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Capilano Suspension Bridge
Photograph: Flickr haRee

The best Vancouver attractions

The best attractions in Vancouver help you appreciate the great beauty and long history of this coastal city

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
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Western Canada’s largest metropolis is an ideal choice for couples and families with different interests: Some people might have lung-busting hikes at Grouse Mountain and Stanley Park at the top of their bucket list, while others are more content spending time at beloved cultural institutions like the top museums in Vancouver or unloading their wallet by doing some Vancouver shopping. Whatever strikes your fancy, we know you’ll find plenty to see and do by consulting our list of the best attractions in Vancouver. After all that fun, you'll surely work up an appetite for some of the top Vancouver restaurants

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Vancouver

Best Vancouver attractions

This must-see park offers 1,000 acres of active pursuits, with beaches, an aquarium, playgrounds, a pool and splash park, botanical gardens, a golf course, 17 tennis courts, and more. Try biking the exterior Seawall or venture inside to get lost amongst ferns and centuries-old cedars on 40 miles of trails. Keep an eye out for beavers, raccoons, great blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes, and sometimes even whales.

Overhauled in the 1970s, this former industrial site—technically a peninsula rather than an island—is now a thriving destination with plenty to explore. Take an Aquabus to the island and spend an afternoon checking out restaurants, artist studios and galleries. The highlight is one of Canada’s most beloved culinary destinations, the Granville Island Public Market, which features confections, cheeses, breads, meats, and a food court with more tasty local eats.

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The oldest tourist attraction in the city, the Capilano Suspension Bridge has attracted thrill-seeking visitors since 1889. Test your mettle as you walk the bridge—suspended 230 feet high and 450 feet across the Capilano River—and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the temperate rainforest. The park also features a cliff walk, nature tours, a treetop adventure, and a Living Forest exhibit.

This Harbour Centre attraction is a great way to get the lay of the land before touring around Vancouver. A glass elevator zooms skyward more than 550 feet to the observation deck where you’ll have 360° views of the city. The admission ticket is valid all day, so be sure to check it out in the morning and evening for two different, equally beautiful perspectives.

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Want a birds-eye view of Canada? This state-of-the-art, special effects-driven simulation ride in Canada Place is a thrilling intro to the beauty of the country. Suspended in your seat with feet dangling, you’ll feel like you’re actually flying from coast to coast while watching projections on the huge dome screen. You’ll fly through valleys, countryside, mountains, forests, and lakes. Wind, mist, and the scents of nature make the experience all the more realistic.

This tranquil garden at the edge of Chinatown was the first Chinese garden built outside of China. It was designed and built by specialists from Suzhou (where the Ming Dynasty scholar’s gardens that inspired this one are located) using rare trees, prized rocks, and the principles of balance and harmony. Stroll the free-to-visit park, then enter the gardens by paid admission. Learn the symbolism behind the placement of each plant, structure, and path, or just enjoy the peace, quiet and beauty.

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This ten-minute gondola ride takes you up almost 2,800 feet past Shannon Falls. Drive the stunning Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish, then gaze out the gondola window for spectacular views of Howe Sound and the mountains surrounding Vancouver. More things to do: Hike the trails, try the Via Ferrata, cross the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, dine at the Summit Lodge and, during the winter, ski the backcountry.

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A Stanley Park highlight, the Aquarium focuses on sustainability and conservation. The staff rescues marine animals and aims to educate the public in everything they do. The Vancouver Aquarium originated the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood and ocean protection initiative. Enjoy the antics of the otters and penguins, be mesmerized by the jellyfish and gain a greater appreciation of the importance of protecting the world’s oceans.

Located on the traditional territory of the Musqueam people, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) features art by indigenous peoples from Canada and around the world. As one of Canada’s largest teaching museums, MOA is home to hundreds of thousands of ethnographic objects, artifacts and works of art including textiles, ceramics, massive totem poles, masks, and more. The iconic building was designed by the renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson.

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VanDusen Botanical Garden is 55 acres of green and splashes of color, with 7,500 plant species from all over the world. There’s a picturesque lake and a hedge maze made from 3,000 cedars. Packed with towering trees and other perennials, these botanical gardens are a great spot to unwind or take a few nature selfies.

A year-round destination, Grouse Mountain is popular with outdoor enthusiasts as well as those simply seeking a beautiful view. From hiking and ziplining in the summer to ice skating and snowshoeing in the winter—plus lumberjack shows and grizzly bear visits in between—Grouse Mountain has something for everyone. Up for a challenge? Try the Grouse Grind, a 1.8-mile trail featuring 2,830 stairs that takes you 2,800 feet up the mountain. Or just take the gondola up for amazing views of the city and the ocean.

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Swim in turquoise waters with stunning views of the mountains, ocean, and the Vancouver skyline. The 137-meter, heated saltwater pool is located outdoors on the bay near Kitsilano Beach. Three sections cater to all crowds: A shallow end for kids and families, a deep end for teens and adults, and a section for lap-swimmers. There are lockers and an on-site cafe for refreshments.

Snap a pic with the giant crab sculpture out front before heading in to Canada’s largest civic museum. Located in Vanier Park, the MOV fosters a greater understanding of Vancouver through fascinating exhibits on a range of topics including ancient First Nations history, the relationship between nature and urban environments, and that time in the ‘50s when Vancouver had more neon than Las Vegas.

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The original downtown neighborhood of Vancouver, Gastown is now a vibrant, trendy 'hood with unique shopping, dining, art galleries, and more. Densely-packed and stylish, Gastown is filled with cobblestone streets and beautifully refurbished buildings. After browsing the boutiques and galleries, grab a cocktail or dinner and make it a night out. Don’t miss the famous Gastown Steam Clock, one of only a few working steam clocks in the world. The clock shoots steam every quarter hour, and each whistle blows on the hour.

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