3 Days in Vancouver: Everything You Should Know
If you're planning a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, you're in for a treat. This vibrant city has something for everyone, from stunning natural scenery to world-class shopping and dining. The North Shore mountains in West and North Vancouver are an ideal setting for hitting the hiking trails, skiing in season, and general exploration. Set against the blue waters of English Bay and the green trees in Stanley Park, to say that Vancouver is beautiful seems like an understatement.
Don't think that just because the city is picturesque that the other popular tourist attractions like nightlife, shopping, and excellent food are lacking. Downtown Vancouver may be on the small side but it packs a punch with amazing food, charming boutiques, and bars and clubs that will keep you busy long after the sun goes down. And, this doesn't take into account the other interesting neighborhoods in the city like the East Van hotspots of Main Street and Commercial Drive.
If you're looking for a perfect weekend getaway, look no further than Vancouver, British Columbia. With plenty of things to see and do, you'll be busy from morning until night. With such a tight schedule, you don't want to spend any extra time worrying and fussing with your bags. Head to our luggage storage in Vancouver and let us handle your suitcase while you enjoy the perfect trip to Canada's most exciting west coast city.
To help you make the most of your stay, here's everything you need to know about spending 3 days in Vancouver.
Vancouver itinerary - Day 1
Morning: West End, Stanley Park, and Vancouver Aquarium
Assuming that you're staying in either the West End neighborhood or downtown, Stanley Park is the ideal way to kick off your Vancouver itinerary when you spend 3 days in Vancouver. If you're staying outside the downtown core, the Skytrain and buses serve the area well. Stanley Park is a beautiful urban park with a wonderful waterfront walkway, called the Sea Wall, along with an enormous forested area. Stanley Park is an ideal location for sightseeing, hiking, and picnicking.
Within the park, you will find famous attractions such as the Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park Tea House, and Prospect Point, which offer amazing views of the city skyline and water. The Aquarium is a great stop on your Vancouver itinerary for families and anyone who likes marine animals. It's home to Canada’s Arctic Gallery, which is the only gallery of its kind in North America. The gallery houses a collection of more than 70 marine invertebrates, fishes, reptiles, mammals, and birds representing the Arctic regions of the world.
Once you've enjoyed Stanley Park and the Aquarium, you'll probably need a bite to eat.
Afternoon: Vancouver Art Gallery and shopping
Vancouver's West End neighborhood presents ample choices for lunch. Denman Street is lined with international restaurants from Japanese to Greek to Italian. It would be a crime to visit Vancouver and not get sushi at least once. On Denman, consider having lunch at Kingyo. They are famous for their bento boxes and small but tasty sharing plates.
Now that you've rested a little and have some energy back, your next stop should be at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Head on foot towards the downtown Vancouver core to the intersection of Howe and West Georgia, which will take about 20 minutes. The Vancouver Art Gallery has a collection of more than 9,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, drawings, and installations. The gallery's collection consists of work by Canadian artists as well as international artists. This is one of the best museums in Vancouver and should keep you busy for a while.
Before you think about getting dinner, if you need to do some shopping, the Pacific Centre mall is just steps away from the gallery and is one of the best shopping spots in Vancouver.
Night: Downtown Vancouver and Granville Island
Since you've already spent most of the day downtown, it makes sense to stay here for dinner and a few drinks. The liveliest nightlife in the city center is on Granville Street, and the well-known LGBTQ+ Davie Village is always a good time.
For nightlife that's a little more sedate, take a water taxi or public transport to Granville Island. Just across False Creek, Granville Island is full of casual restaurants and lounges and a few upscale restaurants if that's what you're after. Depending on your preference, you can stroll around Granville Island before or after dinner, but if you want to experience the Granville Island Public Market, you'll need to get here before 6 pm when it closes.
Vancouver Itinerary - Day 2
Morning: Grouse Mountain
On day two of your 3 days in Vancouver, try to get up early to maximize your time exploring Vancouver's natural beauty. Vancouver's North Shore mountains are perfect for outdoor activities and scenic views over Howe Sound, Vancouver Harbour, and downtown Vancouver. The best bang for your travel buck will be a visit to Grouse Mountain. The journey here is over the Lions Gate Bridge from Denman Street or reachable via the Second Narrows Bridge. Since these are the only two ways to access North Vancouver (and they're bridges) beware of peak travel times like rush hour and try to avoid crossing the bridges at these times as congestion gets quite bad.
At the foot of Grouse Mountain you have two options: climb it yourself or take it easy and ride the SkyRide cable car. One is free and the other is not, and you can probably guess which is which. If you have the fitness required, hiking up Grouse Mountain is a Vancouver rite of passage and you get to be out in the forest. But, it's almost 2 miles uphill so you better have water and good hiking boots.
Once you reach the top, Grouse Mountain is home to an alpine ski area, with 12 chairlifts and a total skiable terrain of 64 acres, and is one of the snowiest locations in the Lower Mainland. Grouse Mountain is also home to the only cold-weather refuge for orphaned grizzly bears in North America, as well as a large flock of resident birds including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and several owl species. There are popular hiking trails at the top if you aren't already exhausted from the hike up, a disc golf course, and breathtaking views to take in. Although Grouse is popular in the winter with skiers and snowboarders, there are year-round activities here to keep the whole family entertained.
Afternoon: North Vancouver
Before you leave Grouse Mountain consider having lunch at Altitudes Bistro to prolong the enjoyment of the views and mountain scenery. Once you descend via the tramway, you'll be in North Vancouver and ready to continue the outdoorsy part of your Vancouver itinerary.
A natural next stop is in at least one of North Shore parks. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a popular tourist attraction where you can walk across the famous suspension bridge, cliff walkways, and Treetops Adventure aerial walkway. Although the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a spectacular experience, the price to enter the park is steep. At C$59.95 for adults and C$21.95 to $31.95 for kids, a visit here can really add up.
To save some cash or for something to do in addition to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, head to nearby Lynn Canyon Park, which is home to a 300-foot-long suspension bridge that is very similar to the Capilano one, but completely free. Spend some time getting lost (but, not really - you should always follow the trails) in the temperate rainforest and keep your eyes open for wildlife. Depending on the season you can run into black bears, eagles, and deer on one of the hiking trails. This park is a beautiful shade of green with waterfalls and canyons which make the ideal backdrop for a few family photos or selfies.
Night: Kitsilano and the beaches
Make your way back in the early evening to downtown Vancouver and head west towards the neighborhood of Kitsilano. This is one of the prettier neighborhoods in this fantastic city and offers direct access to Kitsilano Beach and Jericho Beach, and Wreck Beach, where clothing is optional, is about as far west as you can go and is accessed via the UBC campus in Point Grey.
Your evening options are plentiful in Kits. You can grab picnic supplies and head to Kitsilano Beach to watch the sunset. The views of the North Shore mountains and Stanley Park are the ideal setting to unwind after your day of hiking and exploring. You can also find tons of bars and restaurants catering to all cuisines and all diets here. We should note that Granville Island is on the way to Kitsilano Beach from downtown Vancouver if you want to stop in here instead.
Vancouver itinerary - Day 3
Morning: Science World, Granville Island, or East Van
While it may not appeal to everyone, Science World is a fun place to visit when you have 3 days in Vancouver. Science World is dedicated to showing how science affects every aspect of our lives—and how it can be used to create a better future. Their goal is to inspire people of all ages to develop a lifelong love of science and scientific learning. When you visit Science World, you'll get world-class exhibitions and interactive programming that make science come alive for everyone.
If you prefer not to spend the morning of one of your days in Vancouver here, this is a great opportunity to head to the Granville Island Public Market to get picnic supplies and treat yourself to hand-crafted souvenirs. If you've already been to Granville Island, use this morning to do some shopping at the quirky boutiques in East Van on Main Street or Commercial Drive. Each of these neighborhoods has great options for breakfast, and Vancouver is passionate about coffee, so you'll have no trouble finding that either.
Afternoon: Chinatown and Queen Elizabeth Park
From Science World, Granville Island, Main Street, or Commerical Drive, the trip to Vancouver's Chinatown is relatively simple. It's centrally located just outside the downtown core and features great restaurants, interesting shops, and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden for a peaceful stroll. The food scene in Chinatown is vast and particular favorites include the savory meats at Chinatown BBQ, the apple tarts at Boss Bakery, and the sticky rice cakes from Bao Bei.
Once you've dined on some of the best Asian food around, head to Queen Elizabeth Park just off Cambie. The park's 130 acres spread out high above the city on Little Mountain. This is a great spot to enjoy views of the city and North Shore mountains while relaxing on the grass. The park has an aquatic center and mini-golf course if the views aren't enough.
Night: East Vancouver
The last stop on your Vancouver itinerary is to sample the casual nightlife in East Vancouver. Commercial Drive is lined with bars and restaurants where you can get Cuban food, vegan Mexican food, and authentic Italian. Main Street offers much of the same type of experience with quirky lounges and inclusive cuisine.
Another option on the edge between East Van and downtown is Gastown. The area has improved drastically in recent years to become trendy enough for restaurants and bars to move back in high numbers.
Regardless of which of these neighborhoods you choose, you're guaranteed a good time and they all offer ample pub-hopping opportunities. And, if you prefer your last evening to end with a dance party, head back to Granville Street for clubs like The Roxy.
Now that you see all that the amazing city has to offer, it may seem daunting to fit everything into your 3 days in Vancouver, but with this Vancouver itinerary and a little planning, you'll get to see some of the best things to do here. You can also easily substitute one of your days in Vancouver with whale watching in Richmond, which is where you'll find the Vancouver International Airport. You can also hop on ferries to Vancouver Island or one of the closer islands like Bowen, which makes an excellent day trip.
Whatever you do though, don't miss out on Stanley Park, the nightlife of Vancouver's indie neighborhoods, or the parks on the North Shore.