Visiting Vancouver, Canada (A Locals Guide)

The Essentials

Vancouver and Canada, in general, are a very welcoming and accepting place where differences are celebrated instead of encouraging conformity and assimilation. Wherever you’re from, whatever your background, you’ll feel welcomed and at home in Vancouver. Visiting Vancouver can feel like a break from reality if you let it.

Weather & Temperature

The weather in Vancouver is mild, very mild. With August being the hottest month with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F) and January the coldest with an average of 4°C (38°F).

I personally love Spring and Fall the most. In the fall the leaves are changing and the weather is cool but not cold, enabling you to be outdoors enjoying nature. In Spring the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the city has a feeling of renewal and growth that is incredible.

Language

While Canada is a bilingual country with both English and French being national languages, you won’t find much French in Vancouver. English is the primary language with Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese) and Spanish each having large representation as well.

You’ll find most people, especially in coffee shops and retails to be very accommodating and patient though so don’t worry if you’re English isn’t perfect, just try a little and don’t forget to say Please and Thank You. It is Canada after-all! 😉

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Arriving in Vancouver

The Vancouver Airport (YVR) has been voted the best in North America for 8 consecutive years and is the 2nd busiest in Canada after Toronto (YYJ). YVR has been called the best airport in the world and once you’ve been here you’ll see why. I’ve been to my share of airports and I can honestly say that getting around in YVR, from gate to gate, arriving departing, is a breeze. It’s well laid out, easy to follow and beautiful.

If you’re arriving by air try and get a window seat for landing, you’ll enjoy views of mountains, ocean and cityscape as you descend into Richmond, where the Vancouver Airport is located.

Just a 32-minute train ride, the Canada Line Skytrain takes you from the airport to the city centre quickly and comfortably. Check your maps for the best stop to get off and reach your hotel. You’ll generally find taxies around the train stations as well so you can jump in one if you need, sorry world, no Uber here.

Airlines

Canada’s national carrier, Air Canada has been nominated the Best Airline in North America for the 7th time in 9 years, by Skytrax. With a global network extending around the globe, either directly or through a Star Alliance partner, I highly recommend booking your flight with Air Canada.

YVR Airport Air Canada Lounge

YVR Airport Air Canada Lounge

Seeing in Vancouver

There’s a lot to see and do in Vancouver, luckily much if it happens in the downtown core or nearby. Many things that happen in Vancouver are outdoors, but trust me it’s worth it in this gorgeous place.

  • Stanley Park – you do not want ot miss exploring this huge park. Get a map and give yourself an afternoon to wander through some of the gardens and beaches or simply walk or bike the perimeter (about 10km). You’ll also find the Vancouver Aquarium in the park.
  • Lighthouse Park – you’ll need to take a bus or drive to this smaller park in West Vancouver, with views of the city and the ocean in a naturally West Coast setting, be sure to bring your camera.
  • Granville Island & Granville Island Public Market – a staple of any visit to Vancouver, Granville Island offers a plethora of treats and goodies to eat and nooks and crannies to explore.
  • Kitsilano – the region across the Cambie Street bridge includes an oceanside beach and park as well as all the food and coffee you can dream of.
  • Herschel Supply Co. Flagship Store – the iconic bag and fashion brand Herschel has their flagship store in Gastown. If you’re a fan of the brand it’s worth a visit for sure.
  • Gastown – the original Vancouver, Gastown has cobbled streets, old-world architecture and a casual, relaxing vibe.
  • Gastown Vancouver Steam Clock – iconic steam clock in Gastown, there’s another one exactly the same in Vancouver’s sister city Yokohama, Japan.
  • Squamish & Whistler – while technically not Vancouver, it’s worth a trip to Whistler, on the way you’ll pass through Squamish. There’s too much to go into here for  Whistler, but you can easily devote an entire (long) day to seeing Whistler, and you’ll want a car.
  • Victoria (Vancouver Island) – a ferry ride, helicopter or float plane away, Victoria is British Columbia’s Capital and worth a visit if you have the time.
  • Science World at TELUS World of Science – explore the latest exhibits at the Telus World of Science. Great for kids and kids that are also adults.
  • Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre – transit from downtown can get you here, but a car is easier. Take your hiking shoes and go for the moderate wander through the woods along a river.
Lighthouse Park

Lighthouse Park

Eating in Vancouver

With such a diverse group of cultures from all over the globe living in here, Vancouverites enjoy an incredible assortment of very good food from almost everywhere.

Ocean-fresh seafood lends itself to amazing Japanese cuisine and a welcoming growing climate throughout British Columbia farm-to-table freshness is abundant.

Coffe & Treats

  • Thierry – a French bakery featuring can’t-get-enough Maccaron and other delicious French pastries.
  • Quantum – on Granville street in the ‘business’ area of the city, this place is an exciting place to be during the day with a constant stream of office folk visiting. Pull up a chair and catch up on your emails here.
  • Revolver – near the beginning of Gastown, revolver offers your coffee done one of many ways. Roasted locally.

Restaurants

  • Nuba – experience Lebanese food in this casual and sophisticated restaurant. There are multiple locations including Yaletown and Gastown.
  • Sushi Bella – located in Kitsilano on 4th Avenue, Sushi Bella combines French and Japanese cooking and it’s great, ikimasu!
  • Tap & Barrel Convention Centre – enjoy a selection of local craft beers and a great vibe.

Shopping in Vancouver

Vancouver is home to some world-renowned brands like Lululemon, Herschel and Arc’Teryx. But beyond the better-known brands, you can also find some great stuff by smaller lesser knowns.

Check out RYU Apparel, originating from North Vancouver, carrying athletic apparel. Maybe you’d appreciate a little body and well-being products from Saje Natural Wellness, check them out on Robson Street, an eye’s glance from RYU.

Staying in Vancouver

Vancouver is an expensive city to live in and visit. With a number of big luxury hotels to choose from and many smaller boutique properties, there’s something for everyone’s budget and style. Here are a few of my recommendations based on location accessibility and overall comfort. It’s important to note that the downtown area of Vancouver is not that large, any of these hotels are pretty central in the core and are not even that far away from each other.

  • Hyatt Regency Vancouver – centrally located and right next to a train station with easy access to the Canada Line and the airport.
  • Fairmont Pacific Rim – mountain and water views and the green roof of the world-renowned Vancouver Convention Centre will dot your landscape on one side, or gorgeous city views on the other.
  • The Burrard – a smaller boutique hotel on Burrard street near the West End.
  • The Westin Bayshore – the furthest away of this bunch, the Westing is nestled near Stanley Park with water and mountain views.

Final Thoughts

Vancouver is a wonderful city to visit and live and works well as a great spot to explore the Pacific North West. With easy access to Seattle, Whistler, The Okanagan and Vancouver Island it’s possible to start or end a trip in Vancouver to or from any of these places. Vancouver may show up on your itinerary across multiple trips across several years.

Visit Tourism Vancouver for more information on planning your visit. Looking to explore British Columbia? HelloBC can help you get started.

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Photography by Tomas Williams

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