Vancouver is Canada’s 3rd largest city, and is also one of our three hometowns. This city has the highest population of Asians in any North American city, and is also one of the most expensive city to live in. Since it is also known as Hollywood North for feature film production in North America, there are occasionally movie stars somewhere around the city! A minimum of 4 days is recommended to fully explore what this beautiful city has to offer.
SkyTrain. $8.75 CAD. SkyTrain is an express way from the airport to downtown Richmond or Vancouver. Approximate time to downtown Richmond is 18 min, to downtown Vancouver is 26 min. Click transit to plan your trip. Note: Fares from downtown to airport is only $3.75 CAD.
Shuttle. Many hotels near the airport-area offer courtesy shuttle. Courtesy phone to request hotel shuttle is available.
Taxi. Zone fares apply to zones shown in Map ($20-40 CAD +tip). Metered rates apply to areas outside of the zones. Approximate time to Vancouver downtown is 15 min.
Car rental. ~$50 CAD per day. Free parking at most locations except in downtown Vancouver. Note: Gas price is also much more expensive here.
Buses to Other Destinations outside Vancouver:
Whistler. $80-90 CAD. Pacific Coach YVR Whistler SkyLynx. Bus departure times between 9a.m-9pm, every 2-4 hours and time changes depending on the season. Approximate travelling time is 3 hours. Reservation is required.
Victoria. $70 CAD including Ferries. Pacific Coach YVR Victoria Link (operated by The Wilson`s Group). Approximate travel time is 4 hours. Reservation is required.
The Westin Bayshore (Downtown). This is a 4-star hotel located close to English Bay and Stanley Park, as well as the busy downtown area. The room costs ~$200 CAD per night, parking is extra for $36 CAD per night. Tip: Sign up for SPG Members to get free in-room Wi-Fi.
My hotel stay was paid for because I was here for a work conference. Although the hotel location was conveniently located a few short blocks to Robson Street, the room was nothing out of the ordinary and I would not pay that much per night out of my own pocket. This was partly because we were barely at the hotel to enjoy the amenities or to take in the scenery.
Recommend: The ideal hotel location is downtown as it is within walking distance to restaurants and attractions. However, if you decide to rent a vehicle, choose any location in Vancouver that is within your budget but close enough to downtown for easy commute.
Note: Downtown parking rates are $1.00 to $6.00 CAD per hour (9am to 10pm daily) depending on the meter location. There are a few 2 hours free parking spots in residential area.
Vancouver is one of the warmest cities in Canada, and it is also one of the rainiest. In an average year, Vancouver will see some sort of rainfall on 165 days in a year. The winter is dark, rainy and dreary, with the wettest months are November and December. The best time to visit Vancouver is in July and August, as it is typically dry and sunny. Note: Vancouver could have a big earthquake at any time.
Vancouver is well known for having good but cheap food restaurants almost in every block. The all-you-can-eat (AYCE) sushi places is a must try for sushi lover: Kingsway Sushi, Kawawa (Metrotown), and Aji Taro Japanese Bistro (Richmond). If you are a night owl, all you can eat sushi menu at most places after 9 p.m costs less than $15 CAD: Kingsway Sushi, NinKazu (Richmond). Note: A lot of Asian restaurants are located in downtown, but food are cheaper at restaurants located on Kingsway street and in Richmond. Some would even argue that Richmond has better Chinese restaurants. There are simply too many restaurants to mention, here are a few of our favourites:
Japadog (Downtown). Japadog is a small chain of mobile street food stands originated from Vancouver city. We got ours on Robson at a mini sit-in restaurant. This is a specialized Japanese-style hotdogs that bring a new level of deliciousness to what used to be just a standard white bun and wiener. I usually don’t like hotdog but after I tried the popular Kurobuta Terimayo, I was completely sold! Everything on the menu looks delicious so I don’t think you can go wrong here. The place is always crowed, and the table might not always be available for eating-in. One hotdog alone is very fulfilling, price ranges $5-7 CAD per item.
Che-licious (Downtown). Che is a term refers to any Vietnamese sweet beverage. This restaurant sells a variety of food besides che, such as Vietnamese sub (banh mi), salad rolls, pho, etc. I ordered the ducking and roasted pork banh mi. The bread is nicely toasted, and the meat is very tender and well marinated. The salad rolls also exceeded my expectation with even portion of noodle, vegetable and meat. Being Vietnamese and all, this restaurant got my Vietnamese stamp of approval even though I didn’t get to try their “chelicous” dessert. I paid around $6.50 CAD for a sub.
Nero Belgian Waffle Bar (Downtown). This place serves delicious waffle dessert made fresh with every order. Being a waffle lover, I went here several times. One of my favourite is the Bresilienne waffle, the warm waffle along with the cold ice-cream and whipped cream with the sweet caramel is all sort of deliciousness in my mouth. You could opt to sit indoor or outdoor. The portion is huge and can be shared between 2 people, but I could always finish one on my own. Price range is slightly under $10 CAD per waffle.
Café Xue Hue (Kingsway). This is by far the most authentic place for Bun Bo Hue besides Vietnam. Bun Bo Hue is a popular Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup. Each bowl containing thick round rice noodles, thin slices of marinated beef, oxtail, congealed pig blood, and tiny egg seasoned with fermented shrimp sauce and spicy chili oil and other garnishes. The food is addictive and more delicious than my description of it. The place is small and always crowded, but with minimal if any waiting time. You can eat inside the restaurant for less than $10 CAD a bowl. It is a must visit restaurant for me when I am visiting Vancouver.
Bubble World (Kingsway). This is our go to bubble tea place, the location is about 10 minutes drive from Metro town. Besides bubble tea, they also serve food here. The decoration is very modernized and the place is always very busy, and could be loud especially late at night. The portion of their delicious shave ice is huge, one order could be shared among 4 people. This place has the best shave ice!!!!! I mean it! Their milk tea grass jelly bubble tea is very addictive. Our favourite snacks include chicken nuggets and squid feet dip in hot sauce. Note: This is a Cash only restaurant.
Top activities to do in Vancouver
1. Downtown. There are tons of restaurants, entertainment, and sports venues in downtown, with Robson Street being the most popular for restaurants, boutiques, and bars. You could spend half a day sightseeing, shopping on Robson Street, eating lunch or supper at some of the recommended venues mentioned under the food category.
2. Stanley Park. This 1001 acre public park is located in downtown, Vancouver. In 1886, the land was turned into Vancouver’s first park and named after Lord Stanley, a British politician. In 1988, the park became a national historic site of Canada.
Located within Stanley Park:
Seawall. The seawall is within and extended outside of Stanley Park. The seawall, the world’s longest, with 28Km of uninterrupted waterfront path. It is popular for running, walking, cycling, and skating. Walking around the entire park takes about 2 to 3 hours, and about 1 hour for biking.
Beaches. There are two beaches within Stanley Park. Second Beach is a small sandy beach with BBQ facilities, children’s playground, picnic shelter, a concession, and an oceanside heated outdoor pool that opens from May to September. Admission fee to the pool is less than $6 CAD for a single visit. Third Beach is located in an area away from urban noise, perfect for quiet bathing and watching sunsets. The Beach also has BBQ facilities, and a concession.
Vancouver Aquarium is Canada’s largest aquarium and one of the five largest public Aquarium in North America. It currently houses fishes, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. It has about 166 aquatic displays in different galleries and exhibition: Pacific Canada Pavilion, Arctic, Penguin, Frogs, Treasures of the BC Coast, Tropic Zone, Amazon Rainforest, Canaccord Exploration.
-Hollow Tree. This 800 year old hollow tree was almost removed due to safety concerns after the severe storm in 2006. The Hollow Tree Fund helps keep it alive and is still one of the most photographed landmarks in the park.
We spent an entire day enjoying a lunch picnic and relaxation at the 3rd beach. Then we took a short walk around the park to check out gardens, monuments, sculptures, and famous landmarks. We did not have the energy to walk around the entire park, but the view was beautiful. I would recommend at least half a day here.
Transportation For Stanley Park
Transportation To Stanley Park (besides driving).
- Hop-on, Hop-off Tour. Buses operate year round and stop at most of Vancouver’s popular areas such as Stanley Park, Chinatown, Gastown, Granville Island. Tickets cost $40 CAD per day.
Transportation Within Stanley Park.
- If you are planning to drive, consider buying a daily parking pass to park at any location within the park. Pick up a free map at the Information Booth just inside the Georgia Street entrance.
- Stanley Park Shuttle (summer time). The old-fashioned San Francisco-style trolleys stops at 15 of the most popular stops in Stanley Park. Similar to the hop-on, hop-off bus, it is a narrated 45 mins tour, with unlimited hop-on, hop-off. Tickets cost $10 CAD and are good for the whole day, buy tickets online or at your hotel.
- Miniature Train (Operates in the spring and summer, and on Easter, Halloween and Christmas). The train was built in 1964, replica of Canadian Pacific Railway Engine #374. The 2 km ride will take you through tunnels and forest. Admission is less than $6 CAD.
- 26 Passengers Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour (March 1 to October 31). This one hour narrated tour will take you to see some of the most popular stops such as Deadman’s Island, Lions Gate Bridge, Coastal Red Cedar Forest, Totem Poles, Rose garden. Tickets cost $40 CAD and can be purchased at the kiosk beside the information booth just inside the Goergia Street entrance.
3. Queen Elizabeth Park. Besides Stanley Park, this 130 acre public park is the second most visited park in Vancouver. This public park is also known as the little mountain as it is located at the highest point in the city. Besides providing a spectacular view of the city and mountains on the North Shore, the gorgeous landscaped is like heaven on earth and make great wedding photos. There are tons to see like dancing waters fountain, public art, gardens, and exotic trees (aka arboretum or botanical garden). In the spring and summer, you can also see an outdoor art gallery. There is free parking along the edges of the park. Pay parking rates is between $2-3 CAD per hour or $6 to $11 CAD per day depending on the season.
4. Granville Island. This downtown core area was prior known as Gastown, it is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood. In 1870, it got renamed as Granville in honour of Lord Granville. It has many amenities including: public markets, galleries, theatres, unique shops and cafes.
Note: Depending on your location, there are many ways to get here. If you are driving, there are free parking at designated stall for a maximum posted time of either 1 to 3 hours limit. You are allowed to park free only at one stall per day. This means that if you move your vehicle, you would then need to park in a pay parking stall in order to avoid a parking fee. Parking rate is $3.50 CAD per hour or $15 CAD per day. Parking was tight and finding a 3 hours limit stall was not easy, so we caved and paid the $15 CAD to save us the headache.
5. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This is a privately owned park and admission fee is ~$40 CAD to gain entry to attractions such as Suspension Bridge, Treetops Adventures, and Cliff Walk.
-The Suspension bridge is 460ft long and 230ft above the Capilano river.
-Treetops Adventures is 110 feet above the forest floor.
-Cliff Walk is a narrow pathway along the river supported by only 16 anchor points, perfect for adrenaline seeker.
Other park features include rain forest ecotours, gardens, forest trails, and First Nations totem poles. Expect to spend about 3 hours here.
Note: If you are afraid of height, this might not be the activity for you. No outside food is allowed. Free shuttle from various downtown locations are available. You can buy tickets online or at the attraction.
6. Steveston Heritage Fishing Village (Richmond). This is a small historic fishing village with lots of shops and places to eat, especially for fresh sea food. This townsite is also known as “The Gateway to the Orca (killer whales),” a perfect site for whale watching. The stroll through the fisherman’s wharf is very picturesque, especially on a sunny day with the help of ice-cream. The town is quiet and peaceful, being here is like being on another vacation within a vacation. You could easily spend half a day here. Free parking is available at Garry point.
7. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Located in Chinatown, this is the first Chinese garden built outside of China. Some highlights from the Garden are the jade green pond, koi fish, collection of 150-year old miniature trees and tai hu rock imported from China. It is a very beautiful garden year round, but the garden probably won’t look as nice in the winter season. Admission fee ~$12 CAD.
1. Beaches. Vancouver has many public beaches, two are located in Stanley Park and the rest are scattered all over the city. These beaches make Vancouver one of the most livable cities in the world for people who like to sunbathe, swim, play sports or simply people watch.
- Kitsilano Beach. This beach is named as one of the top 10 best city beaches in the world. It has a concession, tennis and basketball courts, swimming raft, playground, boathouse restaurant. Pay Parking is required.
- Jericho Beach. It has a concession, tennis courts, picnic tables, swimming raft, and sailing centre. Pay Parking is required.
- English Bay Beach. It has many amenities like a concession, kayak rentals, volleyball courts, swimming raft, and Cactus Club Cafe. Pay Parking.
- Spanish Banks Beach. This beach has amenities such as a concession, BBQ, picnic tables, off-leash dog area. Pay Parking is required.
- Sunset Beach. It is a quiet beach with a concession, volleyball court. Pay Parking is required.
- Trout Lake Beach. It has a concession, swimming raft, play fields, picnic area, off-leash dog area. *Free Parking
- Locarno Beach. It is a quiet beach with amenities such as swimming raft, picnic tables, a concession. *Free Parking
2. Night Markets.
If you never been to a night market, this is something new to try. This annual event runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hours are 7pm-12am on Friday & Sat, 7pm-11pm on Sunday. This event is mainly for the food. There are a lot of different types of food to try for less than $8 CAD per dish. You can also buy cheap souvenirs here. Note: Cash Only. Both Markets offer free Wi-Fi.
Richmond Night Market (May to Sept). ~$2.75 CAD fee for admission (Subject to changes). It is rated one of the top night markets in the world. It has over 400 booths selling asian food and beverage, merchandise, and entertainment. Parking is free on Vulcan Way, lot parking fee is ~$6 CAD.
We went here recently in June 2016 and there was a line just to get into the night market. I probably won’t go back as it too much hassle to find parking and waiting in line.
International Summer Night Market (May to Sept). Free Admission. It features over 60 food stands serving Asian cuisine and close to 200 retail vendors.
3. Pacific National Exhibition (PNE).
This 17-day seasonal amusement park usually begins in late August and ends in early September. Besides foods, games and rides, there are also free live music concerts and shows. Note: Parking rates $10 to $16 CAD. Free if you don’t mind parking a few blocks away and walk.
4. Free Outdoor Movies.
Located at 2nd Beach in Stanley Park: Movies are shown every Tuesday night from July to August starting at dusk.
1. Vancouver Cherry Blossom (March to April).
Locations to find beautiful views of the Cherry Blossom:
1. West 22nd Avenue from Arbutus Street to Carnavon Street.
2. Art Phillips Park at Burrard SkyTrain Station in downtown Vancouver.
3. West 16th Avenue from Maple Street to Granville Street
4. Fairview neighbourhood (West Broadway Corridor) from Hemlock Street to Heather Street.
5. Vanier Place to University Boulevard.
6. Graveley Street from Lillooet Street to Windermere Street.
7. Stanley Park: pathways leading to the Japanese War Memorial and a few other places.
8. Queen Elizabeth Park.
1. VanDusen Botanical Garden. Festival of Lights admission fee is $8 -11 CAD. Usually occur in December, but they have been known to extend it to January. Millions of colourful lights decorated this 22-hectare botanical garden. The lights were literally everywhere, it made the garden much more romantic and magical. Note: Dress warm and wear comfortable walking shoes. If you want to avoid the crowd, go early. If you do not want to wait, buy tickets online.
Hope you enjoy your time in Vancouver and its areas!