Vancouver may not be as high on your must-see travel list as, say, Paris, London or New York, but think again. The city in British Columbia, right there on the border to the state of Washington, won our hearts for must see places in the West Coast. The reason? Location, location, location! Walking between the skyscrapers of Downtown, every intersection opens up the view to the massive, snowy North Shore Mountains that start right at the city limits to the North. Even as a die-hard city-dweller, you’ll feel the urge to climb right up there.
Vancouver is known for its scenic outdoors, urban lifestyle, fresh air and beautiful landscape. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or a city dweller, there’s always something for you to do.
How did we reach to Vancouver from Dubai? Dubai – Hong Kong – Vancouver by Cathay Pacific Airways.
So taking you step by step here is our complete guide to see vancouver in 96 hours. We opted for 2 Days hop on hop off tour by West coast sightseeing for us to get around easier & see the city in quicker.
First Stop: Canada Place – Cruise Terminal/ Convention Center
Canada Place is the home of the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver World Trade Centre, and much more. The building’s exterior is covered by fabric roofs resembling sails. It is also the main cruise ship terminal for the region, where most of Vancouver’s famous cruises to Alaska originate.
The easiest way to get to Canada Place is to take the SkyTrain to Waterfront Station. There is an exit from the train station that takes you directly to Canada Place. If you happen to be in Vancouver on Canada Day, be sure to check out the lively festivities at Canada Place. Make sure to take a picture with the Olympic Cauldron. The cauldron pillars are also lit up in blue at night, making it a spectacular landmark to visit after dinner.
Second Stop: Robson Street
Robson Street is the place to go to if you’re a shopaholic. This street is mostly populated with big brand names and intersects with Burrard Street, which is home to many upscale international brands.
If you’re looking for something to do aside from shopping, check out the Robson Square Ice Rink. This outdoor rink is open to everyone during the winter.The best way to get to Robson Street is to take the SkyTrain to Granville Station or Vancouver City Center Station. From there, it is a short five minute walk to Robson Street. You can also take the #5 bus.Looking for dinner ideas? Walk further along Robson towards Denman Street. This area is a hub for Asian cuisine with many options, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Malaysian food.
Third Stop: Stanley Park – Including Prospect Point/Ferguson Point & Second Beach
Stanley Park is a must-see for visitors of all ages, being one of Vancouver’s largest and most popular attractions. With so many activities on offer, ranging from beautiful west coast beaches to Canada’s largest aquarium, plan to spend at least three hours here.
The park is easy to get to by bus. The #19 Stanley Park bus will take you directly there. If you are already in downtown, you can also take the #5 or #6 bus, which will take you to the entrance of the park on Denman and Davie. (If you opt to go on your own without the tour bus). An easy way to get around the park is to rent a bike for a few hours from one of the bike shops along Denman Street. Don’t forget to wear your helmet! You can indulge in a fine-dining meal while enjoying magnificent views of the ocean and beach by eating at one of the park’s restaurants.
The best time to visit the park is during the summer. If you happen to be visiting Vancouver during the fall, winter or spring, be sure to wear a rain jacket and pack a small umbrella. Walking around the waterfront perimeter of the park is a must. The views of the city from the seawall are amazing, plus you can catch a glimpse of the Girl in a Wetsuit statue and the Lion’s Gate Bridge. You can also see many waterbirds and intertidal animals from the seawall path. The interior of the park is also not to be missed. Much of Stanley park remains in a relatively natural state, with a wide diversity of native plant and animal life. You’re much more likely to see this natural beauty–and avoid the crowds–if you step off the seawall path and head into the park’s interior. Beaver Lake is a particularly beautiful spot.
Fourth Stop: English Bay Beach – Beach Ave & Davie st.
English Bay is easy to get to and conveniently located in the West End. Whether it be for a light stroll or a game of beach volleyball, English Bay is a great place to relax and unwind. The beach is also conveniently located near restaurants and bars along Denman and Davie Street. Summer afternoons here are beautiful. English Bay is just at the edge of the city, providing the best combination of trees and fresh air mixed with opportunities to enjoy the water. Crowded during summer, but just as beautiful.
The beach is easily accessible by bus. If you are already downtown, take the #5 or #6 bus to the Denman and Davie entrance, or you can easily walk to the beach from the center of downtown. Watch or participate in the Polar Bear Swim. This is an annual event on January 1st, where participants plunge into the freezing water in celebration of the new year. Be sure to catch the Celebration of Lights Festival if you happen to be in Vancouver the last week of July or early August. This festival is a must-see international fireworks competition, and is one of Vancouver’s largest public events.
Fifth Stop: False Creek (Granville Island)
Enjoy Vancouver’s pristine and calm waters by kayaking or canoeing along False Creek. This is the perfect way to explore the spectacular outdoors at your own pace. Start your kayaking or canoeing trip at Granville Island, and make your way through Science World to English Bay. Be sure to make reservations if you plan to kayak or canoe during the summer (Which is what we exactly did) Check out our Kayaking guide in vancouver: Here. Weekends tend to be especially busy. The best time to go is May through September when temperatures are warmer. Try to still wear waterproof clothing however, as Vancouver is known for its rain and unexpected downpours.
Sixth Stop: Granville Island
Granville Island is one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions. This is a great place for a light stroll after a long bike ride or kayaking trip along False Creek. Enjoy a nice walk and explore its artisan shops, public market, and street performances. Granville Island has a great blend of local products, art, incredible food, live music, and beautiful scenery right by the water. Go beyond downtown Vancouver and wander around this area during the day to sample local products, enjoy a meal by the water, or see a theater performance. Granville island is food for the soul of the creative person. A place to take your time and wander in and out of the various one of a kind stores: fabric (The Cloth Shop, Maiwa), art supplies, books, fibre art, weaving, pottery, fine art, small artisans showing their work in larger co-operatives etc. The food hall is an oasis to complete the experience.
Around the island it’s a fun spot filled with shops, market, restaurants, and playgrounds. A central feature is the huge, lively market with its wide variety of fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, and desserts. A craft brewery and distillery, numerous art stores, and an outstanding world music store add significant variety among the wealth of options. Buskers entertain visitors in several areas throughout the day. There are wonderful large outdoor areas for eating and watching boats along False Creek.
Address: 1661 Duranleau Street | (Underneath the Granville Street Bridge), Vancouver, British ColumbiaV6H 3S3, Canada
Restaurants tend to be a bit more expensive here as it is a tourist attraction. If you are on a budget, head along Broadway or West 4th Avenue for more reasonably priced meals. Parking can be hard to find during the summer and at weekends. If you are coming from downtown, the easiest and fastest way to get to Granville Island is by the False Creek Ferry. The ferry leaves every few minutes from the Aquatic Center. When you arrive, ask the information booth for a schedule of shows — from comedy improvisation to classical dance performances during the day and night, check out the improv show or live music offerings on Granville Island.
Seventh Stop: Yaletown
Yaletown is one of Vancouver’s trendiest and most stylish neighborhoods. Once a heavily industrialized area with warehouses and railways, today this neighborhood is characterized by its combination of old and new architecture.
Packed with boutique shops, spas and local restaurants, this district is the place to be for trendsetters! The most convenient way to get here is to take the Canada Line train to Yaletown-Roundhouse Station. Yaletown is a trendy area covering two streets for several blocks, there are some pricey boutiques and a Starbucks on just about every corner. It is close to the Aquabus stop at the waterfront where you can catch a ride to Granville Island. Yaletown is a very dog friendly neighborhood. There are several nearby parks where you can walk your dog while enjoying Vancouver’s scenic views.
To be fair there is something for everybody. From large chain restaurants, small boutique restaurants, pubs of every description, stores, tower residences or low rise townhouses Yaletown has a bit of everything. There is also a mix of young and older professionals. There are less busy streets to busy Pacific Avenue. Sports venues are a short walk away. Parking is a challenge, and most areas are street pay parking. Transit is not great, but you can walk from Station stop or the train going to the airport has a stop in the Center of Yaletown.
Eighth Stop: Library Square – Corner of Homer St. & Robson St
The Vancouver Public Library is one of the most valuable public organizations in the city of Vancouver. When it first opened, the main branch building on Georgia Street near the heart of the city was controversial with city residents for its unique design, having an exterior reminiscent of the Coliseum in Rome. VPL as it is known to its many patrons provides exemplary public library services. It’s now very much part of our future; with lots of young people hurrying in-and-out of the doors, every day, all day. The design is visionary with lovely oval shape creating a crescent-like space for café outlets and such.
Ninth Stop: Chinatown
Plan an afternoon stroll around Chinatown to learn about the Chinese-Canadian heritage in Vancouver. Don’t forget to try the local dim sum and delicious Chinese bakeries while you’re there! While this neighborhood is improving, it is not the safest in Vancouver. Avoid the Hastings and Main area at night.
Chinatown has is a family friendly event and filled with dance performances, music, and other festivities. There are plenty of ways to get to Chinatown from downtown and other parts of the city. If you plan on taking the train, get off at Stadium-Chinatown station, which is a couple of blocks away from the heart of Chinatown. Which dim sum items should you order? Tasty dim sum dishes include spring dumplings (“har gow”), pork dumplings (“siu mai”), and BBQ pork buns.
Tenth Stop: Gastown
Gastown is one of Vancouver’s lively historical districts and is home to many great pubs and restaurants. This district is vastly different from other areas in Vancouver with its heritage architecture, cobblestone roads, and historical landmarks. As you walk through, you can explore Gastown’s many independent businesses, cutting edge boutiques, and award-winning restaurants, all of which contributed to being named the fourth most stylish neighborhood in the world.
Don’t forget to take a photo with the Gastown Steam Clock. This steam-powered clock is a major tourist attraction in Vancouver. (Big time tourist attraction – Lost my sister in the crowd). Gastown is home to many great local coffee shops. Treat yourself to a cup of java while you’re in the neighborhood. And if you are looking for boutique clothing stores – Gastown has many unique fashion lines that you would not find in the mall or along Robson Street. Be sure to take a look at the boutique shops while you’re there.
Eleventh Stop: Grouse Mountain
Vancouver is a great city by the Sea, and Grouse Mountain is one of its attractions not to be missed. The tram ride up gives you fantastic views of the entire city and surroundings and believe me, it’s quite a sight to see! Once one top you can hike, or just wander in the green open spaces.
In the summer, Grouse Mountain Resort features lumberjack shows, a birds of prey wildlife demonstration, a scenic chairlift ride, and a 2.9 km (1.8 mi.) hiking trail known as the Grouse Grind, as well as helicopter sightseeing. The Grouse Grind trail is one of the most popular mountain hikes for locals and visitors alike. Depending on your pace, the hike can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours, and once you get to the top, you will enjoy a beautiful view of Vancouver.
Year-round operations include a 100-seat mountaintop theatre and a wildlife refuge. Public access to the mountaintop is by a Swiss Garaventa aerial tramway, or the Grouse Grind hiking trail (Open for hiking May-October.). You can even wander to the Bear enclosures and if lucky, you see them as well. For thrill seekers, there’s a Zip A-line as well. All in all a very worthwhile entertaining afternoon to spend on the North Shore just minutes from the City Center. If you plan on visiting this spare yourself about 5-6 hours.
To get there by public transport- Catch the waterbus from waterfront station near Canada place over the water and from there jumped on the local bus to Grouse Mt. Alternatively there are free shuttle buses from Canada place to Grouse Mt.
Twelfth Stop: Capilano Suspension Bridge
“It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” -Anonymous
Make sure that you visit Capilano on a late afternoon, so you can see it during the day, yet not wait so long to see the Canyon Lights. The Canyon Lights started from November 27th to January 3rd, and they close around 9pm for this event.
The signature suspension bridge, the literal cliff hanger, the treetop bridges: aside from seeing the beauty of the North Vancouver nature, this park is quite an engineering fest. In summary, this should be on your list of destinations on your Vancouver adventure!
The signature Capilano bridge is a simple suspension bridge, but its length, height, and setting made this truly an experience to be had. Looming over the namesake Capilano River, the sight of the beautiful forest added with the thrill of the constantly shaking bridge makes crossing an unforgettable experience. If you walk over at a normal pace, you should be able to cross the bridge in its entirety in five minutes.
For nearly $30 CAD per person, the admission may be an overkill to see merely a bridge, but it’s not merely the bridge. The park seems to advertise the cliff hanger and the treetop bridges as side perks, but these attractions are actually as equally impressive as the spotlight bridge itself! The treetop bridge is an otherworldly walk as you feel the tranquility as you are on the top of the world and breathing the fresh air, and the cliffhanger is an even more thrilling experience as the floor is completely transparent.
Expect to spend about more than two hours here as the bridge and the cliffhanger requires a roundtrip to return to the starting point. You would want to take your time to admire nature anyway. Don’t be deterred if you are scared of height.
Thirteenth Stop: Vancouver Art Gallery
If you are an art admirer, then you will definitely want to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The gallery contains about 10,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection, which includes many local artists as part of the organization’s commitment to preserving British Columbia’s artists. There are often speakers, family programs, and special exhibitions throughout the year for locals and tourists to enjoy. The Vancouver Art Gallery is a must-see attraction for art lovers and history buffs. Located in Downtown Vancouver, the gallery is easily accessible by transit. Perfect for a rainy day.
Apart from that : Explore the city at night. I promise it’s as beautiful as the day.