Vancouver is one of the most lauded cities on Earth, and regularly appears in travel magazine lists as one of the world’s most desirable destinations. The natural setting between sea and mountains is spectacular, and residents take advantage of the great outdoors by swimming, skiing, fishing, hiking, kayaking and sailing. Add to that a sophisticated arts scene, multicultural flavour, youthful energy and laid-back attitude, and it isn’t hard to see why Vancouver is so attractive.
Vancouver has a great public transport system, so get about on buses and ferries with a day pass ($10). The jewel in the city’s crown is free: Stanley Park features 400 hectares of forest, parkland and promenades with outstanding city, harbour and mountain views. The Vancouver Aquarium ($26), with sea otters and beluga whales, is exceptional. Then walk through Victorian-era Gastown, full of souvenir shops and cafés. Get a bargain meal ($15) in vibrant Chinatown, where you’ll find the lovely Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden ($14). Stay at the conveniently-located YWCA Hotel ($67), a favourite among international travellers.
Check out Granville Island, a former industrial area now home to shops, theatres, studios and restaurants. Put together a picnic ($15) from the terrific market and hang out with seagulls and street performers. In the afternoon, trek out to the University of British Columbia’s excellent Botanical Gardens ($8) and Japanese-style Nitobe Memorial Garden ($6). The university’s Museum of Anthropology ($17) has the best collection of totem poles anywhere, as well as painted canoes and ceremonial masks. Stay in the arty, eco-conscious Listel Hotel ($140) on lively Robson Street, or the hip Burrard ($157) near clubs and nightlife.
To appreciate Vancouver’s superlative natural setting, indulge in a helicopter flight ($156) or guided tour by kayak ($68) before lunch on the city’s best seafood at Blue Water Café ($50). For afternoon shopping, Robson Street has high-end, youthful fashion, Main Street antique shops and bookstores. Vancouver’s moneyed elite shop in South Granville. A downtown taxi trip will cost you around C$15, making this an easy way to get around. Vancouver has a dozen top-end hotels; try the waterfront Pan Pacific ($350) for splendid harbour views, or the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa ($410) for sophisticated romance.
Tourism Vancouver has a comprehensive website where you can download visitor guides and maps and create a Trip Builder itinerary.