Vancouver is located in British Columbia and surrounded by beautiful mountains as well as the Pacific Ocean ocean. Often the starting point of a Canada (road) trip many people spend a few days in Vancouver.
Any Vancouver itinerary should at least include a visit to Gastown, Granville Island, and Stanley Park, but there are so many things to do in Vancouver, you’ll be spoiled for choice!
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Vancouver itinerary: the best things to see and do in Vancouver
- Vancouver itinerary: the best things to see and do in Vancouver
- Why you should visit Vancouver
- What is the best time to visit Vancouver?
- How to get around Vancouver?
- Vancouver 2 day itinerary: map and highlights
- 2 day Vancouver itinerary: things to see and do
- Vancouver itinerary day 1: highlights
- Vancouver itinerary day 2: highlights
- The best things to do in Vancouver: summary
- The best places to stay in Vancouver
- A (printable) Vancouver sightseeing map
- Vancouver trip itinerary: in conclusion
Why you should visit Vancouver
Vancouver was our first stop in Canada as well and I’ll be honest: it wasn’t love at first sight. When we arrived it was cold and the rain was pouring down from a dark-grey sky. We couldn’t even see the mountains north of the city…
Sloshing through the streets in our rain-soaked clothes wasn’t that much fun, so instead, we holed up in our cozy room for a Netflix marathon.
Luckily for us, the weather improved the next day and Vancouver had a chance to redeem itself. And redeem itself it did!
Vancouver is a great place for a city trip, it has a very walkable city center with interesting sites to visit. There are lots of restaurants to choose from, whichever cuisine you feel like eating, you can find it in Vancouver.
In Gastown, there are many cute boutique stores and in Stanley Park, you can enjoy stunning views over the bay. Read about all this and more Vancouver activities in the itinerary below.
What is the best time to visit Vancouver?
Generally, the best time to visit Vancouver is between April and October. Average temperatures are between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius during these months and there are not so many rainy days.
We visited Vancouver both in June as well as October and during both visits, we had sunny days (20+ degrees Celsius) as well as a bit of rain. As long as you bring a good raincoat you’ll be fine!
How to get around Vancouver?
A fun way to get around in downtown Vancouver is the Aquabus which serves several routes in the city center. You can find more information (map with docks, fares, etc.) on the Aquabus website.
Besides the Aquabus, the easiest way to get around Vancouver is the Skytrain. There are 3 lines, the most important one is the Canada line which connects the city center and Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
You can buy a DayPass or a single ticket for the Skytrain. A single ticket is valid for 90 minutes, you can transfer as many times as you want within that time.
Prices can be found here. You can also use these cards on the bus, though for this Vancouver travel itinerary you don’t need to take a bus.
Vancouver 2 day itinerary: map and highlights
So what to see in Vancouver during your trip? I’ve market all the highlights we visited during our time in Vancouver on the map below.
I also added my favorite places to eat and where we stayed. At the end of the post you can download this map as a (printable) pdf.
2 day Vancouver itinerary: things to see and do
- Coffee at Tim Hortons
- Breakfast at Purebread
- Explore Gastown (incl. the Vancouver steam clock)
- Admire the view from Canada Place
- Take the Aquabus
- Have lunch at Granville Island public market
- Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery
- Enjoy dinner at Ramen Gojiro.
- Walk around Stanley Park (Totem poles, Lions Gate Bridge, Siwash rock, Lost Lagoon)
- Check out the A-maze-ing Laughter statues and the Inukshuk
- Grab lunch at Pholicious
- Explore Chinatown and the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park
- Have dinner at St Regis Bar and Grill
- Watch the sunset at Kitsilano Beach Park.
If you only have one day available to explore Vancouver but still want to see many of the highlights on this list, check out this 7 hour Vancouver city tour by mini-coach (fully-narrated by an award-winning guide).
Vancouver itinerary day 1: highlights
Get coffee at Tim Hortons
There is nothing more Canadian than Tim Hortons! Don’t believe me? Just watch this clip (and this one) from How I Met Your Mother. Their coffee is delicious and the perfect way to begin your day of sightseeing around Vancouver.
Get breakfast at Purebread
Now that you’ve finished your coffee you may want some breakfast too. I cannot recommend Purebread enough, it’s a cute little bakery on West Hastings Street and everything they sell is delicious. It doesn’t really matter what time of the day you go here, just go, you won’t regret it!
Stroll through the streets of Gastown
Great, now that you’ve got a full tummy and the necessary caffeine shot it’s time to get going! One of the oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver is Gastown.
In Gastown, you’ll find beautiful old houses, boutique shops, art galleries, and plenty of places to grab a bite if you are still hungry.
Water Street is Gastowns most famous street, but the neighborhood covers the entire area between Richards East and Main Street. Be sure to check out the Gastown steam clock!
Despite this highly visible and cool clock it’s easy to lose track of time in this charming neighborhood! Read more about Gastown here.
Admire the view from Canada Place
Yup, Vancouver has it all: beautiful mountains (it’s only a 90-minute scenic drive to the snow-covered slopes of Whistler) and an equally beautiful ocean (there are several beaches in the city).
From Canada Place, you can see both the mountains and the sea and ask yourself why you are not living here.
Hop on the Aqua Bus to Granville Island (or walk across Granville Bridge for a great view)
The Aquabus fee from Hornby Street to Granville Island costs 3,50CAD per person. It’s a fun way to see Vancouver from a different perspective and the quickest way to cross False Creek.
Instead of taking the Aquabus, you can also walk across the Granville bridge for a beautiful view of the city.
Have lunch at Granville Island Public Market
There are so many delicious things to eat at the famous Granville Island Public Market, it’s impossible to choose… Because it’s an indoor market this is also a great activity for a rainy Vancouver day!
On the Granville Island website, you can find itineraries with suggested activities. You can choose from several itineraries, depending on how much time you plan to spend on the island.
Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery
If you are into art you must visit the Vancouver Art Gallery! The gallery was founded in 1931 and is one of North America’s leading visual arts institutions. The ticket price is $23 (Canadian Dollars obviously) per person.
Have dinner at Ramen Gojiro
I’m seriously addicted to Japanese food and was very happy to find this little restaurant. Whenever we walked past this place, there was always a line outside. It’s worth the wait though, my huge steaming bowl of ramen was absolutely delicious…
Vancouver itinerary day 2: highlights
Explore Stanley Park and the Sea Wall
Stanley Park is a National Historic Site and beloved by all Vancouverites. If you have enough time (and energy), I highly recommend doing the 9-kilometer walk around Stanley Park over the Sea Wall.
Along the way, there are many interesting stops, like the famous totem poles and Siwash Rock (pictured below).
Fun fact: Tripadvisor named Stanley Park ‘the top park in the entire world’.
Bottom line: if you are in Vancouver, you must visit Stanley Park! On this website, you can find a map of the Seawalk and sights to see along the way.
Check out the A-maze-ing Laughter statues and Inukshuk
The A-maze-ing Laughter statue put a smile on anyone’s face, which happens to be the exact intention of the artist Yue Minjun. He wanted to touch the heart of each visitor and it’s a-maze-ing to see how he more than succeeded in doing so. Just spend 15 minutes watching people visiting the statues, you’ll see what I mean.
Another beautiful sculpture is the Inukshuk on English Bay, which became famous as the symbol of the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. More Inukshuk are found in the (far) north of Canada, they are part of the culture of the Inuit and other Arctic peoples.
Grab a quick lunch at Pholicious
It’s probably because I’ve spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia, but I love the food from that region. Vietnamese may be my favorite cuisine, but it’s really difficult to choose… Regardless, the Bánh mì sandwich from Pholicious was delicious! And very cheap too (only 4,50 CAD).
Visit Chinatown and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park
Vancouver’s Chinatown is the third-biggest Chinatown in North America, only New York and San Francisco are bigger! There are lots of Chinese shops and places to grab a quick snack (like Chinese pastries).
Within Chinatown you’ll also find the famous Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park, a classic Chinese Garden with a lovely pond and pretty pagoda.
Have dinner and a drink at St. Regis Bar & Grill
Adjacent to St. Regis Hotel is the St. Regis Bar and Grill, the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine or beer after walking around all day!
I loved the atmosphere, many people were very into the Canadian sports shown on the TV screens and it was fun to watch them cheer for (or shout at) their favorite team.
Besides the friendly vibe, the food is great too! I had the Cobb Salad and Frank the Mushroom Swiss burger, the portions are quite big and I was too full for dessert (though I would have loved to try the cheesecake or warm cookie skillet with an overdose of chocolate). Check out their menu here.
Watch the sunset from Kitsilano Beach Park
Did you know Vancouver has several beaches? In downtown Vancouver, you can visit Sunset Beach or English Bay Beach. Just across the Burrard bridge, you will find Kitsilano Beach Park, the perfect place to watch the sunset!
Note: if you aren’t visiting in summer you might want to do this before dinner, otherwise you’ll miss the sunset;-).
Visiting Vancouver Island? Check out the 10 best things to do in Cowichan Valley
The best things to do in Vancouver: summary
The best places to stay in Vancouver
We actually stayed in Vancouver longer than 2 days, when we arrived in Canada we spent several days in the city to find the perfect van for our road trip. At the end of our trip, we returned to Vancouver to sell our car, and altogether we spend quite a bit of time in the city.
Anyway, my point is that I can say from personal experience: visiting Vancouver can be done on any budget!
Also read about the cheapest Canadian cities are to live.
The St. Regis Hotel
If you are looking to treat yourself to a nice hotel in Vancouver city center, the St. Regis hotel is your best choice! We stayed here for 2 nights and it was the perfect way to end our 5 month trip around Canada and the U.S.A.
St. Regis hotel is located in downtown Vancouver, so you can easily walk everywhere. The Skytrain station (Vancouver City Centre, see more info about transport below) is only a 400 meter walk and it takes about 30 minutes to get to the airport (or from the airport to the hotel).
Our room at the St. Regis was beautiful, after living in a van for 5 months Frank and I almost got lost in our big suite! The bathroom alone was bigger than our entire little red house on wheels.
The bed was super comfy and WiFi very fast (each room has its own router). Breakfast was delicious (especially the omelet) and the staff is very helpful and friendly. Room rates include breakfast and unlimited international calls.
Camping in your car or camper van
If you are on a budget and have a camper car or van to sleep in, you can stay in Vancouver for free! There are several overnight camping spots, you can find them via (free) iOverlander app.
Not listed on the app is the IKEA parking lot in Richmond, but we did spent a night there. I’m not sure if it’s allowed but there weren’t any ‘no overnight parking’ signs so we decided to risk it (nobody bothered us or asked us to leave).
Stay at an Airbnb or hostel
We stayed in a nice Airbnb in Richmond (when we hadn’t bought our van yet) and paid only 40CAD per night. Unfortunately, this room is no longer listed because the host moved to a different place.
Accommodation discount: if you have never traveled with Airbnb before you can get €30 of your first Airbnb stay with this link!
A (printable) Vancouver sightseeing map
Below you can download a pdf with all the sites mentioned in this post.
Vancouver trip itinerary: in conclusion
That’s everything about our trip to Vancouver! If you have any questions, leave a comment below or send me an email.
Do you want to read more about traveling in Canada? Read these posts as well:
- 12 things to do in Nelson BC
- 15 things to do in Nanaimo
- 15 Vancouver day trips
- 25 charming small towns in Canada
- 40 things to do on Vancouver Island
- The perfect Victoria itinerary
This post was updated in August 2020.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the St. Regis hotel in Vancouver. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.