Vancouver – Top attractions and first timer tips
Over the years, I’ve learned to relax during vacation/travel. While before I used to have a packed schedule and visit as many sights as possible, I now try to take my time and relax. I even have days with no pre-planned schedules and be spontaneous. Isn’t that what vacation is supposed to be? My tip for you (if you don’t do it already) is to take a few more days and visit just one or two cities instead of having a busy schedule. It feels much more rewarding and refreshing this way. And you don’t feel exhausted coming back from vacation. Sometimes, making no plans is the best plan!
With trendy cafes, opulent lighting, laid back lifestyle, I found Vancouver to be a mix of bustling cityscape and serene forests. Each cafe, spa, restaurant had a story of its own and none skimped on the design.
What I loved most about the city though, is the fact that it is surrounded by wilderness and water. A half hour drive from the city leads you to a rainforest. And I loved that there are so many parks within the city – all walkable. No wonder it had been consistently named as one of the best cities with highest quality of living and one of the most livable in the world.
Vancouver is one of my favorite places to visit and I have listed all the top attractions and first timer tips here!
FUN FACT: Did you know that Vancouver is one of the most filmed cities? Yes! We saw a few film sets as well!
VANCOUVER: FIRST TIMER TIPS
When to visit?
Honestly, anytime of the year is a great time to visit. We visited in November and April and enjoyed it both times. In November, the city was covered in fall leaves and views of snow capped peaks. In April, it was pink with cherry blossoms and spring flowers. Vancouver is not as cold as other Canadian cities in winter and summer is also ideal.
Where to stay?
- Stay in the Downtown as you get the best views of waterfront. Downtown also has easy access to popular tourists attractions via foot or public transit.
- Choose a hotel/room with views of waterfront. That way, you do not even need to step out to enjoy the scenic views of waterfront. We stayed at the Auberge hotel and couldn’t have asked for a better option!
- Do not rent a car. Another thing I loved about Vancouver is their excellent public transportation system. The city offers free shuttles to many sight-seeing spots.
- A direct train operates from the airport to the Downtown so you are covered there as well.
What to eat?
Vancouver is diverse and you will find unlimited options there. Walk around downtown and enjoy Canadian favorite poutine, the many vegan options available, sushi and whatever you wish for.
- Make use of the many parks and nature in and around Vancouver.
- Watch the seaplanes land and take off from Stanley Park. Also go on a ride to Victoria or Whistler on a seaplane if you fancy.
- Walk as much as possible for hidden views and cute cafés.
- Take a ferry ride. They are inexpensive and fun!
First thing to do in Vancouver is to visit Stanley Park. It is a 1000+ acre park in the heart of the city and has to be one the most beautiful urban parks in the world. If you ask me, walking or biking around the trails in Stanley Park is worth the trip to Vancouver.
Stanley park has THE best views of downtown and the waterfront. Watch the seaplanes land and take off, walk by the marina, watch seagulls singing and gliding, kids biking and the sunset over the Downtown. It is a pretty, pretty park!
Vancouver Waterfront and Canada Place
Vancouver’s waterfront and Canada Place are very lively and fun to visit. You also get different perspectives depending on the time of the day you visit. So I suggest visiting it in the morning, at dusk and at night. Holiday season was even more livelier with lights everywhere.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
I have a love-hate relationship with Capilano bridge. Love because I fell for it on the first look a few years ago and wanted to visit ever since; hate because it is can get so crowded and hard to get around. But love trumps hate – always! You must visit and walk on the bridge to appreciate its engineering marvel. Walk along the cliff is another unforgettable experience. An added advantage for us during the holiday season was the Christmas lighting in the park. That was amazing! The bridge, the trees, the logs, even the river was lighted and it was a sight to behold!
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
While Capilano bridge is longer, higher and one of the most visited parks in Canada, Lynn Canyon bridge is shorter, more intimate and cozier version of the former. It is a peaceful park and is a neighborhood gem. You will see daily runners, dog walkers minding their own business oblivious to tourists like us. Take the trails and get up close to the Capilano river and waterfalls amidst the rainforest. If you are looking to get away from the city, this is the place to be. I highly recommend visiting both!
Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island Public Market is a great place to visit if you are a foodie. It is a large public market with lots of goodies to buy. If you are into seafood like us, visit the Granville Island market or try seafood at any other restaurant in Vancouver. The wood grilled Salmon at Granville Market was one of the best Salmon I’ve tasted. And the oysters were so fresh and delicious that we couldn’t stop with one serving. The ferry ride to Granville Island was a cool addition too. I love how the city made use of waterways with public ferries to major spots.
Gastown and steam clock
Gastown is the original settlement and oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver. Now, it lively and fun with a mix of great restaurants, cafés and souvenir shops! The most famous attraction here is the steam powered clock. Stop to listen to the whistles of the clock every 15minutes.
BC wines, particularly from Okanagan valley are gaining reputation worldwide and they so deserve it. The wines are terroir driven and most of the wineries follow organic and biodynamic practices. They specialize in Alsatian whites like Pinot Gris, Riesling and reds like Pinot Noir and Cab Franc. The whites I’ve had were crisp with good minerality (just the way I like it) and the reds had a nice balance of fruit, earth and oak.
The 8 minute ride up to Grouse Mountain is both fun and exhilarating. And the views from the mountain are breathtaking. You have to take the ride yourself to appreciate the beauty!
Visit Fairmont Pacific Rim
If you like to indulge, Fairmont Pacific Rim is great place to visit. Dine at their fancy restaurant, sit in the lounge with a drink or spend a day at their world class spa.
To summarize, I suggest taking it easy in Vancouver, walking a lot and covering the major attractions! You will love Vancouver!
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I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.