Tourist in Vancouver: Guide to the City

Being a tourist in a new city can sometimes be overwhelming.

Chances are, you only have a few days in town and you’re looking to soak up as much of the city as possible.

English Bay action, Vancouver

When travelling, scouring the web for useful links and asking random people for advice, well….sucks! To help you make the most of your stay, theConcierge Team at the Pan Pacific have put together a practicial guide you can use to make sure you can say you’ve been there and done that! Included are: Sights to see, what to do for Free, the best city tours and the better spots to eat.

Also included below are a few useful links you can check out if you’re looking to dig a bit deeper. Remember, there’s tons to do in Vancouver and these are only a few highlights. If you have any questions or feedback, just drop me a line in the comments!

Sights to See

First on the itenerary are some of the main hot spots of the city. If you’re looking for the meat and potatoes of Vancouver, here are a few of the more popular sights to visit (and for good reason!).

Stanley Park

This is Vancouver’s version of Central Park…only better!

stanleypark Stanley Park Seawall | Photo: PabloTrejo

Stanley Park is arguably Vancouver’s defining outdoor playground with a vast 1000 acre urban park located smack in the middle of Downtown.

Known for being one of the world’s best parks and hosting over 8 million visitors per year, Stanley Park has a lot to offer. Enjoy the views as your roller-blade, bike or walk around the famous 9 km seawall which circles the park.

The park also contains tennis courts, an 18-hole pitch and putt golf course, a seaside swimming pool at Second Beach, and the Brockton Oval for track sports, rugby, and cricket.

For entertainment inside the park, there’s the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s first and largest aquarium since it opened in 1956, and the Malkin Bowl – home to the local Theatre Under the Stars.

Grouse Mountain

Known as the “Peak of Vancouver”, Grouse Mountain provides an exceptional view of the city and has loads of exciting outdoor activities to choose from.

grousemountain Grouse Mountain | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the winter you can pound the slopes on your skis or board and hit over 26 local runs. If you want to try something different, you can go snowshoeing, take a sleigh ride or evenice skating on the outdoor pond.

When the weather improves, I recommend taking a hike up Vancouver’s favourite trail, the Grouse Grind.

The Grind is a 2.9 km trail which runs up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly reffered to Vancouverites as “Mother Natures Stairmaster”. More than 100,000 hikers a year take on the challenge of the rugged terrain and steep climb, up an approximate 56% slope (30°), which starts at the Valley Station of Grouse Mountain and finishes at the Peak’s plateau.

The average hiker takes approximetly 1.5 hours to complete the Grind and for a $5 fee, you can take the tram on the way down.

Granville Island

A living, breathing urban oasis filled with fine waterfront restaurants, theatres, galleries, studios, unique shops, cafes, and a famous fresh food market.

The Granville Island Market has fresh local ingredients to choose from as well as dozens of arts and craft stalls where you can find unique clothing, jewellery designs and fine art. Be sure to check out the the famous Granville Island Brewery, where you can take guided tour and sample some of the latest and freshest brews.

The Island is also a true fun for the whole family hot spot with aKids Market, an indoor Adventure Zone and Canada’s largest free outdoor Water Park.

The Public Market is open until 7pm, 7 days a week.

What to do in Vancouver….for FREE!

In my opinion, the best things to do in Vancouver are free! When you have a city as naturally beautiful as Vancouver, the best places to be are outdoors.

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

Hidden amongst the forest in North Vancouver is the beautiful Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

The Park officially opened to the public in 1912 and has been a popular destination among tourists and local residents ever since. Lynn Canyon Park is a great location for a family picnic, a leisurely hike, or a refreshing swim in one of the many popular swimming holes.

The main attraction is of course the 50 meter high (and frightening) suspension bridge. A definite thrill if it’s your first time. Don’t forget your camera for this one!

The Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery stands in the centre of a city and is recognized as a nurturing ground for artistic talent. While on the inside there are plenty of events and exhibits, the front entrance is a beautiful place to eat outside, people watch or take a few photographs.

Gastown

If your into doing touristy stuff in Vancouver, a good idea might be to start in Gastown.

Gastown Steam ClockGastown Steam Clock | Photo: bluegoose0fox

This was Vancouver`s first downtown core and it offers a wack load of historical buildings and monuments to snap cool photos with to make your next profile pic. Take a stroll down the cobbled streets to find some of Vancouver’s newest and trendiest places to eat, shop and people watch.

A few of the more popular sights include the famous Gastown Steam Clock, the Gassy Jack Statue and the Hudson Bay Warehouse.

There also plenty of cool places to get your eat and drink on. Two of my favorites include:

  • The Chill Winston: A relaxing restaurant lounge with a killer patio in the core of Gastown.
  • The Irish Heather: An authentic Irish House with the best drink menu in the city. A great atmosphere to have a pint with friends.

Vancouver Waterfront

One of the more beautiful areas of the city is the Vancouver Waterfront. Great for a stroll, with plenty of great coffee shops, parks and trendy real estate which is easy on the eye.

Be sure to visit the surronding areas, including the Vancouver Convention Center, (home of the Vancouver Olympics). Here you can check out still standing Olympic cauldron and the eye catching Digital Orca. Just around the corner you can also watch the Sea Planes leaving the Vancouver Harbor.

Tours

The Vancouver Trolley Company

The Vancouver Trolley Company is Vancouver’s only fleet of San Francisco-style Trolleys for a sightseeing tour of the city at your own pace. Vancouver Trolley offers Hop-On, Hop-Off Vancouver attractions tours and seasonal tours such as the Sunset Tour including trips to Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain, the Haunted Halloween Tour and the Karoake Christmas Lights Tour.

Vancouver Trolley CompanyVancouver Trolley Company | Photo: My British Columbia

Black Gloves Vancouver

The ultimate in luxury at an affordable price.

Black Gloves Transportation is a chauffeured vehicle for hire service. But did you know they also do guided tours of the city as well? I’ve been on a few of their tours and believe me, they’re worth it!

Black Gloves

On this tour, you call the shots, decide what you want to see and let the chauffeured guide show you around in a car fit for a king. There are several tour options including the Whistler, Sea to Sky Tour – guaranteed to be one of the more scenic rides of your life!

Harbour Air Sea Plane Tour

If you’re willing to spend a few extra bucks, a Harbour Air Sea Plane Tour is your best bet take in the beauty of Vancouver.

Hop on a local sea plane from the Vancouver Harbor for a bird’s eye view of the city. Choose from a wide range of tours including a spectacular flight around the high towering peaks of the Olympic Mountains and glaciers, or along the incredibly rugged shorelines of Vancouver Island.

If our weather is friendly, this is a tour you won’t forget!

Where to Eat

Seriously…there are way too many great restaurants in Vancouver to narrow it down to just a few. Not only is our culture insanely diverse (thus making for some delicious authentic eats) but we also live on the West Coast, offering some of the freshest seafood you can shake a fishing rod at.

Here are just a few reccomendations:

The Salt Tasting Room

Salt Tasting Room

Looking for someting a little more unique? Try the Salt Tasting Room, located in a corner alley of Gastown (Blood Alley!), just a few steps away from the Pan Pacific Vancouver.

Other Top Picks

This restaurant offers an atmosphere of cheese, meat and wine pairings. The knowledgable staff knows their stuff and the food is worth the markup. The Salt Tasting Room offers an intimate atmosphere and a modern feel. Try this if you’re feeling adventurous!

The Cafe Pacifica Restaurant

OK, obviously I have to give a shout-out the Pan Pacific’s Cafe Pacifica Restaurant!

The Cafe offers a West Coast flavor with plenty of great dishes like our famous Sable Fish Platter, Chef Paul’s Curry and the Ahi Tuna Tar Tar (shown below).

Ahi Tuna Tar-Tar @ Cafe Pacifica Restaurant

They also have plenty of delicious daily features and perfected West Coast Fusion items. On the weekend’s, be sure to check out the Italian Opera Buffet which feature lives Opera music and a gourmet Italian Buffet Spread.

For more information on what to do in Vancouver be sure to check out Tourism Vancouver’s website and my list of101 Ways to Explore Vancouver. If you only have a limited time in the city, be sure to look at the 2 Days in Vancouver Tourist Guide.

Hope this helps and enjoy your stay!