancouver's north shore just a 15-minute drive from the downtown area across the Lions Gate Bridge, waits the year-round mountaintop playground of Grouse Mountain. Ascending the mountain is part of the adventure in the Super Skyride, a passenger tram that glides up the steep mountain slopes carrying visitors up 3,700ft (1,100m) above sea level in just eight minutes.

At the top, apart from magical views of the city below, is the Theatre in the Sky, which offers a high-tech presentation about Vancouver. There is also a cedar longhouse called the Hiwus Feasthouse that offers the chance to experience native West Coast culture with displays of dancing, storytelling and native cuisine.

There are hiking trails up the side of Grouse Mountain and on the east side one of them features the Grouse Grind, which is billed as one of the world's biggest stair-climbs. Mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding are also popular pursuits here.

Address 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver

Website www.grousemountain.com

Queen Elizabeth Park photo

Queen Elizabeth Park

The exquisite Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver boasts lush gardens bursting with flowers, live theatre and the Bloedel Floral Conservatory. The park receives about six million vis…

Queen Elizabeth Park

The exquisite Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver boasts lush gardens bursting with flowers, live theatre and the Bloedel Floral Conservatory. The park receives about six million visitors annually who come to enjoy a 360 degree view of Vancouver from its highest point, 505 feet (167m) above sea level. The Bloedel Floral Conservatory, with its characteristic geodesic dome, is home to more than 100 species of tropical birds that roam free in the area, as well as hundreds of species of exotic plants and flowers.

Other highlights of the park include the Quarry Garden, J. Seward Johnson's sculpture 'The Photo Session', the Lions Clock and the arboretum, with its fine examples of indigenous trees from across Canada. Spring is an excellent time to visit the park as it becomes a riot of colour, with white and pink cherry blossoms on show.

Address 4600 Cambie St

Website www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/queen-elizabeth-park.aspx

Transport

Bus to Main Street at 33rd Avenue

Opens Open daily 9am to 5pm. Conservatory open daily, from 10am to 5pm

Granville Island photo

Granville Island

The entertainment district of Granville Island is easily accessible, located in the middle of Vancouver under the Granville Street Bridge on the south shore of False Creek. While i…

Granville Island

The entertainment district of Granville Island is easily accessible, located in the middle of Vancouver under the Granville Street Bridge on the south shore of False Creek. While it barely seems separate from the city, it's nonetheless a relaxing break from the main bustle. The public market is a sensory feast, complete with a riot of energetic colours, delicious local produce and intriguing craft stalls. The separate Kids Market is a must for children, with toy stores and games, while the Maritime Market is a showcase for boat builders, with a museum, supply stores and tours. The Granville Island Brewing Company offers tastings for thirsty visitors while the island's theatre provides cultural treats and art shows at the Emily Carr institute. To cool off during a hot summer's day, the island has the biggest free waterpark in British Columbia, open from May to September.

Website www.granvilleisland.com

Transport

Granville Island is accessible by car, bus, on foot, or by Aquabus or ferry. The #50 False Creek bus travels from Gastown in the downtown area, along Granville Street, stopping just off the island

Lonsdale Quay photo

Lonsdale Quay

Situated in North Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay offers spectacular views of downtown Vancouver, its harbour and the North Shore Mountains. There are also a variety of shops, restaurants…

Lonsdale Quay

Situated in North Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay offers spectacular views of downtown Vancouver, its harbour and the North Shore Mountains. There are also a variety of shops, restaurants and an excellent market. The best way to experience the quay is to catch the SeaBus from Waterfront Station on Cordova Street in downtown Vancouver. The fifteen-minute ride allows one to relax and enjoy the view, watch seaplanes land and spy cruise ships in the harbour.

The market boasts mouthwatering local produce, from seafood to pastries. There's also a wide range of restaurants covering Mexican, Greek and Asian cuisine among many others. Shoppers can indulge at a variety of stalls selling all sorts of arts and crafts, souvenirs and clothing, as well as plenty of boutiques, a kids play area and specialty kids stores, topped by the Lonsdale Quay Hotel.

Address 123 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver

Website www.lonsdalequay.com

Transport

SeaBus from Waterfront Station; also accessible by bus

Opens Market and retail: Open daily, from 9am to 7pm. Restaurants are open later.

Capilano Suspension Bridge photo

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver's oldest and most popular tourist attractions, with plenty of activities and sights in the park for visitors to en…

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver's oldest and most popular tourist attractions, with plenty of activities and sights in the park for visitors to enjoy. Stretching 450 feet (137m) across and perched 230 feet (70m) above the Capilano River, it's a sturdy construction of reinforced steel and concrete, though still not for the faint of heart. A recent addition to the park is the Treetops Adventure, where elevated suspension bridges allow visitors a bird's-eye view of the rainforest, while they walk along the canopy of Douglas fir trees. Other attractions in the park include a story centre; a First Nations Cultural Centre where visitors can see carvers, weavers and beaders at work; a large collection of First Nations Totem Poles; and guided tours of the rainforest.

Address 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver

Website www.capbridge.com

Opens Varies according to season.

Admission

$55 adults, $30 children, other concessions available.

Vancouver Art Gallery photo

Vancouver Art Gallery

Established in 1931 and housed in a turn-of-the-century heritage building in the centre of downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Art Gallery boasts thousands of national and internatio…

Vancouver Art Gallery

Established in 1931 and housed in a turn-of-the-century heritage building in the centre of downtown Vancouver, the Vancouver Art Gallery boasts thousands of national and international exhibitions by a host of artists, sculptors and photographers. National and international touring exhibitions take place regularly at the gallery, with works from masters such as Picasso, Rodin, Andy Warhol and others. Whether you prefer the Old Masters or more contemporary artists, the Vancouver Art Gallery is well worth a visit. Check out the official website listed below for details on current temporary exhibitions.

Address 750 Hornby Street

Website www.vanartgallery.bc.ca

Transport

Skytrain to Granville or Burrard Stations; any downtown bus

Opens Open daily, from 10am to 5pm (until 9pm on Tuesdays).

Admission

C$24 (adults), C$6.50 (children over five), free for children under five. Other concessions are available.

Vancouver Lookout at the Harbour Centre photo

Vancouver Lookout at the Harbour Centre

Perhaps one of the best ways to begin one's visit to Vancouver is with a trip up the Harbour Centre Tower to the Lookout, where one can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city, the Nor…

Vancouver Lookout at the Harbour Centre

Perhaps one of the best ways to begin one's visit to Vancouver is with a trip up the Harbour Centre Tower to the Lookout, where one can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city, the North Shore Mountains and neighbouring Vancouver Island on a clear day. A 45-second trip in the outdoor glass-fronted Skylift elevator delivers visitors to the Lookout and informative signs point out key attractions in the city and surrounds. Guests can enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sun set from the Lookout or see the lights of the city begin to twinkle below. The tower is also home to the Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant, and visitors can enjoy the unique experience of dining above the city while the restaurant completes a full revolution every hour.

Address 555 West Hastings Street

Website www.vancouverlookout.com

Transport

Skytrain to Waterfront Station; SeaBus from North Shore to Waterfront Station

Opens Open daily, from 8:30am to 10:30pm (May to September); 9am to 9pm Monday to Thursday, and 9am to 9:30pm Friday to Sunday (October to April).

Admission

C$17.50 (adults), C$9.50 (children aged 6 - 12). Concessions available.

VanDusen Botanical Garden photo

VanDusen Botanical Garden

With 22 hectares (55 acres) and roughly 11,000 different plant species, VanDusen Botanical Garden is a spectacular showcase of the natural world, right in the heart of Vancouver. L…

VanDusen Botanical Garden

With 22 hectares (55 acres) and roughly 11,000 different plant species, VanDusen Botanical Garden is a spectacular showcase of the natural world, right in the heart of Vancouver. Landscaped gardens are laid out exquisitely and specific areas are cultivated to demonstrate botanical relationships or geographical origins, such as the popular Rhododendron Walk or the Sino Himalayan Garden.

One of the most popular events held in the garden is the annual Festival of Lights, when the beauty of the flowers is matched by over a million dazzling lights set up in order to celebrate the festive season. Choirs and carol singers, a Dancing Light display on Lake Island and the Golden Chain Walk are all part of this family favourite, running from 9 to 31 December each year. Daily walking- and cart tours are available in the garden from April to October at 2pm and also at 11am on Wednesdays.

Address 5251 Oak Street (37th Avenue and Oak)

Website www.vandusengarden.org

Transport

#17 Oak bus from downtown Vancouver to West 37th Avenue

Opens Opening times vary according to season, with slightly different hours every month - check the official website for details.

Admission

October to March C$8.20 (adults), C$4.10 (children aged 5 - 12); April to September C$11.50 (adults), C$5.75 (children aged 3 - 12). Concessions available.

Commercial Drive photo

Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive is about as non-commercial as it gets, being one of Vancouver's most eclectic and increasingly trendy neighbourhoods. Starting out as a skid row for its lumber ind…

Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive is about as non-commercial as it gets, being one of Vancouver's most eclectic and increasingly trendy neighbourhoods. Starting out as a skid row for its lumber industry in the late 1800s, it evolved over time with a steady influx of English, Chinese, Italian and Eastern European immigrants fleeing both World Wars. Diversity and energy are still the hallmarks of Commercial Drive, and an afternoon is well spent exploring its various cuisines, chic boutiques and live music shows. Enjoy a delicious Italian gelato or espresso, or simply grab a table at one of the many bars or restaurants. There are always plenty of festivals and events going on too, such as the Parade of Lost Souls, the Stone Soup Festival in May and the Eastside Culture Crawl.

Address Commercial Drive (from Venables to Grandview)

Website www.thedrive.ca

Transport

Skytrain, to Commercial Drive or Broadway stations

Gulf Islands photo

Gulf Islands

Tucked in the Strait of Georgia are the picturesque Gulf Islands. Home to artists and writers, many Vancouverites escape to holiday homes tucked away in the rainforest. Large parts…

Gulf Islands

Tucked in the Strait of Georgia are the picturesque Gulf Islands. Home to artists and writers, many Vancouverites escape to holiday homes tucked away in the rainforest. Large parts of the islands have been designated as marine parks, preserving the land for the numerous endemic birds and animals that call the island home. Many of the islands host events and festivals each year, alongside a healthy art and shopping scene.

Bowen Island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay. Visitors can enjoy a stroll from Snug Harbour past the historic Union Steamship Company or take a walk in the Crippen Regional Park.

Galiano Island is the second biggest of the group and is about the size of Manhattan. Only 50 minutes away on the Tsawwassen Ferry on the Lower Mainland, Galiano Island draws all sorts of visitors who come to picnic in Bellhouse Park, take walks through the lush rainforest up to Bluffs Park or indulge in a spot of fishing, kayaking or a round of golf.

Website www.gulfislandsguide.com

San Juan Islands photo

San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are a boater's paradise. Hundreds of islands are separated by nationality, but are part of the same scenic and rugged archipelago, located off the northwest co…

San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are a boater's paradise. Hundreds of islands are separated by nationality, but are part of the same scenic and rugged archipelago, located off the northwest coast of Washington State. Much of the area is in a rain shadow behind Vancouver Island, making a surprisingly dry and sunny reprieve in the northwest. Little island communities, great wildlife and the open water provide a real disconnect from the mainland.

Frequent government ferry services connect the mainland and larger inhabited islands to each other, but others can only be visited by smaller shuttle boats and yachts. Friday Harbour is San Juan's largest town and an enchanting tourist destination. Anchorages are bustling throughout summer, but largely empty in other seasons. Yacht charters are available out of Bellingham.

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre photo

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is home to a vast array of aquatic creatures, ranging from otters, sea lions and penguins, to dolphins, sharks and whales. You'll find …

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is home to a vast array of aquatic creatures, ranging from otters, sea lions and penguins, to dolphins, sharks and whales. You'll find exhibits, displays and programmes geared towards kids, including Clownfish Cove, with small animals, play areas and costumes aimed at teaching children about the natural world and the importance of marine conservation. The aquarium features a gift shop, cafeteria and wheelchair access. Visitors of all ages enjoy a trip to this well-organised and large aquarium, which consistently receives rave reviews from travellers.

Address 845 Avison Way, Vancouver

Website www.vanaqua.org

Opens Summer (21 June to 1 September): Open daily, from 9.30am to 6pm; Winter (6 September to 24 June): Open daily, from 10am to 5pm

Admission

Summer: C$40 (adults), C$32 (13-18 year olds) C$23 (children). Other concessions are available

Greater Vancouver Zoo photo

Greater Vancouver Zoo

Animal lovers of all ages will have a fabulous time exploring the Greater Vancouver Zoo. It boasts more than 500 animals and 140 species, including lion, giraffe, black bear, bison…

Greater Vancouver Zoo

Animal lovers of all ages will have a fabulous time exploring the Greater Vancouver Zoo. It boasts more than 500 animals and 140 species, including lion, giraffe, black bear, bison, spider monkeys, coyotes, cheetah, hippo, lemurs and caracals, just to name a few. Children will simply love watching all the animals and naming the ones they know. Kids can enjoy meeting a selection of reptiles, take the safari mini train, listen to an educational talk or even watch the lions and tigers being fed. Refreshments are available from kiosks and restaurants so nobody will go hungry. Allow at least a few hours to explore the zoo properly.

Address 5048 - 264th Street, Aldergrove

Website www.gvzoo.com

Opens Summer Season (April to September): Open daily, from 9am to 7pm. Winter Season (October to March): Open daily, from 9am to 4pm.

Admission

C$28 (adults); C$21 (children). Concessions are available.

Othello Tunnels photo

Othello Tunnels

Home to the celebrated Othello Tunnels, the Coquihalla Provincial Park lies just outside the town of Hope and about an hour's drive east of Vancouver. This quintet of railway tunne…

Othello Tunnels

Home to the celebrated Othello Tunnels, the Coquihalla Provincial Park lies just outside the town of Hope and about an hour's drive east of Vancouver. This quintet of railway tunnels which traverse the steep-sided Coquihalla Gorge were built for the Kettle Valley Railway and today offer visitors a fascinating insight into the history of the area, as well as a wonderfully scenic and unique hiking experience.

While the Othello Tunnels themselves are dark and dank (flashlights are recommended), the two-mile (3.5km) railway trail also crosses above thundering rapids and cuts through impressive, nearly 1,000-foot (300-metre) granite rock faces. The Othello Tunnels are an accessible and highly rewarding day trip from Vancouver, offering visitors of all ages a great mix of exercise and adventure.

Address Just outside Hope, BC – about 95 miles (150km) east of Vancouver

Website www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/coquihalla_cyn/

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