Vancouver is a real gem of a city in Canada’s British Columbia. The coastal metropolis is surrounded by a range of rugged mountains, though it is just as well known for its thriving arts and culture scene as it is for being a hub to the wilderness.
Vancouver is Canada’s most ethnically diverse city, and it’s a melting pot of diversity that
It’s the ideal combination between an exciting urban city and nature, and for that reason, it’s popular for a quick visit as well as people relocating for a lifestyle .
Whether you love travelling for arts, culture, food, nature or sport, we’ve made it easy to plan your trip by choosing the best of them! Vancouver is regularly voted as one of the most livable cities in the world, so check out our top list of things to do in Vancouver to find out why.
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5 Top Things To Do in Vancouver
We will dive into our full list of things to do in Vancouver, but before we do do, here are our five favourite activities
Ride your bike around Stanley Park Seawall
Explore the city by bike and visit the famous Studley Park Seawall.
Go Whale Watching
Catch a glimpse of the thousands of whales that migrate through the waters near Vancouver.
Have a cold beer at a craft brewery
Explore the many breweries and drink the best craft beer in Vancouver.
Hike the Grouse Grind
Attempt the steep climb of Grouse Grind and get bragging rights that you completed the trail and spend time in nature.
Learn about First Nations history and culture at UBC Museum of Anthropology
This exhibition of Indigenous artwork teaches us about the important cultural connection of First Nations people to the Vancouver area.
Grouse Mountain is one of the major mountains in North Vancouver, and it’s just a quick 15 minutes away from downtown.
The infamous Grouse Grind is a steep 2.7-meter climb that requires you to summon a lot of strength and stamina. The climb takes you up 850m over that time! It’s a tough trail, but when you make it to the top you can bask in the glory of saying you’ve done ‘The Grind’. Perhaps these bragging rights are what make it the most popular trail in Vancouver.
You can buy tickets for a Gondola ride back to the bottom after enjoying the scenery and cultural events that are on here regardless of the season. It’s a popular spot in both summer and winter. Even If the trek itself doesn’t appeal to you, a visit to Grouse Mountain is still one of the top things to do in Vancouver for the variety of activities you can enjoy up there.
2. Go to a Canucks Hockey Game
Canadians absolutely live for Ice Hockey. If you ask a Vancouverite, they will tell you you simply can’t visit Vancouver without checking out a Canucks game.
If you’re in town during the season between October and April, you can catch a Canucks home game at Rogers Arena and enjoy the atmosphere with 18,000 other fans. The stadium is in the centre of the action right by Chinatown and Gastown. Tickets usually sell out though, so make sure you get your tickets in advance. It’s gotta be one of the most exciting things to do in Vancouver.
Fun fact: a “Canuck” is a nickname for a Canadian person. It has been used with negative implications, though these days it’s a term worn with pride, especially for those who follow Vancouver’s favourite ice hockey team.
3. Learn about First Nations history and culture at UBC Museum of Anthropology
The award winning architecture at the UBC Museum of Anthropology is reason enough to pay this place a visit. The Canadian architect Arthur Erickson designed the building that overlooks the Burrard Inlet on the University of British Columbia. It is magnificent, to say the least.
The main attraction here, however, is the exceptional exhibition titled “In a Different Light”.
This ongoing collection features over 100 artworks from North West Coast First Nations people. Some of these artefacts and pieces were long removed from the community and the damaging effects of colonisation on these cultures means their stories and importance were overlooked and lost.
This is a collection of both ancient and contemporary artwork and explores what we can learn from First Nations peoples’ relationships to their lands.
A visit here is definitely one of the most important things to do in Vancouver to really get an understanding of how deeply significant and entwined their culture is and how we can benefit from this knowledge today. It’s certainly an activity to add to your Vancouver itinerary.
- Entrance: starts at $13
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
- Address: 6393 NW Marine Drive Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2
What better spot to take the bike for a spin than the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path? Not only does Stanley Park have 28kms of prime cycle path, it also has beaches, forest trails, Indigenous village sites and rose gardens. No wonder it’s so popular with locals and tourists.
The Stanley Park Greenway, which includes the Greenwall itself, runs from Vancouver Convention Centre to Spanish Banks Park.
It’s divided into two sections – one for cyclists and roller skaters and the other for walkers and runners. Be sure to stick to your lane, particularly on sunny days and holidays when it gets busy.
If you’re lucky you might even spot Pacific dolphins and sea lions while you’re out exploring the trail!
Canada is known for excellent craft beer, and Vancouver has no shortage of great places to get a cold one.
The craft beer scene in Vancouver has been on the up since the mid-2000s, and this huge growth has resulted in over 120 breweries in the British Columbia province. There’s a lot to choose from!
If that number is too overwhelming to attempt choosing, dedicated brewery tours will show you your beer experts’ top picks in Vancouver.
If you plan to go at it alone, we recommend exploring the city by each brewery area (East Vancouver, Mount Pleasant and North Vancouver) and get to know the city one beer at a time.
Vancouver is known as one of the best spots in the world for whale watching.
From March to October every year, thousands of whales migrate through the waters near Vancouver. A variety of whales pass through these waterways, including humpback whales, orcas/killer whales, gray whales and minke whales.
While a day trip from Vancouver like this isn’t always on the budget side for backpackers, if you can, it’s worth forking out the cash. Seeing whales in the wild is a magical experience and an amazing thing to do in Vancouver.
You won’t just see whales if you get out on a boat. The coastal area of British Columbia is packed with other incredible wildlife including dolphins, sea lions and many species of birds. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready, we guarantee you’ll be blown away.
If getting on the boat is out of your budget, some have some luck looking through telescopes in the Long Beach area.
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7. Watch the sunset at English Bay beach.
You’ll find English Bay at the southern part of Vancouver’s West End. Watching the sunset from here is a top-rated thing to do in Vancouver, though don’t let that be the only thing that brings you to this spot.
In the summer months, it’s the place to be if you want to go for a dip, bask in the sun or even play beach volleyball. You can even hire kayaks and paddleboards.
The famous Vancouver seawall links up to the park through a number of paved walking and biking trails that connect these attractions together.
The West End neighbourhood in Vancouver is an exciting and busy area of the city. Be sure to check out Denman Street for some food and drinks while you’re in the area for the spectacular sunset!
8. Visit Wreck Beach
Wreck beach is a 7.8 kilometer stretch of beach that was Canada’s first nudist beach! It’s actually North America’s largest nudist beach too, so it’s a great place to go if you want to get your kit off in nature. Afterall, many nudists believe that being nude in natural spaces is one of the best ways to really appreciate the uncensored natural beauty.
You don’t have to take your clothes off here, but of course it is expected that you’ll respect everyone at the beach whether they are clothed or not.
Here you’ll also find street vendors selling everything from food and drinks to jewelry and haircuts. During the summer, there are often large events here including the Bare Buns Run which is a five kilometre fun run along the beach. The west-facing beach is known as being a great spot to catch the sunset. It’s definitely a unique thing to do in Vancouver!
It only takes 15 minutes by car to get here from Vancouver or you can take the Line 099 bus from downtown.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver. The bridge is only 15 minutes away from downtown Vancouver, and when you get there you’ll be surrounded by Douglas fir trees and the exceptional beauty of BC.
If you’re inclined to vertigo, perhaps this activity isn’t for you. A walk around the suspension bridge will show off panoramic views 70m above the Capilano River and the thriving forest and canyons below.
As well as jaw-dropping nature views, there is plenty of history to learn at the information centre. The early history of the bridge itself is documented as well as stories from the First Nations people of Vancouver, sharing the connection of their culture and the natural world.
10. Go for a run in Pacific Spirit National Park
Vancouver is known for how it combines metropolitan life with sports and nature.
There are many great places to go for a run, and with 874 hectares of forest with trails, Pacific Spirit National Park is the perfect option. What better place to stretch your legs than a pristine forest?
At Pacific Spirit you’ll find over 73km of trails here that cover different kinds of terrain. Keep in mind many of the trails are multi-use and are open to cyclists, horses and people with dogs both on and off leads. Check before you go so you know who you’ll be sharing the path with.
11. Eat a Japadog
The Asian communities that call Vancouver home have had a large influence on the city’s food culture and fusion cuisine.
Enter Japadog, a chain of hotdog stands with a Japanese twist. The chain of food stands was established in 2005 by a Japanese couple who moved to the city and has been a fad unique to Vancouver ever since.
Here you can add traditional Japanese ingredients such as bonito flakes, miso and terimayo sauce on top of a hot-diggity-dog. They even have vegan options, so plant-based folk don’t need to miss out! Need we do more to convince you?
12. Kayak or Hike to Quarry Rock
For those who love nature, this is a great outdoorsy thing to do in Vancouver. Quarry Rock is a rock formation in the Vancouver North Shore that has amazing views over the Indian Arm and the mountains of Belcarra.
It’s only 30 mins from the city and is very popular with people who love hiking and kayaking.
A hike to Quarry Rock takes you through the dense woodlands with Douglas fir trees and mountain streams before you get the views from Quarry Rock. This hike is accessible for most, at 3.8km and 1.5 hours return. If you want to explore for longer, the area has many more hiking trails.
There are plenty of agencies in Deep Cove who hire out gear if you’re keen to get out the water in a Kayak.
If you’re in the area, it would be a crime to skip the delicious donuts at Honeys in Deep Cove.
13. Go cross country skiing at cypress mountain
Cypress Mountain is Canada’s most popular area for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s on the city’s doorstep at just 30 minutes drive from downtown.
Here you’ll find appropriate terrain for skiers and trekkers of all experience levels, including places you can hire and take a class if you feel you need some pointers.
A huge bonus is the 7.5km of trails lit for night skiing, which is popular for those with a busy schedule, including workers in Vancouver who often pop up for a ski after work. You can also go tobogganing here which is always a hit!
Cypress Mountain is still worth a visit outside the summer months, with many people going up there for viewing nature, including the infamous grizzly bears, bird watching and hiking.
Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood and is right next to downtown. Named after Jack “Gassy” Deighton, a pilot and bar owner who was known to talk or “to gas” a lot, the neighbourhood has a lot of fascinating history. Another major drawcard is the diverse range of food representing the multicultural communities of Vancouver.
Guided food tours run here in Gastown show off the neighbourhoods’ favourite eateries as well as let you in on some of their best-kept secrets.
In just a few hours of wandering through the cobbled streets of Gastown you’ll get to taste food from all over including Japan, Italy, France and the deep south of the US, all with a unique Vancouver twist of course.
Other highlights of the area are the historic steam clock and Gassy Jack’s statue, which depicts the namesake of the neighbourhood!
15. Spend your Friday night at the Shipyard Night Market
The place to be every Friday night from May through September is the Shipyards Night Market. The Shipyard hosts more than 35 different food truck and has a beer garden, live music, artisan vendors and more.
This popular summer event is great fun and appropriate for families, including those who want to bring their dogs along for the night.
It’s easy to get here and the journey is a unique thing to do in Vancouver itself. Catch a Seabus from downtown to the Shipyards next to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.
16.Get some bargains at Eastside Flea Market
The Eastside Flea Market is a bi-weekly community market packed to the brim with vintage clothing, antiques, plants, collectables and other local handmade goodies.
Here they provide a contemporary and trendy environment for you to shop for vintage goodies. They’ve also got a bunch of food trucks and outdoor seating when the weather is sunny, making it the perfect thing to do in Vancouver to support local creatives and buy unique things.
Like many of the greatest spots in Vancouver, dogs are welcome here!
This event is held at Eastside Studios, which is a community arts and culture event space that is home to over 20 creative studios when the market isn’t running.
17. Visit Granville Island market for some fresh goodies
This former manufacturing hub is now a thriving artists community with a brewery and public market. The Granville Island Market opens everyday from 9:00 to 18:00, and it’s a great spot to stock up on fresh, organic produce, treats and other handmade goodies.
It’s not actually located on an Island, but a small peninsula just over the bridge from Vancouver’s downtown. It’s a trendy place to hang out and people watch, sipping on a coffee and listening to talented buskers while taking in the picturesque waterside view.
It’s easy to get here by car, bus or bike. The Aquabus is our top option if you want to arrive by water (we recommend trying this at least once in Vancouver), and if you have your own boat (or yacht), there’s even exclusive parking for that too.
18. Go drinking in a hidden bar
Most of the top things to do in Vancouver have something to do with the stunning natural beauty of the area, but some great things are hidden from plain sight and a little harder to discover.
If you’re a fan of hidden bars and quirky things to do at night, Vancouver has its fair share.
If you can find it, the Narrow Lounge is a good choice. Look out for a small red light above a doorway while you walk down Vancouver’s Main Street. After you go down a graffiti-covered passageway, you’ll find yourself in a dark basement surrounded by other people who know about this excellent cocktail spot.
Make your way to the Prohibition at the Rosewood Hotel if you’re feeling indulgent. A visit here will take you back in time to the roaring ’20s with decadent velvet lounges, jazzy tunes and their absinth fountain. The drinks are seriously good too.
As a coastal city that is surrounded by mountains, the views to admire in Vancouver aren’t in short supply. The Vancouver Lookout offers panoramic views of the city and beyond.
The building is shaped like a UFO which is a prominent feature of the city skyline, and the observation deck sits 169m above downtown Vancouver.
You get to the deck in a glass elevator, which is an experience in itself, and once you’re up you get a unique view over the neighbourhoods including Gastown, North Vancouver, Coal Harbour and out into the nature that surrounds the city.
This is a great thing to do in Vancouver to really get a feel for how the city integrates its natural surroundings with its bustling urban spaces.
20. Ski and snowboard in the mountains close to the city.
In 2010 Vancouver hosted the Olympic Winter Games. If the slopes are good enough for the world’s best athletes, you bet they are worth a look for the rest of us.
During the winter months, the North Shore mountains surrounding the city are a haven for lovers of winter sports, some Vancouverites are so keen they will even make the trip after work to get a snow fix.
There are awesome spots located just 15 minutes drive from downtown. In North Vancouver, there are Seymoure and Grouse Mountain, which both offer runs of all levels including some family-friendly spots. Grouse Mountain alone has 15 different runs that are open and well-lit until 22:00..
If you’re around in the winter months, going skiing or snowboarding is an unmissable thing to do in Vancouver.
21. Get lost in the maze at Vandusen Botanical Garden.
The Vandusen Botanical Gardens is a great spot to visit for garden lovers and appreciators of natural beauty.
The Elizabethan hedge maze at the Vandusen Botanical Gardens is an exciting attraction in the 22 acres of tranquil gardens. Have fun and get yourself lost in the maze, or take the less adventurous but equally scenic option of seeing it from above at the observation deck.
Make a day out of your trip to the gardens and choose from the many picturesque spots to enjoy a picnic.
22. Check out Chinatown
The historical Chinatown of Vancouver has been around since the 1890s when a wave of migration from China brought people to the area to work in the mines and on the Trans-Canada railway.
It’s the third-largest Chinatown in North America, behind New York and San Francisco, so you’ll find plenty of things to do and see.
It’s a place you can expect to see authentic Asian bakeries and dim sum restaurants across the street from trendy cocktail bars and a vintage clothing store. There’s even a shrine to music legend Jimi Hendrix built on the site of Vie’s Chicken and Steak House where his grandmother worked and Jimi was said to frequent.
Take a stroll through the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, eat dim sum and wander the streets of the commercial district to experience the vibrant neighbourhood
23. Take a trip to the Sunshine Coast
Only 45 minutes on the ferry and you can be in the Sunshine Coast, a beautiful coastal town with a laid-back hippy vibe. This is a unique spot, because it is only accessible by boat or seaplane, as no roads have been built to connect the area from the rest of the province.
The area is known for its friendly locals, farmers’ markets, lakes, beaches and flourishing wildlife. It is home to more artists per capita than any other region in Canada. Studios that display a purple flag out the front are open to visitors where you can see work including pottery, glass blowing and painting.
There are many beautiful day trips and weekender spots around Vancouver, but the Sunshine Coast is really remarkable. The best towns to check out around here are Sechelt, Gibsons and Roberts Creek.
Where to Stay
Gastown is Vancouver’s most historic neighbourhood and it’s conveniently located right next to downtown and Chinatown. We think this makes it the best area to stay in Vancouver. The cobblestone streets and architecture provide a scenic backdrop for exploring, and it’s also close and convenient to travel to some of the best attractions in Vancouver.
These are the best things you can do in Gastown or closeby to the neighbourhood:
- Watch a Canucks Ice Hockey Game at Rogers Arena
- Eat delicious food at the trendy restaurants in the area
- Visit Chinatown
Best Airbnb in Vancouver – Private & Luxurious Vintage Yacht
Have you ever slept in a yacht? In Vancouver you can. This luxurious vintage yacht from 1959 is located on the water in a central location near Chinatown and Yaletown. Here you’ll get rocked to sleep by the gentle sway of the water and take in the beautiful city skyline from the water. It’s definitely a fun and unique place to stay in Vancouver.
Best Hostel in Vancouver – Cambie Hostel – Gastown
Located in the heart of historic Gastown is the Cambie Hostel. It’s walking distance from many of the top things to do in Vancouver, including great restaurants, nightlife and public transport options. Their staff here are super helpful at helping you plan your stay in the city, and the resident hostel cat Oreo has been known to steal a few hearts from travellers all around the world.
Best Hotel in Vancouver – Coast Coal Harbour Vancouver Hotel
Located in the heart of downtown with a rooftop pool and gym, Coast Coal Harbour Vancouver Hotel is a great value hotel for those who like to stay in the centre of the action and enjoy a little luxury too.
It’s close by to the city’s best spots, including Stanley Park, Coal Harbour and great restaurants and bars. The rooms give guests views over the city skyline and to the mountains surrounding Vancouver.
Additional Tips for Visiting Vancouver:
- Invest in travel insurance! You never know what may happen on the road.
- Pack a raincoat or umbrella. Vancouver is infamously wet, and usually sees more than 150 days of rain each year.
- Remember to protect the planet while you’re exploring. The least you can do is pack a drink bottle and reusable bad! Avoid buying unnecessary plastic, like small water bottles and plastic straws.
- Bring a good water bottle with you and avoid buying single-use plastic ones!
- If you’re in doubt, ask! Vancouverites and Canadians, in general, are typically friendly, helpful, and kind people and don’t mind answering questions if you’re lost or need directions.
- Find cheap flights. Every once in a while, a killer deal pops up.
- Visit any time of the year! While summertime is often considered the most beautiful season to visit Vancouver, in the winter you’ll get to enjoy the snow season and cheaper rates than peak season. You could even consider taking a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary after exploring the city.
- Consider hiring a car if you want to explore outside the city. Downtown Vancouver has great public transport (including the Aquabus), though a car will give you a lot more freedom to visit the stunning spots outside the city with ease.
FAQ on Things to Do in Vancouver
Here are some quick answers to common questions about what to do and see in Vancouver.
Maybe it’s the majestic mountains, the sparkling seaside or the bustle and excitement of downtown that calls you to discover Vancouver. We don’t just say this to be cliche, but it’s a place that has something for everyone. Whether you’re relocating to this great urban city or using it as a launching pad to discover the renowned beauty of British Columbia, we hope you’ll get yourself to Vancouver ASAP and discover its magic.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our picks of the best things to do in Vancouver – no doubt, the city will steal your heart.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!