Vancouver is one of Canada's most interesting and enjoyable cities to see - its Asian influence makes for a city like nowhere else in Canada (with food like nowhere else in Canada), and its mishmash of a skyline (mountains! sea! skyscrapers!) alone is reason to visit. This itinerary ensures you hit all the city's must-do's, while stopping to enjoy a few good cups of coffee along the way.
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8am-9am breakfast at parallel 49: Vancouver is known for its great assortment of cafes, and Parallel 49 is one of them. Stop by for a coffee and one (or two..) of their renowned donuts – other breakfast items (sandwiches, avocado toast) are also available.
9am-10am canada place: Walk down to Canada Place, and take your time enjoying the views and checking out any cruise ships docked. From here, you can grab a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (about a 20-minute drive). The drive goes through Stanley Park and the famous Lion’s Gate Bridge, so you can tick that item off your list along the way.
10am-2pm capilano suspension bridge: Entry to the park is CAD $53.95 and includes access to the bridge and a few other attractions inside. First, take your time to walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge and get your fill of potentially Instagrammable shots. Afterwards, explore the rest of the park and attractions, making sure to check out the Cliffwalk.
2pm-3pm sushi lunch: A trip to Vancouver would be incomplete without a sushi stop. Check out Miku Sushi near Canada Place (highly recommended sushi & great views) or Momo Sushi in Yaletown if you’re looking for good value for money. If sushi isn’t your thing, head right over to the Gastown area for tacos at Tacofino instead.
3pm-5pm gastown: Time to walk off all those salmon rolls (or tacos)! Make your way down Water Street, taking time to check out Gastown’s many boutiques - this is a cute area to walk around in, and is dotted with cute clothing shops and home stores. My two favourites are the Latest Scoop (women’s clothing store, plus they sell super cute cards and Vancouver Candle Co. candles) and Parliament Interiors (great to pick up city prints or little home décor pieces). Another spot I make a point of visiting whenever I’m in town is the Good Spirit – an aesthetically-pleasing minimalist space in which you can get tarot readings, shop their selection of books & stock up on all the goods you need to up your own energy (think crystals, sage). Next, make a pit stop at the Gastown steam clock at the corner of Water St & Cambie. If you’re needing a jolt of post-lunch caffeine, Revolver is known to be one of Vancouver’s best cafes and can be found just up Cambie Street.
5pm-6pm chinatown: Wander on over to Chinatown – this is the third largest Chinatown in North America, rivalled only by NYC and San Francisco. Check out the authentic Chinese food shops and bakeries that line the streets, and stop by the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Another “highlight” in the area is the Sam Kee building, supposedly the world’s narrowest commercial building (hey, if you’re already walking around, might as well). If you passed up on Revolver earlier (or just an absolute caffeine fiend), there are a couple really nice cafes in the area as well: Propaganda Coffee and Matchstick.
6pm-8pm drinks at keefer bar: Once you’ve had your fill of Chinatown’s sights, nip into The Keefer Bar. This cozy spot offers a huge selection of “remedies & cures” (Asian-inspired cocktails) along with bites. They’ve got happy hour pricing between 4-6pm everyday (discounted cocktails and 50% off bar snacks, dim sum and dessert).
8pm-10m dinner at bao bei: Almost next to Keefer Bar, this Chinese brasserie serves up delicious shareable plates (think Chinese tapas) & has some great cocktails if you’re hoping to keep up the momentum post Keefer Bar (try the Chino Margarita!). They don’t take reservations and there tends to be a wait, but they’ve got a communal table up front where you can enjoy cocktails while you wait.
9am-11am brunch at medina: Wake up hungry because this brunch spot serves up some amazing brunch dishes. They do fantastic waffles as well – not sure if these are intended to be ordered as a brunch “appetizer,” but that’s exactly what I did. Hence the wake up hungry. Expect a bit of a wait here as it’s one of Vancouver’s top brunch spots, if not number one.
11am-2pm vancouver sea wall: Walk from Medina to Spokes bike rental, right by the Westin Bayshore. In terms of cost, your standard cruiser rental will set you back roughly $10 an hour. Once you’ve got your bike, it’s time to explore the Sea Wall. Upon reaching Stanley Park, you can either cut through directly to English Bay, or you can do the full loop around Stanley Park. Once you get to English Bay, you’ve got a 15km long seaside bicycle route that will allow you to really get a better sense of Vancouver and check out the different neighbourhoods along the way. Not the most unique option if you’re from Canada, but a nice lunch spot at English Bay is the Cactus Club Café, serving up frosés with a view.
2pm-5pm stanley park & the vancouver aquarium: Although I’m not normally into things like zoos or aquariums, the Vancouver Aquarium is well worth the visit. Their work on conservation and raising awareness on the key issues impacting marine life (hello, plastic) was really interesting to learn more about, and of course they’ve got some super cute sea animals as residents. An adult ticket for a visit here will set you back $40.
5pm-6pm robson street: Before heading out for drinks & dinner, have a wander down Robson St, Vancouver’s main shopping street. Take some time to window shop and pick up any souvenirs. If you’re basic like me, you might be interested to know that Aritzia (Canadian women’s clothing chain) was founded in Vancouver & their Robson St storefront spans the equivalent off 4-5 stores. Heaven!
6pm-7pm granville island brewing: Head to Granville Island, home of the eponymous brewery, to have a few pre-dinner beers in their taproom. They’ve also got tours & tastings available should that be of interest, but keep in mind the last one for the day starts at 4pm.
7pm-9pm dinner at the sandbar seafood restaurant: This seafood spot sits right under the Granville bridge, and offers amazing views out onto the city. Their seafood menu is extensive, and if you prefer to sit outside, they’ve got a fixed terrace menu for $45.
This day is by no means mandatory in seeing Vancouver and you can easily spend a third day in Vancouver itself, heading out of the downtown core to explore Kitsilano for example, or just spending a quick two days in the city before returning home. Unfortunately for whoever I’m travelling with, I’m the type who likes to jam pack as much as I can into a limited amount of days (just ask my boyfriend and the bags under his eyes at the end of every trip) so venturing out to Joffre Lakes and Whistler is my suggestion to round out a perfect long weekend in Vancouver.
7am-7:30am breakfast to-go at greenhorn café: Swing by Greenhorn in the West End to pick up a quick breakfast & coffee before you hit the road. This place has got a couple spots to sit out on the sidewalk if you’d like to down your caffeine before getting behind the wheel. The West End is also a super pretty area to walk around in, so you could even get up a little earlier to stroll around before making it to the café by its 7am opening.
7:30am-10am sea-to-sky to joffre lakes provincial park: The Sea to Sky highway goes from Vancouver to Whistler (roughly 120km long), and is jam-packed with beautiful views of both the mountains and the water. When you get to Squamish, keep an eye out for the Stawamus Chief, essentially a massive, impressive rock (that sounds really boring but I don't know how else to put it - it's cool, see picture below).
10am-1pm joffre lakes hike: Once arrived at Joffre Lakes, time to hit the trail! This is a moderate hike, although it gets a little harder once you’re headed up to the third lake (but still doable). The lakes are an amazing pale blue colour and make the hike 100% worth it. Take some time to stop for a picnic lunch and enjoy the views! Note that if you want that classic Joffre Lakes picture (balancing on a log that juts out into the water), be prepared to line up.
1pm-4pm whistler: The drive back down to Whistler from Joffre Lakes is just under an hour and is on your way back to Vancouver. Stop here to have a drink or coffee and wander your way around this cute ski town. There are a range of spots to eat and drink in Whistler, ranging from no-frills to super luxurious. Stop by the Amsterdam Café Pub for a very casual beer, or Bar Oso for a more modern vibe and delicious Spanish tapas. To check out the mountain summit and soak in 360 degree views of the area, grab tickets for the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola ($75 during the week, $80 on weekends).
4pm-6pm sea to sky back to vancouver: Head back to Vancouver! Be armed with patience and your Waze navigation app because depending when you’re driving back (for example, a Sunday afternoon), traffic can tend be bad – this is no different than any Sunday afternoon drive from a holiday town back into the city.
6pm-8pm dinner at minami: You can’t leave Vancouver without one last Asian meal! Minami is located right in Yaletown, a popular area filled with trendy restaurants and bars, and serves up delicious modern Japanese cuisine. A more wallet-friendly alternative (although not in Yaletown) is JINYA Ramen Bar on Robson. It’s still in walking distance from Yaletown though so you can easily grab a bite here and then just walk down to Yaletown for drinks later.
8pm-9:30pm ice cream at mister artisan: Save room for dessert because ice cream at Mister Artisan is a must if you have a sweet tooth! They prepare your ice cream on the spot using liquid nitrogen, and the results are nothing short of IG-worthy.
9:30pm+ drinks in yaletown: Once you’ve gotten your sugar fix, have a stroll around Yaletown and pick one of the many bars to hunker down in for the night. Many of them have terraces which makes for a great atmosphere in the area on summer nights.
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Did I miss any of your favourite Vancouver spots to eat, drink or do? Share in the comments below :)
what to pack.
✧ beanie for cool vancouver days
✧ hiking boots (these ones are just over $100!)