Gastown, the Stanley Park Totems & The ‘North Shore
48 Hours In… Vancouver, Canada
This beautiful Canadian city offers temperate rainforest, urban exploration, gourmet cuisine, and friendly locals. From indulging in a donut at Lee’s on Granville Island to riding the Aquabus, and even hiking among soaring Douglas Fir trees – Vancouver offers plenty to see and do. You may even catch wind of a director yelling “Cut!”, with Vancouver being a major filming hub for television and film. Here’s how to spend a brief two days in this city by the sea:
You will most likely fly into YVR International Airport, located roughly 40 minutes from downtown Vancouver. An affordable ride on the Skytrain (Vancouver’s answer to the subway system, traversing both above and below ground) will deliver you downtown in about an hour, or you can hail a taxi or Lyft/Uber.
There are a handful of great hotels to choose from in Vancouver, but nothing quite compares to the Fairmont Pacific Rim, located steps from the 17-mile Vancouver Seawall (the world’s longest uninterrupted path). Built in 2010, the Fairmont Pacific Rim has thought of everything, right down to televisions in the bathroom mirrors – so you never miss a news cycle or a Housewives rerun during a bubble bath.
Another luxurious option is the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, a historic property infused with 1920’s glam. Conveniently located kiddie-corner to both the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Pacific Centre Mall, whether it’s soaking up the culture or flexing your credit card – your needs will be met.
Vancouver Seawall, The West End & Kitsilano
From your hotel, head towards the Vancouver Seawall. Watch for the Harbour Air floatplanes taking off and landing, with the city’s mountains and ocean as the perfect backdrop. You may want to hop on a Mobi bike, a rental bike share program that offers bikes scattered throughout the city. After arriving at the Vancouver Seawall, follow the winding path as you make your way through Stanley Park, Vancouver’s largest public park.
Locals and tourists alike flock to the Vancouver Seawall, which offers 17 miles of paved path, winding its way around Stanley Park and the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the best ways to see Vancouver, and the scenery is second to none.
You’ll have worked up quite an appetite by the time you reach English Bay, which is the perfect spot to stop. Resting at the edge of Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, English Bay draws both crowds and locals alike – who are all keen to soak up the stunning views, laid-back beach atmosphere, and proximity to hundreds of restaurants.
A few restaurants dot English Bay, including the casual fine-dining (and Vancouverite favorite) Cactus Club, CRAFT Beer Market, and Hook Seabar. All offer varied menus alongside million-dollar views.
Following the Seawall or hopping in a cab, head over to Kitsilano (a short ride over the Burrard Bridge). With a high concentration of beaches, restaurants, and yoga studios – Kitsilano is crawling with young, beautiful, and leggings-clad locals, in search of their next Acai bowl or Kombucha fix. Aside from attractive locals, Kitsilano is home to the Maritime Museum and the Museum of Vancouver, the latter offering a glimpse into Vancouver’s unique history. Before you leave Kits (as it’s affectionately referred to by locals) make a stop at Siegel’s Bagels, a Vancouver institution open 24 hours a day.
As day flows into to evening, make a stop at Reflections: The Garden Terrace, on the 4th floor at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. String lights, inventive cocktails, and delectable small plates are the perfect way to begin your evening – before settling in at one of the many restaurants in the area.
With over seven hundred restaurants to choose from in the downtown core alone, your options are endless. A no-brainer fine-dining pick is Hawksworth (also conveniently located at Rosewood Hotel Georgia), the recipient of a consistent stream of awards annually. Venturing further afield (roughly fifteen minutes from the downtown core) is Vij’s, quite possibly one of the most well-known restaurants in Vancouver. Founded by celebrity chef Vikram Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala, Vij’s has been frequented by everyone from Hilary Swank to Robin Williams (who waited in line like everyone else, putting on an impromptu show for hungry customers).
Gastown, the Stanley Park Totems & The ‘North Shore’
This morning you’ll head to Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood and original settlement. Visit the Gassy Jack statue, a monument dedicated to Captain John “Gassy Jack” Leighton, the original settler of what was to become Gastown, in 1867.
Stroll the cobbled streets until you arrive at the famous Steam Clock, which whistles and emits puffs of steam every hour on the hour, drawing a crowd daily.
Heading into Stanley Park, take in the winding trails, lost lagoon, and towering Western hemlock trees. Near the scenic lookout at Brockton Point, take some time to witness the 9 totem poles, First Nations art that is deeply significant to Canada’s first settlers. Each totem tells a story and holds a different meaning.
From Stanley Park, travel by car or taxi over the Lions Gate Bridge and into Vancouver’s aptly named North Shore, also known as North Vancouver. These majestic peaks can be seen from most vantage points in downtown Vancouver, and are home to old-growth and temperate rainforests, waterfalls, a suspension bridge, a working dam, and much more.
Options abound for outdoor enthusiasts in North Vancouver, including the Grouse Grind (affectionately dubbed the ‘outdoor StairMaster’). This steep trail on Grouse Mountain is a right of passage for newly-minted locals, and the views at the top are worth the somewhat painful climb. For another adventurous foray into nature, the Capilano Suspension bridge offers 7 suspension bridges, viewing platforms, a cliffwalk, and an information center. Bring a picnic or have a bite at the Logger’s Grill in the middle of the forest. Whatever you choose, you’ll have 360-degree views of the gorgeous rainforest.
Chinatown and Yaletown
This evening will be your final night in Vancouver, and your last chance for after-dark exploration before your departure tomorrow.
Dining options abound in trendy Yaletown, a neighborhood filled with warehouse conversions, restaurants, and upmarket hair salons. Come evening, crowds fill the cobbled streets of Mainland and Hamilton and patio hopping begins. Don’t miss sushi at Minami, where your sashimi comes with a side of celebrity sightings.
A short taxi or Uber will deliver you to Chinatown, where the city’s history comes alive. Considered Canada’s largest Chinatown and a designated heritage site, Vancouver’s Chinatown is also home to trendy watering holes and spots for late-night bites. The famed Keefer Bar is a Vancouver institution serving cocktails with local ingredients and small plates with an Asian influence.
A visit to Vancouver is not complete without a stop at the Granville Island Market. Getting there is simple, but instead of going by car – it’s strongly suggested that you arrive via the Aquabus or False Creek Ferries. Both small boats transport passengers across the Burrard Inlet to Granville Island, affording riders unparalleled views during the short crossing.
Granville Island hosts everything from a produce market and seafood stalls to the locally-loved Lee’s Donuts, artisan shops, restaurants, the Emily Carr University of Art & Design, a separate kids’ market, glass-blowing, and jewelry studios, and more. While you can breeze through quickly, ideally you want to set aside a few hours to stroll the shops, enjoy a final meal, and take in the sights, smells, and sounds of one of Vancouver’s most beloved destinations.
While Vancouver may be viewed as Seattle’s equally rainy northern neighbor, there’s more this great city than raingear and mountains. An exciting food scene, unique neighborhoods, and laid-back hospitality all await you in Hollywood North. Interested in a visit to Vancouver, Canada? Contact me here.