Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by admin
Vancouver BC is one of our favorite cities in the world. The food, culture, and natural beauty surrounding the city are unparalleled. Vancouver is known as: The City of Glass (due to its numerous glass buildings), Rain City (because it rains so much there), and Hollywood North (because it’s the third-largest film industry in North America). Because we are based in Seattle, we make frequent weekend trips to Vancouver BC. In this post, we share an ideal 2 day itinerary for visiting Vancouver BC. We’ve done all the planning, you just have to go and enjoy for yourself! This post will help you prepare for an excellent weekend in Vancouver.
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About Vancouver BC
Vancouver is a large urban city located on the western coast of Canada. It’s about a 3-hour drive from Seattle, Washington.
Vancouver’s population in 2020 was over 2.5 million residents. The city is known for many things, including:
- Becoming a “green city” by focusing on more natural spaces and reduced carbon emissions.
- Its diverse cultural scene, particularly by having the second-largest Chinatown in North America.
- Stanley Park, as it’s one of the largest urban parks in the country.
- Its Seawall, which is the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world.
- Its active film industry, otherwise known as North Hollywood.
- Its nature views, in which you can see both mountains and sea from the city.
Vancouver is located on the unceded lands of several First Nations tribes, including the Coast Salish peoples (Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam nations). It’s very common to see land acknowledgments in public spaces, as it’s important to honor and respect the ancestral lands. This website has a great overview of the purpose of reflecting on land acknowledgements (linked here) if you are interested in learning more about this practice.
The city was first called Gastown in 1867, which was later referred to as Granville. The city wasn’t named “Vancouver” until 1886.
How to Get to Vancouver
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the closest airport to the city. When you fly into the airport, it’s about a 25 minute drive to downtown Vancouver. (If that’s where you are planning to stay.) If you don’t have a car, we recommend that you take the Canada Line Skytrain from the airport to downtown. To get to the Skytrain from the airport, go to Level 3 and follow the signs for the “Canada Line.” The tickets for the Skytrain are very affordable. For schedules and pricing, see their website (linked here).
If you’re driving to downtown Vancouver, you’ll want to make sure you know where to park. Most of the hotels have covered garages, but there may be a daily fee. Call in advance about parking so you don’t have any surprise expenses.
From Seattle, the drive it typically under 3 hours to get to Vancouver. You’ll want to give yourself extra time in case there is traffic or long lines at the border. Holiday weekends, for example, can see long lines at the border. During our last trip, we went during the winter, and there was hardly a line at all. If you’re traveling to Vancouver from the United States, you can see current border crossing times at the U.S. Customs and Border Protections website (linked here). If you are coming from Seattle, it might be nice to make a quick stop at the border and see the Peace Arch.
A convenient way to reach Vancouver BC from Seattle is to take the train. Amtrak Cascades has a beautiful route that will take you to Vancouver BC. The current schedule is listed here. Please note that the train is currently not crossing into Canada at the time of this writing due to covid. (Hopefully soon!)
If you’re traveling to Canada during covid, you’ll want to see this website to make sure you’re aware of all covid protocols and eligibility requirements. You will need to use the ArriveCAN system to submit your entry requirements.
Seattle to Vancouver
We prefer to drive from Seattle to Vancouver. It takes us, on average, 3 hours to reach the city. (But be sure to allow more time for traffic or border crossing delays.) When we are in the city itself, we prefer to walk and use public transportation. (Looking for parking is no fun!) But we do like to have our own vehicle to explore the area outside of downtown Vancouver. (Like when we go to Capilano Suspension Bridge.)
As a Seattle local, I do know a lot of people that have taken the train to Vancouver and have loved it! They’ve told me that it’s one of the most beautiful rides. It’s also a stress-free way of traveling. Once you’re on the train, all you have to do is sit back and relax. (There’s even a bar on the train fi that’s your thing!)
Weekend Itinerary for Vancouver BC
Before we get started, we created a full map of all points of interest in this itinerary below:.
Evening of Arrival
We’re writing this itinerary assuming that you will arrive on a Friday evening and depart on Sunday. So, Friday is really a “bonus day” for this itinerary.
Once you get settled into your hotel, you’ll probably only have a few hours to see the city during the first day. We recommend that you spend the evening walking around the city.
Dinner at Japadog
For dinner, you might want to check out the food truck Japadog. (There are several downtown locations, listed here.) One of my favorite travel writers, Anthony Bourdain, featured Japadog on his show No Reservations. (You can view the clip here.) Japadog was created when the only street food allowed in Vancouver at the time was hot dogs. The owners added their own heritage to the hot dogs, and the result was Japadog. Their menu consists of items such as the Terimayo (topped with teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and seaweed), the Yakisoba (topped with Japanese noodles and Arabiki sausage), and the Oroshi (topped with freshly grated radish and soya sauce).
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Sunset at the Vancouver Lookout
At sunset (before it gets dark), head to the Vancouver Lookout. You’ll get an almost aerial view of the city (553 feet/168 meters high up). The observation deck will give you 360 degree views of the city. It’s the perfect way to get a “lay of the land” before you head into your weekend. The Lookout is currently closed for public admission due to covid, but we are hopeful that it will reopen soon. They are offering private tours that are booked in advance.
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We recommend that you go to bed early so you can make the most of sight-seeing the next day. (Vancouver also has a reputation for not being the most fun for nightlife, so you might not be missing out on too much!)
First Full Day
Start your day off with breakfast at the Jam Cafe. It’s the place to go for brunch! They open at 8am, and we recommend that you get there right when they open so that you can still enjoy brunch while also having the full day ahead of you. Even if your hotel offers free breakfast, one of our favorite things to do while traveling is eat, so you might want to save your appetite for Jam Cafe. They serve dishes like Chicken French Toast and Cinnamon Bun Pancakes.
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After breakfast, head straight to Stanley Park to walk off some of that breakfast. Stanley Park is basically Vancouver’s version of Central Park. The park is located in the heart of Vancouver and is easy to access. There’s tons to see while visiting the park. We wrote a complete post about it (linked here) if you’d like the full scoop. We recommend walking part of the Seawall (which is the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world) and visiting Brockton Point (to see the totem poles).
Before leaving Stanley Park, stop by the Vancouver Aquarium. (See our full post here on the aquarium.) The Vancouver Aquarium has over 30 exhibits and is a beautiful place to learn about local marine wildlife. Grab a snack here if you’re hungry.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
After the aquarium, head about 9 kilometers north to see one of our favorite places in Vancouver: The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. (If you don’t have a car, consider taking a ride share or public transportation.)
Before crossing the bridge, you’re probably hungry for lunch. The Cliffhouse Restaurant overlooks the cliff and is a beautiful place to dine. (We think it’s better to eat there than at the aquarium. But if you’re hungry while you’re still in Stanley Park, you can also try the Teahouse Restaurant for an upscale meal.)
The main attraction at Capilano is the suspension bridge, which is 450 feet long. Take your time crossing the bridge and looking at the river below. Come back later near the end of your visit for photos, when most tourists have left. Across from the bridge is the Treetop Adventure, which consists of platforms in the tree canopy connected by rope bridges. It’s a unique way to see the forest! The last thing you have to make sure you do at Capilano is the Cliffwalk. The Cliffwalk is a curved bridge that wraps around the cliff face. Be sure to bring your camera, it’s a unique place for photos!
We wrote all about our visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge here.
Next, explore the neighborhood of Gastown. This is the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver, which was comprised of the Gastown settlement. It’s famous for its food scene, boutique shops, art galleries, and a historic steam clock. We recommend dinner at The Flying Pig Gastown. We’ve had dinner there on two separate occasions, and both times were delicious. Their current menu has things like Westcoast Seafood Paella and Lobster and Prawn Risotto.
After dinner, if you are up for it, head over to Canada Place to see the architecture. It will be lit up at night. If you get there before 9pm, you can also book tickets for the Fly Over Canada experience.
Second Full Day
Head to the Medina Cafe for breakfast. It’s an extremely popular spot, so get there right at opening or expect to wait in line. (They also accept reservations, so you can help yourself out and book in advance.) Brunch starts at 9am.
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Yaletown and George Wainborn Park
Prior to the city’s expansion, Yaletown was an industrial area filled with brick warehouses. Today, it’s a trendy neighborhood with lots of shops, restaurants, and galleries. You might be interested in the Engine 347 Pavilion (to see the historic train engine).
George Wainborn Park is located just south of Yaletown and has beautiful views of the city skyline.
Granville Island Public Market
Once you are starting to get a bit of an appetite, take the Aquabus (Hornby Street Ferry Terminal) to Granville Island. (The ferry terminal is just a short 7 minute walk from George Wainborn Park.)
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The Granville Island Public Market has over 50 vendors and some pretty incredible foods to try! We wrote an entire post about what to eat at Granville Island Public Market (linked here). Be sure to check that post out if you are planning on visiting!
We definitely recommend trying Lee’s Donuts, which is one of the most famous vendors on the island.
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We also recommend lunch at Popina Canteen, but feel free to eat anywhere you fancy in the market!
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Before you leave the island, you might also enjoy checking out The Liberty Distillery or Granville Island Brewing for a beverage or two.
Grouse Mountain is located about 30 minutes north of Granville Island. You will have an incredible view of Vancouver from the peak of the mountain, and the gondola ride to the top is so much fun! At the top you can see a Lumberjack Show or complete a Mountain Ropes Adventure. There’s also dining and beverages at the top of the mountain. Walk around for awhile and take in the views of the city and nature. We recommend dining at The Observatory for an early dinner before you leave. (Currently The Observatory is closed due to covid. We hope that it will reopen soon.)
This concludes the second day of the itinerary, assuming you head home that evening. But, if you can stay one more night (and leave the next morning), we recommend that you go out for a night on the town. You might enjoy a bar like The Diamond (which accepts reservations) for craft cocktails.
Other Information About Vancouver
Where to Eat
We provided some of our favorite places built into the itinerary, but there are a few other places that are worth checking out if you have the time!
- Fritz European Fry House: When you’re in Canada, you have to try the poutine (french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds). We think Fritz has some of the best poutine in Canada. The shop is located near Yaletown, so it has a very convenient location. Be sure to stop by here for a snack!
- Nemesis Coffee Gastown: Vancouver is famous for its coffee, and one of the best places to go is Nemesis Coffee Gastown. Their cups of coffees are beautiful… definitely a place to go for latte art!
- Sashimiya: Grab’n’go sushi and sashimi. This is where to go for some high quality sushi.
- Revolver: Ever try an espresso flight? No? Get one here.
- Blue Water Cafe: This restaurant is located in Yaletown and features sustainable seafood.
- Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine: Head to Richmond to get dim sum.
- Pidgin Restaurant: Experience fare that combines Asian flavors with Pacific Northwest ingredients at this Gastown restaurant. They have a prix-fixe tasting menu which is a fun way to sample their menu.
- La Casa Gelato: You will feel like you are in Italy when you walk into La Casa Gelato. Currently they have 238 flavors in their store! It will be hard to choose… be sure to get a unique flavor you can’t get anywhere else! As of 2019, they hold the Guinness World Record for “Most Commercially Available Flavors.”
¿Cómo? Taperia: After having studied abroad in Spain, I have a deep appreciation for authentic Spanish tapas. This restaurant even has incorporated some of the cultural elements of Spanish life, including one free tapas with a drink purchase during happy hour.
Below are some foods that you should try while in Vancouver:
- BC Roll: Vancouver is known as the sushi capital of North America, and their signature role is the BC Roll. The “BC” stands for British Columbia. The roll usually contains rice, barbecued salmon, and cucumbers. Vancouver is known for its Pacific Salmon, which is the central ingredient of this roll. You can order the BC Roll in most sushi restaurants in Vancouver. (Fun fact: Vancouver is also the city where the super-popular California Roll was invented!)
- BeaverTails: These pastries consist of a fried dough base in the shape of an otter tail (a long oval). The tails are topped with all sorts of sweet toppings. For example, there’s a Bananarama BeaverTail (chocolate hazlenut spread with bananas) and a Mehple BeaverTail (maple flavored spread topped with maple sugar crunch). BeaverTails is a franchise chain with one location a bit outside of downtown Vancouver. (There’s also one opened seasonly on top of Grouse Mountain.) 2901 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V5K 5J1, Canada
- Salmon Candy: You can try this delicacy at Granville Island Public Market. Basically, it’s Pacific Salmon glazed with maple syrup. 1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9, Canada
- Maple Syrup Candies, Cookies, and More: Maple syrup is a staple in Vancouver. You can find a wide variety of maple syrup concoctions at Grand Maple Gifts. It’s the perfect place to stop for a souvenir as well! 1046 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1A7, Canada
- Butter Chicken Pizza: Traditional pizza meets Indian flavors. There are several pizza places that serve up Indian Pizzas, and Camy’s Pizza is one of the best. 5688 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5W 2Z4, Canada
- Bannock: Bannock is a griddled bread that is traditional First Nations food. Salmon n’ Bannock is the place to go to try it. 1128 W Broadway #7, Vancouver, BC V6H 1G5, Canada
- Japadog: We already included Japadog in our itinerary above, so make sure you try it! Their hotdogs are topped with Japanese ingredients like bonito flakes and seaweed. 530 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2B7, Canada
- Tim Hortons: You can’t visit Vancouver BC without seeing a Tim Hortons. They are everywhere. They are basically Canada’s version of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. You have no choice but to try their coffee at least once. 750 W Pender St Unit 104, Vancouver, BC V6C 2T7, Canada
If you’re looking to bring back souvenirs for family and friends, here are some ideas:
- Choclates from ChocolaTas (located on Granville Island)
- Maple syrup candy from Grand Maple Gifts
- Canuck hockey apparel from the Canucks Team Store in Gastown
- Maple fudge from Rocky Mountain Chocolate
- Smoked salmon from Granville Island Public Market
- First Nations art (many galleries located in downtown Vancouver)
What to Pack for Your Trip
We recommend that you pack the following items when you travel to Vancouver BC:
- Packable rain jacket
- Comfortable daypack
- Portable charger (so your cell phone doesn’t run out battery)
- Insulated water bottle
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Flannel shirt
Expanding Your Itinerary
If you have extra time to spend in Vancouver, you might consider adding the following things to do on your itinerary.
After breakfast, spend an hour or two at Science World. You might be interested in going just to see the giant ball-shaped building. This museum was built for the 1986 World’s Fair. There are a number of exhibits there that will keep children and adults entertained. If Science World isn’t your thing, though, you might enjoy the Vancouver Art Gallery as an alternative.
Watch a Hockey Game
If it aligns with your schedule, check out the Cancucks play at Rogers Arena. It’s an authentic Canadian experience that you won’t want to miss! You can see their schedule here.
Vancouver hosts Canada’s largest Chinatown. There is so much to see, do, and eat when you visit. Some things to check out are the Millenium Gate, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and the Jimi Hendrix Shrine. Be sure to get some tea and arrive to Chinatown hungry. There are so many great places to eat there.
Vancouver Art Gallery
Spend an hour or two reflecting on the visual arts at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Also the perfect place to go on a rainy day.) The gallery also hosts the Institute of Asian Art. There are a number of exhibitions to see during your visit.
Van Deusen Botanical Gardens
Located south of downtown Vancouver, the Van Deusen Botanical Gardens are a beautiful green space in the city. There are a number of self-guided tours that are organized by month of the year here. Be sure to visit the nearby Bloedel Conservatory. The giant dome is filled with exotic birds and plants.
Drive the Sea-to-Sky Corridor
This drive is rated as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. If you have the time in your itinerary, the drive will take you from Vancouver to the mountain town of Whistler. (More on that below!)
View the Inukshuk Statue
The Inukshuk statue is located at English Bay. These types of statues were created by the indigenous Inuit people of Northern Canada. This statue became the symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympics, so you might recognize it already!
Destinations Near Vancouver
There are a number of amazing destinations located near Vancouver. We recommend that you visit as many as you can!
- Whistler: This ski town is located a couple hours north of Vancouver BC. During the winter, there are all sorts of winter sports. During the summer, there’s tons of hiking. Whistler Village is filled with quaint shops, restaurants, and spas. Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, so there’s a lot to see and do there!
- Vancouver Island: Just across the water from Vancouver BC is Vancouver Island. The island is home to the city of Victoria. Be sure to visit the world famous Butchart Gardens and make time for High Tea while you’re in Victoria.
- Seattle: Head a few hours south of Vancouver to visit Seattle, Washington, in the United States. Be sure to visit the famous Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.
- Harrison Hot Springs: Two hours east of Vancouver is a relaxing oasis. The hot mineral springs will help you to relax after a busy trip.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
In previous trips, we’ve stayed at the Residence Inn Vancouver Downtown (by Marriott). We really liked this hotel because it was centrally located and walkable to everything. We also were glad to have our own kitchenettes to store food and heat up leftovers.
Another hotel to consider is the Opus Vancouver, which is a trendy boutique hotel with brightly colored rooms. (Perfect for an Instagram shot!) It’s located in the Yaletown neighborhood.
If you have the budget, one of the best hotels in Vancouver BC is the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The hotel has the nickname “castle in the city”, so you know it’s fancy. The hotel recently completed a $75 million renovation, so it is nothing short of spectacular.
The Pan Pacific Vancouver is a luxury hotel located near Canada Place. The hotel has waterfront views and is still walkable to downtown attractions.
We also recommend that you look into the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver. This hotel has a rooftop hot tub with views of the city, a casino, and lots of dining options. We stayed there during our last trip to Vancouver, and the views from our room were absolutely spectacular!
For a full list of hotels in Vancouver BC, click here.
Best Hikes Near Vancouver
One of the best things about Vancouver is the ability to get outdoors. If you have time in your schedule, you might want to consider some of these hikes…
- Grouse Grind: This trail is 1.6 miles long and will take you from the base of the mountain up to the top. Treat yourself to a beverage and the gondola ride down as your reward.
- Quarry Rock: This hike will take you up to a large flat boulder where you will have views of Deep Cove. (Currently closed due to covid. We hope it will reopen soon.)
- Lynn Canyon: The suspension bridge here is just as beautiful as Capilano, but much less busy.
- Pacific Spirit Regional Park: There are several trails to choose from in this park. These trails are much more flat and will take you through thick forests.
If you do plan to go hiking, don’t forget to bring the 10 Essentials. (We wrote all about them here.) Also be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is special about Vancouver?
Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its sleek glass architecture reflects the natural beauty that surrounds the city. It’s a very walkable city with many urban green spaces, one of which is Stanley Park. This park features the Seawall, which is the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world. Vancouver is known for its heavy rainfall, film production sites, and culinary foods.
Is Vancouver a good place to live?
Definitely. Vancouver has been consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world. It has even be ranked as the best city to live in North America. It’s not particularly known for its nightlife, but it has plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, excellent restaurants, and walkable urban spaces.
How far is Vancouver International Airport from downtown?
The airport is located about 14 kilometers from the downtown area. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to travel from the airport to downtown.
When is the best time to visit Vancouver BC?
It’s always a great time to visit Vancouver! Our last trip to Vancouver was in November, and we had a great time. Even if it rains, there’s plenty to do in Vancouver. The climate is also fairly mild, so the winters tend not to get too cold. Our favorite time to visit, though, is probably September. There are less tourists after the summer break, but there is typically still good weather.
Where should you stay in Vancouver?
We recommend that you stay in either the Gastown or Yaletown neighborhoods. They are both very walkable to all of the main downtown attractions, and they are filled with excellent restaurants.
How long should you spend in Vancouver?
We would recommend at least two full days in Vancouver (see our itinerary above). An extra day or two will allow you to see a lot of the city.
What is the perfect itinerary for two days in Vancouver?
Evening of Arrival:
- Japadog for a quick dinner
- The Lookout for evening views of Vancouver
- Brunch at Jam Cafe
- Stanley Park
- Vancouver Aquarium
- Lunch at Cliffhouse Restaurant
- Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Explore the Gastown Neighborhood
- Dinner at The Flying Pig
- Fly Over Canada and Canada Place
- Brunch at Medina Cafe
- Explore Yaletown Neighborhood
- George Wainburn Park
- Take the Aquabus to Granville Island
- Granville Island Public Market
- Grouse Mountain
- Dinner at The Observatory
What is the best month to visit Vancouver?
Our favorite month to visit Vancouver is September. The weather is typically nice (not too much rain), and there’s much less crowds.
When does it rain most in Vancouver?
November is typically the rainiest month in Vancouver. The rainy season is typically October through March. July is usually the driest month.
What’s the best thing to do in Vancouver?
Our favorite thing to do in Vancouver is visit Granville Island Public Market. There are over 50 vendors with many unique food offerings.
We hope this post was helpful in planning a weekend in Vancouver BC. We try to visit Vancouver at least once a year, and each time we discover “a new favorite” in the city!
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If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in the following posts:
- Best Places to Eat in Vancouver (Ultimate List!)
- Vancouver’s Most Instagrammable Photo Spots
- What to See at the Vancouver Aquarium
- 30 Things to Do in Vancouver on a Rainy Day
- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park Guide
- Complete Guide to Stanley Park
- Our Guide to Granville Island Public Market
- How to Travel from Seattle to Vancouver (and Vice Versa)
- What to See at Seattle’s Pike Place Market
Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please see individual websites embedded in this post for the most current trip-planning information.
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