Things to do in Vancouver

Vancouver is quite something. It’s a dangerous place. That’s because once you’re there, there is a huge risk you may never want to leave again.

Vancouverย has its appeal. Not only is it the warmest city in the country, but the gateway to Whistler, it’s by the coast, you could go skiing and sailing in one day, the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming … the list is long. No wonder Virgin Atlantic is now flying to Vancouver regularly – how could you not?! In their latest campaign, they asked the public to comment on what is so special about this city. So let’s see what you can get up to in beautiful Vancouver! Here are my favourite things to do in Vancouver:

Vancouver’s beaches

One of the great things to do in Vancouver: Kitsilano Beach

Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, with the West End in the background

Huh? Maybe beaches are not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a city, but not so for Vancouver. The city is blessed with multiple long sandy beaches, and locals certainly know to make use of them! Walking along Kitsilano beach (pictured above), you will see Vancouver’s residents playing beach volleyball, people jogging and cycling on the path along the beach, others walking their dogs, and of course, in summer, plenty of sunbathers and swimmers! Kitsilano beach is great because it’s very close to the city centre. If you want to visit a beach just next to the centre, head to English Bay just west of downtown. It really couldn’t be any more convenient, plus, it’s right next to …

Stanley Park

If you fancy a bit of green, you don’t have to look far in Vancouver. It is in general a green city, both in the sense of great public transport for North American standards – there’s a great network of busses and the Sky Train that gets you everywhere you need to go. But going back to green spaces in the trees and plants sense – Vancouver is home to a huge urban park – Stanley Park. There are a great many things to discover on 1,000 acres (thatโ€™s roughly 4 square kilometres), such as the totem poles at Brockton Point.

One of the great things to do in Vancouver: Stanley Park totem poles

Totem poles in Stanley Park

A great way to see the park is to rent a bike and cycle along the seawall. Definitely one of my favourite things to do in Vancouver.

Granville Island

In case you rent a bicycle and explore Stanley Park (and the city) this way – which I thoroughly recommend – you may want to stop at Granville Island. You can get there either by cycling all around False Creek seawall or by taking the Aquabus to cross False Creek if you’re in a hurry. Granville Island, technically a peninsula, is known for its large public market. You can stock up on fruit and veggies, taste chocolates, pastries and all sorts of delicacies from the region or have lunch at one of its many fruit stands. It is also home to the Granville Island Brewery, where you can take a beer tasting to refresh after your long bike ride!

One of the great things to do in Vancouver: Granville Island fruit market

Granville Island, Vancouver

Great architecture and cityscapes

With all the natural attractions Vancouver has to offer, let’s not forget we are actually talking about a big city. While to many an untrained European eye North American (big) city centres can easily blur into a monotony of high concrete blocks organised in a grid, Vancouver will definitely stand out. Its high rises are a joy to look at, even for those who don’t call themselves city people. Vancouver offers highly attractive cityscapes both to live in and to look at, whether in Coal Harbour, False Creek (below), or Yaletown.

One of the great things to do in Vancouver: False Creek cityscape in Vancouver

False Creek, Vancouver


Harbour Centre Lookout

Another treat for the eyes is to be had from the Harbour Centre Lookout. Right in the middle of downtown, take an elevator and look down onto Vancouver from almost 170m height. I found the 360-degree views of the mountains, the city, Stanley park and the harbour quite stunning!

One of the great things to do in Vancouver: Harbour Centre Vancouver

View onto Stanley Park and West Vancouver from the Harbour Centre Lookout

Chinese Gardens

Let’s not forget about the cultural elements – Vancouver has sizeable Asian population and its very own Chinatown, which comes complete with wonderful Chinese gardens: Dr Sun Yat Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden.

One of the great things to do in Vancouver: Dr Sun Yat Sen Garden, Vancouver

Chiense Gardens (Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden)

Museum of Anthropology

And if the totem poles in Stanley Park made you hungry for more First Nations culture, go pay the Museum of Anthropology a visit. It is located on the campus of the University of British Columbia in the west of Vancouver, near Point Grey. It is choc-a-block with First Nations artifacts, sculptures, handicrafts and even more totem poles and will make for a fascinating and educational afternoon, not just on a rainy day.

One of the great things to do in Vancouver: Anthropology Museum Vancouver

First Nations art at the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, BC

In my opinion, these are some of the best things to do in Vancouver, and I would do them all again and more – perhaps going to Grouse Mountain for some hiking or snowboarding, and hopping on a ferry to Vancouver Island, where Tofino offers some world-class surfing. The fun never ends. No wonder the economist has chosen Vancouver as the most liveable city a few times in a row. And I’m glad Virgin Atlantic is offering more opportunity for us to get there!

What are your favourite things to do in Vancouver?

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  11 comments for “Things to do in Vancouver

  1. 8 May, 2012 at 12:00

    I was totally impressed by Vancouver during my visit last year and I barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. Loved the cityscapes of Vancouver. You’ve given me some new ideas here, too.

    • Christina
      9 May, 2012 at 20:34

      Glad you had the same experience of Vancouver as I did. It’s hard not to like it, I think!

  2. 8 May, 2012 at 12:10

    Somehow I wouldn’t associate Vancouver with a beach holiday, but why not…? Looks like a beautiful city, I really should visit soon!

    • Christina
      9 May, 2012 at 20:36

      Vancouver has its surprises ๐Ÿ™‚ I would just love to have a barbeque on the beach. I was also surprised that BC is such a great spot for surfing. Not really the first place that comes to mind normally!

  3. 9 May, 2012 at 03:02

    i hope someday i get to go to canada. vancouver seems like a great place to start the tour ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Christina
    9 May, 2012 at 20:38

    I hope you get to go there, you’ll love it. Start in Vancouver and make your way to Alberta and the national parks in a car. The most stunning scenery. Make it happen! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. 9 May, 2012 at 23:18

    I heartily approve this message: more nods to me hometown! Thanks, Christina! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Christina
      12 May, 2012 at 16:06

      Ah thanks Henry! Means a lot coming from a true Vancouverite!

  6. Wayne WiaLing
    25 May, 2012 at 09:34

    Not to mention that Vancouver/Richmond offers the best Chinese food in the world. With a huge mixture of various peoples from all over Asia, like China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, India to name but a few, who have made Greater Vancouver their home, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to their cuisine. The varieties and options available made with fresh local ingredients make every meal a mouth watering experience. Then there’re the All-You-Can-Eat Sushi restaurants, and the Indian cuisine, and oh wait, there’s more….!

  7. 22 February, 2013 at 15:35

    Planning a trip to Vancouver and this resource was very helpful! Thank you!

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