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How to Spend 48 Hours in Vancouver, Canada

Science World from Olympic Village | © Hayley Simpson
Science World from Olympic Village | © Hayley Simpson
Vancouver is a bustling metropolis surrounded by both the ocean and the mountains. Thanks to its many tourist attractions and easy access to nature, there’s a lot to see and do in Vancouver, but here is a guide for seeing the Canadian city if you only have 48 hours.

Day 1

Morning

Start the day with breakfast at Jam Cafe, known for its large portions, or Café Medina, with a Mediterranean-inspired menu—both popular with locals. Follow up with a visit to one of the world’s best urban parks and one of Vancouver’s biggest attractions: Stanley Park. An average of eight million people visit Stanley Park each year.

Bike the seawall (there are many rental shops nearby), walk through the park to the Vancouver Aquarium, or admire the view of West Vancouver and the Lion’s Gate Bridge. In summer, check out the beaches and public pool on Stanley Park’s south side.

Views from Stanley Park © Hayley Simpson

Afternoon

Relax after an adventurous morning and enjoy lunch in West End. Adjacent to Stanley Park and along Denman Street, this neighborhood offers so many dining choices, it’s almost too hard to choose. Favorites include Vancouver institution Cactus Club Cafe and Score on Davie, which is famous for stacking burgers, onion rings, and even brownies on a glass of Canada’s national drink, the Caesar.

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Some highlights in Downtown Vancouver include shopping along Robson Street, visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery, and FlyOver Canada (a virtual flight that soars over some of Canada’s most beautiful sights). A quick walk or bus ride away is Granville Island Public Market, an indoor marketplace that features local produce, sweet treats, and homemade souvenirs. For an afternoon pick-me-up, try the award-winning sweets at Chocolatas.

Granville Island Public Market © Hayley Simpson

If there’s extra time, go northeast towards Olympic Village and Science World—where Tap & Barrel has a patio perfect for enjoying a happy hour drink and soaking up the summer sun—or southwest towards Kitsilano Beach (known as just Kits)—which offers incredible views of Stanley Park and the mountains surrounding the city.

Science World from Olympic Village © Hayley Simpson

Evening

Spend the evening visiting one of Vancouver’s most diverse and eclectic neighborhoods: Commercial Drive. The strip is filled with bars and breweries, cafés and restaurants, and boutiques. Try Havana for modern Latin dishes, St Augustine’s for beers and burgers, and BierCraft for a late-night drink (it has over 40 local and international beers on tap alone). Be sure to stop by the neighborhood’s unique Rio Theatre—an independent multidisciplinary art house—to see if there’s a concert, film screening, or event happening.

Mural on Commercial Drive © Ruth Hartnup / Flickr

Day 2

Morning

Step away from Downtown Vancouver—visit Main Street (known for its many locally-owned boutiques and consignment stores, such as Front and Company, 8th and Main and Much and Little) and grab breakfast from The Whip or The Wallflower Diner.

Then it’s time to visit Queen Elizabeth Park, just off Main Street. The views from this park are amazing on a sunny day as the mountains provide a backdrop to the city skyline. It also has beautiful gardens perfect for a morning walk.

Queen Elizabeth Park views © Kyle Pearce / Flickr

Afternoon

Catch a shuttle from Downtown Vancouver to Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. The distance is worth it to walk among the trees and experience the area’s famous natural beauty.

In the summertime, ride a gondola lift to the top of Grouse Mountain, where there are fun events daily; in the winter, why not spend an afternoon skiing, snowboarding, tubing, or snowshoeing at one of the region’s three mountains: Grouse, Cypress, and Mount Seymour?

Capilano Suspension Bridge © Yashima / Flickr

Evening

Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood and still retains its cobblestone streets lined with circular lamps. It looks best at night due to the lamps and fairy lights adorning the trees. For a classic pub meal (with a side of trivia on Tuesdays), visit Lamplighter Public House. For Carolina-style barbecue, check out Peckinpah. Soft Peaks Ice Cream is a perfect dessert spot and offers Vancouver’s first organic soft serve ice cream.

Gastown at night © GoToVan / Flickr