Most of the action in this two-day Vancouver itinerary takes place downtown; hotels are plentiful there but are generally expensive. If you choose to stay outside the city in the suburbs of Burnaby or Richmond, downtown is a short SkyTrain ride away. Downtown Vancouver is very walkable, and community shuttles (part of the integrated SkyTrain and bus service) are useful for getting around a small area.

Day 1

Start your day on Granville Island with coffee and a water view in the Granville Island Public Market. Browse the market food stalls early, before the crowds arrive, and pick up snacks or picnic fixings to enjoy when you’re done shopping. Wander the island to explore the craft shops and galleries, too. If you’re feeling energetic, rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard at Ecomarine Paddlesports Centre and spend an hour on the water paddling around the island.

Vancouver lookout view

View from the Vancouver Lookout. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

After lunch, head west to the University of British Columbia campus to visit the Museum of Anthropology, which has a particularly strong collection of First Nations art, including an awe-inspiring gallery of totem poles. On your way back downtown, stop along West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano to browse some of the boutiques or refresh with a pastry from Beaucoup Bakery or a shot of rich drinking chocolate at Chocolate Arts.

Once you’ve returned to the city center, your next stop is Stanley Park, Vancouver’s vast downtown green space. Rent a bicycle and circle the seawall, stopping to see the totem poles at Brockton Point, or if you’re visiting with kids, tour the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, Canada’s largest aquarium. Either way, make time for a late-afternoon walk or a rest in the sand at English Bay Beach, which is also one of Vancouver’s best spots to watch the sun set over the ocean.

Have dinner in Gastown or Chinatown at one of the deliciously fun contemporary restaurants, like L’Abbatoir, Chambar, or Sai Woo. Wrap up your evening with a nightcap nearby at The Pourhouse or the Keefer Bar.

Cyclists sit resting on the shore beneath a tree with fall foliage.

Cyclists rest under a tree in beautiful Stanley Park. Photo © Matt Trapp/123rf.

Day 2

The next morning, choose between an urban or outdoor experience. If it’s a fine day, cross the Burrard Inlet to the North Shore and explore Grouse Mountain, where you can laugh at the lumberjack show, explore the wildlife refuge, go hiking, or simply take in the panoramic views.

Or stay in the city and tour the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which is the only authentic Ming Dynasty garden outside China; the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, which showcases the work of a renowned First Nations artists; and the Vancouver Art Gallery, known for its collection of works by B.C. painter Emily Carr.

In the evening, if you’re visiting between mid-May and mid-October, hop on the Canada Line and head for the Richmond Night Market, an Asian-style festival of street foods from China, Taiwan, Japan, and more. Or have supper in Richmond’s Golden Village, where you’ll find some of the best Chinese cuisine outside China.

If you’d rather stay closer to the downtown area, consider sampling the bounty of the seas at Yew Seafood & Bar or Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, get adventurous with dinner at Farmer’s Apprentice, or indulge in a fine meal at Hawksworth Restaurant or West to wind up your two days in Vancouver with a delicious splurge.

Color map of Downtown Vancouver, BC

Downtown Vancouver


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.