• Danik Bates

The perfect long weekend break itinerary for Vancouver

Updated: May 7

Vancouver is not only one of our favourite cities in Canada but it's up there on our list of top cities in the world. Why you may ask? The city is more open and green, so there are parks everywhere, forests nearby, beaches and ocean to take in, surrounded by mountains which makes Vancouver a stunning beautiful city. A lot of the city can be walked, cycled, or if public transport is used, then the bus is a great way to get around. Like San Francisco, this city is good for your health and a lot of people love to keep healthy. However unlike California, the air in this city is fresher (if that makes any sense) and whilst wandering around, we didn’t feel like we were in a huge city. Because of a lot of natural things nearby, this felt more like a town in a forest or by the sea with the people having a laid-back approach to life. Ok, we will stop talking now and start sharing with our readers what is there to do for a long weekend break in this amazing city.

Downtown Vancouver

Now we are going to be totally honest, apart from eating out and shopping, we only did a few of the places the city has to offer. This is because of all nature has to offer nearby. One place we regret missing out so far on my three trips to the city is not stopping by at Granville Island (which is not an island but a peninsula) where there are a lot of cafes, restaurants, markets and theatre. Another place is Gastown which is Vancouver’s Old Town, another area full of restaurants. Next trip, fingers crossed we will get to these two areas of the city.

We start off where 98% of visitors of the city go too (this is what it felt like to us), the area around Stanley Park. This park is one of the best city parks in the world we have come across and we (well, Danik does, not Olga) loves doing a run or cycle around here. There are great views of the sea and the mountains to the north of the city. There is quite a lot of see in this mini rainforest with different varieties of trees but for those who want to escape nature for a moment and learn about one of the local cultures here in Canada, then there is the First Nations Totem Poles. The art work on the carvings are totally amazing. However for us it’s just taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and water. A truly amazing place.

Near to the entrance of the park is a little harbour where Danik (on his other visit without Olga, Danik has been to Vancouver about four times) took a ride with Harbour Cruises and had a sunset dinner and cruise on a mild summer evening. Leaving the harbour the vessel I was on, the MPV Constitution (which is a paddle-boat, my first and only time I have been on one), took in the northern side of the city, went past Stanley Park, south towards Kits Point and Granville Island before turning around and going back the way route. I think I was on the cruise for over two hours so whilst on the journey, I took in the sunset on a cloudy evening over the sea and had a three-course meal (buffet style) which had a lot of fish and vegetables on offer (so I can’t complain). This cruise is the perfect way to take in the sea and the city views at night.

One of our other favourite eating places is Cardero’s restaurant located in the Coal Harbour Marina. As well as having fantastic marina and mountain views, the food and service here is bloody fantastic (the only way we could sum it up at the time). The starters, the fish meals, the desserts, we couldn’t complain about anything (well, we don’t want to complain in the first place), & it was one of the best dining experiences we had in Canada. If having a late meal here in the evening, there is also live music to be had.

To the north of Vancouver

As mentioned, Vancouver for us was like a base and didn’t do much in Downtown (we promise myself this will change on our next trip to the city in the near future). It’s outside the city which is really worth checking out and getting up close with nature and taking in the views.

First off is Grouse Mountain where a cable car ride takes visitors to the summit (or to save money, do the 2.9km hike each way). At the top are great dining experiences, see the bears, see a lumberjack show or a bird of prey display or even go up a wind turbine. But for us its those breathtaking views over Vancouver and the ocean. One of our favourite city views in all of Canada.

Check out our blog post on Grouse Mountain here

Nearby is Cleveland Dam on the Capilano River. Ok, so it’s a dam right, however this place is free to visit and is off the main road between Vancouver and Grouse Mountain. The reason we mention it is that it's a great place to go for walks or start a run from here but also another great view is to be had of the mountains.

Also just off the same road (Nancy Greene Way/Capilano Road), is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, where a huge suspension bridge is located over the Capilano River. Also here visitors can walk amongst the treetops, do a cliffwalk, get close to the Douglas Fir trees and see more Totem Poles. The park is beautiful and would totally recommend everyone to come here and embrace the trees and fresh alpine air.

Check out our blog on Capilano Suspension Bridge here.

Another suspension bridge to check out but to the north-east of Vancouver is the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge located in the area known as Lynn Valley. It is free to go to and parking is limited but at the bridge there is a cafe and toilets. From here, walk across the bridge (which is smaller than the Capilano but still breathtaking), and if visitors have enough time, then go for a hike. We did this in the rain (well, the area does have rainforests, so it was good to walk in the rain in the rainforest I guess!), and walked down the hill towards the 30 Foot Pond. Here it was just nice to sit down and relax by the water. It is an easy trail (the name of the trail is Baden Powell Trail) however going back from the pond to the bridge is uphill but it’s a nice gentle climb.

Across the water

There is also an option of getting a day or two visit to the nearby Vancouver Island. OK, everyone is not going to visit the WHOLE island in two days but we did take a short break to Victoria and a few neighbouring places. This can be done by car ferry or even by plane. The views are amazing! The nature and the ocean here is also fantastic but for us, Victoria has one of my favourite breakfast places in the world.

Check out our blog post on Vancouver Island here

To the east of Vancouver

Still looking for a few day trips whilst in the city? We can recommend going on wine tasting visits in the area. The wine in British Columbia is really up there with some of the rest of the world. There are quite a lot of wineries to choose from.

The area to the east is known as the Fraser Valley with the main towns being Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Hope. There are pretty waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and sights to check out as well as hiking trails. There is even a spa town called Harrison Hot Springs. The Fraser Valley is a great place to check out and is easy to get to via the Trans-Canadian-One-Highway.

Check out our blog post on the Fraser Valley here

A few tips

Getting to and from the airport. As well as a taxi which costs around $40-$45 at the time of writing, there is also the Sky Train which gets us into Downtown in no time and costs $9.25 each way. We would say don’t have car rental if visitors are just checking out the city but if going further afield, then a car is needed. Just remember that parking can be expensive in places and a pain to find a space.

If looking for a hotel, one place we can recommend which is right by the Vancouver Lookout on East Hastings Street is the Delta Hotels Vancouver Downtown Suites. A comfortable stay with modern decor and fantastic service but the breakfast was amazing. Sitting outside on the mini-terrace taking in a city view. A great way to start the day and is within walking distance to some of Vancouver’s top sights.

Further afield

Vancouver is a great place to start or finish any trip. Our favourite trips are road trips and there are so many places to check out if going further afield, like driving along the Trans-Canadian-One-Highway through the national parks of British Columbia and Alberta to Calgary. Or head north towards Whistler and Alaska and check out even more... er….mountains and trees. To the south there is also Seattle in the United States which is another city to check out and has the laid-back vibe. So much to do. Did we say this post was about a weekend in Vancouver? Maybe a fortnight if including all the nearby places (or maybe longer). We really hope this has given our readers an idea on what to do and hopefully we will be back very soon to do downtown Vancouver.

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