Metro Vancouver includes 21 municipalities spanning 2,930 square metres, and few cities in the world can compare to it. It’s overflowing with diversity, culture, exciting annual events, unique neighborhoods and culinary adventures. And while there’s no doubt the city brings a heaping dose of excitement, the surrounding waterways, beaches and mountain peaks manage to give Vancouver an outdoorsy feel, where locals and visitors know outdoor adventure is always just a few minutes away.
For those who call Vancouver home, it’s difficult to imagine living anywhere else. And for those who call it home for a brief vacation, it feels impossible to leave. This is how to spend 72 unforgettable hours in a city that offers adventure around every corner.
There’s no better way to submerge yourself in the local culture of Vancouver than to wander the local farmers markets. Grab a pastry and a warm cup of coffee on a cool spring morning, and stock up on fresh fruit, veggies and pre-made eats to bring back to your hotel room. The Trout Lake Farmers Market is a must-visit market with a wide range of items and live music from local musicians that runs every Saturday from May through October. However, you can log onto the Eat Local website to find a market near you and discover what’s freshest any day of the week.
It’s only natural to transition from browsing Farmers Markets to browsing storefronts throughout the city. The northeast end of downtown Vancouver, also known as historic Gastown, is the perfect place to wander the streets popping in and out of iconic Vancouver shops. DutilDenim is known for offering one of the largest selections of ethically-sourced denim in the country, and nearby Les Amis Du Fromage was recently named the No. 1 Cheese Shop in Vancouver by Georgia Straight readers.
Inform Interiors is another Gastown favourite that feels more like a museum of interior design than your average furniture store. It’s an ideal place to gather ideas for your home or simply admire the rare and modern pieces. Similarly Leo’s Camera Supply, located closer to Yaletown on Granville Street, has been an iconic Vancouver shop for camera and film junkies since 1955. Just a few minutes from Gastown, it’s a must-see for anyone who loves to snap photos while traveling.
As the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver, Gastown combines historic charm with some of the cities coolest shops, eateries and attractions.
Before leaving Gastown, you’ll want to make a stop at the Cambie Gastown for mouthwatering eats and ice-cold drinks. This long-standing bar and grill offers affordable and delicious pub grub as well as a chance to mingle with fellow travelers over a couple of drinks. The hostel upstairs brings in an interesting wayfaring crowd, and is a comfortable place for budget-minded travelers to relax and rejuvenate for another day in the city.
Following a filling meal and a few cheap beers at the Cambie, it’s time to check in and pamper yourself at the Wedgewood Hotel and Spa Vancouver. Located in the heart of downtown on Hornby Street, this four-star boutique hotel offers lavish rooms and an elegant, old-world ambience. Enjoy a tranquil evening at the spa before dining at the award-winning Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge on-site.
An early night means an early morning in Vancouver, and there’s no better place to grab a cup of coffee than at 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters on W. 4th Ave. Known for its cozy atmosphere, central location and unbeatable coffee and donuts, you’ll be glad you started your day at “49th.”
Located less than 15 minutes west of 49th Parallel, and overlooking the Salish Sea, is the UBC Botanical Garden, one of thousands of gardens around the world devoted to the study, conservation and display of living plants. As Canada’s oldest university botanic garden, established in 1916, this iconic attraction includes various ecosystems, from mountains to rainforests and temperate Asia, for visitors to explore. The 310-metre-long Greenheart TreeWalk also provides bird’s eye views of the city from a unique canopy walkway.
Head back to Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood to fill your tank before your afternoon adventures. Moderne Burger on West Broadway continuously receives rave reviews for its classic steak burgers, french fries and award-winning milkshakes. You won’t find microwaves or hot holding units here, because everything is made to order.
Before heading back north into the heart of downtown Vancouver, you won’t want to miss a quick stop for a pint at Granville Island Brewing. It’s a small place, so waiting in line is common, but locals and visitors always agree the beer is worth the wait. Sip some suds or take a brewery tour to sample the brewmaster’s most recent creations.
There’s arguably no better place in the city to fill an afternoon than at the Vancouver Aquarium. More than 50,000 animals call the 100,000-square-foot Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center home, and visitors can admire habitats ranging from the Amazon to the Arctic. While it’s known as the city’s top kid-friendly attraction, you don’t have to have little ones to be blown away by the countless creatures and environments that can be explored. The aquarium’s focus on conservation will also make you feel good about visiting this must-see Stanley Park attraction.
Before leaving Stanley Park, pay a visit to The Teahouse, an unforgettable Stanley Park establishment that boasts the longest sunsets in the city. While The Teahouse is known for its remarkable cuisine, it’s also one of the best places in Vancouver to sip an award-winning international or local wine while admiring the skyline or watching the sun descend beneath the horizon. You’ll be happy to get off your feet for a moment after a long day at the aquarium.
Every visit to Vancouver deserves an indulgent meal, and the Gotham Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar offers foodie-approved high-end eats. The art-deco atmosphere is classy but not stuffy, and the quality of the food is unrivaled. While the award-winning cuts are why many diners visit the city’s most celebrated steakhouse, the iconic cocktail bar, garden patio and top-notch service keep them coming back time and time again.
Just a handful of blocks southeast of Gotham Steakhouse, in the esteemed Yaletown neighbourhood, is the Opus Hotel. This iconic Vancouver boutique hotel has received a Forbes Four-Star rating for the last four years and was recently named to a list of the “Top 5 Trendiest Hotels in the World,” by TripAdvisor. However, the Opus Hotel doesn’t sacrifice comfort for style. The opulent rooms feature spa bathrooms with heated floors, contemporary furniture, iPads, Herman Miller ergonomic chairs, Frette bathrobes, and everything you need to unwind after a long day in the city. Head down to the hotel’s award-winning La Pentola restaurant for a late Happy Hour running from 9 p.m., to late.
Some of Vancouver’s best features are its green spaces, and it’s likely there’s one near you at any given time. After a luxurious night at the Opus Hotel, consider exploring the nearby David Lam or George Wainborn parks along False Creek. Or venture northwest to Sunset Beach Park, where you can sip a warm cup of coffee with your toes in the sand.
No visitor should leave Vancouver without tasting the area’s fresh, local seafood. Coast, located on Alberni Street downtown, offers award-winning West Coast seafood, including the freshest fish, oysters, and colossal seafood towers. It’s the best place to get a true west coast dining experience in the heart of the metropolis.
Vancouver is home to countless annual events and festivals that take place throughout the year. It’s likely one is happening during your visit to the city. The 40th Annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival will be taking place at Jericho Beach Park from July 13-16, this summer. Plan your visit around this event, and you’ll enjoy some of the world’s best folk music on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Later in the summer, the Powell Street Festival, taking place on Aug. 5 and 6, is Canada’s largest Japanese Canadian festival. This year will be the 41st year the festival draws more than 15,000 people to Oppenheimer Park and its surrounding venues and streets. And theatre junkies won’t want to miss the Vancouver Fringe Festival from Sept. 7 to 17. This celebration of every kind of theatre imaginable features more than 90 theatre artists and companies offering performances to suit every taste and every age. Part theatre and part party, this is a festival that never disappoints.
Tourism Vancouver keeps locals and visitors up-to-date on all of the city’s upcoming festivals and events, so be sure to check their calendar of events when planning your visit.
End your 72 hours in Vancouver relaxing on the shores of False Creek at the boutique-style Granville Island Hotel. Known as the city’s best-kept secret, the Granville Island Hotel is the ultimate home base for exploring the island’s famous Public Market and breathtaking views. Sit on the esteemed patio and watch boats float by or snap photos of the skyline while feeling light years away from it all.
The hotel’s award-winning Dockside Restaurant offers one more opportunity to indulge in Vancouver’s famously fresh seafood. Choose from the range of daily a la carte menus, featuring the freshest local ingredients and OceanWise-certified seafood. Soak in even more views of the city from the open dining room or enjoy your meal back out on the patio on a warm summer night.
There’s no doubt you’ll leave Vancouver feeling like 72 hours just wasn’t enough.