A Local's Guide to Experiences In & Around Vancouver

Set on the Pacific and flanked by snow-capped mountains, Vancouver is a vision of west coast living. People are drawn to it both for its easy access to outdoor adventure and laid-back urban core. Here’s how to experience Vancouver like a local.

Top Things to Do in Vancouver

Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain

For an easily-accessible outdoor adventure, catch the free shuttles to Capilano Suspension Bridge or Grouse Mountain.

It takes the average hiker an hour and a half to hike 1.8mi (2.5km) to the summit of Grouse Mountain. If you’re not feeling up to it but still want the views, there’s a gondola to take you there.

If you’ve got a hire car, try Lynn Canyon for its free suspension bridge and hiking.

View of Vancouver from Grouse Mountain. Photo credit: iStock

Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a must-visit. Check out the aquarium, walk or rent a bike to cycle the 6mi (10km) seawall, swim at one of the beaches, or stop off to enjoy some lunch. Sunset, Kitsilano, Spanish Banks, or (the clothing optional) Wreck are also great beaches for hanging out. Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent on False Creek

Granville Island

For its shops, food and flower-filled public market, restaurants, galleries, and theatre, Granville Island can easily entertain for a day.

Granville Island on a sunny day. Photo credit: iStock

Get Your Arts and Culture Fix in Vancouver

The Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Vancouver, and the Museum of Anthropology are all worth a visit, with the latter being a good excuse to visit the sprawling University of British Columbia campus.

Vancouver loves its festivals and events, so there’s always something to experience. Highlights include the Eastside Culture Crawl, Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancouver Folk Festival, Bard on the Beach, Celebration of Light, and Vancouver Pride Festival.

Shopping in Vancouver

Hit up Pacific Centre Mall and Robson Street for major retailers, while Mount Pleasant is home to smaller, independently-owned businesses. Yaletown, Gastown, and South Granville are fun for their posh shops and cafés.

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A Foodie's Guide to Vancouver

Vancouver is a haven for foodies. Wherever you go, be sure to keep these eateries in mind across town.

If You're in...

West End: Espana, Guu with Garlic, Kingyo, Saj and Co, Santouka.

Downtown/Crosstown: Nightingale, Chambar, Tojo’s, Café Medina, Finch’s.

Gastown/Railtown: Tacofino, L’Abbattoir, The Birds and the Beets, Ask for Luigi, Vancouver Urban Brewery.

Chinatown: Bao Bei, Kissa Tanto, The Ramen Butcher, Juke, Phnom Penh, Virtuous Pie.

Mount Pleasant/Fraserhood: Vij’s, The Fish Counter, Don’t Argue, Anh and Chi, Burdock and Co., Dock Lunch, Sal y Limon, Savio Volpe, Earnest Ice Cream.

East Vancouver: Bandidas, La Mezcaleria, Kishimoto, Tamam, Bistro Wagon Rouge, Mr. Red Café.

Kitsilano: The Farmer’s Apprentice, Fable, Maenam, The Oakwood, East is East, Rain or Shine Ice Cream.

Vancouver's Best Cafés

Searching for a steaming cup of coffee or piece of cake? Check out these cafes: JJ Bean, Matchstick, Revolver, 49th Parallel, Bows and Arrows, Pallet Coffee Roasters, Timbertrain, Elysian, Milano, Moja, Le Marche St. George.

Bakeries

Hankering for some baked goods? Be on the lookout for these bakeries: Purebread, Beaucoup, Thomas Haas, The Pie Shoppe, Cartems, Thierry, BETA5.

Cocktails

These bars serve up a mean cocktail: The Keefer, The Diamond, Uva, Guilt & Co., Pourhouse, Crowbar, YEW at the Four Seasons.

At Beer O'Clock

Time for a beer? It's 6pm somewhere... Check out these bars for a cold brew: Alibi Room, Strange Fellows, 33 Acres, Brassneck, R&B Brewing Co., Parallel 49, Faculty Brewing, Boxcar.

Where to Stay in Vancouver

Vancouver is busy with conventions, so book ahead for hotels. If opting for Airbnb, seek out neighborhoods like Mt. Pleasant, Strathcona, or the West End.

If you’re on a budget, Samesun, HI Vancouver, and The Cambie are good centrally-located options. And if you don’t mind a short commute on the Canada Line, hotels in Richmond typically cost less.

Getting Around Vancouver

Besides walking, the cheapest option is Vancouver’s public transit system – day passes or re-loadable cards are good for buses, the Skytrain, and the Seabus.

Uber has not yet made it to Vancouver, but other convenient modes of travel are taxis, Car2Go or EVO car shares, and the Mobi bike share system.

Want to know more about Canada? Check out our podcast. We discuss when a traveler becomes a snack; the perils of wilderness adventure, a culinary tour of the provinces for foodies, and we speak to World Nomads photography scholarship mentor Richard I'Anson.

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