Vancouver is a city that combines modern high-rises with the historical charm of Victorian houses and the lush greenery of local parks. There is something for everyone: jazz in the streets, local artists, fine dining, multicultural atmosphere, great food, large parks, historical museums and galleries, pristine nature, sandy beaches and snow capped mountains.
No wonder Vancouver regularly scores among the top 10 most livable cities in the world. You could spend days exploring every attraction of this unique place: but we hand-picked for you the top 5 places every visitor needs to see.
1. Granville Island: Enjoy Good Food and Jazz Music
This charming city peninsula is famous for its food market and local artists. Try a visit in the morning and enjoy the fresh food of the Grandville Island Public Market. You can pick almost any cuisine - from rich Japanese soup to an Italian slice of pizza. Or maybe you would prefer fish and chips from local catch? The market offers fresh produce from local farmers. Even the top chefs from local restaurants can be spotted here as they shop for their next culinary masterpiece!
Once your stomach is satisfied, you can explore other island attractions. Do you hear the saxophone? This must be one of the local street artists. The island hosts many art festivals - jazz lovers must visit the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which takes place every summer. But if you cannot make it during the summer – no worries. Free jazz events take place all year round.
The island is also a great place of adventure for your little ones. Your kids will enjoy the Kids Market full of fun shops, sweets and play areas. Explore the toyshops, play games in the arcades, have fun driving the bumper cars or explore virtual reality. If you happen to come in the summer, you cannot miss the Vancouver International Children's Festival! It is the longest-running performing arts festival for kids and the first of its kind in North America and Europe. Kids can enjoy theatre, acrobats, puppeteers, arts and crafts or storytelling.
2. Downtown Vancouver: Explore Historical Gastown and the Waterfront
Gastown is historically the first neighbourhood of Vancouver. While walking through the cobbled streets filled with old Victorian houses, stylish restaurants, art galleries and fashion boutiques, you might get an almost European feeling. The impression intensifies once you discover one of the city landmarks – the Gastown steam clock. Although the clock appears ancient, it was built in 1977. This sophisticated apparatus uses steam from the local heating system to whistle a chime every 15 minutes – and, as the name suggests, produce some old-fashioned steam.
If you want to see the city from the above, visit the nearby Vancouver Lookout, which will give your visit an elevated perspective. Then, spend some time at the waterfront. If you are lucky, the clock will strike 12, and you will hear the Heritage Horns. Ten horns, situated on the Pan Pacific Hotel roof, play the first four notes of the national anthem: O´ Canada. The horns also celebrate special events: they sounded 26 times during the 2010 Olympics, once for each medal for Canada.
Head towards the sound of the horns to discover a famous city landmark – Canada Place. Some might compare this modern building, resembling a ship with raised sails, to the Sydney harbor opera. This architectural masterpiece, constructed originally for the 1986 Expo, nowadays serves as a convention center. Enjoy beautiful views of the harbour – or even better – stay at the nearby Pan Pacific hotel!
3. Stanley Park: Relax in the Largest City Park in North America
This largest urban park in North America welcomes 8 million visitors each year. Indeed, this park is larger than the famous Central Park in New York. Stanley Park is different in many ways: more a natural rainforest than a landscaping project, with a rare location by the sea, a place that offers a lot of fun for everybody: walking and running paths, attractions, playgrounds, restaurants, and plenty of other activities. Just pick your own and start the adventure!
Start exploring the park by a walk by the Seawall, an 8,8 km long paved path that loops along the park that offers impressive vistas of the seashore and the city skyline. If you get sweaty after the stroll, head to the Second Beach. Although the Pacific Ocean is not the warmest in this part of the world, the Beach offers a heated outdoor pool. Perfect for relaxing and family fun!
Families with kids and ocean lovers should reserve some time for visiting the Vancouver Aquarium, situated within the park. About 60.000 sea creatures are waiting for your visit. Admire penguins, seals, sea lions, otters, or jellyfish. Quietly observe free-roaming animals in the Amazon gallery. Learn about local ecosystems, meet Ceph Rogen, the Pacific Octopus, and then immerse yourself in 4D reality.
If you are a history lover, make sure to head to Brockton Point, where you will find an exhibit of the first nation totem poles. A fine collection of native American totems offers a glimpse into the rich history of this area and the elaborate craftsmanship of its first people.
4. Museum of Anthropology: Explore Indigenous Art
This is a must-visit museum if you are passionate about indigenous peoples' arts and culture. You will explore artifacts of all parts of the world: from First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to faraway places in Asia, Africa, or Europe. An award-winning museum building hosts exhibits of historical and contemporary art, sculptures, weavings, totem poles and other artifacts and archaeological objects.
First, admire the Great Hall of the museum with a large collection of totem poles. Then, immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of indigenous nations. Find the most notable piece of art: the sculpture named The Raven and the First Man, which you could find on a Canadian 20-dollar bill. Admire about 6.000 costumes of Cantonese opera that are considered one of the finest in the world. From Japanese prints to traditional Slovak jugs or native-American totem poles - this museum will take you to an exploration of cultures throughout continents and times.
5. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park: Head for some Adventure
Craving for more adrenaline? Explore one of the most visited attractions of the Vancouver metropolitan area – the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Take a walk 70 m above the Capilano river and admire the nature around you. If you still need more adventure, walk the Cliffwalk – a series of narrow bridges and platforms with only 16 supporting points in the granite cliff. After this, a Treetops Adventure will be just a relaxing stroll through the midst of the 1.300 years old Douglas fir trees of the rainforest.
Vancouver Has it All
Those were just the top 5 picks of this beautiful gem of British Columbia. But you could spend weeks here exploring multicultural neighbourhoods, skiing on slopes where the Winter Olympics took place, paddleboarding in the harbour, or hiking in the surrounding woods. Even shopping lovers can find great places for shopping in Vancouver: try the Hastings Park Farmers Market for local delicatessen, Park Royal Shopping Centre for a good day at the mall, or Nike in Vancouver if you need some good shoes for your next adventure.
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