With a showstopping location between the ocean and mountains, ample public transit options, and some of the best restaurants in Canada, there is a reason Vancouver tops many of the most prestigious ‘best cities in the world’ lists.
Don’t be fooled by its laid-back attitude: Vancouver has some of the best culinary and nightlife culture in the country.
Since Vancouver is such a dynamic city, your best bet is to prioritize what you want to do on your visit. Outdoor adventures, shopping, dining, urban exploring, or sightseeing can each provide at least a week’s worth of activity. To better help you plan your trip, check out some of our favourite places to stay, things to do and places to eat in the #FWGUIDE below.
Where To Stay
Gastown, Downtown and Kitsilano are all vibrant community-driven neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Each offers incredible restaurants, shopping, parks and bars.
Gastown – Gastown is a historic district in Vancouver, complete with cobblestone streets and original facades. The area is rough around the edges but paradoxically home to some of the best restaurants and shops in the city. Want to stay close to all the action? Check out the L’Hermitage Hotel located a short cab or walk to Gastown.
Kitsilano – Kitsilano encapsulates what people think of when imagining Vancouver’s West Coast lifestyle: gorgeous beaches, boutique outdoor shopping, coffee shops, and sushi. If you’d prefer to remain a touch removed from the urban core while fully absorbing the mountain and ocean views, opt for this neighbourhood. If you’re looking for somewhere cost-effective check out the HI-Vancouver Jericho Beach hostel. Want something a little more cozy? Why not try one of the many bed and breakfasts in the area.
Downtown – If you want to be right in the mix you should stay in the downtown core. Here you will find department store shopping, high-end restaurants and popular nightclubs all at your front door. If you are looking for a boutique hotel try The Burrard. If you want something more glamorous, try The Fairmont Pacific Rim. On more of a shoestring budget? Check out HI-Vancouver Central hostel.
Where To Eat
Vancouver is the epicentre for fresh local cuisine with a fusion twist. Come to this city to experience fresh flavours crafted in a way you have never experienced. From Japanese-Italian to Canadiana fare, Vancouver has something for every palate.
Chambar – This might just be considered the breakfast of all breakfasts in Vancouver. Chambar, which was once connected to Medina Cafe (also very very good), still has a similar menu but sees less of a line on the weekends, so your chances of getting in on a Saturday are a little better (still we suggest you get there around 8 am when they open). You gotta try: Start your meal off with a lavender latte and a waffle with one or two of their dipping sauces. We love the dark chocolate and the berry compote.
Nelson The Seagull – Just two blocks off the main strip of Gastown lays Nelson The Seagull. This hidden gem features fresh-made bread and pour-over coffee and an eclectic collection of vintage furniture, all which attracts Vancouver’s finest freelancers. You gotta try: The avocado toast and their house-made almond milk in a latte.
Belgard Kitchen – A comfy eatery serving warm plates of creative local food, brunch and house-crafted beer and wine. You gotta try: The breakfast wrap with a side of Belgard bacon and a spicy beer caesar.
Tacofino – If you love west coast-inspired Mexican bites and aesthetically pleasing interior design, then this is your spot. With several locations, Tacofino has everything from fresh fish tacos to unique vegetarian tostadas to tasty burritos. The menu is different at each location, so you can get something new each time you visit. You gotta try: The albacore tuna taco, which features soy, sesame, salsa fresca, wakame, ginger, and a wasabi mayo that packs a serious punch.
Meat and Bread – The name says it all. This lunch spot is the go-to for a good fresh sandwich and a delicious selection of sides. You gotta try: Any of their specials, which change daily, so don’t feel bad when you go back the next day for seconds.
Downtown Food Trucks – Food trucks are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to try Vancouver’s myriad cuisines. Our favourite carts are JAPADOG, Vij’s Railway Express and The Reef Runner. Find out where the food carts are parked with the Street Food App. You gotta try: JAPADOG’s signature hot dog, the Terimayo, which has teriyaki sauce, mayo, and nori seaweed.
Bao Bei – A modern take on Chinese food. Ask the server for recommendations as this sharing plate-style restaurant has some of the most unique dishes you will find in Vancouver. You gotta try: Chinese pickles, pork and prawn wontons, beef tartare, and mantou dumplings alongside a chino margarita or two.
Guu Garlic – Great high-end Japanese izakaya restaurant with some of the best fresh sashimi. Come here with a group and share everything. You gotta try: The deep-fried brie, tuna tataki and one of their unique cocktails.
Kissa Tanto – New to the scene is Kissa Tanto, a restaurant that features Italian-Japanese cuisine and cocktails, served in a chic space that was inspired by 1960s Tokyo jazz cafes. You really feel like you are in the ’60s when you step into this restaurant, and that journey continues through dinner as you enjoy food from the best new restaurant in Canada. You gotta try: The octopus salad and the house-baked bread with nori butter.
What To Do
If you are looking for outdoor activities, Vancouver is the place to be. From biking the seawall to open-air shopping to hiking the mountains there is something to do for everyone.
The Seawall – Vancouver has the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path that runs right around iconic Stanley Park and beyond. You can’t go to Vancouver without biking, walking or running the seawall. Not only is it extremely beautiful, the 28-km Seaside Greenway offers a great view of the city. Stop along the way to check out traditional totem poles and beaches like the popular Third Beach. Want someone to show you around? Check out Cycle Vancouver city tours.
Quarry Rock – Drive over the Lion’s Gate bridge to beautiful Deep Cove. This neighbourhood is filled with cute shops, great coffee and a popular hike that ventures through the forest to an amazing lookout on top of Quarry Rock. Wear running shoes and be ready to navigate some rocks/roots as you hike through the beautiful temperate rainforest.
Shop Gastown – Curated perfection is one way to describe Gastown shopping. With thought-leading stores like Haven, Neighbour, Stussy, Roden Gray, One of a Few and Old Faithful Shop, Gastown is a great way to explore the fashion and lifestyle scene in Vancouver.
Catch a Vancouver Whitecaps FC Game – You can’t come to Vancouver without experiencing a Whitecaps FC game. Head to the stadium early and watch the Southsiders march down the streets by the hundreds towards Terry Fox Plaza and the BC Place Stadium. Want to sit with this rowdy crew? Be sure to purchase your ticket in the 249–254 section to get the full experience.
Hike the Grouse Grind – If you like hiking and epic views, look no further than the Grouse Grind. This cardio-heavy hike goes from the base of Grouse Mountain right to the top where you can grab some water and a bite at the café. Best of all you get to take the tram back down.
Paddle in False Creek – Want to do something memorable and unique to Vancouver? Head on down to the Ecomarine Paddlesports Centre and rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board for the day. When you are done, you can go grab a bite and explore the Granville Island Public Market.
Go on a photo walk – Are you a photography lover? Or just want to learn more about photography while exploring a new city? This tour is for you. Join professional photographers as they show you Vancouver from a new perspective and help you better use your camera to capture the beauty of the city.
Where To Party
Looking for handcrafted cocktails, nightclubs, or classic pubs? Look no further than Vancouver. This city has much more to offer than just the outdoors and will satisfy any type of night owl in your group.
Craft Beer Market Restaurant & Bar – Come for the beer, stay for the food and the awesome atmosphere. This spot is one of the many new establishments forming a new ‘brewery district’ in Vancouver. You gotta try: The fish tacos and the yam fries followed up by one of their many beers on tap.
The Bimini Public House – Want to go for a drink after a day at Kits beach? The Bimini is your spot. Come here for “just one” and stay for the night as this public house turns into the place to be at night in Kits. You gotta try: Their large selection of beers on tap.
Clough Club – Step off the busy streets into a calm oasis of live music and well-crafted cocktails. You gotta try: Visit the hidden backroom on the weekends to experience a totally different bar.
The Diamond – A great place to go after dinner at Mezcal to socialize, dance, and meet new people. It’s a local secret with a secret backroom. You gotta try: The 12-minute Old Fashioned. And don’t worry… they give you a beer while you wait for them to craft your cocktail.
Celebrities Nightclub – This after-dark spot is for everyone who loves good music and dancing. As the LGBTQ institution of Vancouver, this space has an elaborate light show and heavy-hitting DJs to ensure you are dancing the night away any day of the week. You gotta try: Going out on a Tuesday: it’s one of the best nights.
Fortune Sound Club – Located in Chinatown, Fortune Sound Club is a hot spot that’s off the beaten path. Boasting one of the best sound systems in Canada, Fortune is the spot to see live shows and have a wild night of dancing. This club sees every type of person from hip hop enthusiasts to fashionistas. One of our favourite nights is #HappyEndingFridays. You gotta try: There are three hidden rooms that play completely different music: try and see if you can find them.
The Fox Cabaret – This space is a two-floor venue and nightclub in the heart of Mount Pleasant. Hosting weekly events and live shows, it’s the place for artsy types to go dancing on Saturdays. You gotta try: Make sure you sneak up to the projection room to get a different taste of music and hand-crafted cocktails.
Take the Canada Line into downtown from the airport – there’s no need to rent a car.
Look out for happy hours around the city from 3 pm to 6 pm daily.
Get around faster by grabbing a bike from the Mobi bike share; it’s only $7.50 for a day pass.
Entry to the Vancouver Art Gallery is by donation on Tuesdays from 5-9 pm.
Dress in layers: the weather can change quickly throughout the day.
For the best deals and fewer crowds, hit popular restaurants at lunch rather than dinner.
With Vancouver’s mild climate, spring and fall are good times to visit. It’s not as busy as summer and you are more likely to find deals.