Wrapped up in the sea and served with a side of mountains, Vancouver’s surroundings are as integral to its DNA as its shiny skyscrapers. From roller-skating the seawall to bombing down the ski slopes, this friendly, green city has something for everyone.
The great outdoors
Stanley Park, on the edge of the city, leans on a seawall. Stroll along the front, find a beach or creep into the wooded park. Grouse mountain, reached by cable-car above the city, gives you great views of Vancouver’s gridline streets and shimmering harbour.
If you’d rather do something more than just look, then drive to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – it’s just ten minutes away by car. If you don’t fancy the dizzying drops either side of the suspension bridge itself, there’s a cantilevered cliff walk around the canyon, and plenty of ways to sight wildlife.
Where to stay: The Burrard supplies free bikes, handy for touring nearby Stanley Park.
The intriguing indoors
Granville Island is home to a brewing company and a delightful daily market where the crafts stalls are one of a kind. It’s sometimes called gallery row, but South Granville, just a short hop from Granville Market over a beautiful bridge, has the best homeware shops.
With kids in tow on a rainy day, the quickest way to perk everyone up is with a static electricity shock at the science museum. Catch up with a faster-paced spectator sport afterwards: ice hockey at the stadium.
Where to stay: Families will appreciate the all-suite situation at The Rosedale on Robson, where you can whip up dinner in the kitchenette after a big day out at a sports game or museum.
Walking on air
Take a trail that’s suspended 70 metres above the Capilano river.Book flights and hotels to Vancouver
From gourmet to gorging
Brunch is a big deal here, as it should be: eat waffles right in the city centre at Medina or try the Canadian Bloody Mary – called a Bloody Caesar. Its secret ingredient? Clam juice.
For lunch, grab dim sum from a trolley at one of Vancouver’s many excellent Chinatown restaurants. For a quick bite, Vancouver’s Savary Island Pie Company serves thick slices of apple pie, whilst Beaucoup Bakery and café is a popular spot for a French style cardamom Kouign Amann (a butter-laden Breton pastry).
Poutine – the legendary dish of chips, cheese curds and gravy, originated in Quebec but has made its way over to Vancouver’s side streets. Eat it after a big hike at La Belle Patate.
For your evening meal, head to historic Gastown, which has the best selection of tried and tested restaurants, including a craft beer market. A fan favourite is The Flying Pig, for big American-style steak and seafood.
Where to stay: True foodies can’t help but be bowled over by YEW at the Four Seasons Hotel. One of the city’s best fish restaurants, browse the seafood display before ordering a fisherman’s basket or a seared tuna salad.
Stanley Park in Vancouver is home to a number of totem poles located at Brockton Point. Hand carved and painted, they’re a popular visitor attraction, though some are replicas.Tour the city by bus
The green life
Explore 100 years of landscaped gardens in this must-see oasis, blooming with colour and lush green walkways.
The sweetest thing
Top your waffles at Café Medina. Maple syrup would be a good choice. Quebec supplies around 70% of the world’s supply of the sweet stuff and it can be poured onto everything from pecan pie to bacon.
Sweep in by seaplane
Visit British Columbia’s historic capital Victoria on Vancouver Island, Vancouver’s island counterpart is just a short seaplane flight away. Head outside the capital and fall under the spell of its wildness, whether from the sea or from the air. See seals huddled on the rocks as the clouds clear – the weather here moves rapidly and it’s often warmer and sunnier than the mainland. Tour The Butchart Gardens for more manicured nature, or go for a tasting at Sea Cider ciderhouse, before spotting orcas and humpback whales on a guided trip across the ocean.
Where to stay: The Fairmont Empress, which is an iconic hotel where afternoon tea and the spa are twin attractions – make sure you sample both, one after the other.
Make a splash in Whistler’s pristine lakes and remember to enjoy the mountain reflections in the water.Book flights and hotels
See you on the slopes
Whistler is the word on every skier’s lips; it’s simply one of the best resorts in the world. Take the two-hour drive up into mountains from Vancouver. The slopes are incredibly high up, big enough to not get overly busy, and provide great spring skiing. Take Cloud Nine, a blue run off Blackcomb mountain, and just glide down with the mountainside spread out in the vista before you. You could feasibly make it a day trip, but you’ll probably find that après-ski in Whistler Village – which also has a surprising number of sushi restaurants – is a little too tempting.
Where to stay: Delta Whistler is a mid-range hotel, so you can save for the slopes.
A slice of rocky road
Many come to Vancouver at the start of an epic journey into the inestimably dramatic Rocky Mountains. Hire a car and drive to explore Kamloops, Banff and finish in Calgary, or take the train. The Rocky Mountaineer crawls along the edges of epic backdrops and slows down so that passengers can see brown and black bears from its windows on the way to the glacial waters of Lake Louise.
Where to stay: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, an impressive building that dominates the town. Its décor has a distinctly Alpine chalet feel. The ski slopes near the hotel are open in winter.