An amazing treetop adventure awaits you in Vancouver! Stretched out above the Capilano River, the Capilano Suspension Bridge sways to the delight of thrilled visitors. While here, also visit the Totem Park which displays colorful story poles that tell the history of the ancestors of Canada’s First Nations.
Chinatown is another of Vancouver’s top sites with its vibrant array of restaurants, shops and stunning classical gardens. Diverse, vibrant and historic, Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the western hemisphere, second only to San Francisco’s in area and third in terms of population. Don’t miss out on a memorable stroll at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden.
Grouse Mountain is full of activities to get into: go hiking, zoom through the air in a zip line and traverse the beautiful canyon. Go here for incredible views of the city, eat at the restaurants and enjoy the abundance of adventurous recreational activities. Also visit the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife.
Foodies shouldn’t miss out on the Vancouver Farmers’ Market where you will find a bounty of fresh food and entertainment at the city’s largest outdoor market. Over 250 vendors showcase organic produce, artisan crafts and handmade clothing, as well as offering wine tastings.
Gastown is Vancouver’s ‘Old Town’, and one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city that’s packed with historic architecture, innovative restaurants and galleries. Gastown is the center for art, food and entertainment in Vancouver, which offers insights into traditional and cutting edge art, as well as a lively entertainment scene. This is also a great place to shop for souvenirs.
The arts and culture scene of Vancouver is equally diverse with many art galleries and museums. Visitors should find particularly interesting the UBC Museum of Anthropology. Here you can explore the art, history, people and environment of Vancouver and Canada inside a world-class museum.
Nature lovers will also find plenty to admire in Vancouver’s abundance of botanical gardens and natural parks. Butchart Gardens, Bloedel Flower Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park are just some of the place to visit for a taste of green heaven.
From botanical gardens and parks to vibrant markets and historic neighborhoods, Vancouver offers an abundance of entertainment options. This amazing Canadian city has something for everyone, no matter whether your preference is architecture, history, culture or outdoor recreation. But it’s not just its natural beauty that captivates those who visit; Vancouver also has a laid-back charm that makes it a city you simply cannot afford to miss.
1. Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is home to the famous bridge of the same name, in addition to a number of other outdoor adventure attractions such as the CliffWalk and Treetops Adventures.
Situated 20 minutes north of downtown Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge has wowed millions of visitors ever since it was established in 1889. Suspended 230 feet or 70 meters above the Capilano River, the Bridge spans 450 feet or 137 meters across and offers amazing views of the canyon below.
Crossing the Bridge is itself an adventure that’s not for anyone who is afraid of heights. On a day with strong winds, you will feel the Bridge swaying beneath your feet.
The Treetops Adventures gives you a “squirrel’s eye view” of the rainforest. You can also traverse the dramatic CliffWalk a walkway anchored to the eastern face of the Capilano Canyon and suspended out and above the river at a length of 700 feet and a height of 300 feet.
Visitors can also tour the Kia’palano First Nations’ Cultural Center. Eco-tours are available in the park, as well as restaurants at which you can recharge after a busy day of sightseeing. Plan to spend at least 3 hours exploring the various features of the Park.
No matter the weather, you can visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Whether it rains or snows, go anyway as you will be given a plastic rain poncho if you so require. What’s more the views from the Bridge and the CliffWalk as just as breathtaking even in bad weather.
Diverse, vibrant and historic, Chinatown is one of the best neighborhoods in Vancouver to enjoy some exploring, strolling, shopping and eating. Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in the western hemisphere. It is second only to San Francisco in terms of land mass, and has the third largest population after New York and San Francisco.
Situated in downtown Vancouver, Chinatown is also one of the city’s earliest residential and commercial neighborhoods. During the late 1800s, the district became known as Chinatown due to an influx of Chinese immigrants.
Even before the incorporation of British Columbia, thousands of Chinese immigrants and pioneers worked in the province. Between the years 1881 and 1885, ten thousand Chinese laborers were contracted to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Today’s Chinatown is both an important historic center and a bustling commercial district, which is a testament to both the history of Chinese-Canadians in Vancouver, as well as the city of Vancouver itself.
Begin your tour of Chinatown at the gorgeous Millennium Gate from where you can make a dramatic entrance. The majestic gate was constructed at the turn of the millennium as a representation of Chinatown’s Journey through Time, past and present. The gate features a combination of both Eastern and Western symbols, along with Chinese themes that create a sense of unity and community.
Next, head over to Shanghai Alley which, along with Canton Alley, was the original epicenter of Vancouver’s Chinatown in its earliest incarnation. In the year 1890, more than 1,000 residents populated this small roadway and its surrounding areas, before the borders of Chinatown spread eastwards.
Today, a replica of the West Han Dynasty Bell has been erected to commemorate this birth place of Vancouver’s Chinatown. The replica was a gift to the city of Vancouver from the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is also home to the narrowest commercial building in the world – the Sam Kee Building which measures 6-feet wide. Although the original owner of the building bought a normal-size plot in 1903, the city took most of his land in 1912 to widen the Pender St., leaving him with just 6 feet. The owner, Chang Toy stubbornly decided to build his building anyway – and voila!
The Sam Kee Building is also notable for featuring public, basement baths that were once the only spot in Chinatown where people could get a hot bath.
Next, head over to the Chinese Cultural Center which is fronted by the China Gate. The Chinese Cultural Center was the first museum in Canada dedicated to the culture and history of the Chinese.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park is another spot that’s well worth a visit. Beautifully landscaped and serene, the park features covered walkways that make it easy to enjoy its natural beauty even in the rain. Don’t miss out on the main attraction – the famous Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden which combines classic Chinese elements into a symphony of water, rock, plants and architecture that is absolutely lovely. This Vancouver garden was the first classical Chinese garden built outside China.
After contemplating the non-material world at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, explore the material one at the numerous shops and boutiques that line Pender, Main and Keefer streets. Here you will find plenty of import treasures, souvenirs, as well as temple worship supplies. There is everything on offer here from antique furniture, clothing, jewelry, prints, art supplies, Chinese language books and more.
Don’t miss out on Chinatown’s food markets where you can shop from the variety of colorful seafood, candies, fresh fruit and many other eye-popping treats with mouth-watering scents.
Some of the best Chinese restaurants in Vancouver are to be found in Chinatown so do not attempt to leave this neighborhood on an empty stomach. There’s plenty of delicious dim sum, pot stickers and sticky buns to be enjoyed here.
3. UBC Museum of Anthropology
Of Vancouver’s many museums, one that stands out for its extensive collections of unique artworks is the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Home to 9,000 artworks, including the largest and most significant painting collection by BC artist Emily Carr, MOA also features 500,000 cultural artifacts, as well as a great collection of BC First Nations artworks and objects.
While the MOA houses archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world, it is the focus on First Nations objects originating from the northwestern coast of British Columbia that makes the museum a must-visit for both tourists and Vancouver locals alike.
In the Great Hall of the museum, you will be amazed by the massive First Nation totem poles, festive dishes and canoes. Other magnificent pieces such as ceramics, jewelry, carved boxes and ceremonial masks are displayed within additional galleries.
A major highlight of the First Nations collection is the iconic sculpture Raven and The First Men by Bill Reid, the famous BC First Nations artist. In fact, a picture of Reid’s iconic sculpture appears at the back of every Canadian $20 bill.
Situated on the Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, the MOA was founded in 1949 and has since evolved into Canada’s largest teaching museum. Its current facility comprises an attractive building with 15-meter glass walls inside the Great Hall. Another wing houses a resource library, teaching laboratory and the Koerner European Ceramics Gallery with its 600 European ceramic pieces.
Plan to spend a minimum of 3 hours at the MOA. You can also make a day of it by combining your trip to the museum with a visit to the University’s Botanical Gardens, which ranks as one of the top five gardens of Vancouver, as well as a detour to Wreck Beach, Vancouver’s famous beach at which clothing is optional.
4. Butchart Gardens
An abundance of beauty truly awaits every visitor to the Butchart Gardens, one of the most spectacular attractions in British Columbia. The Butchart Gardens are a natural wonderland that features spectacular themed gardens, exotic plants, ponds and streams.
In 1904, Jennie Butchart saw the potential of creating a garden from her husband’s abandoned limestone quarry. So she had top soil brought in by horse and cart in an enormous undertaking that was completed in 1921.
She began her Japanese Garden in 1906, which was designed by Isaburo Kishida. This was followed by the spectacular Sunken Garden, an Italian Garden and the Rose Garden in 1929, which features more than 100 varieties of hybrid tea rose plants alongside 400 grandiflora roses and climbing roses.
Naturally, visitors flocked to witness her endeavor, and in 1916, 18,000 cups of tea were served at Benvenuto. By then, Jennie could no longer serve tea personally to her visitors. Four hundred Japanese cherry trees were later added to the Gardens in 1936.
A tea house was opened in the conservatory after World War II by Jennie’s grandson, which soon developed into a full restaurant that began hosting concerts from the open-air stage. The nursery was enlarged and the Seed and Gift Store opened. The 70 foot high Ross Fountain was installed in the Sixties.
The Butchart Gardens today feature 55 acres of display gardens. Here you will also find statues, fountains, totem poles, topiaries and other water features. A team of more than 50 gardeners are now employed to plant and care for the more than 700 plant and flower varieties. Open all year round, the Gardens use more than 1 million bedding plants each year.
A visit to the Butchart Gardens is an event you are bound to remember for a long time to come. Famous for its Japanese Garden and Sunken Garden, the Butchart Gardens are a delight to visit at any time of the year. The flowers, shrubs and trees found here are beautiful, varied and definitely worth a look. Everywhere you turn in these beautiful gardens you will enjoy a new and gorgeous view.
Allow yourself plenty of time to view all the gardens and enjoy their special events. Special seasonal events include fireworks, concerts and illuminations. There are also a number of dining options available on-site. Amenities on site include a fine dining restaurant, a cafeteria-style eatery, a coffee shop, a seed and gift store, as well as ice cream stands.
Depending on when you go in spring, you may find hundreds of thousands of bulbs that create a spectacular show of color. The bulbs are typically from the narcissus, tulips, daffodils, cherries, forget-me-nots, plums, azaleas, rhododendrons and dogwood flowers.
There are also evening entertainment concerts featured on the garden lawns and fireworks displays. The dazzling fireworks shows have both ground and aerial displays choreographed to show tunes in a jaw-dropping performance. After the show, linger a while longer to enjoy the Night Illuminations and the live recital at the Organ Pavilion.
Listen to the music as you enjoy splashes of color from the azaleas, delphiniums, columbine, begonias, dahlias, poppies, hydrangeas, sweet William, fuchsias, roses and hanging baskets.
If you go from mid-June to mid-September you can enjoy the gardens when their splendid floral displays are illuminated in the evenings. During the illuminations, thousands of lights are turned on to cast a magical glow over the gardens full of primroses, pansies, daffodils, daisies, crocuses, polyanthus, forsythia, hyacinths and wallflowers.
During autumn, the Japanese Garden comes alive in color thanks to the dahlias, arbutus trees, copper beech and over fifty varieties of chrysanthemums. If you visit the Gardens during Christmas, you can enjoy the pretty lights, the ice rink, as well as floral displays designed especially for the season.
The Butchart home is also worth a visit for its displays of historical memorabilia, while the Gardens are a great spot to enjoy Afternoon Tea. Explore this amazing attraction at a leisurely pace before settling down for the Traditional Afternoon Tea ritual at the Garden restaurant. You may also purchase hampers to enjoy on site with some wine.
5. Bloedel Floral Conservatory
The Bloedel Floral Conservatory houses a lush variety of tropical and desert plants, in addition to 100 birds which include the Cockatoo, the Presiding and the Charlie. Crowning the top of Queen Elizabeth Park at the highest point in Vancouver, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory is constructed out of an intricate framework of tubular steel elements that support 1490 Plexiglas bubbles.
The Conservatory is itself a dome that measures 140 feet in diameter and 70 feet in height. On the inside, you can circle the dome through its tropical forest of flowers, plants and cacti from all around the world.
Because it is situated within Queen Elizabeth Park, the Conservatory enables visitors to also enjoy the Park’s dancing fountains, outdoor sculptures, panoramic garden and city views, as well as the offerings of the Seasons in the Park restaurant.
Make the most of your visit to the Bloedel Flower Conservatory by checking out its main highlights. The Conservatory is an oasis of tropical splendor and escape, no matter how cold or rainy Vancouver gets. It is also a great way to spend your afternoon that is both fun and educational.
While it is large enough to hold an amazing wealth of flowers and foliage, a trip to the Conservatory alone will take about an hour. If you are there to soak up the jungle vibes on a dull Vancouver winter day, then stay as long as you wish. If the weather is good, combine your trip to the Conservatory with a walk through the Park’s arboretum and quarry gardens, or with a picnic or lunch and drinks at the Seasons in the Park restaurant.
6. Queen Elizabeth Park
It’s for good reason that Queen Elizabeth Park is one of the most frequented venues for taking wedding pictures in Vancouver. The park is simply stunning with its gorgeously-landscaped quarry gardens, amazingly scenic vistas, and an arboretum that houses 1,500 trees. All this and more makes the park a world-class public space and one of the city’s most beautiful spots.
Perched atop the highest point in Vancouver, and spanning 130 acres, Queen Elizabeth Park has at its peak a plaza, a paved section which offers panoramic views of downtown Vancouver, a courtyard of dancing fountains, and the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, which is home to an abundance of tropical plants and 100 species of birds.
Queen Elizabeth Park is situated at the junction of W 33rd Ave. and Cambie St. From the plaza, follow the winding paths down to the quarry gardens, lawns, ponds and arboretum. Horticulture lovers will find the two quarry gardens an absolute delight, with their mini waterfalls, little bridges and pathways set amid hundreds of flowers and plants.
It is easy to find a private space for rest and contemplation here. The many trees numbering more than 3,000 throughout the park offer shade in the summer and an abundance of color during the fall.
A number of sporting activities take place at the park including Tai Chi in the mornings atop the plaza and lawn bowling.
Formerly known as “Little Mountain” the site on which Queen Elizabeth Park sits today began as a basalt rock quarry during the late 19th century. Sitting at 501 feet above sea level, the quarry was the source of foundation rock for many of the earliest roads in Vancouver. By 1911, the quarry was shut down and its land remained unused for 3 decades before it was sold to the City of Vancouver.
The City renamed the site after Queen Elizabeth in 1940 following a visit by King George VI and his consort. In 1948, the Vancouver Park Board began plans for developing the park into the horticultural beauty it is today by planting the initial trees in the arboretum.
Also visit the Celebration Pavilion, the Dancing Fountains, Quarry Gardens, and Arboretum. There is also a picnic area and the Seasons in the Park restaurant where you can enjoy a tasty meal. The restaurant boasts some of the best views in the city and counts as one of Vancouver’s best restaurants with a view.
You can easily spend a whole day at Queen Elizabeth Park, strolling among the gardens, touring the arboretum or simply enjoying the views. A tour of the gardens and plaza alone should take you about 2-3 hours. Combine this with a picnic and you are guaranteed the perfect outdoor experience in Vancouver.
7. Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain is a year-round resort that offers skiing and snowboarding facilities during winter, hiking during spring and summer, fun outdoor activities, unparalleled views and entertainment in every season.
Situated 15 minutes north of downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain features year-round attractions such as the famous Grouse Mountain Skyride, which is the largest aerial tram system in North America that will take you on a one-mile aerial journey. There is also the Eye of the Wind turbine which offers stunning view s of the city, not forgetting the HD cinema Theater in the Sky and the Wildlife Refuge.
The Skyride is your gateway to the majestic nature at The Peak of Vancouver. An experience in itself, the Skyride has you towering high above Douglas fir trees, breathtaking views of the city, the Gulf islands, the sparkling Pacific Ocean and snowy peaks which unfold as you journey up the mountainside. Whether you seek a perfect photo op or dinner at The Observatory, your journey will begin with the Skyride.
As you head off the beaten track, knowledgeable guides will show you the mountaintop viewpoints that you may not otherwise find alone. There are also guided ecowalks during which you can learn about local flora and fauna, the history of Grouse Mountain, as well as the geology of the North Shore Mountains from a knowledgeable guide who will take you across the mountain plateau and the serene Blue Grouse Lake area, which houses a cultural center.
Also take the scenic Peak Chairlift, which will transport you to the apex of Grouse Mountain, taking you soaring to an altitude of 4,100 feet above sea level. At the summit, you will be awestruck by the spectacular panorama that reveals the scale and beauty of Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean’s grandeur, while gracing the coastline for as far as the eye can see.
You can also take a self-guided or interpretive walking tour through Grouse Mountain forests, which offers a unique encounter with British Columbia’s great natural resources. Here you can witness the majesty of the local tree species, the traditional First Nations architecture at the hiwus feast house, as well as the grandeur of two orphaned grizzly bears. Along the way, you can stop to marvel at eleven interesting 16-foot chainsaw sculptures.
The Eye of the Wind is the first and only wind turbine in the world that enables you to stand inside a clear glass viewPOD at the top of the tower, 3 meters from its massive, rotating blades. Standing there, you will be awestruck by the 360-degree views as you come face to face with the future of renewable energy.
Theatre in the Sky enables you to learn about the fascinating native and adopted wildlife of Grouse Mountain, from a mountaintop high definition cinema.
The Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife offers a wilderness sanctuary in which endangered animals get to play and explore in safety and security. There are resident bears and grey wolves that call the Refuge home, and roam freely while exploring their surroundings. The Refuge also provides cutting-edge interpretative programs that make learning about nature fascinating and fun.
Visitors to the Refuge also get to chat with wildlife experts and rangers who will teach you what you need to know about grizzly bears, ravens and other animals that call the Refuge home. Hive Tours enable you to explore an active hive under the careful tutelage of an expert bee keeper.
A national historic site, Gastown is a bustling urban center that’s filled with charm, fabulous nightlife, shopping and many of Vancouver’s most-acclaimed restaurants. Gastown is the oldest neighborhood in Downtown Vancouver and was formerly an industrial hub and a rough-and-rowdy spot for nightlife, brothels and bars.
After the Great Depression, Gastown fell into disrepair, although it continued to attract tourists with its historical buildings, landmarks and cobblestoned streets. Today a symbol of urban revival, Gastown is now one of the most sought-after locations for urban residences in Vancouver, and is also home to some of the city’s best restaurants and shopping options.
Situated on the northeastern corner of Downtown Vancouver, Gastown is also diverse and attracts many international immigrants.
One of the most popular and busiest of Vancouver’s nightlife districts, Gastown is also home to pubs, bars and a number of the best cocktail bars in Vancouver. A great place to shop for interior design and furniture in Vancouver, Gastown is also home to numerous independent local designers and boutiques.
In addition to the historic buildings and cobblestone streets, Gastown also houses a number of famous landmarks including Maple Tree square with a statue at its center, as well as the steam-powered clock at the corner of Water and Cambie Street, which is pictured in numerous Gastown postcards.
9. Vancouver Farmers Market
We all know the benefits of eating local: it reduces our carbon footprint, helps the environment and supports local farmers and growers. But there’s also a great benefit to foodies as well, who get to enjoy fresher fruit and vegetables that burst with much more flavor than those which are flown in.
One of the best sources of fresh fruit and vegetables in Canada is at the Vancouver Farmers Market or VFM. The farmers and food producers represented at the VFM offer fresh fruit and vegetables, poultry and meat, artisan food products, fresh fish, baked goods, local artisan beer, wines and spirits. The Vancouver Farmers Market has been flourishing since its debut in 1995.
VFM has grown to become one of the leading farmers’ markets in Canada with 9 weekly markets. VFM runs farmers markets in Vancouver all year round, including 7 weekly summer markets in neighborhoods around Vancouver. Five Vancouver Farmers Markets are opened during the summer, and one is open through fall and winter.
In addition to plants and produce, shoppers can also find handicrafts, local seafood, farm-raised meats and prepared food items.
Vancouver Farmers’ Markets are organized by a society of local farmers markets with the goal to feed people and create community. The markets support small farm production, nourishment of people and connecting with neighbors. VFM also offers access to fresh, healthy foods for low-income families and works with local chefs to enable more restaurants to include market-fresh produce on their menus.
Stop by the Vancouver Farmers Market for some fresh, delicious food purchased directly from local producers. In addition to benefiting the local economy, you will be supporting small BC farmers and artisan food producers, as well as helping to keep thousands of acres of local farmland in sustainable food production.
The Vancouver Farmers Market is part of a global movement that seeks to reconnect people with the land by encouraging people to grow their own food. At each of their 9 markets, you will meet in person farmers, artisans, bakers and producers who personally grow and prepare the delicious foods you get to enjoy.
10. Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island is definitely one of the contributors to what makes Vancouver cool. Situated right in the heart of the city, this cultural hotspot with a year-round food market always has something going on. The island is a top tourist attraction which also draws locals. Once a manufacturing and industrial area, the island is today an urban oasis for cultural seekers and shoppers.
Technically not an island but a peninsula, Granville island is situated south west of downtown Vancouver and comprises 37 acres. Granville Island is home to a diverse and expansive produce market, numerous art galleries and shops, a school of art, restaurants, a theater, hotel and a brewery.
It’s for good reason that Granville Island’s Public Market is the most famous food market in Vancouver. Home to more than 100 vendors, the market is packed to the rafters with the very best of fresh seafood, meats, sweets, and produce and European specialty foods in the city.
Situated on Granville Island, a small island on False Creek which faces downtown Vancouver, the Public Market is an oasis of epicurean delight. This is a great place to have lunch or get your dinner, whether you are a chef, an amateur chef or just a foodie.
When you step inside the main entrance to the market, the first thing you will notice is the amazing sights and smells of fresh produce. You will be struck by the gorgeous array of colors piled high at the many fresh produce vendors found inside the market.
Because produce found here is often locally grown, availability will depend on the season. But then that’s half the fun – seeing what is new at that time of the year.
At the bakery nearby, you can taste fresh bread, cakes, pastries and tarts to impress every sweet-tooth that draws near. If you are a chocoholic, be sure to sample the rich New York Chocolate Cheesecake. You will also find some of the best éclairs in the region to satisfy your weakness for French pastries.
From the bakery, walk past the herb vendors and specialty meat shops, to the pie vendor offering sweet and savory pies. A lunch or dinner favorite, the pies offered here can be devoured in the sitting area out front or outdoors on a sunny day. You are spoilt for choice with the assortment of homemade pot pies that include Clam Chowder Pot Pier, Shepherd’s Pie and the veggie Mushroom Pot Pie.
Soups are also available from a soup vendor who sells hot soups of the day, in addition to pre-packaged soups and sauces that you can take away with you.
There is also an Italian deli on site which offers Italian specialty foods including fabulous pastas that you can take with you to prepare, fifteen olive types including provolone-stuffed, Sicilian and Spicy Moroccan-feta-stuffed peppers, as well as marinated artichoke hearts.
Your next stop should be at the old-world-looking sausage shop that stocks hand-made sausages of all kinds including chorizos and prosciutto-style meats. There is also a wide range of terrines and pates that will make your visit here absolutely sublime.
If you have never tried terrine before, you simply must. It’s more crumbly and thicker than the smoother pate and so old-world French that it seems like a real delicacy in Vancouver. Be sure to buy some bread from the French bakery across the street to go with your pate.
Then head over to the seafood vendor for a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fish. The vendors are also quite gracious in that they could also give you tips on preparing your fish if you ask them nicely.
After you’re done with walking, sampling and purchasing, take all your goodies, head over to the food court and have a seat at one of the indoor tables facing the water. If it’s a beautiful day out, take your goodies outside and enjoy.
Once you’ve had your fill at the Public Market, explore the rest of Granville Island. Plan to spend at least 3 hours on the island. You can have a beer at Granville Island Brewing, Canada’s first microbrewery, which offers tours as well as samples to taste. Also stop by some of the artist studios on the island where you can watch artists at work from potters and jewelry makers to glass blowers.