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 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…
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 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 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
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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