Located on Canada's Pacific Coast, Vancouver is far away from the nation's capital, Ottawa, and the cultural hub of Toronto. The biggest city in British Columbia, Vancouver is often recognized as one of the world's most beautiful cities. Surrounded by mountains and with the Pacific Ocean at its doorstep, Vancouver is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors.
It's also a city that is forever changing. Home to dozens of different cultures and a magnet for immigrants from around the world, Vancouver is a city where you can experience just about anything. Once supported by logging and resource extraction, Vancouver has since become a center of film production, a tech hub, and an increasingly popular tourist destination. With low crime, laid-back culture, incredible cuisine, and some of Canada's best weather, it's no wonder this West Coast city is routinely recognized as one of the best places in the world to live.
A weekend in Vancouver
Vancouver is one of Canada's biggest cities, but it's still relatively compact by world standards. As a result, a weekend in the city, though not nearly enough to see everything it has to offer, does give you enough time to see some of the top attractions. Drop off your heavy bags at a Vancouver luggage locker and start exploring.
- Take a bike ride around Stanley Park. The city's top tourist attraction is a vast one thousand acre park just outside downtown. Densely forested and surrounded by the ocean, a bike ride along the seawall lets you enjoy Vancouver's spectacular mountain and ocean scenery.
- Grouse Mountain is just one of the mountains that tower above the city. On a clear day, the view from the summit is absolutely breathtaking, letting you see all the way into the United States. If you're feeling energetic, you can climb to the top of the mountain on a grueling trail known as the Grouse Grind. Alternatively, you can take it easy and ride the gondola.
- Embark on a whale watching tour right from the city. High-speed boats take visitors out into the Salish Sea to meet some of the planet's biggest animals. The waters around Vancouver teem with life, and you may see gray whales, humpback whales, orcas, seals, and other aquatic life.
Vancouver’s Metro area is big, but the downtown core of the city is quite compact. That, combined with the presence of nearby Stanley Park, makes Vancouver a very walkable city. Make things easier on yourself by dropping off any heavy bags at a Vancouver suitcase storage service so you can travel more freely. Knowing your bags will be safely looked after until you return lets you enjoy the city to the fullest.
Off the beaten path in Vancouver
10 Best Ways to Experience Vancouver in 2023
Vancouver is one of Canada’s biggest cities — and one of the world’s most beautiful. With its cosmopolitan vibe, ocean setting, and mountainous backdrop, there’s something to do in the city to please just about everyone. But if you really want to get to grips with all this West Coast metropolis has to offer, a knowledgeable local tour company can help. Drop off your unnecessary luggage at a Vancouver luggage storage and try one of these unique tours.
Best boat tour — Harbour Cruises
Vancouver’s harbor is a truly stunning location and the perfect place to capture photographs of both the city skyline and the impressive mountain range behind it. Plus, a cruise over the placid waters of the harbor is a relaxing experience in itself. Harbour Cruises offers the only narrated tour of the harbor, so you learn more about the city while you’re enjoying the ride. You can contact them at email@example.com or 1 604-688-7246.
Best tour for foodies — Taste Vancouver
As a center for immigration from the Pacific Rim and around the world, Vancouver’s food scene has an astonishing breadth and variety. The Asian influence on the city’s cuisine is unmistakable, but you’ll find it fused with classic Canadian delicacies and other influences. Taste Vancouver offers six different tours that will take you to some of the city’s best restaurants to sample what they have to offer. Book a tour by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 800-653-5070.
Best brewery tour — Canadian Craft Tours
In recent years, Vancouver has seen a huge increase of interest in craft beer. This demand has led to the establishment of several microbreweries throughout the city — over 40 of them, in fact. Canadian Craft Tours offers you the chance to explore unique beers with a tour of some of the city’s top independent breweries. Alternatively, if wine is more you drink, they also offer a tour through the Fraser Valley to visit local vineyards and sample local wine. Either way, you will get a much better understanding of the local drink scene and have a lot of fun doing it. Contact them at email@example.com or 1 778-320-3409.
Best van tour — Lawrence Tours
If you’re pressed for time and not sure where to start, a van tour can give you a good sense of the city. This company specializes in van tours around Vancouver and beyond, and they make things easier for you by picking you up and drop you off at your hotel. If you like taking things easy on your vacation, this is a great way to see more of the area without having to put in a lot of planning. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 604-780-3474.
Best bike tour in Vancouver — Vancouver Bike Tours
With year-round mild weather — at least by Canadian standards — and an extensive network of bike lanes, Vancouver is a great place to explore on two wheels. This company offers a variety of tours that let you focus on different aspects of the city. You could take an art tour of Vancouver or a tour of the city’s Chinatown district. You can also travel by bike from the bustling financial district to the serenity of Stanley Park. Whichever tour you choose, you’ll spend about three hours learning more about the city and getting some exercise at the same time. Contact them at email@example.com or 1 778-628-4316.
Best bike tour outside Vancouver — Into The Wild Cycle Tours
If you want to explore outside the boundaries of the city, this is the company for you. The wilderness that surrounds Vancouver is what many travelers most want to see, and traveling by bike lets you see more of it. This company will take you to the resort town of Whistler or let you explore the pristine wilderness of Vancouver Island. They also offer a tour inside the city that begins and ends at Stanley Park. Reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 778-877-6100.
Best walking tour — Forbidden Vancouver
Vancouver is known for having one of the highest qualities of life of any city in the world. But it wasn’t always that way. Not so long ago, this Canadian metropolis was very much a frontier town, and behind the shiny modern skyscrapers, traces of this intriguing past still remain. Forbidden Vancouver takes you on several different tours that will show you a side of the city most people never glimpse. You’ll hear the most exciting tales from Vancouver’s wild days as you explore the city’s old neighborhoods. Contact them at email@example.com or 1 604-227-7570.
Best garden tour — Wild BC Tours
This company offers a unique way to see the city through its green spaces. Vancouver is very much a city of parks, from the ancient forest of Stanley Park to the dozens of regional and neighborhood parks that offer recreation opportunities to Vancouver residents. Wild BC will take you to some of the city’s best green spaces, allowing you to enjoy the magnificent view from Queen Elizabeth Park or experience the serenity of Doctor Sun Yat-sen Garden in Chinatown. With 14 tours to choose from, this locally owned company can make sure you get to see the best of what the city has to offer. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 888-671-9523.
Best nature tour — Vancity Tours
Part of the appeal of Vancouver is that you don’t have to go far to immerse yourself in nature. This company can help you explore some of Vancouver’s most iconic natural areas, such as Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain. If you’re in the mood to go further afield, they can also take you to Whistler for a true backcountry experience. They offer both group and private tours, so you can meet new people or explore with just your own party. Contact them at email@example.com or 1 604-379-3883.
Best Victoria tour — Lotus Land Tours
Vancouver may be the biggest city in British Columbia, but it’s not the capital of the province. That honor goes to Victoria, a quaint city located on Vancouver Island. This company will take you by boat to explore everything Victoria has to offer and will show you some of the province’s most important historical sites. With over 10 tours to choose from, they have something to offer everyone. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-528-3531.
Beyond the must-see attractions, Vancouver has its share of lesser-known spots. Slip away from the tourist crowds and drop off your bags at a Vancouver bag storage so you can see some of the other aspects of this multifaceted city.
- Not many tourists make the short Skytrain ride to Commercial Drive. Which is a shame, because this East Vancouver neighborhood is one of the city's most vibrant. Full of quirky stores, galleries, and unique restaurants, the Drive, as locals call it, offers a glimpse of local life in Vancouver.
- Deep Cove lies on the other side of Burrard Inlet from downtown Vancouver. Although this is an inlet of the ocean, the calm water can seem more like a lake. This stunning fjord surrounded by mountains is a perfect place to rent a kayak and explore the West Coast at your own pace.
- Explore Vancouver's progressive history with a tour of Davie Street. The heart of the city's gay village, this vibrant community is one of Canada's biggest. A walking tour will explain the history of gay rights in the city and let you know all the most happening spots.
What to do alone in Vancouver
Vancouver is a great city to explore solo. Violent crime is extremely rare, and it's very easy to get around. Also, the locals can be very welcoming of foreigners. Whether you come to the city for a solo vacation or are traveling on business, you'll find plenty to do. Drop off unneeded bags with a Vancouver luggage storage service and start your solo exploration.
- Located on the west side of the city at the University of British Columbia, the Museum of Anthropology is a stunning place to visit. It houses one of Canada's best collections of indigenous art and artifacts and is the perfect place for an introduction to the culture of the first people to call Vancouver home.
- Gastown is where Vancouver began, and this vibrant district is still home to some of the city's oldest buildings. Learn about the spooky stories of the area on a Gastown ghost tour. It's a great way to mix with other travelers while hearing bloodcurdling tales of this former pioneer city.
- Let it all hang out at Wreck Beach. Located on the west side of the city, this is one of Vancouver's most pristine beaches, cut off by dense forest from the city. As a result, it's the city's main nudist beach. It also attracts countercultural types and nature worshipers. Shed your inhibitions along with your bathing suit, and you probably won't be alone for long.
The best souvenirs in Vancouver
Gastown is full of souvenir stores selling the usual maple syrup and lumberjack apparel. For something a little less kitsch, pick up a hockey jersey of local team the Vancouver Canucks. Gastown is also a great place to pick up jewelry designed by First Nations people, and you can find a good selection at Artina's. If you're after something more practical, visit The Umbrella Shop and grab a must-have item in this notoriously rainy city. Or you could visit Granville Island market and pick up salmon fresh from the boat. Salmon can be packed for travel, so you can take this classic West Coast treat home with you.