Joanne Cowdery on 13 October 2023
Vancouver is spectacularly situated at the foot of the Coast Mountain range, where the Pacific Ocean rolls onto downtown beaches and lush green spaces intertwine with the city. With almost 40% of the residents immigrating to the area from around the world, it gives the city much diversity and everybody is very welcome.

To get from the airport to downtown Vancouver we took the Skytrain and in less than 25 minutes via the Canada Line we were in the heart of the city. The costs were low and you don’t have any problems with traffic jams, like you may in a taxi. The only downside is that you’ll have to walk from the closest subway station to your hotel unless you get a taxi!

We found getting around Vancouver very easy on foot as it’s relatively compact with most destinations not many blocks away. We enjoyed using the tiny tugboat-like ferries that cris-crossed False Creek, they were very frequent and efficient.

Vancouver is made up of many neighbourhoods and here are a few that are worth visiting with a few of the tourist sights we enjoyed.

Gastown with its red brick buildings, vintage lampposts, victorian architecture houses and cobbled streets is one of the main historic parts of the city. Do make sure you see the steam clock which chimes every 15 minutes. This neighbourhood is well worth a visit in the day time or after dark.

Yaletown is the former warehouse district which has been transformed into a trendy neighbourhood which is great for dining, boutique shopping and coffee shops.

Chinatown is now a vibrant neighbourhood, with its own distinctive character and is home to Canada’s largest Chinese population, with its first residents arriving during the construction of the railroad in the 1800s. The city’s historic Chinatown reflects heritage with a rich tapestry of authentic culture, food and architecture.

Granville Island with great food at the back of the bustling indoor public market is a foodie Mecca with artisan stalls and local producers at every turn. Don’t forget if you go outside and eat your purchases make sure the seagulls don’t eat your food! There are also around 300 one-of-a-kind stalls to peruse in the other buildings, so allow plenty of time if you like shopping.

Well worth a visit is FlyOver Canada a flight simulation ride that sees you soar across the country from coast-to-coast. You are strapped in and lifted in front of a giant hemispherical screen as you’re taken on a breathtaking journey across Canada. You feel the wind and the mist on your face as you enjoy an immersive 8 minute ride. I had booked this, but wasn’t sure what to expect and whether it would be worth it. I can honestly say it was very good and we had no regrets. The cruise ship terminal is also located at Canada Place where FlyOver Canada is.

A great place we visited to get our bearings on the city was Vancouver Lookout with spectacular 360° views from 130 m (430 ft) above the city we experienced unobstructed views of the mountains, the glistening waters of Burrard Inlet and the skyscrapers.

We enjoyed visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, 450 feet (137m) long and 230 feet (70m) high. The swaying suspension bridge strung high above a rushing mountain river was quite a thrill as it swayed. I was certainly pleased to get to the other side! Also the Cliffwalk which jutted out over a canyon and river on a narrow cantilevered walkway was fun and not for the faint hearted. I really enjoyed the Treetops Adventure a series of interconnected platforms and bridges linking giant ancient Douglas fir trees. A free bus operates from Canada Place which worked really well.

Unfortunately Grouse Mountain was closed when we visited as we’d been looking forward to riding the 8 minute gondola to the 1,231m peak and visiting the wildlife refuge to see the orphaned grizzly bears.

We enjoyed walking the 10 km loop around Stanley Park taking in the beaches, ocean, mountains and rainforest views. The path is divided into two, one lane for cyclists and one for pedestrians, so it made it lovely and relaxing as you weren’t having to make sure a cyclist wasn’t going to run you over. The 1,000 acre urban rainforest has 27 kms of trails. If you are short of time you could take a horse-drawn tour. Vancouver Aquarium is located here, but we ran out of time to visit.

When we visit again we would love to take a seaplane flight and either stay for 3 or 4 nights in Victoria the capital of British Columbia which is just a short ferry ride across the water on Vancouver Island or visit for the day.

Top Tips

It is quieter to stay in Vancouver over a weekend than in the week.

Tipping is expected adding 15-20% in bars & restaurants, taxis around 10% and porters usually $1 - $2 CAD per piece of luggage.

I would recommend you visit in the Spring April to June, and you may even catch the cherry blossom-lined streets from the end of March to the end of April. Or April to September is also a popular time to visit. We found quite a few things closed as they prepared for the winter season.

Whale watching is really popular, so if this appeals do make sure you visit in the right season.

A great way to get a whistle stop tour of the city is with the 3 ½ hour Landsea Tours city highlights tour. We found it well worth doing.