Here we go, the time for beating around the bush is done. These are the best things to do in Vancouver, the very best that one of the world’s most liveable cities has to offer. Canada’s western metropolis ticks box after box, the end result of a form of urban architecture built on the foundations of town. Vancouver’s best attractions are informed by its history as much as its future, with futuristic museums nestled next to iconic districts and mountains as far as the eye can see. Parks, beaches, restaurants, bars, spas, the list goes on and on, but that’s just what we’ve come to expect from Vancouver.
1. Stanley Park
What is it: This must-see park is a whopping 1,000 acres and contains beaches, an aquarium, playgrounds, a pool and splash park, botanical gardens, a golf course, 17 tennis courts, and much more.
Why go: With all the park has to offer, you could easily spend a day within its perimeter. Try biking the exterior Seawall or venture inside to get lost amongst ferns and centuries-old cedars on 40 miles of trails. Keep an eye out for beavers, raccoons, great blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes, and sometimes even whales. In the fall, ride the popular Ghost Train for a spooky Halloween experience.
2. Granville Island
What is it: Overhauled in the 70s, this former waterfront industrial site (technically a peninsula rather than an island) is home to a public market, food shops, restaurants, artist studios and galleries, shopping and inviting green space.
Why go: Take a cute little Aquabus to spend an afternoon on the island. The vast public market features everything from confections to cheeses to bread to meats. Pick up a few items and picnic next to False Creek, or indulge in the market’s food court, filled with delicious local eats and treats.
3. Grouse Mountain
What is it: Known as the Peak of Vancouver, locals and tourists flock to this mountain for outdoor activities whatever the season.
Why go: From hiking and ziplining in the summer to ice skating and snowshoeing in the winter—plus lumberjack shows and grizzly bear visits in between—Grouse Mountain is a year-round destination. Up for a challenge? Try the Grouse Grind, a 1.8-mile trail featuring 2,830 stairs that takes you 2,800 feet up the mountain. Or just take the gondola up for amazing views of the city and the ocean.
4. Pacific Arts Market
What is it: This nearly 2,500-square-foot gallery space features art, jewelry, and other handmade crafts from more than 40 artists from Vancouver and around British Columbia.
Why go: Browse talented local artists and bring home a unique souvenir. You’ll find paintings, ceramics, jewelry, woodcarving, fiber arts, and products like handmade candles and teas. The colourful space is packed with art for every taste and budget. Artists change regularly, so it’s worth visiting again and again.
5. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden
What is it: This tranquil garden at the edge of Chinatown is the first Chinese garden or “scholars garden” built outside of China.
Why go: Designed and built by specialists from Suzhou (where the Ming Dynasty-era scholar’s gardens that inspired this one are located) using rare trees, prized rocks, and the principles of balance and harmony, the Chinese Garden is an oasis of tranquillity. Stroll the free park, then enter the gardens by paid admission. Learn the symbolism behind the placement of each plant, structure, and path, or just enjoy the peace, quiet, and beauty.
6. Richmond Night Market
What is it: Open weekends and holiday evenings from May to October, this is the largest night market in North America.
Why go: The Richmond Night Market will give you a taste of Asia’s famed night markets. Sample foods like grilled squid, pho fries, gyozas, roti mac and cheese and nitrogen ice cream at the food stalls, then shop for gifts and accessories at the retail stalls. There are games, live music and entertainment, and always great people-watching.
7. Vancouver Whale Watch
What is it: British Columbia has a wealth of marine life, including orcas, humpbacks, seals, dolphins, and more. A conservation-minded whale watch tour, like Vancouver Whale Watch, offers an up-close look at the stunning creatures and an educational experience.
Why go: Learn about whale biology and migration, marine conservation, and more as you witness the beauty of Vancouver’s waters.
8. Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia
What is it: Located on the traditional territory of the Musqueam people, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) features art by indigenous peoples from Canada and around the world.
Why go: One of Canada’s largest teaching museums, MOA is home to hundreds of thousands of ethnographic objects, artifacts and works of art, including textiles, ceramics, massive totem poles, masks, and more. The iconic building was designed by renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson.
9. Mr. Bannock
What is it: This popular food truck serves indigenous cuisine using fresh, local ingredients and traditional cooking methods like smoking and stone baking.
Why go: British Columbia’s First Nations people know all about the richness and nutrition of the land and sea and how to harvest products sustainably. Mr. Bannock is named after the traditional unleavened bread, which is served alongside salmon, wild meats, juniper berries and local mushrooms.
10. Rogers Arena
What is it: Home of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team (that Stanley Cup has to come eventually, surely), Rogers Arena hosts major concerts and events throughout the year.
Why go: During hockey season, checking out a Canucks game is a must. Canadians love hockey, and Vancouver adores their Canucks, no matter how wonderful or frustrating they may be. Catch the spirit from October to April, May or June, depending on how the team’s doing.