Vancouver is among the world’s most beautiful cities. It’s also often considered one of the most liveable, thanks to its well-balanced mix of modern urban features and magnificent natural surroundings. The city acts as a gateway to Canada’s great outdoors, be it along the Pacific Coast or up in the Pacific Ranges.
Within an hour’s drive out from Vancouver’s high-rise downtown hub, you hit gorgeous beaches and forested mountains. Starting at the striking waterfront landmark of Canada Place, you can explore the city’s beloved outdoor attractions, such as Queen Elizabeth Park, or head north from the famous Stanley Park and across Lions Gate Bridge to the peak of Grouse Mountain. Find more great sights and experiences through this shortlist of things to do in Vancouver.
With sail-like roofs akin to Sydney’s Opera House, Vancouver’s Canada Place sits right on the waterfront, flanked by cruise ship terminals on both of its sides. The Place houses a world trade centre and a convention centre that usually features interesting arts and cultural exhibits. It’s also home to the multisensory flight simulator, FlyOver Canada, which features high-definition aerial movies projected onto a huge dome screen. Come at dusk to enjoy the Sails of Light feature, when its sails come to life with vibrant colours and animation sequences.
As one of Vancouver’s major family attractions, the Vancouver Aquarium is inside the city’s vast and feature-filled Stanley Park. Be amazed by glowing jellyfish in an illuminated tank or get up close with sea lions and walruses at its Steller’s Bay exhibit. Underwater viewing areas add to the fun. At Penguin Point, 180° views allow you to see African penguins waddle and swim. General admissions are around $38 for adults and $21 for kids aged 4 to 12.
Vancouver sits on a peninsula that meets the Pacific Coast, offering plenty of beaches for fun or relaxation. The brief Canadian summer months, usually around July and August, bring in the usual crowds of locals and visitors. Most popular is Kitsilano Beach, with its green spaces and recreational facilities. For calm and serenity, head to Second Beach, on the southern side of Stanley Park. Ambleside Beach offers wonderful scenery in West Vancouver, with a waterfront walkway backed by vistas of Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge.
The 28-floor-tall Harbour Centre building, with its flying-saucer-like top, dominates the skyline of Downtown Vancouver. The building itself houses the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University, as well as various shops and offices. However, its main highlight is the Vancouver Lookout observation deck at its top, which you can head up to in a glass elevator. Aside from the 360° views over the cityscape and waterfront, you should check out the revolving restaurant, Top of Vancouver, for one of the city’s most unique dining experiences.
Centred around Pender Street, between Gastown and Downtown’s Central Business Districts, Vancouver’s Chinatown is Canada’s largest. Start your explorations at the striking Millennium Gate, then enjoy a sightseeing tour of some of the oldest and most colourful buildings in Vancouver, some of which date back to late 19th century. Classic Asian specialty stores and diners dot the neighbourhood. A major attraction, the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, offers a tranquil and scenic escape from the area’s busy streets.
Vancouver Art Gallery
Housed in an impressive courthouse building that dates to 1931, the Vancouver Art Gallery hosts a rich variety of sculpture, photographic and video art exhibits. Exhibitions rotate seasonally, but it has a permanent collection comprising well over 11,000 artworks, which include indigenous art as well as the largest group of paintings on paper by modernist landscape artist Emily Carr. Tickets are around $24 for adults and $6.50 for kids aged 6 to 12. Guided tours are available, led by experienced art professionals.
Head to the northernmost tip of Vancouver’s Stanley Park for one of Vancouver’s most stunning outlooks. Prospect Point is high on a verdant hill, on a series of moderate forested trails that are great for hiking and mountain biking. The view northeast features the Lion Gate Bridge, with outlines of Greater Vancouver on the other side of the Burrard Inlet. The onsite restaurant lets you settle down with seafood chowder and ice creams with the view.
While Downtown Vancouver offers a mix of scenic harbours and green parks, heading north of the Lions Gate Bridge takes you higher up into the Pacific Ranges. Grouse Mountain is one of its most popular peaks. You can take the Skyride aerial tramway, which speeds you to the summit at an elevation of around 4,100 feet, with breathtaking views over Capilano Lake and the scenic mountain range. The Skyride is included with the mountain admission at around $56 for adults and $29 for kids aged 5 to 16.
Queen Elizabeth Park
This beautiful city park covers the tallest hilltop in Vancouver proper. It features tree-lined pathways that lead you to flower gardens and spaces adorned with fountains and sculptures, as well as viewpoints from where you can take in panoramas of the city backed by the North Shore mountains. Queen Elizabeth Park is also home to the Bloedel Conservatory, a domed indoor garden with beautiful plant specimens and free-flying exotic birds. The park is free, but admission to the conservatory is around $6.50.
Some of Vancouver’s most prominent chain stores dot this route in Downtown Vancouver. Robson Street serves as the main artery of Vancouver’s shopping district. You’ll also find high-end restaurants and even a Tesla showroom along this mile-long strip. Vancouver’s wealthy regularly cruise down it in their exotic cars or motorcycles. Try visiting at dusk, when the street offers a pleasantly atmospheric stroll among the city lights, with buskers often filling the air with music at some corners.
Granville Island Brewing
Deepen your knowledge about beers at this funky brewhouse on Vancouver’s Granville Island. They offer tastings and tours 5 times a day in the summer and 3 times a day in the winter. Tours usually start off with talks by the brew masters about all the craft beer basics in their beer and wine retail store. You’ll soon head off to the brewhouse nearby to see how it’s done. Tours are around $9.75, with 3 small bottles of their different craft beers included in the price.
Granville Entertainment District
When the sun sets, strolling or cruising down Granville Street shows you Downtown Vancouver’s nightlife hub coming to life. The flashy neon-lit entertainment district is filled with a good assortment of cool bars, hip restaurants, theatres, and nightclubs. Among the classic entertainment landmarks here are the Art Deco-styled Commodore Ballroom, which houses a nightclub and dance floor. There’s also the Orpheum Theatre, which is home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. You can expect livelier scenes along the strip on Friday and Saturday nights.
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