Are you planning a trip to Vancouver and wondering how many days you need? Vancouver is one the most amazing cities in North America, one where buzzing city life is mixed with wonderful vistas and natural attractions. Okay, okay, we might be a bit biased, but Vancouver is one of our favorite cities in the world, and we called it home (oh, sweet home!) for a while. With a detailed Vancouver itinerary for 7 days we guarantee you won’t get bored here.
British Columbia is a huge, stunning province! You might not even realize how giant it is at first glance. But it’s not densely populated in general, and you’ll likely start your exploration in Vancouver, the largest city and transport hub. If you only have 2 or 3 days in Vancouver, here’s a shorter Vancouver itinerary for you. This post is for those who prefer exploring the city and its surroundings in depth.
This one week Vancouver itinerary has all the highlights, best viewpoints, parks, beaches and museums, even some lesser-known gems that most tourists miss. No day trips to Vancouver Island, Whistler or the Sunshine Coast is included, this is a 7 day Vancouver itinerary, focusing on the city and its metropolitan area. (You find lots of travel guides about Vancouver Island, the Squamish-Lillooet regional district or the Sunshine Coast on the rest of the blog.) So let’s see the very best places to visit in Vancouver.
Overview: Vancouver itinerary for 7 days
Here’s a quick overview of our detailed guide to visiting Vancouver in 7 days:
pretty views from Robson Square
Day 1: Gastown & Canada Place
Day 2: Seaplane tour, Vancouver Aquarium & Stanley Park
Day 3: Yaletown & West End
Day 4: Vanier Park, Kitsilano Beach, Queen Elizabeth Park
Day 5: Granville Island & whale-watching tour
Day 6: False Creek & Science World
Day 7: North Vancouver
Day 1: Gastown & Canada Place
The itinerary of your first day depends on when you arrive, but I assume you’ll have about half a day.
Getting from Vancouver Airport to downtown
You’ll likely fly into Vancouver Airport, and getting downtown from there is quick and easy. You either take a taxi (or Uber or Lyft) or take the SkyTrain’s Canada Line. This is an automated train that takes you to the Waterfront Station in about half an hour. The Waterfront Station is a good starting point to explore Gastown, Canada Place and (surprise, hah?) the Waterfront neighborhood.
I’m not a huge fan of the term, but Gastown is a Vancouver must see. This neighborhood is the oldest in Vancouver, the first downtown. Its name comes from “Gassy” Jack Deighton whose bar became the center of community life. Find his statue (you won’t, it was taken down in 2022) as you stroll the cobbled streets, lined by Victorian buildings.
Steam Clock and food tour
You can also find countless galleries, boutiques, souvenir shops and restaurants in Gastown. And the Gastown Steam Clock, an iconic spot. It’s one of the few functioning steam-powered clocks in the world, it blows steam and whistles every 15 minutes.
A great way to explore the food scene is signing up for a guided Gastown food tour. This one is about 2.5 hours long and includes a variety of goodies, from Canadian classics to Japanese food and local craft beer, and also an insight into Gastown’s culture and history.
Go up to the Vancouver Lookout for a 360 degrees panorama of Vancouver Downtown, the Burrard Inlet and North Vancouver. It’s 168 meters high above the city, the last elevator goes up at 5:30 pm, and the attraction closes at 6 pm, so depending on your arrival, you might visit the lookout on another day.
Vancouver Lookout is only 5 minutes walk away from the Gastown Steam Clock.
To enjoy waterfront views (and admire the giant cruise ships), head to Canada Place. This is a convention center, ferry and cruise terminal, but even more. The building looks like a giant sailboat, and its western promenade is home to The Canadian Trail. This walking path gives insight into the history of Vancouver through information boards, and it treats you with nice views of the North Shore, Stanley Park and the Burrard Inlet.
FlyOver Canada experience
FlyOver Canada is also located on Canada Place. It’s a 4D simulation that takes you on a “plane” from the east coast of Canada to the west coast. Shows start every 15-20 minutes until 9 pm, so this is a great attraction for later in the day (but please check the opening hours before your visit).
Day 2: Seaplane tour & Vancouver Aquarium
The second day is an exciting mix of Vancouver tourist attractions. You get a bird-eye view of the city and its beautiful surroundings from a seaplane, walk in the Waterfront, Coal Harbor, Financial District and Chinatown neighborhoods, then finish your day in Stanley Park.
Start at the Olympic Cauldron and Jack Poole Plaza in the Waterfront. This square became home to the Olympic Cauldron when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010. You get nice views of the North Shore, and two of my favorite modern art statues in Vancouver can be found here: The Drop (a large steel statue resembling a raindrop) and the Digital Orca.
This is where you find the Seaplane Terminal, as well. Take a 30 minute seaplane tour over Vancouver to enjoy its stunning location from above. You can also choose longer tours from Vancouver to Victoria, Whistler or one of the Gulf Islands if you have the time.
Stroll Burrard Street and Hornby Street to enjoy the best views in the Financial District. (Your neck might get hurt due to constantly looking up to the giant glass skyscrapers of the business district.)
Robson Square is the main square, surrounded by hotels, shopping malls and a few more glass giants. Here you find the Vancouver Art Gallery which showcases a wide variety of artworks, from AI-inspired installations to Shakespeare or paintings by Canadian artists. It’s worth walking up to the viewing terraces in the middle of Robson Square.
From Robson Square, take Howe Street or Seymour Street, then West Pender Street which takes you to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, one of the best things to see in Vancouver Chinatown. Honestly, other than Millenium Gate and Chinese food there’s not many other attractions in this district. In some areas the struggle with poverty, homelessness and drug addiction is quite obvious. If you wish to avoid those sad sights, stick to West Pender Street to reach the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
This is a traditionally constructed Chinese Garden, the first one built outside of China in 1985. It was opened just in time for the Expo in 1986. After purchasing a ticket, you can take a self-guided tour and learn about the traditional techniques used to build the garden, the history and lifestyle of the people who used this kind of garden. You can walk all around the garden in an hour.
Seawide Greenway to Stanley Park
After having lunch in Chinatown or Gastown, head back to the Waterfront. The Seawide Greenway takes you to Stanley Park on a very scenic path through the Coal Harbor neighborhood, with picturesque views of the North Shore. You can walk, or rent a bike. Or join an electric bike tour that includes Stanley Park and other niehgborhoods, like Yaletown, Chinatown and Gastown.
The Seaside Greenway is a 28 kilometers long urban waterfront walkway, with separate lanes for pedestrians and bikers. It starts at Canada Place, and you can walk (or bike) to Stanley Park, English Bay, David Lam Park, all along False Creek, to Kitsilano Beach and Spanish Banks Beach on the other side of False Creek. The views are spectacular, and I added exploring sections of the Seaside Greenway to almost every day of this Vancouver trip itinerary.
Now just proceed to the entrance of Vancouver Aquarium, because it’s open only until 5 pm, and you need a few hours to look around inside.
Vancouver Aquarium is located in the heart of Stanley Park. It’s not the biggest aquarium we’ve ever seen, but we liked the exhibitions which have a strong focus on local habitats and conservation. Oh, and you find seals and sea otters in the outdoor pools, with underwater viewing areas – who would need any more reason to be convinced to visit? Plan about 3-4 hours to comfortably explore the roughly 30 exhibits.
If ethical animal experiences are important for you, Vancouver Aquarium is still a great choice. They’re committed to research and rescue, and they keep no whales or dolphins.
Before and after your visit to the Aquarium, you can explore as much of Stanley Park as you fancy. Stanley Park is one of the coolest urban parks we’ve ever seen, with a scenic Seawall around the peninsula where it’s located. This peninsula is surrounded by ocean waters of the Burrard Inlet and English Bay.
The Stanley Park Seawall is a 10 km loop, so you either choose to walk only part of it this afternoon, or rent a bike. This giant park has rainforests, beaches, lakes, wildlife (don’t approach or feed them!), cultural landmarks and amazing views of both Downtown Vancouver and the mountains of the North Shore. This post tells you about the best things to do in the park, read it and choose what you like.
Catch the sunset at Third Beach, Second Beach or English Bay Beach – or stroll the section of the Stanley Park Seawall that passes each of these beautiful beaches.
Stroll the West End
After darkness falls, continue on Denman Street and Davie Street, find your favorite cocktail bar or craft beer bar.
Day 3: Yaletown & West End
Yaletown is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Downtown Vancouver. It’s an exciting mix of old and new, with historic warehouse buildings turned into trendy restaurants and boutiques, and with modern glass high rises on the waterfront. The percentage of patios is probably the highest here in all Vancouver neighborhoods, it has its own scenic stretch of the Seaside Greenway, lovely parks and some adorable, quirky attractions.
If you plan a trip to Vancouver, plan at least a few hours to explore Yaletown. Half a day is even better, so the first half of your third day will be spent here.
Casually stroll the neighborhood, enjoy the patios and the water views. I’ll give you a rough route below, but feel free to modify it on the go.
Engine 374 Pavilion
Engine 374 Pavilion is a good starting point, because opening hours are limited – check them here. Yaletown was once the terminal station of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the Engine 374 Pavilion is a relic of that era. It’s staffed by volunteers, and it’s a free attraction, right by Roundhouse Community Center.
The pavilion is home to famous Engine 374, the first trans-continental train to arrive in Vancouver, cheered by the crowds. Learn about the retired engine and the rail history of the city, the staff is happy to answer your questions.
Jennifer Kostuik Gallery
If modern art is your jam, Yaletown will spoil you. It has lots of art galleries, but one of the most popular ones is the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery. It celebrates its 25 years anniversary and offers artworks on display from Vancouver, Canada, the USA, Europe, Mexico or Argentina.
This is where you find those warehouses turned into restaurants standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
David Lam Park and George Wainborn Park
David Lam Park and George Wainborn Park are located along the False Creek Seawall, and they’re Yaletown’s prettiest green spaces, with large lawns, benches and playgrounds. David Lam Park is the one I like the most, and it reminds me a bit of New York’s Central Park: green lawns, backed up by skyscrapers, but instead of lake views, you have False Creek views here.
The Leslie House
I’ve already lived in Metro Vancouver for almost a year when I stumbled upon the Leslie House accidentally, and oh, I fell in love with it instantly! I think it’s one of the best hidden gems you can dig up in Vancouver.
It was built after the Great Vancouver Fire in 1886 as a family home for George Leslie, his wife and five children. At the end of the 19th century Yaletown had many buildings like the Leslie House, but today it’s the only wood frame heritage house in the neighborhood. The rest of them were moved to Mole Hill in 2004 – and that’s the next place to go.
Mole Hill is Vancouver’s oldest heritage block, and it’s only about 15 minutes walk from the Leslie House. Search for Mole Hill Community Housing Society on Pendrell Street on Google Maps to find it. Then walk on Pendrell Street, wander into the narrow lanes and surrounding streets while you feel like being transported into 19th century Vancouver.
Mole Hill has thirty heritage-listed Victorian and Edwardian houses which were built between 1888 and 1908. It’s named after Henry and Elizabeth Mole who are believed to be among the first settlers to this area, and it’s a “hill”, because this block is at the highest elevation in the West End.
If the weather is nice and you have time to kill, chill out on Sunset Beach. Otherwise, head to Burrard Bridge where you’ll enjoy some of the best views over Vancouver.
Sunset Beach has several small sandy bays, grassy areas, a concession stand and benches – and stunning sunset views. It’s a bit of a detour on the way to Burrard Bridge, but it’s a nice place to enjoy a sunny day and stroll this part of the Seawall.
view from the western sidewalk of Burrard Bridge
Walking on Burrard Bridge means enjoying some of the best aerial views of Vancouver, backed up by the North Shore mountains. Pedestrian access to the Burrard Street Bridge from the West End is from Pacific Street.
The big question is: which side to choose? You have to decide before you start your walk on the bridge, because it’s not possible to safely cross the busy road later, only on the dedicated crosswalk at the other end of Burrard Bridge. You can walk on one side, then back on the other side if you have the time. Both treat you with spectacular views.
view from the eastern sidewalk of Burrard Bridge
The west sidewalk has views of the beaches of the West End and Stanley Park, Vanier Park, the North Shore mountains and Vancouver Island in the distance. The east sidewalk offers views of Yaletown, the harbors of False Creek and Granville Island.
Day 4: Vanier Park, Kitsilano Beach, Queen Elizabeth Park
The fourth day of this one week Vancouver itinerary takes you out of downtown, to the other bank of False Creek.
Vanier Park is one of the most scenic waterfront parks in Vancouver, right across from downtown, so it has amazing skyline views. You usually find countless Canadian geese grazing on the lawn, a small pebbly bay, a heritage harbor, benches by the water and three museums in the park: the Museum of Vancouver, H.R. MacMillan Space Center and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
It’s part of the Seaside Greenway, you can walk (or bike) to Kitsilano Beach or along the False Creek Seawall from Vanier Park.
Vancouver Maritime Museum
Vancouver Maritime Museum is a family-friendly one that educates visitors about the maritime history of Vancouver, British Columbia and the Canadian Arctic. It has a free outdoor exhibition called the Heritage Harbour, featuring a collection of vintage wooden vessels.
Museum of Vancouver
If you’d rather visit the largest civic museum in Canada, you find the Museum of Vancouver in Vanier Park, as well. Here you’ll learn about the city’s history from 1900 to 1970, broken down by decades. Don’t forget to check out the temporary exhibitions, too.
As soon as you finish your museum visits, make your way towards Kitsilano Beach. You can have lunch at the Boathouse on Kitsilano Beach, or pick another restaurant nearby.
Kitsilano Beach is especially nice to visit in the summer when it’s full of people sunbathing, playing volleyball, swimming or paddling. Join them, or simply marvel at the large waves and distant downtown views. You find sport fields, an outdoor swimming pool and a playground for kids, as well.
If you rent a bike, you can quickly get to Jericho Beach, Locarno Beach and Spanish Banks Beach on a scenic coastal route. It’s still the Seaside Greenway, and walking there is just as nice, but takes more time.
Queen Elizabeth Park
From Kitsilano Beach it takes about half an hour to get to Queen Elizabeth Park either by bike or bus. Queen Elizabeth Park sits on the top of Vancouver, offering some of the best views over the city and the mountains.
You get the best panorama from the terrace in front of Bloedel Conservatory. By the way, Bloedel Conservatory is worth a visit if you have the time. It’s a temperature-controlled closed dome, home to a tropical paradise with over 100 exotic birds and 500 exotic plants. (It’s a great way to enjoy Queen Elizabeth Park on a rainy day.)
Another attraction in this large park is the Quarry Gardens which reminded us of Victoria’s Butchart Gardens, only they’re much smaller – and free to visit. The main Quarry Garden is a walled garden, it has flowerbeds, with beautiful seasonal flowers, and tiny creeks with bridges. Nearby North Quarry Garden is a small oriental garden.
Queen Elizabeth Park is especially spectacular at cherry blossom time (in mid-April), and in October when leaves turn red and golden.
Day 5: Granville Island & whale-watching tour
A whale-watching tour is one of the best animal experiences when visiting Vancouver, so we’ll dedicate at least half a day to it in your Vancouver travel itinerary. Granville Island is a great base since tours regularly depart from there, and it’s a worthwhile attraction on its own.
Morning: Granville Island
You can either go on a whale-watching tour in the morning, then visit Granville Island, or you can start with Granville Island and sign up for an afternoon tour.
The name of Granville Island is tricky, because it’s a peninsula connected to Vancouver, not an actual island. It was an old industrial district once, but they turned it into a lively, quirky, colorful neighborhood where you find countless restaurants, shops and parks. With some pretty skyline views.
But one of the main attractions of Granville Island is the Granville Island Public Market. Here you can choose from a wide variety of fruits, veggies, sweets, fresh and baked goods. Join a guided Granville Island market tour, like this 2-hour small-group tour which includes a bunch of different tastings and is led by a foodie expert.
If you visit in the spring or summer, don’t miss the lovely green spaces on Granville Island. Sutcliffe Park has lots of cherry trees, flowerbeds, a small turtle pond and playground. Granville Island Water Park is a cool summer attraction for families. It’s a free public water park, with countless sprinklers, toy fire hoses and a large slide.
Afternoon: whale-watching tour
North America’s West Coast is among the best places for whale watching in the world. Thousands of whales migrate between Mexico and the Arctic each year, and you have a chance to spot orcas, humpback whales, minke whales, gray whales, porpoises and seals. You need some luck, but our favorite wildlife experiences are those when we observe animals in their natural habitat. Even though I hoped to see a pod of orcas on our tour which didn’t happen, I was happy with the giant humpback whale and the cute seals, too.
Migration season is between March and October, that’s when you have the best chance to see the whales. Orcas like to swim in the waters between Vancouver Island and the mainland (called the Strait of Georgia) in the summer.
Countless tours depart from Vancouver, most of them from Granville Island or Steveston (it’s outside of Vancouver, but still in Metro Vancouver). The Prince of Whales tours from Granville Island fit in your day perfectly. They take visitors on a 3-5-hour guided whale watching and marine wildlife tour, the exact length depends on how soon they’ll find wildlife.
Day 6: False Creek & Science World
The sixth day of this one week Vancouver itinerary takes you to a neighborhood that offers some of the best views of downtown: the False Creek neighborhood. We’ve written a separate article about all the great things to do at False Creek, read it here, and feel free to add more activities if you have the time. Otherwise, just follow the below agenda to see the highlights.
Morning: False Creek
If you only have time for one activity, bike the False Creek Seawall. This is where you get those fabulous downtown skyline views day and night. It runs from Vanier Park to the Science World, and you can walk on the three bridges over False Creek (Cambie Street Bridge, Burrard Street Bridge and Granville Street Bridge) which also have great views of the bay and the city.
Our favorite views are from Burrard Street Bridge, followed by Cambie Bridge. We like walking on Granville Street Bridge the least, because the pedestrian walkway is not that protected and is right by the very busy road.
Despite being an urban walking route, the False Creek Seawall offers many wildlife watching opportunities. Cormorants, ducks, herons, geese and gulls are the most common to see, but you can spot harbor seals, too, if you’re lucky.
Charleson Park is right along the False Creek Seawall, and I like it because of the breathtaking skyline views. It’s home to one of the best playgrounds in Vancouver, with a giant embankment slide that the whole family can enjoy.
Cambie Bridge is one that’s easy to access directly from the Seawall, through a series of stairs.
You’ll get amazing close views of the downtown buildings and a view over False Creek as you cross the bridge. You can walk on both sides, but crossing safely is only possible at the very end of the bridge on each side.
Habitat Island is a tiny island just south of Cambie Bridge. Again, it’s debatable whether it’s a real island, because it’s usually accessible on foot through a rocky pathway from the Seawall. Walk around it in a few minutes, or find a quiet spot on the rocks to enjoy the skyline views.
If you walk further south from Habitat Island, you’ll soon find yourself in the Olympic Village. This neighborhood was built to be the home of the athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, but was converted to a residential neighborhood after the Olympics. It has stunning water and mountain views, and it’s one of the greenest communities in the world.
Afternoon: Science World
Science World is located at the end of False Creek. It’s a family-friendly science museum with interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits. It offers various exhibits and interactive play areas from age 1, encourages learning through play, and offers plenty of exciting exhibits, live science shows and even documentaries in the OMNIMAX theater, so any age group can find something interesting.
Tomi was three when we visited, and he got obsessed with several water play features and musical instruments, and he spent most of the time in two rooms. We, the serious adults, on the other hand enjoyed the T-Rex exhibition, and thankfully, it offered a mini excavation sandbox for the little ones, so that we could look around undisturbed. (Hah, not really. But we had family around to babysit.)
Plan a few hours to visit Science World. If you’re into science and experiments, you can easily spend a full day here.
Finally, marvel at the downtown skyline after dark. Walk back to Charleson Park from Science World, this is one of our favorite walking routes for sunset and night views.
Day 7: North Vancouver
North Vancouver is where you find the prettiest natural attractions of Vancouver: rainforests, waterfalls, canyons, beaches, even a fjord. Technically, it doesn’t belong to the city of Vancouver, but Metro Vancouver. However, you can quickly and conveniently reach North Vancouver by the SeaBus (a passenger-only ferry) from Canada Place, or by car.
If you start a British Columbia road trip after visiting Vancouver, it’s practical to rent a car for this seventh day, as the North Vancouver attractions are quite spread out. Otherwise, take advantage of Capilano Park’s free shuttle and other public transit.
Any hiker can spend an endless amount of time in North Vancouver (and the connecting wilderness). This itinerary focuses on the most popular attractions that are suitable for almost any visitor, young or old.
Morning: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Is Capilano Suspension Bridge Park worth a visit? Isn’t it overhyped? It is a bit overhyped, and the entrance fee is expensive, but here’s the thing: it’s unlike anything else. You find lots of breathtaking rainforest trails and parks, even suspension bridges in North Vancouver and Greater Vancouver which are free to visit. But the 137 meters (450 feet) long suspension bridge across the Capilano River Canyon, the treetop walks and the cliff face pathway of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park are one of a kind. It’s not simply a natural attraction, but also an adventure park.
Plan a few hours to cross the giant suspension bridge, complete the walk on the smaller suspension bridges of the Treetop Adventure, and look down onto Capilano River from the Cliff Walk. Learn about rainforests through games and information boards, and marvel at the canopy of an amazing West Coast rainforest.
Lynn Canyon Park
Whether you visit the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge Park or not, Lynn Canyon Park is another attraction you shouldn’t miss. It’s incredible that a public city park looks like this, with its own suspension bridge over Lynn Canyon, picturesque rainforest trails, waterfalls and turquoise pools along Lynn Creek.
It’s free to visit and somewhat less busy than Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. However, expect to meet lots of people in both parks on bright summer days. Still, I think it’s worth visiting both of them, and I’m deeply in love with both. (My 3-year-old is enthusiastic about the suspension bridges, so it’s another reason why it’s such a joy to visit them together.)
City views from the North Shore Mountains
How much time you’ll have for this depends on how long your visits are to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Lynn Canyon Park.
If you have a short time and would spare hiking, take the Grouse Mountain Skyride to the top of Grouse Mountain. Of course, if you want to go hiking, you can choose from a variety of mountaintop trails at the top of the gondola.
If you’d choose a short and relatively easy hike with a pretty panorama of Metro Vancouver at the end, hike the Dog Mountain Trail on Mount Seymour. It’s a very popular hike (and not my favorite mountain trail for this reason), but it’s a 5 kilometers round trip trail to a mountain peak. You can’t get any easier peaks than this.
Your third option is Cypress Mountain (already in West Vancouver). Drive to the Cypress Mountain Lookout which is right by the road, and enjoy a sunset or night view over the city.
More summer activities in Vancouver
Beach day. Spend a day on one of the beaches in Vancouver or West Vancouver.
Rent a kayak to explore False Creek. In the warmest months, being on the water is an enjoyable way to see the Vancouver skyline views.
Take a boat tour to the Indian Arm. This zodiac tour lets you experience the most stunning water views. It starts at Granville Island, crosses False Creek and passes by Stanley Park. You’ll enjoy views of Lions Gate Bridge and the impressive stone spire of Siwash Rock, then you venture into Deep Cove to admire dramatic granite cliffs, Granite Falls and Silver Falls.
Kayak (or paddleboard) in Deep Cove. It’s the easternmost neighborhood of North Vancouver, but also the name of the small bay beside it. Kayak from Deep Cove to the Indian Arm, and enjoy the scenic fjord and mountain views.
Snorkel with seals in Howe Sound. Board a boat that takes you close to the Pam Rocks seal colony. Kayak, wetsuit and snorkel gear are provided, so you can choose your preferred way to get closer to the friendly seals. This is an eco-friendly tour.
More winter activities in Vancouver
Go for a winter hike. Get up in the North Shore Mountains to experience a snowy wonderland instead of rainy Vancouver.
Go skiing. If hiking is not your jam, spend a day skiing in the North Shore Mountains.
Visit VanDusen Botanical Garden around Christmas. The Festival of Light display over the holidays is one of the best times to enjoy this botanical garden.
More year-round outdoor activities in Vancouver
Scuba diving at Whytecliff Park and Porteau Cove. Both are famous for rich marine life and sunken shipwrecks. Scuba diving is a popular activity all year, because ocean temperatures never get too warm in summer, but they’re not too cold in winter either (at least compared to air temperature). Wearing a wetsuit is essential though.
Rainforest trails. Rain, shine, fog or snow, getting lost in the majestic temperate rainforest of Metro Vancouver is always a good idea.
Coastal trails. The trails of Lighthouse Park, Whytecliff Park, Pacific Spirit Regional Park and Belcarra Regional Park are our favorites.
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.
The best time to visit Vancouver
Well, Canadians would probably tell you that Vancouver is a wonderful year-round destination, with mild winters and great outdoor activities any time of the year. Granted, it has the mildest winters you can ever find in Canada, and Vancouver, hugged by the ocean and the coastal mountains, is beautiful, no matter the weather.
However, being beautiful and being enjoyable are not the same. Your sightseeing time is strongly focused on outdoor activities, but Vancouver is an extremely rainy place to be between November and May. (There are temperate rainforests here, after all.) If you don’t mind walking and hiking mostly in the rain (drizzling or pouring), don’t let winter keep you away.
I’m not here to say you can’t enjoy anything during Vancouver winters, because we did enjoy many things. This post tells you all about delightful winter activities in and around the city.
But our absolute favorite time in Vancouver is summer. July and August feel like a different world, with sunshine, very little rain (if any), warm and even hot temperatures. You can enjoy the ocean breeze, beaches and lakes, and you can take amazing road trips to the rest of British Columbia.
You have a good chance for lovely weather between May and September, but still, May, September and even June can be a gamble. They can either be warm and dry, chilly and rainy, or a mix of both. July and August are the busiest months both for locals and visitors, but summer weather is guaranteed. (Okay, you know nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the weather, but chances are high that you’ll experience summer weather.)
City vibes change with the weather. Food trucks, farmer’s markets, street performers, parks full of picnicking people and all the colorful hustle and bustle can be experienced between May and September. The rest of the year is quieter, more chilly, and foggy-rainy days have their own mystic atmosphere.