Nestled along the country’s west coast, free-spirited Vancouver exudes a relaxed and laid-back vibe. But don’t assume that chill attitude equates to a boring city—Vancouver is quite the opposite, in fact. If you find yourself with three days to spend in this Canadian metropolis, you’ll easily find plenty of ways to fill your days. With water and mountains surrounding the city on all sides, the outdoors is a way of life here. There is no shortage of places to run, bike, or ski, and the city’s streets are lined with trendy boutiques, cute cafes, and out-of-this-world restaurants. This itinerary will help you make the most of your 72 hours in Vancouver.
Stretch your legs and explore the outdoors with a morning bike ride and an afternoon garden walk.
Morning: Rent a bike and explore Stanley Park
Vancouver’s 1,000-acre city park is almost entirely surrounded by water, making for some stunning views of the city’s skyline and the mountains beyond. If you ask us, the best way to explore Stanley Park is by bike. Rent one from any of the bike shops just outside the park, then hit the trails for one of the most scenic bike ride you’ll ever take. A flat, 14-mile-long trail runs along the city’s waterfront and takes an hour or two to complete, depending on how often you stop for pictures or to relax on one of the many beaches along the way. We recommend taking your time—after all, slow and steady is the Vancouver way of life. And if a bike ride doesn’t float your boat, a guided tour is also a great way to see all of the park’s highlights.
Lunchtime: Grab a bite in historic Gastown
All that pedaling is bound to work up an appetite. After you’ve biked to your heart’s content, head to the Vancouver’s historic Gastown for lunch. This neighborhood is known for its foodie scene, and you’ll find hip eateries and cute cafes serving up gourmet sandwiches, local seafood, and everything in between.
While you’re here, check out the whistling steam clock. One of only a handful in the world, this well-known antique is powered by steam and whistles at the top of every hour.
Afternoon: Wander the paths at the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
It’s the first “scholars” garden to be built outside of China, and we like it because you can visit it rain or shine for a slightly different, but equally cool, experience. A private tour is also a great way for a behind-the-scenes look into understanding the Chinese perspective behind these gardens.
If it’s raining, the covered walkways are lined with drip tiles that transform the rain into a beaded curtain that looks like it’s cascading from the rooftop. If it’s a nice day, you can spend a few hours admiring the variety of flowers and plants that dot the garden’s grounds. Each plant is chosen based on its blossom schedule to emphasize each season—meaning there’s no bad time of year to visit this little city gem.
Can’t get enough flowers and scenery? Vandusen Botanical Garden is another Vancouver gem that’s totally worth checking out.
Evening: Indulge in some fresh sushi
Vancouver’s sushi is considered some of the best in Canada, so if you’re a lover of raw fish, don’t miss out on your chance to indulge in some. If you really want to live it up (and spend a little money), we recommend heading Downtown and finding a sushi joint with waterfront dining.
If you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, Vancouver’s Chinatown neighborhood is also known for its cheap (and ridiculously delicious) Chinese food. If you’re not in the mood for noodles and rice, you’ll find plenty of local spots serving up dim sum, live seafood, and traditional Asian baked goods.
Spend your second day escaping the city streets in favor of the snow-capped mountains up north.
Morning and afternoon: Make the Drive from Vancouver to Whistler Village
OK, we know Whistler isn’t in Vancouver, but if you have the time, taking a day trip to this gorgeous area of the country is well worth your time. The 75-mile drive takes about an hour and a half, and the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) is one of the most scenic in the world.
Once you get there, you’ll find unlimited options for activities depending on your interests and energy level. The 2010 Winter Olympics were hosted here—that alone is a neat reason to visit. The village is full of companies offering everything from ziplining, to kayak tours, to Jeep excursions that take you to the top of Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain. Skiing is a main attraction in the winter, or spend the day getting pampered at one of the luxurious spas in town. Of course, you can skip the guided tours, grab a trail map, and set out for a hike on your own. No matter what you choose to do, it’s a fantastic day trip—do you really think we’d recommend spending a whole day here if it wasn’t?
Evening: Relax with a brew (or two) at Steamworks Brewery
Day trips are always a blast, but they sure can wear you out. Once you’ve made your way back from up north, you probably won’t have a ton of energy to do much else but sit. So why not drink a beer while doing so? Steamworks Brewery has a laid-back vibe, plenty of room, and a gorgeous view of Vancouver Harbor. The pub-fare food is cheap and delicious, so you don’t even need to go anywhere else to eat. It’s the perfect spot to unwind after spending all day in nature.
Spend your last day in Vancouver eating, conquering your fear of heights, and sipping on custom cocktails.
Morning: Eat your way through Granville Island Public Market
Word of advice—don’t buy the first thing you see when you get here. You’ll likely want to eat it all, so it’s best to explore a little bit before settling on what to buy. Of course, you can eat as many things as you want—we’re just saying, don’t fill up until you’ve seen everything that’s on display. From donuts and muffins, to pizza and grilled fare, to fresh produce and locally seafood, your food options are limitless. Grab your food and go sit by the water—the views are spectacular and you might catch some live music while you’re there. Another great way to sample everything here? Sign up for a walking food tour.
Lunchtime: Grab a coffee in Gastown
After a morning at Granville Market, you probably won’t be hungry for lunch. Head back to Gastown and refresh with a cup of coffee at any of the quaint cafes in the neighborhood—there’s plenty to choose from and they’re all good. Grab a seat by the window or outside on the sidewalk and let your food digest while you people watch.
Afternoon: Walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Located on the north shore just 15 minutes from Downtown Vancouver, this 450-foot simple suspension bridge hangs 200 feet in the air over the Capilano River. The bridge makes it seem as though your walking through the treetops, and the pine-scented air combined with the birds eye view of the surrounding forest will make it seem as though the city is miles away. Plan to spend at least a few hours here—the park also has the Cliffwalk, a granite precipice that includes a labyrinth-like path of a series of bridges, stairs and platforms. Sign up for a tour or head there alone—either way, it’s an adventure you’ll never forget.
Evening: Sip on some custom cocktails in Yalestown
With trendy restaurants and chic cocktail bars, Vancouver’s Yalestown neighborhood is a nightlife hot spot.
The streets here are lined with some of the coolest spots in town, and an evening of bar-hopping is the perfect way to end your Vancouver stay. Ask a mixologist to whip up a custom drink based on your tastes—off-menu items are almost always available on request, and you’ll feel pretty cool sipping on a drink that was made just for you.