vancouver cactus club coal harbour

Weekend Guide to Vancouver: What to see, do & eat

If I had to pick just one city in Canada that everyone should visit at least once, it would be Vancouver. Conveniently situated on the Pacific coast, Vancouver is free from the harsh Canadian winter yet enjoys easy access to the Coast Mountains for some of the best skiing in North America, and the abundance of green space within the city centre makes it a summer hotspot, too. Here’s how you can make the most of a weekend in Vancouver, rain or shine.

One thing you must know about Vancouver before visiting is that it will cost you. The city is one of the most expensive in Canada, but its attractions are well worth the often hefty price tag. My advice is if you’re looking to do Vancouver on a budget, eat cheaper and shell out the money for adventure activities and attractions. They’re well worth it and make for great memories.

Friday

Vancouver’s transit system is among the best in Canada. You can count on buses, trains, and ferries to get you where you need to go right on time. Purchase a day pass for $9.75 to get you from the airport to your hotel, and take advantage of it to explore downtown and get your bearings. The city centre is easily walkable, so you likely won’t need a pass for the rest of your stay unless the weather is very poor. (In any event, do bring a rain jacket, umbrella, and water-resistant footwear to ensure the rain doesn’t hold you back.)

Granville Island

Once you’ve had a taste of downtown Vancouver, head to its most charming neighbourhood, Granville Island. Bus #50 to False Creek will take you within walking distance, or you can hop on a ferry for a quick ride across the inlet to this island escape. When you arrive, you’ll find a plentiful market of fresh produce, meat & cheese, sweets, and other locally made products. Grab lunch at the market, then head onto the deck to enjoy your meal with a gorgeous view of the marina. Be sure to check out the many boutiques on the island for unique souvenirs you won’t find elsewhere.

Cherries

These were from the USA, but if you come later in the summer, you might be lucky enough to try some famous BC cherries!

Fruit tarts

Count colours, not calories ;)

Bon Macaron

Macarons from Bon Macaron

Granville Harbour

Enjoy your lunch with stunning views of the harbour

Take a ferry back downtown and walk west along the waterfront. English Bay Beach is a popular place to soak up the sun.

Walk or take transit to Gastown, a National Historic Site and downtown Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood. Get your camera out, because you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the 19th century! The area is full of tourists and locals alike. Do some shopping, grab a coffee, or simply enjoy the vintage feel of Gastown. Stop at Nuba, an authentic Lebanese restaurant, for a gluten-free or vegan-friendly dinner. Le Petit Feast – hummus, baba ghanooj, taboulleh and pickles – is perfect for sharing!

Nuba appy

Le Petit Feast

Nuba falafel

Falafel

Nuba soup

Red lentil soup

If you’re into the party scene, end your first day in Vancouver at The Roxy, a nightclub situated in the heart of the entertainment district. The live music and diverse group of partygoers makes for a great time.

Saturday

It’s practically inevitable that you’ll run into some rain in Vancouver. Usually it’ll just be a drizzle, but in the off chance it pours rain, don’t worry! There’s still plenty to do when the weather’s not on your side.

You’d almost think you were in Paris with the number of crêpe places in Vancouver’s city centre. Grab one to go for breakfast or take a seat inside and dry off. Try a crêpe with maple syrup for a fusion of French and Canadian food culture.

Now, there are two possibilities for spending a rainy day in Vancouver as a tourist, depending on your style and budget: a) shopping or b) visiting indoor attractions. If you’re a shameless shopaholic, Vancouver will not disappoint. Be sure to check out Alberni Street for upscale shopping and Pacific Centre for an eclectic selection of stores. The Lululemon on Robson Street is a must for anyone looking to get his or her hands on some high-quality athletic gear from a local brand.

If route b) is more up your alley, pay a visit to the Museum of Vancouver. You can get there via False Creek Ferry or bus #22, #2, or #32. The museum features exhibitions on the history of Vancouver, including the relationship between the area’s first peoples and its settlers. If you’re travelling with children, Science World will keep the whole family entertained. Walk or take the SkyTrain to Main Street-Science World Station.

No trip to Vancouver would be complete without trying the sushi. With a large Japanese population and abundant fresh fish and seafood, Vancouver boasts an incredible sushi scene. While there are infinite sushi restaurants that will leave you satisfied, Jako Sushi is conveniently located on Davie & Granville and features several combos of 22 pieces for only $6.95. You can’t go wrong. The veggie options are delicious, too.

Jako Sushi Vancouver

22 pieces of yummy veggie sushi for only $6.95!

Work off the sushi with some more shopping or museum-going. Frankie’s Italian Kitchen & Bar in Yaletown is the perfect place for some warm comfort food after a dreary day. It’s also just around the corner from Vancouver’s sports district. Depending on the season, try to snag a ticket to a Canucks (hockey), Lions (football) or Whitecaps (soccer) game. The stadium has a retractable roof to keep you dry. Concerts at these venues are quite common throughout the year, too.

You can thank Vancouver’s large East Asian population for bringing the newest dessert trend to town: ice-fried yogurt. This delectable treat is basically frozen yogurt turned spread into a sheet on a pan much like those used to cook crêpes, only at freezing temperatures, then scraped into cylinders. Pick from one of On Yogurt’s menu items or create your own masterpiece by mixing in whichever toppings you fancy.

on yogurt Vancouver

Honey vanilla yogurt with blueberry and strawberry

Sunday

Spend your last day in Vancouver relishing in the beauty of the great outdoors within the big city. Grab a fresh pastry and a hot cup of coffee at Breka Bakery & Café, then make your way to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. A free shuttle will pick you up from one of several stops within the downtown core. Many hotels will offer a coupon, shaving about $3 off the $40 admission fee. Plan to spend about 2-3 hours walking across the suspension bridge, traversing the treetops, and taking a stroll on the cliffwalk. Each of these activities makes for a great photo op!

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Cliff Walk

Take the shuttle back downtown and get off at Westin Bayshore, the stop nearest Stanley Park. (Ask the driver if he can drop you off even closer.) Take a walk through Stanley Park, the largest urban park in North America. If you’d rather explore by bike, there are loads of bike rental shops in the area. You should be able to snag one for about $30/day. Walk or bike along the seawall, observe the diverse ecosystems, and take some photos at landmarks like Hollow Tree and Siwash Rock. Don’t miss the totem poles at Brockton Point! There are lots of places within the park to have lunch, too. Try the Teahouse for a spectacular view of English Bay.

Vancouver Stanley Park

Also in Stanley Park is the well-loved Vancouver Aquarium. Dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life, the Vancouver Aquarium features a wide variety of fish, mammals, and amphibians, including dolphins, otters, sharks, frogs and jellyfish. In each exhibit you’ll find the walls covered in valuable information about the species, including the dangers they face as a result of human contact and what you can do to help. Ask the staff any questions you may have – they are extremely knowledgeable! Plan to spend about 1.5-2 hours at the aquarium, and purchase your tickets ahead of time to beat the line.

Vancouver Aquarium

Finally, before making your way to the airport, enjoy a meal at Cactus Club Café in Coal Harbour. This local restaurant chain has grown astronomically in the last few years, and it’s no surprise why. Excellent service, a menu designed by celebrated Canadian chef Rob Feenie, and a relaxed atmosphere make Cactus Club a local favourite. The flagship location in Coal Harbour features a stunning waterfront view (the featured image of this post!) Try the famous peach Bellini and yam fries with dinner.

Cactus Club Cafe Vancouver
Vancouver has something for everyone: the outdoorsman, the history buff, the hippie. The city can be explored alone or as a family, on a budget or as a luxury vacation. While it is impossible to experience absolutely everything that Vancouver has to offer in just one weekend, the few days you spend there will have you itching to come back for more.

Weekend Guide to Vancouver: What to See, Do, and Eat

 

46 Comments

  1. Reply

    MariaAbroad

    June 20, 2016

    I love the suspension bridge. It looks so cool.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 20, 2016

      It’s awesome. Crowded, but worth a trip.

  2. Reply

    Naomi

    June 20, 2016

    I love your comment about counting colours not calories! It does seem like foodie paradise. Would love to explore.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 20, 2016

      I felt like I hardly scratched the surface! There are so many good eats to be found in Vancouver.

  3. Reply

    rachaeleandbtravel

    June 20, 2016

    Granville island is the BEST! and Stanley Prk is the best for “walking off” a big lunch! :)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Yes!! My thoughts exactly.

  4. Reply

    thesanetravel

    June 21, 2016

    I haven’t been in Canada yet. Your guide could be helpful if I would decide to go. Lots of nice places and tasty eats. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Thank you for reading! I hope you make it out to Canada soon.

  5. Reply

    RosiEscapes

    June 22, 2016

    i hope to visit Vancouver one day. i will keep suggestions in mind. nice pics

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      I hope you make it there :) Thank you!

  6. Reply

    Lisa Owen

    June 22, 2016

    Great introduction to Vancouver. Brings back good memories.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Thank you, Lisa!

  7. Reply

    shataratravel

    June 22, 2016

    I spent a summer living in Van and loved it!! Glad you mentioned the sushi! So many sushi deals all over town! We didn’t find it that expensive considering we were earning minimum wage while there- you’ve just gotta find the good deals!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Summer in Vancouver is gorgeous, isn’t it?! Good to know that you didn’t find it too expensive. I guess the food is reasonably priced; it’s just rent that’s unbelievably expensive if you want to live anywhere in downtown.

  8. Reply

    Chantell

    June 22, 2016

    Many of these are things that I would suggest too! My boyfriend and I lived in Vancouver for two months and got to explore quite a bit. The only thing that I would add is that, Lynn Valley is worth a look rather or in addition to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It has it’s own bridge and is free admission. Also great to see you mention the sushi – such good sushi in Van!!! :)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Oh, my friend told me about the Lynn Valley bridge! I think I’ll definitely look into that one for next time now that I’ve done all the “touristy” things in Vancouver. Yes, the sushi is simply amazing!

  9. Reply

    Stella the Travelerette

    June 23, 2016

    These are great tips! I agree that Vancouver is the must-visit city in Canada! I also went on the Capilano Suspension Bridge and visited the Aquarium and Granville Island. I didn’t eat any sushi though–too busy stuffing myself with Chinese food! Next time!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Vancouver, Stella! Oh boy, the Chinese food must be to die for as well, though I’ve never actually tried it.

  10. Reply

    Kerri

    June 23, 2016

    Loved reading this. I need to get to Vancouver and I am hoping to do that early next year so will be keeping this tagged. The food looks awesome.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      I’m glad the guide was helpful! Thanks so much for reading and enjoy your trip whenever you do make it to Vancouver :)

  11. Reply

    Nerdventurists

    June 23, 2016

    I’ve always heard such wonderful things about Vancouver. I hope I get there one day. Wonderful tips and your photos are gorgeous!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      I hope so, too! Thanks so much!

  12. Reply

    Brianne Miers

    June 23, 2016

    Thanks so much for sharing this helpful itinerary! I’ve never been to Vancouver, but it’s always interested me. It actually reminds me a bit of my hometown of Boston – you have easy access to both city amenities like restaurants & shopping, but can easily get out to enjoy the amazing natural surrounding (And ice-fried yogurt sounds interesting!).

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Thanks for reading, Brianne! I’ve never been to Boston but I would absolutely LOVE to. The city’s history fascinates me. I hope to do an East Coast US trip at some point.

  13. Reply

    Alex

    June 23, 2016

    I’ve always wanted to go to Vancouver! Now I know what to do. ????

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Glad I could help, Alex!

  14. Reply

    Ann

    June 23, 2016

    Vancouver is one of my favorite places in the world. Love you picks and don’t forget to try some poutine while your exploring.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Hahaha, unfortunately poutine is out of the picture because I am a vegetarian! But living in Canada, I’ve had my fair share ;)

  15. Reply

    Noreen Kompanik

    June 24, 2016

    We’ll be in Vancouver next month! This article was so helpful. Thanks!!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Excellent! Enjoy your trip :)

  16. Reply

    Amanda (@HotMamaTravel)

    June 24, 2016

    Great post. I’ve been wanting to visit Vancouver for awhile now and this post has really come in handy! Gastown sounds lovely!!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Hopefully you make it to Vancouver soon! It really is marvelous.

  17. Reply

    Cat

    June 24, 2016

    Reading your post makes me wanna fly back to Vancouver! So beautiful, especially in the summer!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Do it!! Agreed, the beauty is pretty pretty impressive for such a cosmopolitan city.

  18. Reply

    ckaway

    June 24, 2016

    Super intensive post. Love this and will certainly bookmark as I really want to get back to Vancouver.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Thank you! Glad to hear it.

  19. Reply

    Jordana Manchester

    June 24, 2016

    It’s interesting that you think our transit system is one of the best in Canada, we think it’s one of the worst! True enough, it’s definitely easy to navigate, just timely. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is fab, though Lynn Canyon is free and has way more hiking trails (including Rice Lake). Loved the bit about Granville Island – I just took a culinary tour there with Context Travel, worth every penny. If you’re here on a Friday night, hop the seabus over to the Shipyard Markets at the foot of Lonsdale – All the food trucks you can handle, live music, beer garden, and fantastic craft market :)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Really?! I find that so surprising! But I’m from Edmonton, so my standards for public transportation are preeeeetty low. I did hear about Lynn Canyon and I think I’ll definitely take a trip out there next time now that I’ve done all they typically touristy things in Vancouver. Thanks for the tip – that sounds amazing!

  20. Reply

    voyaging vanessa

    June 24, 2016

    What an excellent post!!! Thanks so much for sharing on facebook! I will definitely reach out to you with my Vancouver questions, if that’s ok :)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Of course, Vanessa! Feel free to reach out anytime :)

  21. Reply

    The Walking Map

    June 24, 2016

    I did the bridge (and got my rental car towed downtown) in 2002. The macarons and Lebanese food look great! I like how u get specific with how to get around the city.

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Oh, the joy of travel mishaps… haha, well, I hope you still enjoyed your trip!

  22. Reply

    Marie

    June 24, 2016

    Thank you for sharing. Great post! Unfortunately, as an East Coast American, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Vancouver. But from your pictures, it looks like an amazing city! I love that you can also easily get out to the outdoors while enjoying the city atmosphere :)

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 24, 2016

      Ahhh I’ve always wanted to see more of the East Coast of the US! I’ve been to New York but Boston is high on my list.

  23. Reply

    Jenny Far Away

    June 26, 2016

    It’s funny, I’m from Vancouver and a couple of weeks ago a friend came to visit and we did almost all these same things! Except the food was different, of course because there are SO many options (I recommend Bao Down for some awesome Asian fusion). Great guide to the biggest sights in Vancouver!

    • Reply

      Ivana Abroad

      June 27, 2016

      That’s awesome! I’m glad I did your lovely city justice. And thank you for the restaurant recommendation!

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