Granville Island, perched beneath Downtown Vancouver, is one of the city’s must-visit attractions. Wander through the Public Market, bursting with fresh produce, pastries and a food court of world cuisines, then pop over to the market’s waterfront to take in the views. Head east towards False Creek or west to Kits Beach, a sandy beach stretching out toward the English Bay.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is housed in the city’s former courthouse and is as impressive inside as it is out. Although entrance typically costs $24, on Tuesday evening from 5pm to 9pm, the art gallery swings open its doors to the public, offering entry to the space by donation only. Past exhibits have included well-known Canadian artists like Douglas Coupland and Emily Carr.
The Vancouver seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, extending for 17 miles (28 kilometers). It stretches from Stanley Park to the Spanish Banks Park west of Kitsilano. The path is divided into two well-marked sections, with parallel paths for walkers and cyclists. Two of the most scenic spans of the seawall are the areas around False Creek and Science World and the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Located in North Vancouver, Lynn Canyon Park is a great free alternative to one of the city’s top paid attractions: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Lynn Canyon Park boasts its own smaller suspension bridge, which has sweeping views of the surrounding forest and swimming holes. The park covers 617 acres (250 hectares), and is filled with various hikes to suit all levels.
Vancouver teems with beaches. The most popular is Kits Beach, a sandy beach with a large grassed park area. In Stanley Park you’ll find First, Second and Third Beaches: First Beach is the park’s most popular and is busy with swimmers, as well as having volleyball courts and a rental facility for kayaks and paddleboards; Second Beach comes with view of the English Bay and a busy pool; Third Beach, on the southern coast, is the most isolated, offering quiet sandy beaches and sunset views. Further outside the city are Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby and Cates Park in North Vancouver.
Queen Elizabeth Park is Vancouver’s highest point, clocking in at 499 feet (152 meters) above sea level. Thanks to its location south of the city, the park has some of the best views – you’ll see the city’s towering skyline backdropped by beautiful North Vancouver mountains. Come by with a picnic, wander through the arboretum filled with exotic and native trees and soaring sculptures or play a game of tennis, lawn bowling or pitch and putt.
Found in North Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay is quite easy to get to from Downtown – simply hop on the SeaBus ferry at Waterfront Station, which takes you right there. Here, you’ll find a bustling market with 80 local businesses, summertime events, exercise classes and live music.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is the third-largest in North America by population (behind San Francisco and New York). Take in the ornate gate entrance on Pender Street, visit Sun Yat-Sen Park and peek into the dim sum restaurants, traditional bakeries and Chinese grocery stores lining the streets.
Set in the residential area of West Vancouver, Lighthouse Park is a national historic site. The 185-acre (75-hectare) park mainly consists of lush rainforest and several hiking trails, which are open year-round. At its southernmost tip is the park’s namesake, the Point Atkinson Lighthouse, a white lighthouse painted red on the top.
Stanley Park is a 1,000-acre (405-hectare) public park just off the end of Downtown Vancouver. The park is bordered by two waters – the Burrard Inlet and the English Bay – so there are plenty of beaches for swimming. You can drive, bike or walk through the park, but be sure to be on the lookout for a number of attractions: the Girl in a Wetsuit statue, Siwash Rock, the Lost Lagoon, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Beaver Lake and the park’s collection of totem poles.
There are plenty of free festivals and events throughout the summer in Vancouver. Some of the most popular include the Celebration of Light (the largest offshore fireworks festival in the world, where various countries compete to see who can light up the sky the most creatively), the Pride Parade, the International Jazz Festival and a number of Canada Day celebrations.
Everyone can be a hiker in Vancouver, thanks to the city’s large supply of parks. There are hikes here to suit every skill level: hit Stanley Park for a number of varied trails, Quarry Rock in Deep Cove for moderate trails and waterfalls, Burnaby Mountain for both hiking and mountain biking trails or Stawamus Chief, where experienced hikers climb a huge granite formation.