Vancouver: Main Sights
A multicultural metropolis with snowcapped crags, city-hugging beaches and waterfront forests
Vancouver is a wonderful city to simply wander around in and the main sights are easily navigable and accessible by foot as the city is for the most part laid out on a grid pattern. Whether you fancy a stroll along the sea wall in Stanley Park, you’re interested in First Nation art, you like to shop or you’re interested in marine life, Vancouver has something for you.
Granville Island, Vancouver
A short ferry journey across False Creek will take you to this lively spot which even boasts its own brewery, the Granville Island Brewery. A tasting tour is highly recommended! In addition to the beery delights on offer, visitors can visit the various artists’ workshops and watch weavers, glassblowers, potters and the like as they work, then purchase their wares in one of the many shops. The large public market is nice to wander around and there is even a Kids’ Market and playground to keep families happy. As well as a good mix of eating spots there are often concerts and live events.
Capilano Suspension Bridge, North Vancouver
If you’ve a head for heights then a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge to the west of Grouse Mountain is in order. One of the world’s longest, highest suspended footbridges, the bridge offers a spectacular view into the canyon 230ft below. If heights aren’t your thing, it’s still worth a visit for the totem pole park, carving centre and nature trails.
Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver
If you don’t have time for a trip to Whistler, or even if you do, Grouse Mountain and neighbours Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour are great excursions from the city. In fact, they lie just 20mins to the north of Vancouver making winter and spring skiing, or summer hiking and mountain bike riding easily available to visitors. You can travel up to the top of Grouse Mountain in the SkyRide gondola, North America’s largest tramway, which offers great views. If you prefer to hike, the ‘Grouse Grind’, a 1.5 to 2-hour hike up the slope, will have your muscles screaming for mercy. However you reach the summit, once there you can walk the branching trails, take the Peak Chairlift, or have a well-earned bite to eat and a drink at the chalet-style lodge. At the base is a wildlife reserve where bears and timber wolves prowl.
Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver
Located on the University of British Columbia Campus, The Museum of Anthropology is a great place to get to grips with Vancouver and BC’s First Nations heritage. The building itself is striking and a fitting setting for the totem poles and other fascinating exhibits. Although it is currently undergoing a major refurbishment programme, all the permanent galleries will remain open and is an extremely worthwhile stop on any visitor’s tour of Vancouver.
Stanley Park, Vancouver
The ultimate place to stroll, enjoy views and people-watch in Vancouver, the 10km walk along Stanley Park’s sea wall provides unmissable views across the ocean for strollers, joggers, cyclists and in-line skaters. Sports equipment can be hired in several loations in the park, but there are also seasonal free shuttle buses that circle the park. Apart from the sea wall, there is also a multitude of trails covering the 1000 acres of parkland and rainforest that make up the park, allowing visitors to take in the beaches, totem pole park, recreation areas and restaurant.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center
Set within Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. This modern and engaging centre hosts West Coast marine life, as well as creatures from warmer waters and rainforest environments. As well as the daily whale and dolphin shows, the stunning jellyfish exhibit and the feeding of the sea otters expect to see pirhanas, sloths and bats among others.
Although derided by some as ‘yuppified’, the Yaletown area is a warehouse district that has steadily been making a name for itself as Vancouver’s answer to Soho. Situated in the Downtown area of Vancouver, Yaletown is approximately bordered by False Creek, Robson, and Homer Streets. It’s the home of some of the city's newest high-end designer shopping outlets, as well as being the core of Vancouver’s rapidly developing high-tech and film industry. It’s also the location of some of the best pubs and restaurants as well as another of Vancouver’s award-winning microbreweries, the Yaletown Brewing Co.
Robson Street is one of the most famous fashion shopping streets in the world. Prominent luxury brands such as Hermès, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Betsey Johnson, Chanel, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Lacoste, Coach, and Salvatore Ferragamo all vy for space here. However, Robson street is also notorious for having two Starbucks coffee shops sitting opposite each other – a sign, some doubtful locals say, of the fetishisation of coffee in Vancouver and Robson Street’s reputation for excess. Apart from the luxury goods, this can also be a good place to eat, with a range of restaurants to suit every pocket.
Chinatown/ Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens
Vancouver is home to Canada’s biggest Chinatown district. Centreing on Pender and Main Street, the area is a buzzing collection of shops and restaurants. The night market, which runs weekend evenings June to September is worth visiting. Apart from the commercial side of things, Vancouver’s Chinatown is worth visiting for the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which sits at the western edge of Chinatown. Remarkable for being the first full-sized classical Chinese garden to be built somewhere other than China, it offers a beautiful and tranquil contrast to the bustle surrounding it.
Famous for its unique Steam Clock, powered by the steam from the office heating systems in the surrounding Downtown area, Gastown is the original centre of Vancouver. An area of cobbled streets and nice cafes and shops, it takes its name from Gassy Jack, a pioneer-era saloon owner. Gastown exists thanks to Gassy Jack’s unique building incentive scheme – he offered local mill workers all the whisky they could drink if they helped build his saloon. He was able to open it the next day. Things have progressed a bit since then – Gastown is a good place to pick up Inuit art.
The Science World interactive museum is easy to spot – just look for the enormous silver geodesic dome at the end of False Creek. It’s a high quality attraction which holds special interest for young visitors, but to be honest it’s pretty great no matter what your age. As well as the interactive exhibits and demonstrations there’s also the Omnimax theatre, offering immersive, giant screen films. Excellent family entertainment.
Vancouver Art Gallery
A great place to see the work of the naturalistic Canadian painter Emily Carr, Vancouver Art Gallery also has a permanent collection showcasing work by Canadian and international artists, with frequent touring exhibitions supplementing the display.