The waterfront skyline with modern glass buildings, snow-capped mountains in the background and sailboats sitting in the bay is a sight that makes Vancouver one of the most scenic cities in the world. Enjoying the skyline and ocean views is undoubtedly the best thing to do on a Vancouver visit – and locals can’t get bored with it either.
In winter you can enjoy the early sunsets (around 4-5 pm), and in summer you can enjoy many sunny days. Walking around in the city a lot in the past year, we collected the best viewpoints in Vancouver for you in this post. Not only skyline views, but also beach and mountain views, because Vancouver is a city that belongs to the ocean and the mountains.
Best views of the Vancouver skyline
First, let’s start with the best Vancouver skyline views, which I can never get bored of. Not surprisingly, to get the best views of downtown, you need to be outside of downtown.
This large waterfront park in the Kitsilano neighborhood has wonderful views of the downtown as it’s right across it. It has large grassy lawns, pebbly beaches (one of them is an off-leash dog beach), a small pond that’s a popular rest area for Canadian geese and a wide, scenic, gravel pathway. You also find the Museum of Vancouver and the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Vanier Park.
It’s a great starting point for a sightseeing walk or bike tour as you can continue on the Seaside Greenway towards Science World and the downtown. The Seaside Greenway is 28 kilometers long and is one of the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront paths! And yes, it actually means that it’s an uninterrupted pathway only for pedestrians and bikers (with a separate bike lane for the most part).
The gravel path in Vanier Park is smooth and suitable for strollers, as well, just like the rest of the Seaside Greenway. Since cars are further away from this pathway, you can let the little ones roam around freely.
Vanier Park, like most parks, is especially beautiful in spring and summer, but even winter views are nice, because the ocean, the beaches and the skyline views can be just as impressive on a winter day as any other time.
As you continue along False Creek on the Seaside Greenway, the next scenic park is Charleson Park. This park is one of my favorites in Vancouver for many reasons! The breathtaking skyline views are one. Featuring one of the best playgrounds in the city is another. The giant embankment slide with the thrilling skyline views as you slide down is a treat even for parents. The park’s proximity to Granville Island, the large lawns and the small pond where you can see countless birds any time of the day are the extras.
It offers fantastic night views, too, and you can enjoy them as you walk further along False Creek.
False Creek (Olympic Village area)
So False Creek is not exactly a viewpoint. It’s a body of water that separates Downtown Vancouver from the rest of the city. But the Seaside Greenway runs along False Creek, and taking this path (either on foot or by bike) spoils you with the best downtown views.
You can walk over to Habitat Island which is connected to the walkway by a narrow rocky path. It’s a tiny green island, and locals like sitting in one of its quiet corners. (Well, the locals are sometimes a band of teenagers and they’re not that quiet. Anyway, it can be peaceful in the early hours of the day.)
You find benches along the way quite often. If you’d like to see the city from the water, you can rent a kayak from Creekside Kayaks near the Science World. Sunset kayak tours are especially popular. Needless to say, this walk is just as pretty after dark.
Stanley Park Seawall
Stanley Park is Vancouver’s first and largest urban park. A park where coyotes live and which has its own island. Literally, it’s a green island in the heart of the city, and it offers rainforests, beaches, lakes, wildlife, cultural landmarks and views of both the downtown and the North Shore mountains. Oh, and about 27 km of paved and dirt trails.
The best trail for city and ocean views is the Stanley Park Seawall, a 10 km long loop trail around the park. Yes, it’s long, but it’s a delightful walk, and you don’t need to walk it all the way either. For skyline views, walk to Brockton Point, and for beaches, start at English Bay Beach and walk to Third Beach.
However, I really like the section that runs underneath Lion’s Gate Bridge, and Siwash Rock, located only a short walk further from Third Beach, is a perfect romantic sunset spot.
David Lam Park
David Lam Park is in Downtown Vancouver, but thanks to the large lawn, your skyline views are perfectly unobstructed. Something like from New York’s Central Park. And that’s exactly what the park is used for: scenic picnics or playing ball games on the lawn.
You also find benches, washrooms and a playground.
This is a bridge that crosses False Creek, and whether you drive, bike or walk through it, you’ll get stunning close views of the downtown buildings and a view over False Creek. You can access the bridge from the Seaside Greenway on both sides, and there’s separate lanes for walkers and bikers.
Again, this is not a viewpoint, but a neighborhood which is rich in scenic views. Views of the towering skyscrapers, boats and seaplanes. Distant views of Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains. Just stroll along the Seaside Greenway (yes, it’s everywhere) in the Coal Harbour area.
If you like harbor views and large ships (khm… or you have a kid who is obsessed with those), Canada Place will be your favorite. It’s an iconic structure in Vancouver, anyway: a convention center that’s built to look like a sailboat. Its west promenade is called The Canadian Trail and it’s divided into 13 sections that represent the ten provinces and three territories of Canada. The promenade offers views of Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park and snow-capped mountains of the North Shore.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Let’s leave the downtown as one of the most scenic viewpoints is outside of it: Queen Elizabeth Park, sitting 125 meters above sea level. It’s the top of the city, and you find the best view from the terrace in front of Bloedel Conservatory, with distant views of the city hugged by the mountains.
Queen Elizabeth Park offers more than city views though. The Quarry Gardens are like Victoria’s Butchart Gardens in miniature, but they’re free to visit. The main Quarry Garden is a walled garden with flowerbeds, small creeks with bridges or a tiny bamboo forest. The North Quarry Garden is smaller and feels more oriental, with an arching bridge over a stony creek bed.
The Bloedel Conservatory is a closed dome that holds a tropical paradise: over 100 exotic birds and 500 exotic plants in a temperature-controlled environment.
Every large metropolis with a dramatic enough skyline should have a lookout in one of the high rises, right? It’s Vancouver Lookout in Vancouver, sitting 168 meters high above the city. You can take the glass elevator up, then enjoy the 360º views of the city and its surrounding mountains.
It has been closed for a long time due to the C-word, but from 2022 visitors can enjoy the panorama again. Though there’s no time limit for your visit, you can go up to the panorama terrace only once with one ticket. We’d opt for the night panorama.
Vancouver Lookout is located only about 5 minutes walk from the Gastown Steam Clock.
Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby
Technically outside of Vancouver (but well within the Metro Vancouver area), the top of Burnaby Mountain is a nice spot for sunsets or night skyline views. Burnaby Mountain is home to a university campus and a huge park with about 10 km of hiking trail. Where to go for the best views? Visit the Kamui Mintara wooden sculptures and the Rose Garden, and walk to the panorama points nearby. Be warned: views are better in the winter months when trees are bare.
Other great things to do in Vancouver:
Best ocean and beach views in Vancouver
Lying by the ocean gives a special charm to any city, and Vancouver has that charm – and uses it for good. You can stay connected to the ocean thanks to the long waterfront promenades, shoreline parks and beaches. The views of the skyline, the harbors and the ocean often blend with each other, but there are some places where ocean views dominate. Let’s see them.
But first, yet another warning: tide conditions strongly affect the look of most beaches in Vancouver. The waves are the most dramatic at high tide in the winter months, and the beaches could look disappointing at low tide, especially in the summer. The water is far out, the tidal zone is muddy (and might smell, too), and even though kids happily splash in the warm, shallow ponds, the beaches are not that attractive to look at. Check tide times here.
English Bay Beach
This is the most popular beach of the downtown, located right where the Stanley Park Seawall begins. The Polar Bear Swim takes place here every New Year’s Day. But the downtown is behind the beach, it faces English Bay and the Kitsilano neighborhood.
My favorite photo spot is at the Inukshuk Monument at the west end of the beach. Inukshuks were made by Inuit people in northern Canada, and this one was given to Vancouver from the Northwest Territories.
walking from Kitsilano Beach to Vanier Park
One of the best sunset views in Vancouver is from Kitsilano Beach. The beach is facing west, offers amazing views of the Vancouver skyline in the distance, and you can gaze at the silhouette of mountains and sailboats while walking in the sand. However, don’t expect the sun to sink into the ocean, it sinks behind Vancouver Island (and this is the case for all of Metro Vancouver, anywhere you go).
Jericho Beach is further from the downtown, and the skyline views are distant, but that’s what makes them unique. They’re part of a beautiful landscape. Bonus: Jericho Beach is home to countless local bunnies, we saw them every time we walked there.
Spanish Banks Beach is next to Jericho Beach, and is quite similar to it – minus the bunnies.
Panorama Park & Deep Cove Park, North Vancouver
These two small parks in North Vancouver have no downtown views, but they’re the most scenic oceanside parks in all of Metro Vancouver. They are connected to each other, and I think of them as the very same park, even though the two areas have different names: Panorama Park and Deep Cove Park. It’s a hilly park with a large grassy area and wonderful views of Indian Arm and the North Shore mountains. Panorama Park has a small pebbly beach, as well.
The best viewpoint: sit on a bench in Panorama Park.
Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver
Another picturesque ocean view:
This is the most famous viewpoint in Lighthouse Park. It’s from the rocky headland at the end of West Beach Trail, and you can’t get closer to the lighthouse than this. But Lighthouse Park has more nice ocean viewpoints, like Juniper Point or several rocky outcrops along the Shore Pine Trail. The trail network is about 6 km in the park, you can easily hike around within half a day.
Parking is at the end of Beacon Lane. Arrive early on weekends and when the weather is sunny, because there’s no street parking in case the parking lot is full.
8 essentials to pack for Vancouver
Waterproof rain jacket: a lightweight, easily packable rain jacket is your best friend when visiting notoriously rainy Vancouver. You don’t want the rain to hold you back from exploring the city and the stunning rainforest trails. Columbia jackets are affordable and effective for the average hiker, here you find them for women and for men. Oh, and don’t bother with an umbrella, more often than not it’s totally useless due to the strong wind.
Waterproof backpack cover: you want to keep all the stuff in your backpack dry even on the rainiest day.
Hats: no matter which season your visit takes place, you’ll probably want some kind of hat. A sun hat (for women and for men) or classic baseball cap (for women and for men) protects you from the sun in the summer, a lightweight beanie keeps you warm between October and April.
Quick-drying, moisture-wicking T-shirts (for women and for men): you’ll likely spend at least part of your time in Vancouver on hiking trails, so a few pieces of technical T-shirts come handy when getting active.
Sweaters: a warm sweater or hoodie is a good idea even in the summer, because evenings get chilly. And it’s not even a question during the colder months. These Columbia fleece jackets (for women and for men) are great as an additional layer both for sightseeing or hiking days.
Waterproof hiking boots: so you’ll go hiking, because the natural attractions are among the highlights of a Vancouver visit. Trails are often muddy due to rain or snow melt, and your waterproof hiking boots will keep your feet dry and provide good traction. Actually, they come handy even in the city parks in wet weather. This Columbia Newton Ridge Plus is a great option for women, and the Newton Ridge Plus II for men.
Binoculars: a pair of binoculars make your whale-watching or bird watching experience so much better!
Waterproof phone case: whether you’re going kayaking, swimming or boating, or simply want to regularly use your phone outdoors for navigation in rainy weather, a waterproof phone case is insanely practical and requires barely any space in your luggage.
Finally, don’t pack bear spray. You’ll need one for hiking safely near Vancouver, but crossing borders with bear spray in your luggage, or boarding a plane while carrying bear spray is not allowed. You have to buy one once you arrive and dispose of it safely before you leave. Canadian Tire is the straightforward store to get bear spray.
Bird’s-eye views of the city from the surrounding mountains
Are you looking for Vancouver views from above? You might suspect the answer: conquer some of the mountains that surround the city. Except for the first item, which is a roadside stop, these are hikes in this list, and you need to prepare accordingly. You can do them any time of the year though. Both Dog Mountain and Pump Peak are actually our favorites in the winter, after a fresh dump of snow.
Cypress Mountain lookout
For the most easily reachable bird’s eye view over Vancouver, drive to the Cypress Mountain Lookout. This lookout is right on the second switchback of Cypress Bowl Road, after taking exit 8 from Highway 1.
If you continue on Cypress Bowl Road, you’ll end up in Cypress Provincial Park. It offers many beautiful mountain trails, like Eagle Bluffs or St Mark’s Summit. They offer incredible views of Howe Sound and the Pacific Coast, but Vancouver is not visible from them (maybe a part of it is from Eagle Bluffs).
Dog Mountain, Mount Seymour Provincial Park
The easiest, shortest hike (2.2 km one-way) with the best city views is Dog Mountain Trail. Granted, it delivers what you expect, you look down on the city from Dog Mountain at the end, and you can hardly find an easier mountain trail. But it’s sooo crowded any time of the year that it hasn’t made it to the list of our favorite hikes in Vancouver.
Pump Peak, Mount Seymour Provincial Park
We like Pump Peak much more. Also known as the First Peak, it requires more effort (~3.5 km one-way) to get to, but it also offers a more breathtaking panoramic view of both Metro Vancouver and the North Shore mountains.
Surprisingly or not, it’s actually easier to do in the snow, because it makes the ground more even. This trail has some steep sections, and the steepest is the last short ascent to the summit. It’s well trafficked though, which is an advantage in winter as snowshoes are not required. However, you’ll pass through avalanche terrain towards the end of the trail, so please check the avalanche ratings before starting this hike in winter (or spring).
pine trees frozen into snow near Pump peak – they impressed us as mush as the panorama 🙂