I recently spent a long weekend in Vancouver for friends of my boyfriend’s wedding. I went into this trip not knowing what to expect of the city being that it was my first time there and in Canada in general. We spent three nights, which is the perfect amount of time and had a blast. Here’s my travel guide to the city.
Where to stay: Vancouver has a number of five star hotels and also Airbnb options. For those going the hotel route, the Fairmont, the Four Seasons and the W are all situated in a great part of town and will have all of the amenities you’re looking for during your stay. If you prefer something more local but still high-end, check out the Pan Pacific.
What to Do: Vancouver is known for its natural beauty and it’s a really fun place to be outdoors and very active to take in the mountainous landscape and the water. We spent a lot of time walking around, hanging in the park and riding bikes. Read below for some of our must-dos.
Rent Bikes and Explore Stanley Park: One of our favorite experiences during the entire trip was renting bicycles and exploring Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park. We rented our bikes from Bayshore Bike Rentals because it is the closest bike rental shop to Stanley Park and has a great array of bikes, helmuts, tandem bikes, etc. to choose from. Also, their rates are very fair, and it you end up late, they will charge you in fifteen-minute increments rather than for a full hour, which is unique among the bike shops in the area. Overall, their staff is great and super friendly.
After picking up two bikes, helmuts and baskets, we set off to explore the park. Now, we live near Central Park so I wasn’t sure how Stanley Park would stack up, but I was blown away by how beautiful it was. The park is TK miles to get around, and the entire perimeter is surrounded by water, giving you the most amazing backdrop for your bike ride. The perimeter of the park is a 6-mile loop, which we biked, stopping along the way to take pictures of the vista and visit different landmarks, such as their famous totem pole sculptures. We took our time and also stopped for brunch at the Stanley Park Teahouse (More on that below and in a separate food post) so the entire loop including a stop for a leisurely lunch took around four hours. It was a lovely way to get acquainted with Vancouver and its scenery while also getting an idea for the area’s topography. There were times that we were biking along the path and could literally smell maple from the maple trees.
This really was the perfect way to spend a day and something I’ll be recommending to friends who decide to visit the area. The park is also where the famous aquarium is, if that’s something on your agenda while in town.
Visit Granville Island: Our first full-day in town, we walked from our hotel in English Bay to the ferry terminal to get to Granville Island. This island is just a five-minute boat ride from Vancouver (and costs just a few dollars) and is a wonderful way to spend the day. Here’s a pro tip: skip breakfast before going to the island. We made the mistake of stopping in a shop in Vancouver for coffee and breakfast and were too full to eat in Granville’s famous food market, which has local stalls for goods such as cookies, savory pies, lobster, candy and produce. If we did it over, we would have shown up hungry and sampled the local fare before setting off to explore the rest of the island.
We stopped by the Granville Island Brewery which was a lot of fun. My boyfriend tried a flight of the local beers while I had wine. We also sampled a local favorite called poutine which is essentially french fries in gravy with cheese curds. If you’re usually carb-free, you’ll have to make an exception for this because it’s delicious. For those interested, the brewery also gives tours.
After the brewery, we stopped by all the local artisans on the island. It’s really known for local artists, woodworkers, and other shops that are super interesting.
Stroll Around Gastown and Yaletown: Gastown and Yaletown are two great areas for shopping, bar hopping and eating and drinking. Both parts of town are walkable and it’s the perfect way to spend a leisurely day strolling around town and happening into their really cute and unique shops. I bought a lot of items I had no intention of buying, from gilded cactus planted to dresses.
In Yaletown, I particularly loved their flower shop, which is where I got the cactus vases. There is also a Soul Cycle there (!) and some really cute shops such as Friend Finds, which has the most delightful accessories.
In Gastown, check out Lululemon’s Lab concept, which has a factory in the back of it. I especially loved a little fashion boutique called Artemesia Clothing which has really unique, feminine designs. I bought an amazing dress there that I plan on wearing this weekend. Just next door to it is a lovely home store called L’Atelier Home which has bar cart accessories, candles and other unique finds. I also loved a shop called Old Faithful, the display is pictured above, that had great home accessories.
Where to Eat & Drink: It wouldn’t be a BVS Travel Guide without a guide to the best culinary experiences in the city. We sampled a lot of fare, and here are our must-dos. (Also, stay tuned for a more-detailed post dedicated specifically to the restaurants in Vancouver).
Tojo’s: First things first, go and make a reservation at Tojo’s the second you book your trip to Vancouver. It is the best sushi restaurant in all of Vancouver, and that’s saying a lot being that the city has more than 600 sushi spots. Its head chef, Tojo, is named one of the top 10 sushi chefs in the entire world, and he is responsible for creating the California roll. So, it’s only right you pay homage. The food here is amazing and really fresh. Thank us later.
The Teahouse in Stanley Park: We already told you that one of our favorite days in Vancouver was bike riding around Stanley Park. Part of that reason was because we stopped for a decadent brunch at the famed Teahouse in Stanley. The restaurant has the best views of the water and the park, not to mention the sunset. We went for brunch and everything we ate was just amazing and the service was impeccable. They have outdoor seating on their patio which makes you feel like you’re still partaking in the park. Rent bikes and make a reservation here on your trip, you won’t regret it.
Rodney’s Oyster House: Vancouver is known for its seafood and oysters are a staple on many of the menus. Head to Rodney’s for their oysters and bloody mary’s. There is one in Gastown and one in Yaletown, so this could serve as a much-needed break after a day of shopping in either part of town. We sampled a number of their oysters and tried all of their sauces with them. It’s a great vibe and a fun place to go with friends.
Tuc Craft Kitchen: Go and schedule yourself a brunch date at Tuc Craft Kitchen in Gastown. The brunch menu is killer as are their brunch cocktails. I also really enjoyed the vibe of the restaurant which is rustic but really hip with an energetic crowd.