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3 Days in Vancouver: Itinerary Ideas

Grouse Mountain gondola
The Grouse Mountain gondola

Bounded by water on one side and mountains on the other, Vancouver is a relatively compact city–a boon for time-strapped travelers wanting to cover a lot of ground quickly.

When you only have a few days to explore this scenic city on Canada’s far left coast, you can be sure you’ve nailed the highlights with this foot-friendly two-day itinerary:

>>Related link: Things to do in Vancouver

Day 1:

  • Starting downtown from the convention centre at the north end of Thurlow St., walk or bike the 10-km seawall along Coal Harbour and around the edge of Stanley Park (home of the popular Vancouver Aquarium) to English Bay. You’ll find bike rental shops along the seawall or clustered at the foot of Denman St. near the entrance to the park. Time allowed: 1 to 3 hours.
  • Stop for lunch at one of the eateries near English Bay in the West End. You’ll find plenty of options ranging from street food to sit-down restaurants, and fish-and-chips to pho. If the weather’s nice, have a picnic on a nearby beachTime allowed: 1 hour.
  • From English Bay, continue along the seawall on foot or by bike to the foot-ferry dock behind the Vancouver Aquatic Centre at the south foot of Thurlow. It takes just a few minutes to shuttle across to Granville Island. Explore the thriving market that’s a year-round favourite of tourist and locals alike, and take home a hand-crafted souvenir from the artisans along Railspur Alley. Refresh with a beer-tasting at Granville Island Brewery, one of the city’s most popular brewpubsTime allowed: 3-4 hours.
  • If time and inclination allow, follow the seawall walk along False Creek towards Kitsilano Point where you can visit the Maritime Museum, the Museum of Vancouver, and the particularly family-friendly H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.
  • Return to downtown over the bike- and pedestrian-friendly Burrard St. bridge, or catch a city bus over the Granville St. bridge. Time allowed: under an hour.
  • For dinner, head to one of Vancouver’s restaurants-with-a-view. (And if you’re still game to party after that busy day, you’ll find the late-night scene you’re looking for along Granville St.)

>>Related link: Vancouver on a budget

Day 2

  • Start the day with a stop at the Tickets Tonight booth at the north foot of Burrard St. to get last-minute half-price tickets to a performance later that evening. For the best choice of events, get there right at 10 am when the doors open. Time allowed: 15 minutes.
  • Walk or take the bus to Canada’s largest Chinatown for a dim sum brunch. You’ll  feast on some of the best Asian food in the world at a host of award-winning restaurants. Afterwards, grab a delicious cocktail bun at one of the local Chinese bakeries and explore the colourful food and retail shops in the area. Especially in the springtime, make time to visit the tranquil Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese GardenTime allowed: 3-4 hours.
  • If it’s a clear-sky day, head for the nearby hills–specifically Grouse Mountain for a killer view of the city. (You can take public transit or take advantage of the free shuttle service from Canada Place to the nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge.) If you prefer water to mountains, opt for a whale-watching tour instead. Time allowed: 3-4 hours.
  • If the weather’s not cooperating, seek cover: spend a few hours at the Vancouver Art Gallery and then indulge in a little retail therapy along Robson Street or inside Pacific Centre mall. Or take a sight-seeing tour with a private company or via public transit. If you don’t mind a half-hour bus ride, the light-filled Museum of Anthropology at UBC is the perfect tonic on a gloomy day and will leave you with a deeper knowledge and appreciation of British Columbia’s aboriginal heritage.  Time allowed: 3-4 hours.
  • Enjoy at least one high-end seafood feast while in this coastal city. For those who can’t decide between sushi or seafood, I favour Coast (on Alberni St. near the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver) and Bluewater Cafe + Raw Bar (in Yaletown) where both are done to perfection.

» Related links:

Free things to do in Vancouver (or very nearly)

Shopping in Vancouver

Photo: Tourism Vancouver

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