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What to do in Vancouver: 10 of the best experiences in 48 hours

If you’re looking for what to do in Vancouver, this post brings together 10 of the best experiences we had in the city. Vancouver is a vibrant and multicultural city, surrounded by stunning mountains and bathed by the Pacific Ocean, offering a perfect balance between nature and urbanism.

We visited Vancouver in June 2024, the fourth stop on our second round-the-world trip, which we started in Montreal, Canada. We stayed two full days in the city, which actually were three nights. On the day of arrival, we came from a night flight from Toronto and ended up not doing much, and on the day of departure to Mexico, we also had a very early flight.

Are two days enough to see the city? Maybe an additional day would allow for more experiences. However, Vancouver is a bit expensive, and for us, traveling around the world for a year, it was also a way to manage our budget efficiently.

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Why We Decided to Visit Vancouver

We decided to visit Vancouver for its incredible cultural diversity and the presence of immigrants from various nationalities, which gives the city a rich mix of cultures and traditions. We wanted to experience the cultural difference of the Pacific coast of Canada, distinct from the atmosphere of other regions of the country. Additionally, Vancouver was a perfect strategic point for continuing our journey to Mexico, facilitating the logistics of our round-the-world adventure.

Where to Stay in Vancouver 

Choosing where to stay in Vancouver was a challenge since most accommodations were a bit above what we intended to spend. So, we opted for a more remote residential area, trusting that public transportation options would not compromise our experience in the city.

We stayed in a small apartment located in the southern part of the city, near Oak Street. This option, besides being economical, had a kitchen, which allowed us to prepare some meals at home.

Other good areas to stay in Vancouver include:

  • Downtown: The heart of the city, with easy access to tourist attractions, restaurants, and shops. Ideal for those who want to be in the center of the action.
  • West End: Close to Stanley Park and English Bay, it is an excellent choice for those who want to be near nature while having access to a variety of cafes and shops.
  • Gastown: With its cobbled streets and historic architecture, it is a trendy and charming area, ideal for culture and history lovers.
  • Kitsilano: Close to the beach, this area is great for outdoor enthusiasts, with many cafes, restaurants, and shops within walking distance.

What to do in Vancouver

Stanley Park

What to do in Vancouver: Visit Stanley Park

We explored Stanley Park, and it was one of the best experiences in Vancouver. We walked through trails surrounded by towering trees and discovered the Seawall, a bike path with stunning views of the city and the bay. Our tip is to walk or rent a bike to make the most of the Seawall route.

Go to the Beach (Beaches around Stanley Park)

What to do in Vancouver: Stanley Park Beaches

The beaches around Stanley Park are a great place to relax. We spent an afternoon walking along the beaches. There are also picnic areas and an outdoor pool, which can be excellent options to add to your list of things to do in Vancouver. The tip is to bring a snack and enjoy the day calmly, appreciating the surrounding nature.

Granville Island and Public Market

What to do in Vancouver: Granville Island and Public Market

We spent an amazing morning at Granville Island, starting at the Public Market. We found fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and a variety of delicious snacks. We tried a Thai food stall that we couldn’t resist. Our tip is to go early to avoid the crowds and not leave without trying something.

Explore Gastown

What to do in Vancouver: Explore Gastown

Gastown was a trip back in time. We walked along cobblestone streets, admiring historic buildings and unique shops. We recommend exploring the souvenir shops and ending the tour with a coffee or a donut at one of the charming terraces.

Steam Clock

What to do in Vancouver: See a unique steam clock

The Steam Clock in Gastown is a true attraction. We were there at the right time to see the clock release steam and play a melody. It’s a fascinating piece of engineering and a great spot for photos. The tip is to arrive a few minutes early to get a good spot. Every 15 minutes, the clock makes noise, but not as much as at the exact hour.

Eat Donuts

What to do in Vancouver: Eat donuts at Lee’s Donuts

We discovered an amazing donut shop called Lee’s Donuts with locations around the city. We tried different flavors, from the classic to the more typical maple syrup. The tip is to go with an appetite and try at least two different flavors!

Chinatown

What to do in Vancouver: Explore Chinatown

In Chinatown, we were transported to a little piece of China in Vancouver. We visited the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the city. We tried dim sum in a local supermarket, and it was delightful.

False Creek

What to do in Vancouver: View of False Creek

False Creek is a perfect place for a relaxing stroll. We walked along the shore, appreciating the view of the boats and Vancouver’s skyline. The tip is to take this walk in the late afternoon to see the sunset.

What to do in Vancouver: Kitsilano Beach

Kitsilano Beach was our refuge on sunny days. The beach has great infrastructure with showers, changing rooms, and even a playground. We walked along the beach but wanted to swim in the refreshing waters, but it was Canada Day and there were a lot of people, and the weather wasn’t that warm for a swim.

Drink Beer at Craft Beer Market

What to do in Vancouver: Drink craft beer at CRAFT Beer Market

We ended a day at the Craft Beer Market, where we tried several local craft beers. The atmosphere is cozy, and the selection of beers is impressive. Our tip is to ask for a sampler of different beers before deciding which one to drink.

Safety Tips for Vancouver

Vancouver is generally a safe city for visitors, but like any major metropolis, it’s important to stay alert and take some basic precautions.

  1. Problematic Areas: There are some areas that might seem a bit sketchy or less safe, especially at night. Downtown Eastside, for example, is known for having a higher concentration of homeless individuals and social issues. However, we never felt directly threatened. Just stay alert and avoid these areas at night.
  2. Travel Insurance: Having travel insurance is essential. We recommend insurance from Heymondo. This insurance covers everything from accidents to health issues, including adventure activities you might want to do. Medical expenses in Canada can be quite high for tourists, so insurance can prevent unexpected costs.
  3. General Travel Precautions:
    • Documents and Valuables: Keep your important documents and valuables in safe places, like hotel safes.
    • Busy Areas: In tourist spots and busy areas, stay aware of your belongings to avoid theft.
    • Local Information: Learn about the city and the neighborhoods you plan to visit. Ask at the hotel or local residents if there are areas you should avoid.
    • Public Transport: Use public transport wisely. Avoid traveling alone at night and opt for safe transportation options.

Visiting Vancouver was a fantastic experience, and with these safety tips, we were able to enjoy our trip to the fullest with peace of mind.

Additional Tips

  • Transportation: Compass Card or a No-Fee Credit Card – We used a no-fee credit card like Curve to get around on the metro, buses, and SkyTrain. Just tap and go. Each time we passed a gate or boarded a bus, a charge was made, but the amounts were adjusted a few days later. Alternatively, we could have bought a reloadable Compass Card.  
  • Mobile Data: We haven’t found easy access to Wi-Fi everywhere outside the accommodations, so having an eSIM helped us navigate in the cities. With MobiMatter, you can get up to 50% cashback with the code TWOBYTHEWORLD.
  • Food: To save on food, we opted to buy snacks and light meals at markets like the Granville Island Public Market or local supermarkets, including those in Chinatown. These offer a variety of fresh, ready-to-eat options at more affordable prices than many restaurants.
  • Weather: Vancouver’s weather can be unpredictable, even during summer. We always had a light, waterproof jacket on hand, especially if we planned to spend a lot of time outdoors exploring the city and its natural landscapes.

These tips helped us maximize our experience in Vancouver, saving money on food and preparing for the local weather variations.

Planning your trip to Vancouver?

If you are planning a trip, check our resources page.

Activities at Vancouver


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