Vancouver has the rightly earned reputation of being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with its mountain backdrop and urban beaches.Its extensive parks and relatively equable climate keeping temperatures mild throughout the year, Vancouver is a paradise for leisure activities. But it also boasts a busy cultural life, and the modern Downtown is easily explored on foot.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Vancouver is during the warmer and drier months of April through October. But with their moderate, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters, both cities welcome visitors year round.
Top Places to Visit in Vancouver
1. Stanley Park
Stanley Park is a lush peninsula park of huge trees adjacent to Downtown Vancouver. A paved seawall path encircles the green space, and most visitors take the time to explore on foot or by bicycle. Inland, the park offers many things to do, and visitors can spend a full day exploring attractions ranging from the totem poles at Brockton Point to the west coast sea life at the Vancouver Aquarium. Spectacular views are a standard throughout the park.
2. Grouse Mountain
In both winter and summer, Grouse Mountain offers an unmatched panorama in clear weather. That’s especially so in the evenings when the city lights are on. A gondola operates daily running from street level to the summit, where dining, activities, and wildlife await mountaintop explorers year-round. Especially for families, Grouse Mountain is a winter wonderland offering outdoor skating, snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding. In summer, Grouse Mountain is a hiker’s paradise with trails, including the famed Grouse Grind – affectionately called Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.
3. Kitsilano Beach
The sandy shoreline of Kitsilano Beach defines the laid-back, fun-loving Vancouver lifestyle. It’s a place locals hang out with friends or take a dip in the outdoor heated seawater swimming pool, and visitors come to admire the mountain backdrop. Views from Kitsilano over the city center are wonderful. In addition to the beach and oceanfront, the area has a number of cafés and walking trails, and a vibrant shopping strip lies a few blocks south on West Fourth Avenue.
4. Capilano Suspension Bridge
Vancouver’s first tourist attraction opened in 1889 and has been thrilling visitors with its swaying bridge over a plummeting canyon ever since. The footbridge spans a 70-meter deep river canyon leading to an activity park filled with forest trails and a treetop walk through old-growth giants. There’s also a collection of totem poles and a transparent suspended platform known as the Cliffwalk. If you are staying in Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Admission, with a free shuttle to the site, is a convenient option. The shuttle runs from downtown Vancouver, and the ticket covers admission to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, including the TreeTops Adventure and the Cliffwalk.
5. English Bay
Oceanfront English Bay centers on one of the city’s loveliest and busiest beaches. Part of the West End neighborhood, English Bay offers shopping and high-end restaurants, but is also a popular outdoor area where people come to walk, bike, rollerblade, or hang out with the public art installations. The biggest event comes in summer when thousands crowd the shores to watch three nights of fireworks set to music. Another popular event is the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim, when hardy swimmers take a dip in the chilly Pacific waters.
6. Queen Elizabeth Park
The center of Queen Elizabeth Park, Little Mountain, marks the highest point in Vancouver and its elevated position affords excellent views of the city center and the mountains to the north. Park recreational offerings include pitch-and-putt golf, tennis, disc golf, dining (at Seasons in the Park Restaurant), an extensive outdoor arboretum, and the lovely enclosed tropical environment of Bloedel Conservatory. The sunken Quarry Garden makes a lovely spot to stroll on a warm summer day. For more horticultural explorations, head a couple of blocks west to VanDusen Botanical Garden, where there is always something in bloom amid beds representing various regions and species.
7. Museum of Vancouver
In Vanier Park near Burrard Bridge, the Museum of Vancouver is a large institution devoted to all things Vancouver. It covers the city history from the first Coast Salish communities to Japantown, Kitsilano hippie days, and urban development. Other worthwhile museums and centers are within a short walk, including the HR MacMillan Space Centre with its planetarium, an observatory, and the waterfront Maritime Museum, where splendid views capture English Bay with the North Shore mountains beyond.