Vancouver was our first stop in Canada and I’ll be honest: it wasn’t love at first sight. When we arrived it was cold and rain was pouring down from a dark-grey sky. We couldn’t even see the mountains north of this famous city on the west coast of British Columbia…
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.
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Luckily for us the weather improved the next day and Vancouver had a chance to redeem itself. And redeem itself it did!
Vancouver city guide: things to see and do in Vancouver
In this Vancouver city guide you’ll find:
- Best things to do in Vancouver (including my favorite places to eat in Vancouver)
- Where to stay in Vancouver?
- How to get around in Vancouver?
- A (printable) map with all the places mentioned in the post.
Vancouver 2 day itinerary: map & highlights
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.
The perfect Vancouver itinerary
- Things to do in Vancouver on day 1: coffee at Tim Hortons, breakfast at Purebread, explore Gastown (incl. the Vancouver steam clock), walk to Canada Place, take the Aquabus to Granville Island public market for lunch, visit the Vancouver Art Gallery, have dinner at Ramen Gojiro.
- Things do do in Vancouver on day 2: 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 and watch the sunset at Kitsilano Beach Park.
Best things to do in Vancouver
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 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 loose 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 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 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 is an important part of Vancouver’s public transport system and a fun way to get aroun! You can find more information (map with docks, fares, etc.) at the Aquabus website. The Aquabus fee from Hornby Street to Granville Island costs 3,50CAD per person.
Instead of taking the Aquabus you can also walk across the Granville bridge for a beautiful view over the city.
Have lunch at Granville Island Public Market
There are soooooooooooo many delicious things to eat at the famous Granville Island Public Market… 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 18CAD 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
If you have enough time (and energy), I highly recommend to do 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.
Stanley Park is a National Historic Site and beloved by all Vancouverites. 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 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 spend 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 desert (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
Where 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, so in total 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!
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! Our 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.
Check the St. Regis Vancouver website for current prices (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 Homestay
If you are traveling on a budget but don’t have a car, there are plenty of rooms on Airbnb and Homestay, I used both to book accommodation in Vancouver when we hadn’t bought our van yet. We paid 40CAD for our Airbnb room (unfortunately no longer listed because the host moved to a different place) and 65CAD for our Homestay room.
Accommodation discount: if you have never traveled with Airbnb before you can get €30 of your first Airbnb stay with this link!
How to get around in Vancouver?
I’ve already written about the Aquabus, but another important part of Vancouver’s public transport system 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 the itinerary described in this post you don’t need to take a bus.
A (printable) Vancouver sightseeing map
Below you can download a pdf with all the sites mentioned in this post.
That’s everything about our trip to Vancouver! Do you want to read more about traveling in Canada? You can find my other posts here.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the St. Regis hotel in Vancouver. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.