Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is one of Canada’s most vibrant cities with lush nature, diverse culture and plenty of activities to do. Vancouver has something to offer every type of traveler and is the perfect first solo trip. Plan your visit to Vancouver BC using my travel guide below!
Related: How to Plan for Future Travel
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver – a Marriott owned boutique hotel located in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. We didn’t spend any time at the hotel itself, just to sleep and we would be out of there bright and early! However, the hotel offers a restaurant, lounge, indoor pool, and fitness center. It was clean, comfortable and the staff was friendly – best of all, the location was walking distance to every neighborhood on our list to explore!
There are plenty of budget-friendly hotels in the downtown area such as the Moda Hotel and Hotel Belmont – be sure to check out Airbnb as well!
We rented a car through Hertz and we only used it three times! We drove to and from the airport and we drove around our last day when it was pouring rain! At the time of our travel, Uber was not available in Vancouver and the cost of the rental + our $32 USD daily parking vs the cost of catching a cab each drive ended up being roughly the same.
Is it just me or are the roads in Vancouver narrower than in America? Even outside of the city! Also, there are not many designated lanes to turn left; thus, if you’re driving in the left lane and everything comes to a stop… it’s because someone is turning left! Keep this in mind when you are driving around.
WHAT TO DO
Gastown is the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver and is known for the Steam Clock, built in 1977! The clock was taken down in 2014 for major repairs and reinstalled in 2015 by the original builder. Today, it still stands and whistles – taking the title of one of 7 working Steam Clocks in the entire world. Gastown offers unique boutiques, eclectic foods, inspiring galleries, and a vibrant nightlife! Best of all, it’s walkable!
Gastown was my favorite neighborhood to shop! There are unique independent shops on every corner and I prefer it over shopping at a mall or shopping center. Also, Tour Guys offers free walking tours around Vancouver including Gastown – this is a wonderful opportunity to meet other travelers, especially if you’re traveling solo.
Stanley Park is Vancouver’s largest urban park surrounded by water of the Vancouver Harbor and English Bay. With access to multiple beaches, running/walking/biking trails, and plenty of dining options, it’s the perfect place to spend your afternoon.
Storytime: Our plan of walking to Stanley Park was unsuccessful as it started pouring rain and I soon discovered that my beloved boots had a hole in them! We had to call an uber back to our hotel to pick up our rental car and we drove to Stanley Park instead. As soon as we arrived, it stopped raining! We explored the park on foot and enjoyed the breathtaking views from the Seawall. Although it is pedestrian-friendly, I would rent a bike next time (and recommend doing so) to further explore the park.
Once a heavy industrial area, Yaletown has transformed into Vancouver’s stylish neighborhood filled with trendy patios, unique boutiques, cocktail bars, and restaurants. Similar to Gastown, it’s perfect for walking around to enjoy unique shopping experiences and tasty eats! Be sure to visit Yaletown’s nightlife – there are buzzing dancefloors, live music, luxe lounges, and delicious cocktails on every street!
Lions Gate Bridge to West Vancouver
The iconic Lions Gate Bridge connects the City of Vancouver to North and West Vancouver while offering breathtaking views of the city. The bridge is pedestrian-friendly and if you were planning to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge, crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge will already be on your path!
Northern Vancouver is an outdoor lovers paradise with skiing resorts, hiking and biking trails, and plenty of parks to explore. Escape the city and immerse yourself in lush nature!
WHERE TO EAT
In 1988 the Cactus Club Cafe was born in Northern Vancouver and has now grown to over 25 locations across Canada. While it’s considered a premium restaurant chain, and I try my best not to eat at chain restaurants while traveling (I prefer local), my verdict is you must experience it once! The friendly service, delicious food, fun drinks, and live DJ made the upscale dining experience enjoyable!
WE ORDERED: Ceviche, Rob’s Flatbread, Signature Sangria
I dream about the ramen from The Ramen Butcher. They serve Hakata-style Tonkotsu ramen that is made fresh daily and their chefs are trained in Japan. If that doesn’t convince you to try it, I don’t know what will!
Keep in mind the restaurant is small, offers limited seating and there is often a 30+ minute wait.
I ORDERED: Yuzu Shio Ramen + Sapporo Beer. If you’re a beer lover, I recommend ordering the Sapporo – it’s light, clean, and refreshing!
Local artisan coffee shops are sprinkled throughout Vancouver and Nemesis Coffee takes a stand for a coffee creating culture. Located in Gastown, it’s the perfect way to start your morning or make a pit stop to recharge from exploring the city.
I ORDERED: Avo toast with no maple syrup + add a poached egg, Oat milk latte
Locally owned and operated, Brix and Mortar serves modern Canadian cuisine and a collection of fine wines in a 1912 heritage building. It offers two dining experiences, an upstairs glass-covered courtyard that is frequently rented for small events, and a downstairs spacious dining area equipped with an outdoor patio. Make sure you choose the correct entrance and don’t miss the personalized service, attention to detail and delicious food! I would definitely visit Brix and Mortar again!
WE ORDERED: Wild Sockeye Salmon, Green Salad, and Focaccia bread + Sangria
Ladurée is a luxurious French bakery created in 1862 in Paris and is best known for its light and decadent range of macarons.
Storytime: Our last full day in Vancouver, we stumbled upon Ladurée while searching for breakfast. Out of the nine locations in the U.S. none of them are close to my home; thus, when we magically stumbled upon Ladurée, I freaked out. I had no idea the French bakery has a Canadian location! Also unknown to me was that you can enjoy a delightful brunch inside. The cherry on top: the sweet ladies at Ladurée were able to squeeze us in for a quick brunch before their reservation party arrived. We had the best experience!
If dining is not in your interest, stop by and grab a couple of macarons or choose from an array of deserts – they make fantastic gifts to bring home.
I ORDERED: Egg Avo Toast, Rose Latte, Mimosa + a whole lot of macarons and a latte to go!
Nero is a Belgian Waffle Bar serving Liège and Brussels style waffles. Their menu ranges from sweet to savory and it’s the perfect stop for brunch or dessert! Keep in mind they have two locations.
WE ORDERED: Heaven Waffle, Banella Brulee, Lavender London Fog latte
In 2008 Indian Fusion opened representing traditional Indian cuisine with a vibrant twist. I’m no Indian food expert; however, my traveling friend is and she says it tastes similar to homemade Indian food she eats frequently! Either way, I thought it was tasty and I’m a spice baby, so mine was the least spicy my order could be!
WE ORDERED: Vegetable Samosas, Butter Chicken, Roti, Garlic Naan, + my friend ordered a very spicy dish, I believe it was Dal!
Vancouver is cold for most of the year – this is no surprise to me as I am from the PNW. We visited in October and let me tell you, I was COLD. Be sure to dress warm and pack lots of layers including a scarf, long sleeves, waterproof walking shoes, and a rain jacket if you’re visiting during the rainy months.
It’s no exaggeration when I say we ate our way through Vancouver. It’s an extremely walkable city and I truly believe you see more of a city by walking around and discovering hidden gems. Plus it creates room for more food. Win-win!
Avoid the Eastside of Vancouver’s Hastings street, specifically from Abbot to Gore Ave. – it is a neighborhood for the homeless and those suffering from drug addiction.
I did not visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We had friends who visited a couple weeks prior and they advised us that it was not worth it as it was overwhelmed with tourists and expensive. I would consider visiting if you’re traveling mid-week to avoid the crowds of tourists.
DAY 1: Friday afternoon
- Land at YVR at 4:15 pm
- Pick up rental car and drive to Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver
- Dinner at the Cactus Club Cafe
- Walk around the Waterfront
- We checked out a couple of smaller bars – I say walk around and check out whichever place intrigues you!
DAY 2: Saturday
- Breakfast at Nemesis Coffee
- Explore Gastown
- Lots and lots of shopping
- Lunch at the Ramen Butcher
- More shopping
- Dinner at Brix and Mortar
- Walk around Yaletown
- Hello Goodbye Bar
DAY 3: Sunday
- Breakfast at Laudree
- Stanley Park
- Drive across the Lions Gate Bridge to West Vancouver
- Late lunch at Indian Fusion
- Dessert at Nero
- We flew home Monday at 6 am!
I hope you have the best time planning and visiting beautiful Vancouver BC using my travel guide. What’s on your Vancouver BC Bucket list?
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