Three Perfect Days in Vancouver
Vancouver is a city I had never visited but had always heard such great things about from colleagues and friends. It has been voted as the “world’s most liveable city” many times and it is very easy to see why.
Whether you stay by the waterfront or in the heart of the shopping district, the city is ideal for exploring on foot, and many of the districts – Coal Harbour, the waterfront, Gastown, Yaletown and Chinatown – are compact and within easy reach of each other. Another popular way to get around is by bike or water taxi. These are also regularly used by locals to navigate the city in a more scenic way.
To really enjoy Vancouver and its surroundings, I would recommend a minimum of three days.
Day 1: Stanley Park and the waterfront
Stanley Park starts at the edge of Downtown Vancouver and can be reached by walking, cycling or by car. It has recently been voted the best park in the world by TripAdvisor and I was amazed to learn that it is over 10% larger than New York’s Central Park. It is home to many beaches, walking trails, an aquarium, and beautiful gardens. The park’s most famous feature is the 8.8km seawall that loops around the park, fantastic for walkers and cyclists. Along the seawall there are some great viewpoints out to the city and also nine replica Totem Poles. The poles all represent real or mythical stories from First Nations peoples or symbolise a crest telling their family or tribe’s history.
If you have time this afternoon, make your way back to the waterfront and experience the ‘Flyover Canada’ simulator. I must admit I was very dubious about this as I prefer to spend my time outdoors, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The ‘ride’ is about 20 minutes long and you are taken from East to Western Canada, through the Arctic, the Prairies, Rocky Mountains, vineyards and over the ocean. You even ‘swoop’ down into the mountain ranges and feel the air on your face. The sights are mesmerizing and my fellow travellers and I left with real enthusiasm about the experience.
Day 2: Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge
A 10 minute drive from downtown Vancouver took me to Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you do not have a car, there is a free shuttle service from the city that runs every 15 minutes. This is a very popular tourist attraction so I would recommend arriving before 11am to avoid the majority of crowds.
The surroundings here are very lush and green, with the Capilano River running underneath the bridge. I am not a fan of heights so I was very nervous about crossing the bridge, however, was pleasantly surprised. The bridge is very sturdy and does not swing, which makes the nerves much steadier, although I was still holding on tight!
The bridge itself was originally built in 1889 by George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and park commissioner for Vancouver who purchased the land and needed a bridge to cross to the other side of his property. The bridge was completely rebuilt in 1956.
In the First Nations language, Capilano means ‘Beautiful River’ and there is a strong focus on the First Nations’ history, with a story centre, totem poles and daily performances on offer.
From Capilano, if you don’t have a car, it is a short ride on a local bus to Grouse Mountain.The cable car to the top of the mountain is very spacious and takes eight minutes so gives you time to enjoy the views over the city, or hide in the middle like me!
Grouse Mountain offers many walking trails and is also home to two refuge grizzly bears called Grinder and Coola. The bears were taken in as cubs as unfortunately their mothers were killed, and they have been here ever since. The enclosure is covered with trees so I found it difficult to see the bears, however, I did see one walking through the forested area and then going to sleep where he stayed for a long time.
The views from the mountain are of course weather dependent, but absolutely sublime and made for some wonderful photo opportunities.
Day 3: Granville Island and Gastown
Granville Island was my favourite experience in Vancouver as it involved my favourite thing: food! The atmosphere was fantastic, with music being played outside by buskers, and tourists and locals mingling and experiencing the edible delights.
Granville is not actually an island but can be accessed by water taxi, car or bus. It is a permanent undercover market, selling food from all over the world. In the food hall the stalls include Chinese, tapas, pizza, fish and chips, Vietnamese, Italian, you name it! The ice cream and cakes were to die for! It is also extremely popular with the locals as fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables are all on sale.
There are many arts and crafts shops inside and outside the markets, and the outdoor areas are great for enjoying the waterside setting. Just beware of the seagulls who can come after your food, so you may wish to eat inside.
In the evening, Gastown is a fantastic place to eat and enjoy some cocktails, if you left any space after Granville Island earlier. Gastown is well known for its steam clock which is located on the corner of Cambie and Water Street, and was actually built to cover a steam grate. The clock displays the time on four faces and announces the quarter hours with a whistle chime that plays the Westminster Quarters.
My time in Vancouver was short but wonderful. It is a fantastic gateway to the Rocky Mountains and Alaska and is a great city with so much to see and do within it, not to mention the nature that surrounds it.
Fancy stopping in Vancouver for a few days? We have a wide range of holiday options and excursions throughout British Columbia.