Vancouver is one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Located on the Strait of Georgia, spliced by False Creek, and backed by towering mountains, Vancouver, Canada balances outdoor activities with many cultural highlights. This year-round destination has plenty of hiking trails and outdoor events in the summertime and in the winter you can go ice skating at one of its many arenas or hit the awesome ski slopes located just minutes from the downtown core.
The Top Things to do in Vancouver, Canada
Downtown Vancouver features museums, galleries, and the beautiful Stanley Park. It’s a happening city in its own right. But very few locations can lay claim to the sort of scenery Vancouver provides. Beyond the city are snow-capped peaks carved by years of slow-moving glaciers. The Coast Mountains which cut through British Columbia are awe-inspiring allowing visitors a wide spread of activities to enjoy. This comprehensive guide will help you uncover the best things to do in Vancouver, Canada.
1. Granville Island
Many cities have wonderful stories of old warehouses reborn to become a top attraction. Vancouver’s version of this is Granville Island. The old industrial port in the city has been replaced by a thriving arts community with restaurants and microbrew pubs, boutique shops, and entertainment. Granville Island is one of the first places you should see when visiting Vancouver.
Inside the warehouses, you’ll find art galleries featuring local artists, a boisterous dining scene and independent theaters. If you’re up for a pint, check out Granville Island Brewing Company. Granville Island is technically not an island, so you can arrive via both car and ferry.
Granville Island Market
But perhaps the most popular thing to do here is to explore the Granville Island Public Market. Come here for fresh produce and delicious treats. The Granville Island Public Market showcases local food and artisanal products, with over 50 vendors offering a wide variety of fresh and locally-sourced produce, meats, cheeses, seafood, and baked goods. It’s a great place to sample the flavors of British Columbia and support local farmers and producers.
The market also offers educational experiences for visitors, including culinary workshops and tours, wine tastings, and cooking classes. Take a tour where you can learn about the history of Granville Market and its vendors, as well as the local food and artisanal production processes.
2. Stanley Park
The most famous of all the Vancouver Parks is Stanley Park. Located on the peninsula in the West End of Vancouver, Stanley Park is one of the top tourist attractions offering a natural escape just steps from downtown Vancouver. The edge of the park carves along the bay, providing excellent biking and a place for casual strolls along the iconic Stanley Park Seawall. Beyond the water, you’ll find another top attraction on this list of things to do in Vancouver, the Vancouver Aquarium.
Stanley Park offers visitors a chance to escape the city just steps away from the downtown core. The Stanley Park seawall starts at the Vancouver Convention Centre and goes all around the park to Spanish Banks Park. You can walk, cycle, or rollerblade around the seawall to see some of the park’s top attractions.
Hot Tip: At the Stanley Park Totem Poles, you’ll find one of the best views of Vancouver’s beautiful skyline. Get on a bike to explore Stanely Park with this guided cycling tour.
Stanley Park is a great spot for an afternoon picnic with space for yard games. In the summer, the heated public pool is open, bringing excited families along for the afternoon. While in spring, colors burst through the landscape, including vibrant cherry trees.
One of the best ways to see Vancouver and Stanely park is on a private tour. Book this highly-reviewed private tour to see Stanley Park, Granville Island, Gastown, Canada Place, and more on a four-hour excursion all to yourself.
3. Canada Place
Not to be confused with a classic ocean-going vessel, Canada Place is a permanent structure located at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Vancouver Harbour. The pier rolls way out into Vancouver harbor, providing travelers and locals with wonderful views of the mountains in the distance and the picturesque bay.
Beyond being a cruise ship terminal, Canada Place is also the Vancouver Convention Center which hosts over 500 events each year, and The Pan Pacific Hotel. But that’s not why it’s on the list. Also at the end of the pier is Flyover Canada. Jump in the flight simulator and explore the country from above. Most Alaska cruises depart or end in Vancouver. We ended two Alaskan cruises by sailing into Vancouver Harbour. Check out our cruise experience to Alaska.
Where to Stay
Another great place to stay near the Vancouver Convention Center before or after your cruise is the Fairmont Pacific Rim. This historic hotel is opulent and luxurious yet the contemporary rooms have all the high-tech amenities.
Trade the indoor pool for a lavish rooftop swim before sitting down at one of the three on-site restaurants, including The Botanist, a renowned fine dining experience. With so much to see within easy walking distance, enjoy a great location in style.
4. False Creek
False Creek is the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia. This bustling inlet has many of the top attractions in the area that draw visitors from all over the world. From Granville Island and the Island Public Market to Science World, take a stroll along False Creek’s Seawall to take in the views of the Vancouver Skyline.
This scenic tour takes you on a 90-minute boat tour from False Creek to Lighthouse Park. You’ll see the resident seal colony, the city’s beaches, and the Lions Gate Bridge while taking in the Vancouver Skyline.
5. Olympic Village
Don’t forget to visit Olympic Village, a newly developed area located on the southeast shore of False Creek. Vancouver’s Olympic Village was home to the athletes during the 2010 Winter Olympics and has since been transformed into a vibrant community that features restaurants, shops, and public art. Also known as the Southeast False Creek neighborhood, it is just minutes from the city center.
Vancouver’s Olympic Village is home to several popular craft breweries, including Brassneck Brewery, Steel Toad Brewing, and Main Street Brewing, making it a great spot for beer lovers to explore the Craft Beer Scene. It is also home to a number of public art installations, including the popular A-Maze-ing Laughter sculpture, which features 14 bronze figures laughing and playing.
This is an excellent neighborhood for shopping with a variety of unique shops, boutiques, and restaurants, including the trendy dining spot, The Flying Pig, and the popular local bakery, Terra Breads.
False Creek Ferries
Make sure to hop on the False Creek Ferries to enjoy the water taxi service offering a unique way to explore the area. It stops at Granville Island, Science World, and Yaletown. It’s a fun and unique way to get around the area.
One of our favourite places to hang out is the trendy neighborhood of Yaletown where there are chic restaurants, boutique shops, and a vibrant nightlife. Overall, False Creek offers a diverse range of attractions that are sure to appeal to visitors of all interests and ages.
One of our favorite ways to see a city is to join a cycling tour. This guided tour takes you along the seawall and through the city’s most popular neighborhoods including Yaletown, and Chinatown, with a stop at the serene Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden (Another one of the top things to do in Vancouver) and Strathcona—Vancouver’s oldest residential neighborhood.
Where to Stay near Yaletown
The Opus Vancouver is an excellent boutique hotel located in Yaletown that is within walking distance of everything in the city center. Plus there are great options for dining and nightlife close by and it’s just a short walk to the waterfront. Check out rates and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
7. Science World
When traveling around Vancouver, there’s a chance you may have noticed the huge metal dome structure on False Creek. What you may not know, is that it’s home to one of the top things to do in Vancouver with kids.
The family-friendly Science World features 12 interactive exhibits designed to get you thinking about how the world works. Activities range from exploring motion, water, and the history of inventions.
The 12 exhibits are complemented by various touring exhibitions that have been a part of renowned museums and other science centers. Once you’re all done exploring, kick back and watch a show on the massive five-story domed screen. The largest of its kind on earth.
8. Watch the Vancouver Canucks
We all know Canada to be a hockey-mad country, so why not lean into the excitement and venture off to a local game? The Vancouver Canucks play in the NHL, which runs from October to April, and the home team averages just under 20,000 for each game.
Playing out of Rogers Arena, grab yourself a foam finger and root for the home team. Whether you know much about hockey or not, the noise of the crowd is sure to get you involved. Once the game is over, downtown Vancouver will be at your disposal.
We love doing walking tours when we first arrive in a city and one of the best ways to see Vancouver is to book this Guided City Highlights Tour.
After passing through the impressive Millenium Gate, you’ve officially arrived in Vancouver’s bustling Chinatown. This part of the city mixes modern development with many historic buildings from Vancouver’s early years. Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the largest in North America and is a top spot for cheap eats. The iconic Dim Sum at Floata Seafood Restaurant is a must-eat on any visit.
After eating a tad too much, explore the interesting local shops before making your way to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Created via traditional methods, with manicured gardens and beautiful streams, the gardens are a nod to the Ming Dynasty.
10. Grouse Mountain
Crossing over the Lions Gate Bridge, we take you to North Vancouver to enjoy Grouse Mountain. At any time of year, visiting Grouse Mountain is one of the best things to do in Vancouver. The view from the top provides unmatched scenery, with epic vistas of the city skyline in the valley below. You can take a scenic ride up the Gondola or tackle the Grouse Grind.
The infamous Grouse Grind, often described as Mother Nature’s StairMaster is one of the top hikes in Vancouver. Once at the top of Grouse Mountain, there are plenty of things to do from going ziplining, hiking, seeing the resident grizzly bears that were rescued as orphans 20 years ago, and taking in the spectacular views.
When the snow falls, Grouse Mountain becomes a winter paradise, with skiing, skating, and snowshoeing on offer. Because of ample beginner runs, it’s a magnificent spot for the family to go skiing.
Getting to the summit is simple thanks to the gondola that runs every day. After the scenic ride, hiking adventures await along with mountain-top restaurants. Ready to explore Vancouver’s nature? Read up on the best hikes to do in Vancouver.
11. Capilano Suspension Bridge
While visiting Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, it’s good to combine a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Having the moniker of Vancouver’s first tourist attraction may make visitors wonder if the Capilano Suspension Bridge is outdated. Yet the city’s suspension bridge, which opened in 1889, continues to wow and thrill those that walk across the Capilano River to this day.
The 70m footbridge connects two sides of a deep canyon with the Capilano River slicing through below. There are hiking trails and outdoor adventures waiting on the other side. The bridge sees a lot of visitors, so it’s one of those attractions that is well worth getting up early for.
Conveniently, you can catch a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge from downtown Vancouver. Once you’ve arrived, up the ante by experiencing the transparent Cliff Walk for an awesome thrill. Pick up this self-guided tour of the attraction that includes entry to the park.
12. Queen Elizabeth Park
From one park to another, Queen Elizabeth Park has a bit of everything. The center of the park known as Little Mountain is the highest point in the city. Queen Elizabeth Park is a great place to go for sunset and is one of the best places to see Vancouver’s Skyline. From here you can also see the snow-capped peaks to the north.
While Stanley Park is all about nature, Queen Elizabeth Park is fun-packed. Come here for mini and disk golf, tennis courts, and the Bloedel Conservatory. The latter features an illuminated geodesic dome. Also in the urban park is the Quarry Garden. The repurposed quarry comes with a spectacular entrance and is a wonderful place to walk on a clear day.
13. Commodore Ballroom
If you are looking for things to do in Vancouver at night, check out some music at Vancouver’s most historic live music venue. Located on Granville Street, The Commodore Ballroom has seen the likes of Kiss, B.B. King, David Bowie, and The Police grace its stage. Today it is still going strong and is one of the most influential venues in North America.
14. Whale Watching
Vancouver is a fun city to explore but it is even better on a boat tour. Beyond the city limits lies an incredible place to see migrating whales. Off the coastline of British Columbia, eager whale watchers keep their eyes peeled for gray and humpback whales.
The whale watching season begins in March as the temperatures begin to rise and last until October. You’ll discover plenty of ways to see these beautiful beasts, whether that be from a private dinghy, touring boat, or from above in a plane. Beyond whales, it’s common to spot orcas and minke on your journey.
Book this highly-rated half-day whale-watching tour from Vancouver. It offers easy cancellation within 24 hours of tour and last-minute bookings.
15. Vancouver Art Gallery
In downtown Vancouver, the city’s prominent art gallery is one of the top art institutions in Canada. One of the best things to do in Vancouver is to sign up for a guided tour of the Vancouver Art Gallery. It is a meeting place and hosts fun community events
On any day during the week, you can explore the innovative art space with the helping hand of an expert. Learn about the displays and the stories behind them. When you’re ready for a break, sit down at the on-site bistro patio before going out on your own. The Vancouver Art Gallery is next to Robson Square, a popular gathering place in the city center.
16. Vandusen Botanical Garden
An oasis in the heart of the city, VanDusen Botanical Garden, is a sight to behold. All told, the garden covers a massive 55 acres with a worldwide plant selection that adds to over 7000 plants.
The quiet setting is the perfect way to relax and escape from the oft-chaotic downtown Vancouver. Keep your camera handy as you explore the colorful gardens, art sculptures, unique architecture, and even a beguiling waterfall.
There are multiple restaurants on-site that offer anything from a relaxing coffee to a scrumptious midday meal. If you’re in Vancouver during the winter, stop by for the annual Festival of Lights.
Looking for more things to do in British Columbia? Read these articles for travel inspiration
17. Vancouver Maritime Museum
Although offering splendid views of English Bay, the inside of the Vancouver Maritime Museum is what guests remember the most. One of the top things to do in Vancouver is to explore the historic museum and learn seagoing tales that date back centuries.
The museum offers a diverse range of perspectives and takes a look at prominent explorations in the Pacific Northwest and the Arctic Oceans. Inside the stunning A-frame building is the beautiful RCP Vessel St Roch. Jump behind the wheel and feel what it would be like to helm the historic boat.
18. Vancouver Lookout
The Vancouver Lookout is a popular tourist attraction located in the city center on the top floor of the Harbour Centre building. The 360-degree observation deck stands at 168 meters (553 feet) offering spectacular views of Vancouver’s Skyline, The North Shore Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and English Bay.
Interactive exhibits: In addition to the observation deck, the Vancouver Lookout also features a range of interactive exhibits that educate visitors about the city’s history, culture, and landmarks. These exhibits include historical photographs, 3D models of the city, and multimedia displays.
Accessibility: The Vancouver Lookout is fully accessible to people with mobility issues, with elevators that provide access to the observation deck and exhibits. The attraction is also wheelchair-friendly, with wide doorways and accessible washrooms.
19. Lynn Canyon
Capilano Suspension Bridge may get all the plaudits, but it isn’t the only one of its kind in Vancouver. The Lynn Canyon suspension bridge is a local favorite, particularly as it avoids the tourist hordes and doesn’t cost a penny.
In the Lynn Valley, Lynn Canyon Park brings spectacular scenery that is sure to excite your inner explorer. Several forest trails lead you to remote swimming holes and natural waterfalls. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon the bridge, which connects to the other side over 50 hair-raising meters.
20. Museum of Anthropology
Note: The Museum of Anthropology is temporarily closed for most of 2023 for upgrades to ensure that the Indigenous collections are housed in this but visiting the grounds of UBC is still worth a visit. You can also visit its rose garden for stunning views of the mountains and ocean.
The Museum of Anthropology is a section of the University of British Columbia and has a keen focus on the Northwest Coast First Nations. Explore native art, large totem poles, and mosaics. Beyond local human history, the museum looks toward the South Pacific, Asia, Africa, and Europe. It all comes together inside an old World War II fort transformed into a cultural highlight.
21. Explore Gastown
As the city’s oldest district, Gastown is a must-visit on your travels to Vancouver. Gastown developed on the back of legendary John Deighton. The man was a griot, a throwback to past storytellers, and quickly gained the nickname, Gassy Jack. A statue of Deighton can now be found in Maple Tree Square.
Gastown offers an immense number of quality restaurants, interesting galleries, and local boutiques. All are placed within Victorian-era buildings.
Just a brief walk from Canada Place, Gastown is lined with cobblestone streets lit by classic lampposts. It’s a journey back in time, especially when the fog rolls in and the lamps shine through the clouds. You can book walking tours of Gastown like This highly rated lost souls of Gastown tour.
22. Kitsilano Beach
Vancouver has plenty of urban beaches and one way to soak up the sun when in Vancouver is with a trip to Kitsilano Beach. The local favorite is a laid-back location with dazzling city and mountain views. The spacious beach is popular on summer days when locals come to bake on the soft sands or have fun on the volleyball courts.
Jumping in the water isn’t so popular, but you’ll soon discover a heated outdoor pool. Once you’re done having a dip, dry off and enjoy the several walking trails through the green space, or kick back at a local cafe. You’ll also find yourself minutes from shopping on West Fourth Avenue.
23. Visit Wreck Beach
Wreck Beach has been famous for as long as I can remember. This clothing-optional beach located on the western tip of Vancouver has a wide expanse of sandy beaches and rocky sea cliffs. For those comfortable with the clothing-optional policy, it’s a great opportunity to shed your inhibitions. With regulars who have been visiting for years and are welcoming to new visitors. There’s a relaxed and friendly vibe, with people of all ages, backgrounds, and body types.
Wreck Beach also hosts a range of events and festivals throughout the year, including beach cleanups, art shows, and live music performances. These events can be a great way to connect with like-minded people and enjoy the beach in a festive atmosphere.