Canada, and Vancouver in particular will always be one my favourite places. Vancouver is one of those rare cities that combines a modern city with the outdoors, all in a beautiful setting. You’re right by the ocean with a backdrop of mountains, so it’s actually possible to swim and ski in the same day here… Vancouver is also a very big city with lots of different parts of it, so for this post I’m going to be talking about downtown Vancouver, which is what most people refer to as the city centre.

The list below is 5 of my favourite things to do/places to visit in downtown Vancouver, this list of ‘things to do’ is more of an ‘areas to visit’ with lots of cool stuff rather than specific attractions. But having consulted with my born and bred Canadian girlfriend (who is from just outside of Vancouver), she has given this list the Canadian seal of approval.

Stanley Park

(1) View from Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a large park just to the north of the main city area, you can get here by foot or public transport very easily. The park itself is just over 1000 acres, and is beautiful. You can actually stroll along the ‘seawall’ path all around the park by the water, this path is 28km and runs all along the coast and outside of the downtown area, providing a great option for a cycle, stroll or jog. There is an aquarium in Stanley park to visit, or you can go see the Totem Poles in place in recognition of First Nations Culture (Canada’s equivalent of Native Americans). One of my favourite things to do is go up to the viewpoint on the East side where you can look over towards the mountains and North Vancouver (see view above). If you’re extremely lucky, you might even spot wild orca whales swimming in the water here, there were some spotted right off the coast just a couple of days after we had taken a boat for hours to see them…

English bay

(2) English Bay pic

This was actually one of the first places I visited, and it happened completely by accident when I arrived in Vancouver for the first time. I was just having a stroll around and stumbled across it. English Bay is a long beach along the waterfront looking out over the Pacific ocean. Safe to say it’s pretty great, both the picture above and main picture from this post were taken here. The seawall mentioned earlier runs all the way around downtown and Stanley Park, which means you’ll often find people jogging, cycling or just having a stroll along the path behind the beach. There are also other beaches all along this west side of downtown Vancouver that you can relax on too. It’s pretty rare you can be in a city centre with high rise office buildings, before walking 15 minutes to a lovely sand beach.

Gastown

(3) Gastown Vancouver

Gastown is the trendy area with all the cool shops, restaurants, and bars around. It’s known for it’s whistling old steam clock that attracts tourists (like us above) from all around. If you’re into your clocks then this will be right up your street! But mainly thought, it’s the place to be if you want nightlife or things to see and do. It’s actually designated a historic area, so lots of the shops, art galleries etc are in old buildings that makes for a pretty cool setting and contrast to most inner city areas.

Granville Island

(4) Granville Island

Granville Island is a small ‘island’ (actually more of a peninsula as it’s attached to land) just west of downtown Vancouver. By ‘island’ it’s actually very accessible, we took a small tug boat from English Bay which takes about ten minutes at most, which is probably the easiest way by foot, or by car you’d drive over the bridge to get there.  The area is known for it’s market, and also has lots of great waterfront eating and drinking options. It’s pretty cool even if you just want to have a walk around the market, or the great souvenir shops around the area. If you like your beer, visit Granville Island Brewery where they offer tours, and of course plenty of great beer.

Waterfront & Convention Centre Area

(5) Crab Park Vancouver

This is the more modern city centre area, where a lot of top hotels etc are located. It’s along the waterfront (as you might have guessed), and there is also a beach and small park (pictured) a short walk from here which is nice to sit by. The main station and transport hubs are here, so you can also get the ferry’s across to North Vancouver. There are lots of modern shops and restaurants to visit, and you really feel like you’re in the centre of a big city here. Mostly though I enjoyed just walking out to the edge of the convention centre (it juts out to the water and there is an outside path you can walk around on the outside of it). where you get stunning views looking back to the city and again looking over to North Vancouver.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed my 5 Favourite Things to do and see in Downtown Vancouver, I’ve deliberately tried to pick shots that show how green, beautiful and outdoorsy this city really is as that’s what makes me love it so much. If you’ve got any questions about any of the above, pop them in the comments below.

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10 thoughts

  1. I’ll be in Vancouver next week, and hope to do most of the things you’ve mentioned, as well as some of the things you’ve written about in different posts, however since the weather will much colder, I’d love some cold weather suggestions if you have any.

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    1. Of course! I’m well informed it actually just snowed there so winter wise my top recommendation would be take a trip to Whistler if you can, it’s world famous for it’s great skiing etc. If you want somewhere a bit closer Grouse Mountain isn’t too far which also has winter sports options, both if the snow is good. The hockey season starts in September so if you’re lucky enough you might be able to get a ticket to see the Canucks. Let me know how you get on!

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      1. I’m going for a conference at the Vancouver Convention Center West, so I’ll probably doing small things close by in between talks and such. But I do have one full day to explore so I’ll defintely check those out then.

        For Grouse Mountain, do you know of you can still go up this time of year? I’m sure my group or I could hike up in snow to be honest, but I’m sure they’ll all want to look into it.

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      2. Ah right I see, well there is a gondola that goes up grouse mountain so no need to hike up there, you will get some great views from the top, also that’s very near the Capilano suspension bridge which is a long suspension bridge that’s pretty cool to check out. I’m all honestly for a day too Whistler might be too far and would mean you’d miss out on other things. Other mountains where you can ski that are closer to downtown are Mt Seymour and Cyprus mountain. This does all depend on snow, and although they did get snow recently it’s quite unusual this time of year. For a full day there is plenty to see and do with Stanley, Granville and English Bay too in case weather doesn’t permit any possibility to do something snow related

        Near the convention centre in breaks etc I’d probably recommend Gastown with its restaurants and bars etc.

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