A hugely popular film location, the Canadian city of Vancouver is known as the Hollywood of the north – and it’s easy to see why. With a stunning cityscape cradled by snow-capped mountains, nestled between shining seas, alpine forests, and on the door-step of some truly jaw-dropping wilderness, it’s the perfect man and nature-made movie set.
How best to spend 3 days in Vancouver?
With an eclectic wining and dining scene, a multi-cultural rich history, world-class museums, peaceful parks, great hotels, and endless entertainment and activities; this is a bustling, modern metropolis that offers something for everyone. And this is your ultimate Vancouver itinerary.
Getting to Vancouver
Geographically speaking, Vancouver can attribute its success to the enviable location it finds itself in. As a result, it’s really easy to reach by almost any mode of transport you wish to choose. Most visitors are likely to arrive at the international airport (YVR), and you can check for cheap flights to Vancouver for affordable options.
Being the vast expanse of beautiful nature that it is, Western Canada is also very popular for unforgettable RV road trips, and Vancouver is a must-stop on such an itinerary. There are numerous bus and train connections, and it wouldn’t be one of the world’s best harbors without a regular ferry schedule. Getting there is easy, having to leave is the hard part.
Getting Around Vancouver
Vancouver is a big city, but it has the best transportation network in Canada which will take you anywhere you want to go. Having said that, the center is quite compact and easy to walk around, you won’t need a car, and hiring a bike is also a great option as Vancouver is a very cycle-friendly destination.
Pick up a day pass for unlimited use on all bus routes, the sea bus, and the scenic sky train – which is worth taking for views of the city and to get your bearings. At the time of writing it will cost you C$10.50 for an adult ticket, which is great value starting from the first transit service to the last. Just make sure you get your money’s worth.
3 Days in Vancouver – Day 1
Early AM – Stanley Park
It’s regularly voted the best park in the world and is the most popular attraction in the city by a country mile. Stanley Park is over a thousand acres of peninsula green space, incorporating spectacular sea views, beaches, an educational aquarium and a myriad of walking trails to satisfy any outdoor enthusiast. Top tip – get an early start to walk the famous sea wall without the crowds.
Early PM – Granville Island
A former industrial quarter now turned vibrant arts hub, Granville Island is a melting pot of culinary delights, theatrical flair, cultural wonders, and galleries galore. The Granville Island Public Market needs to be seen to be believed, a veritable feast for all your senses and offering delectable Canadian produce and wares to sample and take home.
Evening – Gas Town
Named after a talkative riverboat captain who built the first bar in the area back in 1867, Gas Town is the oldest part of the city. Victorianesque charm awaits in its cobblestone streets, traditional iron lamposts, and abundance of restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. Don’t miss the statue of “Gassy Jack” at one end and the iconic steam clock at the other.
AM – Capilano Suspension Bridge
Venture out of the city to explore some of Vancouver’s sumptuous natural surroundings beginning with a visit to its oldest tourist attraction – the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Located a short drive from downtown and set in a lush forest with some excellent hiking trails, this 137-meter bridge sits a dizzying 70 meters above the canyon floor.
Again, go early if you want to try and have the place to yourself – it gets very busy in the summertime, in spite of its C$50 entrance fee.
PM – Grouse Mountain
You’re not much more than a stone’s throw from Vancouver’s other hugely popular outdoor attraction – Grouse Mountain. Whatever the time of year, there’s always something going on at the city’s playground. Outstanding hiking in summer, world-class skiing in winter – and everything in between. The gondola to the top is loads of fun, too.
AM – Science World
It’s the kind of museum that everyone loves – one that allows you to get hands-on with the exhibits and demonstrations. Telus World of Science (or simply Science World) has several fascinating themes running throughout, a giant IMAX screen, top-drawer touring events, and mind-bending live shows. It’s really one for the kids, but it’s a great option if the heavens open.
Which is often.
Early PM – Chinatown
No Vancouver itinerary is complete without a visit to Chinatown, so you should squeeze in a trip to this vibrant, bright and colorful quarter – especially when it’s time to eat. It’s the largest of its kind in Canada and dates back to 1890, with the Dr. Sun-Yat Sen classical Chinese gardens a particularly peaceful highlight. Be advised they close early through the winter.
PM – Shopping at Robson Street
When visiting Vancouver you’ll quickly learn that it is a shopper’s paradise – and Robson Street is at the heart of it. Featuring international brand names as well as local retailers, boutiques, souvenir stores, and more; people-watching is just as much fun as spending your hard-earned cash. For high-end goods, nearby Alberni Street has you covered.
Evening – Take in a Show
Vancouver is a performing art powerhouse – and going to a show is an ideal way to round out your trip on your last night. You’ll find something to suit all tastes, from theater to ballet to stand-up. But this is the home of improvisational comedy, and if you like Who’s Line is it Anyway, then don’t miss an opportunity to see tomorrow’s break-out stars here.
If that’s not quite your cup of tea, there are plenty of other activities at night in Vancouver.
Further Afield from Vancouver
Victoria and Vancouver Island
There are several options that might interest you should you wish to explore elsewhere instead of a day in Vancouver. Taking the ferry to Vancouver Island is a popular option, and a visit to beautiful Victoria is well worth the journey. Be advised though that this is generally more than a day trip, so leave plenty of time if you decide to go.
An excursion to the capital of British Columbia is often even more memorable than visiting Vancouver itself, with many people preferring the laid-back vibe, skyscraper-less vistas, and 18th-century charm that Victoria has to offer. Don’t miss the Royal British Columbia Museum, the exquisite harbor, and the famous Butchart Gardens – among many other worthy attractions.
With the wilds of the Pacific ocean right on your doorstep, it might be difficult to say no to a whale-watching excursion. Witnessing these gentle giants up close and personal is an unforgettable experience, and with the waters around BC teeming with wildlife, there’s no better time or place to take the plunge.
Between May to October is your best chance of snapping that glorious tail fin photo, as thousands of whales from several different species are migrating through the Strait of Georgia, around the Gulf and San Juan Islands, and in the Johnstone Strait.
While most tourists embark from Victoria, Vancouver has its fair share of whale-watching vessels. You can even charter a seaplane if you’re really fancy.
One of planet earth’s premier ski and snowboarding destinations, the resort of Whistler-Blackcomb is the number one day trip from Vancouver. It’s located less than two hours away and offers some of the best fresh-powder runs and backcountry heli-skiing you could ever hope to find.
The famous Peak 2 Peak gondola is the highest in the world, the apres-ski is on another level, and the food and accommodation options are so dangerously enticing you might never want to leave. And it’s all waiting at the end of the dramatic and breathtaking sea-to-sky highway – BC 99.
Actually, you don’t need a Vancouver itinerary– just go to Whistler instead. Failing that – there’s always Seattle – but it rains just as much there, too!
It might not seem like much, but with 3 days in Vancouver, you can still pack a lot in, and it’s certainly better than not going at all. We’ve barely scratched the surface here, but we have touched on some of the very best things to see and do in this simply gorgeous part of the world.
Just remember to come prepared, as the weather is notorious for changing at the drop of a hat. They don’t call it “Raincouver” for nothing!
Did we miss anything off? Let us know if there’s something you would include in a 3 day Vancouver itinerary!