Your Trip to Vancouver: The Complete Guide

•••

James O'Neil/Getty Images

Two hours away from world-class ski resort Whistler / Blackcomb and perched on the Pacific Ocean coast, the city holds appeal for soft to extreme adventure lovers.

Vancouver is surrounded both by water and mountains and its proximity to nature gives residents a love of the environment and a laid back charm and friendliness. And although Birkenstocks are more the norm than Manolos, this cosmopolitan city also has upscale shopping, fabulous restaurants and a happening nightlife.

Vancouver is on the south west coast of British Columbia, Canada's most westerly province. It is about a three-hour drive from Seattle Washington.

The City of Vancouver is one of more than 20 municipalities that makes up Greater Vancouver and sits on the edge of the Strait of Georgia, which separates it from Vancouver Island - home to the provincial capital of Victoria.

Vancouver's location is beautiful as it is surrounded by water and tucked into the slopes of the BC Coast Mountain Range.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: Vancouver is the Canadian city with the best climate and the worst weather according to writer Allan Fotheringham. Mild and wet in winter, there's no bad time to visit Vancouver but the springtime brings cherry blossoms and the summer is typically high travel season in Vancouver; hotel rates and flights will be more expensive at this time of year. But the extra cost does assure you of better weather (generally speaking, August is the least rainy month). Whilst summer has plenty of festivals, including the incredibly popular Honda Celebration of Light fireworks display, there's always something amazing happening in Vancouver — from fall foliage to winter snow sports or springtime whale watching.

 

Language: English, French.

Currency: Canadian Dollars are the official currency but US Dollars are also widely accepted, especially in the tourist shops of Gastown near the cruise terminal at Canada Place.

Getting Around: Vancouver's transit system TransLink is affordable and reliable, with an extensive system of buses, ferries, and Skytrain lines. Monthly, weekly, and daily passes are available and 90-minute passes can be bought onboard transit with exact change ($2.95 for adults). Use contactless Visa or buy a Compass pass for $6 from 711s and London Drugs; it can be loaded with money to use during your visit.

Travel Tip: Vancouver is an outdoorsy city so be sure to bring your active wear to get out on adventures. It's also a casual city so there's no need to waste luggage space by bringing fancy clothes.

Things to Do

Vancouver is famous for its beautiful surroundings, from the sandy beaches of English Bay, Kitsilano and Wreck Beach to the extensive forest and lakes of Stanley Park and the snow-sprinkled mountains of the North Shore there are plenty of outdoor adventures from hiking and biking to kayaking and sailing.

Stanley Park is one of the city's top attractions and for good reason. With 10km (six miles) of Seawall around the perimeter of the park, it's the perfect place to take a stroll or bike ride and see all the scenery, from Lions Gate Bridge to Point Grey. Visit Vancouver Aquarium or take a horse and carriage ride to explore the park.

Canada Place is home to Vancouver's cruise terminal but it also has the incredible FlyOver Canada attraction and the seaplane terminal. Visit one of the waterside restaurants to watch the planes take off, with a stunning backdrop of Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains.

Granville Island Market is a popular place to visit, thanks to the colorful produce stalls, delicious eating establishments and variety of artisan shops.

Explore more attractions with our guide to the Best Things to Do in Vancouver and the Top 20 Things to Do in Downtown Vancouver.

What to Eat & Drink

Vancouver is a foodie paradise and here you'll find everything from hole-in-the-wall sushi joints to award-winning fine dining. The cuisine is varied but fans of Asian food such as sushi and ramen will be blown away by the selection on Robson Street and in Richmond. Fusion food such as West Coast meets Asian is a popular combination and fresh seafood can be found on most menus. Look out for Vancouver Aquarium's Oceanwise logo, which is a sign of sustainable seafood.

The city also has its share of cocktail bars, from Tiki-themed ones at The Waldorf and Shameful Tiki Room to Chinese apothecary inspired bars (The Keefer) and high-end hotel bars.

Where to Stay

Vancouver has a lot of options when it comes to accommodations. There are luxury hotels, romantic hotels, budget hotels, hostels, and AirBnB rentals (including apartments and houses).

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is an elegant, historic favorite. The Listel Hotel is a smaller, art-infused downtown hotel with many perks, and the Sandman Hotel is a perfectly acceptable less-expensive alternative. Downtown and the West End are the most desirable places to stay as they are safe, central and on the main tourist tour routes.

Whether you're traveling with family, friends or a romantic partner, use these guides to find the perfect accommodations for your next trip:

Getting There

By Air: The Vancouver Int'l Airport (YVR) is 25 min by car to downtown. Airport bus service is frequent and the Canada Line Skytrain travels between downtown and YVR. Seattle, WA, airport is a three-hourr drive.

By Train: Rocky Mountaineer Tours go through the Rockies between BC and Alberta. ​Amtrak Cascades travels between Seattle and Vancouver. Check ​VIA Rail.

By Bus: Greyhound Lines serves Vancouver from numerous cities in the US and Canada.

By Water: Clipper Ferry and ​BC Ferries sail between Seattle and Vancouver via Victoria.

By Car: Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway, reaches Vancouver from points east. If driving, allow 12 hours from Calgary and five days from Montreal. Vancouver is three hours north of Seattle. Take Interstate 5, which becomes Highway 99 at the U.S.-Canada border.

Money Saving Tips

  • Vancouver Art Gallery is open by donation (suggested $10+) on Tuesday evenings between 5-9 pm.
  • Stanley Park is free to visit and can be explored via foot, bike, rollerblades or even a horse-drawn carriage ride.
  • Vancouver's Tickets Tonight website offers discounts on tickets for arts, sports, attractions, and music events around the city.
Was this page helpful?