Last Updated on August 19, 2022 by Jim Ferri
Seeing Vancouver, British Columbia for the first time can be a jaw-dropping experience…
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
You’ll find plenty of places to visit in Vancouver, BC. In fact, you might say there are too many places…
Set on a shimmering sea with a backdrop of verdant mountains, Vancouver, British Columbia is routinely considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. in fact, seeing it for the first time can be a jaw-dropping experience.
Many rave about Vancouver’s abundance of ethnic restaurants (with some of the best ethnic food in North American) and its plethora of shops, museums and galleries, all of which will keep you busy and satisfied for days. But just as important for the traveler is the city’s good public transport system and it’s friendly, welcoming population.
As so many of us saw in the coverage of the Winter Olympics, Vancouver also offers a superb outdoor experience. Forests, thousands of years old, are part of the city’s park system and the ski slopes of nearby Grouse Mountain are a mere 20 minutes from the city.
Downtown, gleaming skyscrapers jut skyward in unison with the colorful totems that reach for the treetops in the primordial forests of nearby Stanley Park. Few places on earth can match Vancouver for melding the city and forest so well.
“Where else can you find an international brand of exoticism that rivals Hong Kong, Nordic-style order and a limitless array of shops, restaurants and top-notch accommodations?” the New York Times recently asked.
To the legions who love Vancouver the answer may well be “nowhere.”
To help you explore the vast human and natural diversity of this jaw-dropping city, here are the top-10 most popular places to visit in Vancouver.
A Popular Place to Visit in Vancouver: Stanley Park
Known as one of the world’s greatest urban parks, Stanley Park is the crown jewel of Vancouver. And since it’s also one of the largest urban parks in North America (it’s close to 1,000 acres), Stanley Park can fill your whole day.
Rent a bicycle or rollerblades, or use your own two feet to follow the seawall, which wraps around the perimeter of the entire park. What makes Stanley Park unique is its vast natural forest, which has remained relatively untouched for thousands of years.
Explore the network of trails that winds its way through the Northwest rain forest and stumble upon Beaver Lake.
Other park places to visit in Vancouver include the Vancouver Aquarium, First Nations Totem Poles, Prospect Point, the Brockton Point Lighthouse, the Nine O’clock Gun, Klahowya Village, the giant Second Beach swimming pool, a nine-hole golf course, a number of restaurants and beautiful beaches.
A Top Vancouver Place to Visit: Granville Island
Once industrial, this “island” was transformed into a center of arts and culture in the 1970s, and now serves as one of the most popular tourist attractions and places to visit in Vancouver.
From the culinary arts to the performing arts, Granville is filled with restaurants, artisan shops, theatres, and a massive public market.
Its highlights include a public market (fresh produce, gourmet ingredients and local craft sellers; the Net Loft for unique shopping (check out The Hat Shop, Paper-Ya and Beadworks); Granville Island Brewing and Dockside Brewing for beer sampling; a variety of restaurants (try Edible Canada at the Market, Sandbar, Bridges and Dockside); the Arts Club Theatre; and Railspur Alley (where you’ll find a boutique Japanese sake maker, craft distillery, cafes and artists shops).
Just 20 Minutes from Vancouver: Grouse Mountain
Only 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is a favorite for all ages. Hop on the Grouse Mountain Skyride for an awe-inspiring 3,700 foot panoramic view of Vancouver and beyond.
If you’re more active, consider tackling the Grouse Grind (dubbed “mother nature’s stair master”), grueling 2.9 kilometer (1.8 mile) hike up the face of Grouse Mountain. The trail has nearly 3000 steps, which assist hikers on their 2800-foot straight-up climb. It takes 1.5 hours to complete, depending on your fitness.
You’ll also find hiking trails, a lumberjack show, zip-lining, guided eco-walks and a grizzly bear sanctuary. In the winter, it turns into a winter wonderland complete with skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and snowshoeing. Dining options also include the Altitudes Bistro and the Observatory, a fine dining restaurant.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Located only 15 minutes from downtown , Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the oldest places to visit in Vancouver, dating from 1889.
Situated in a temperate rainforest, visitors to the park will find a variety of experiences, including the Capilano Suspension Bridge (stretching 450 feet, 230 feet above the Capilano River), the Cliffwalk (a heart-stopping cliff-side journey), and the Treetops Adventure (a series of suspension bridges throughout the forest).
Also in the park are a tranquil pond and an outpost featuring a gift shop and restaurant. For the grandkids or kids, there’s the Rainforest Explorer challenge, which includes looking for signs and collecting data on the west coast rainforest. Answer all the questions correctly and you’ll receive a badge.
Located in world-renown Stanley Park, Vancouver Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Canada, and one of the most-recognized aquariums in North America. It houses more than 70,000 creatures originating from the Arctic to the Amazon.
Visitors can attend daily beluga whale, dolphin and sea otter shows and, for an unforgettable experience, sign up for a hands-on Animal Encounter or Trainer Tour. Pay a visit to the Amazon gallery, a true-to-life recreation of a South America rainforest, before catching the Aquarium’s new 4D Theatre show.
Perhaps the Most Popular Place to Visit in Vancouver: Stylish Gastown
In addition to being named the 4th most-stylish neighborhood in the world, Gastown is one of the most popular places to visit in Vancouver. It is also Vancouver’s oldest district.
It was named after talkative John Deighton, a Yorkshire-born saloon owner nicknamed “Gassy Jack.” In 1867 Deighton showed up with a barrel of whisky on the south shore of Burrard Inlet and told the area’s mill workers they could drink as much as they wanted if they helped him build his saloon. 24 hours later, Gassy’s saloon was completed and a town sprang up around it, which became known as “Gastown,” the precursor of modern-day Vancouver.
Today, Gastown retains its “old-town” vibe with Victorian-style architecture, cobblestone streets, and the famous Steam Clock that plays the Westminster chime every quarter hour. The area is filled with designer boutiques, delicious restaurants and a thriving pub scene where you can find what many consider the city’s best cocktails and local craft beer.
English Bay Beach
While Vancouver boasts several beaches along its stunning waterfront, the most popular is English Bay Beach. Situated in the West End of downtown Vancouver, the beach is a popular gathering place all day long, but especially at sunset as the sun falls behind the hills of Vancouver Island.
Several restaurants in the area offer patios overlooking English Bay, including the beachside Cactus Club Café.
The beach also backs onto the corner of Davie and Denman Streets, which is a major dining hub in the West End. The seawall passes by English Bay Beach, which can take cyclists, runners or pedestrians to either Stanley Park or around False Creek. There’s also kayaking rentals on the beach near the lifeguard stand.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Enjoying the distinction of being the first full-scale classical Chinese garden outside China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classic Chinese Garden is very popular. All of its components were sourced from nature, or hand-built by 52 skilled Chinese artisans who spent 13 months creating the historic architectural and horticultural masterpiece in 1985.
Unlike traditional Western gardens, the major feature of classical Chinese gardens isn’t necessarily the plants – instead, the gardens encompass an artful blend of architecture, culturally significant plants, naturally sculpted rocks and elegantly winding jade-green waterways. You can explore the gardens on your own or on a 45-minute guided tour.
Museum of Anthropology
The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is world-renowned for its collections, public programs and architecture.
Built on traditional Musqueam First-Nations land, the building recently underwent a major expansion and renewal project that doubled its size. The grounds feature indigenous plants, two outdoor Haida Houses, full-scale totem poles and carved house-posts.
The Art Gallery, One of the Top Places to Visit in Vancouver
From Canada’s largest collection of beloved artist Emily Carr’s work, to ever-changing world-class exhibitions in a stunning neo-classical old courthouse, the 75-year-old Vancouver Art Gallery offers the city’s top cultural experience.
Located right in the center of downtown, the Gallery is one of the largest art museums in Canada and one of the popular places to visit in Vancouver. It features four floors of inspirational pleasures with rotating exhibitions of major international works.
If you go:
Suite 210 – 200 Burrard Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6C 3L6
Tel: (604) 682-2222