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The 21 best things to do in Vancouver

The best things to do in Vancouver combine magical nature with history and culture. The results are magnificent.

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Johanna Read

Vancouver is one of the most liveable cities in the world, and it also happens to be a darling when it comes to tourism. Canada’s western metropolis ticks all the boxes, from inspiring nature to fascinating history, with a conveyor belt of bars, restaurants, spas, beaches and more. Long story short? Vancouver is brilliant. The best things to do in Vancouver cover all this and more, with a collection of attractions that are informed by its history as much as its future. There are whales too—from April through October you're practically guaranteed a sighting. Follow our guide to the best things to do in Vancouver and see why this Canadian city truly lives up to the hype and then some.


🍔 The best restaurants in Vancouver
The best attractions in Vancouver
🏨 The best hotels in Vancouver

Fun things to do in Vancouver

Stanley Park
Photograph: Shutterstock/Romakoma

1. Stanley Park

This must-see park is a whopping 1,000 acres and contains beaches, an aquarium, playgrounds, a pool and splash park, botanical gardens, a golf course, 17 tennis courts, and much more. With all the park offers, you could easily spend a day within its perimeter. 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. In the fall, ride the Ghost Train for a spooky Halloween experience.

Grouse Mountain
Photograph: Shutterstock/David J. Mitchell

2. Grouse Mountain

Known as the Peak of Vancouver, locals and tourists flock to Grouse Mountain for outdoor activities, whatever the season. 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 is a year-round destination. 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.

Vancouver Whale Watch
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Vancouver Whale Watch

British Columbia has a wealth of marine life, including orcas, humpbacks, seals, dolphins, and more. A conservation-minded whale watch tour like Vancouver Whale Watch offers an up-close look at the stunning creatures and an educational experience. Learn about whale biology and migration, marine conservation, and more as you witness the beauty of Vancouver’s waters.

4. VanDusen Botanical Garden

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


5. Sea to Sky Gondola

Open throughout the year, this ten-minute gondola ride takes you up almost 2,800 feet past Shannon Falls. Drive the stunning Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish and gaze out the gondola window for even more spectacular views of Howe Sound and the mountains surrounding Vancouver. 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.

6. Granville Island

Overhauled in the 70s, Granville Island is a former waterfront industrial site (technically a peninsula rather than an island) home to a public market, food shops, restaurants, artist studios and galleries, shopping and inviting green space. Take a cute little Aquabus to spend an afternoon on the island. The vast public market features everything from confections to cheeses to bread to meats. Pick up a few items and picnic next to False Creek, or indulge in the market’s food court, filled with delicious local eats and treats.

Rogers Arena
Photograph: Shutterstock/Meunierd

7. Rogers Arena

Home of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team (that Stanley Cup has to come eventually, surely), Rogers Arena hosts major concerts and events throughout the year. During hockey season, checking out a Canucks game is a must. Canadians love hockey, and Vancouver adores their Canucks, no matter how wonderful or frustrating they may be. Catch the spirit from October to April, May or June, depending on how the team’s doing.

Open weekends and holiday evenings from May to October, this is the largest night market in North America. The Richmond Night Market will give you a taste of Asia’s famed night markets. Sample foods like grilled squid, pho fries, gyozas, roti mac and cheese and nitrogen ice cream at the food stalls, then shop for gifts and accessories at the retail stalls. There are games, live music and entertainment, and always great people-watching.


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

This nearly 2,500-square-foot gallery space features art, jewelry, and other handmade crafts from more than 40 artists from Vancouver and around British Columbia. Browse talented local artists and bring home a unique souvenir. You’ll find paintings, ceramics, jewelry, woodcarving, fiber arts, and products like handmade candles and teas. The colorful space is packed with art for every taste and budget. Artists change regularly, so it’s worth visiting again and again.


The 17.5-mile paved pathway starts at the Vancouver Convention Centre and then winds around Stanley Park to English Bay, False Creek, Olympic Village, Granville Island, Kitsilano Beach, and the beaches of Spanish Banks. The 5.5-mile section in Stanley Park is the most popular, but tackling the whole seawall will give you an excellent (and active) tour of Vancouver. It’s the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, and you’ll see mountains, sculptures, the skyline, and beaches.

Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Gastown

The original downtown core of Vancouver, Gastown is now a vibrant, trendy neighborhood with unique shopping, dining, art galleries, and more. Densely packed but stylish, it is all cobblestone streets and beautifully refurbished buildings. After browsing the boutiques and galleries, grab a cocktail or dinner and make it a night out. This is also where you'll find the famous Gastown Steam Clock, one of only a few working steam clocks in the world. Every quarter-hour, the clock shoots steam from its five whistles, and on the hour, it gives off a toot from each whistle.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

13. Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge is 230 feet high and 450 feet across the Capilano River through the temperate rainforest on Vancouver’s North Shore. Test your mettle as you walk the bridge, and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular rainforest views. The park also features a cliff walk, nature tours, a treetop adventure, and a Living Forest exhibit.

Located on the traditional territory of the Musqueam people, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) features art from indigenous peoples from Canada and around the world. 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 renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson.


This popular food truck serves indigenous cuisine using fresh, local ingredients and traditional cooking methods like smoking and stone baking. British Columbia’s First Nations people know all about the richness and nutrition of the land and sea and how to harvest products sustainably. Mr. Bannock is named after the traditional unleavened bread, served alongside salmon, wild meats, juniper berries and local mushrooms.

Stretching along for 4.8 miles, Wreck Beach is impressive in size and beauty. It’s also North America’s largest naturist (i.e. clothing optional) beach. One of Vancouver’s best beaches, the views here are spectacular. There’s also a real sense of community, as represented by the active Wreck Beach Preservation Society. Keep an eye out for events like Skinny Dip Day, Bare Buns Run, and spa/pool nights.


A Stanley Park highlight, Vancouver 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. Giggle at the antics of the otters and penguins, zen out watching the jellyfish and gain a greater appreciation of the importance of protecting the world’s oceans.

Located in the West End, English Bay is a bustling neighborhood of beaches, shopping, and dining and hosts annual events like the Celebration of Light fireworks competition and the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim. In the summer, English Bay Beach draws throngs for sunbathing and swimming. But the whole neighborhood is a top destination year-round for shopping, dining, waterfront strolling, beautiful scenery, and art (don’t miss the Laughing Man statues or the Inukshuk monument). Head to Sunset Beach for, you guessed it, beautiful sunset views.


If you’d rather not hit the beach in your birthday suit, Jericho Beach offers a more typical waterside experience. With its calm surf, Jericho is a top spot for watersports like kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and sailing. Equipment is available for rent, and lessons and tours are offered for a good bit of the year.

20. False Creek

This short inlet cuts through the heart of Vancouver, separating Downtown from the rest of the city. It is popular for walking and boating activities. There are three waterfront walks along False Creek—North, South, and Olympic Village. Walkthrough reinvigorated industrial areas and the neighbourhood revitalized by the 2010 Olympics. For watersports lovers, False Creek is a prime spot to rent a kayak to paddle past the likes of Yaletown and Granville Island, stopping for a drink or a bite along the way.


21. Pam Rocks

The curious seals in the colony at Pam Rocks in Howe Sound often interrupt their sunny snoozes to dive in and swim over to see what the kayakers and snorkelers are doing. Enjoy a day on the water, learn about protecting Vancouver’s marine environment, see the seals and maybe catch a glimpse of some bald eagles and other wildlife.

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