Vancouver is a terribly easy city to fall in love with. Fringed by the ocean and overlooked by stunning natural landscapes, the setting couldn’t be more perfect. The city itself is laid back and relaxed, yet full of life, and with some magnificent cultural offerings and restaurant choices to boot. Vancouver is Canada’s dining capital, with an incredibly diverse and eclectic food scene, and boasts a pretty decent nightlife as well.
With snow capped mountains, delightful beaches, and acres of peaceful greenspace, as well as museums, galleries, venues, family attractions and a wonderful atmosphere, Vancouver makes the perfect weekend getaway. Right on the border with the US Pacific Northwest, it is just as easy to throw a few essentials in a bag and head up from Portland or Seattle, as it is to visit from elsewhere in Canada. The city is also a major destination for cruise ships, and cruising to Vancouver from anywhere along the west coast is a fantastic way to arrive in the city.
However you arrive, and wherever you are from, there is so much to see in Vancouver that it can be daunting, particularly if you only have a weekend. We’ve put together some of our top tips, best advice and must-see attractions to help you plan the perfect weekend getaway to Vancouver.
Day One: Granville Island, Kits Point, Point Grey, Queen Elizabeth Park
Start your Vancouver adventure off with a visit to the delightful Granville Island. The Public Market here is a treat, full of local produce, delicious treats and handmade crafts. Grab a bite to eat and a coffee, and explore the island’s delightful artistic community, as well as its excellent craft brewery.
Just across the creek is Kits Point, home to the excellent Museum of Vancouver and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The Museum of Vancouver offers a superb exploration of the rich history and cultural heritage of the city and its surroundings, with some particularly interesting First Nations displays. The Maritime Museum is particularly great for kids, with loads of fun interactive exhibits.
If you are still in a cultural mood, head out to Point Grey and the gorgeous leafy campus of the University of British Columbia. Here you’ll find the Museum of Anthropology, a delightfully designed building which houses one of the world’s most impressive collections of First Nations art.
In the afternoon, take a break from the city with a stroll in Queen Elizabeth Park. Often overshadowed by the attractions of Stanley Park, this is a charming spot that is well worth looking up. The views of the city and the surrounding mountains a sumptuous, and there’s a wonderful slice of exotic tropical paradise tucked away in the form of the Bloedel Conservatory.
End the day with a stroll along Main Street, a short walk from Queen Elizabeth Park. Vancouver’s answer to Brooklyn, Main Street is packed with independent cafes, craft breweries, hip bars and world-class restaurants. It’s the perfect spot to soak up the cool, alternative vibe that defines Vancouver, and to discover the best nightlife and restaurants that the city has to offer.
Day Two: Grouse Mountain, Capilano Bridge, Stanley Park, Gastown
Part of Vancouver’s unique charm is its proximity to gorgeous, exhilarating natural beauty. Start your second day in town off with a trip out to Grouse Mountain, just a short fifteen minute drive from the city centre. Here you can take on the exertions of the Grouse Grind trail, a steep hike to the top. You’ll be rewarded with live lumberjack shows, and the excellent Observatory restaurant.
For some more extraordinary landscapes, breathtaking views and exhilarating thrills, head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It is one of the oldest sightseeing spots in Vancouver, dating back to the 1800s, and is perched precariously 230 feet above the river below offering excitement and a gorgeous view. The rest of the 27 acres of park is rather glorious as well, with First Nations totem parks and rainforest tours available.
In the afternoon, head back into town to explore the wonders of Stanley Park, one of the largest city parks in North America. The park is a magnificent place just to wander around, taking in the calm of the trees and the natural world, or exploring the sea wall and the 17 miles of uninterrupted waterfront trails. It is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium and the Stanley Park miniature railway, as well as a few delightfully hidden away beaches which are a real treat if the weather is warm.
Be sure to end your Vancouver weekend getaway in historic Gastown. This is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, an unbelievably charming muddle of cobbled streets, old fashioned street lamps, and eye catching architecture, as well as some of the best restaurants in town. A delightful blend of vintage sophistication and historic charm, this is the perfect spot to make you fall in love with this wonderful city forever, and a great way to end a weekend visit.