5 things to do in Vancouver

Vancouver travel tips

Earlier this year I have been invited to spend ten days in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada. I had just returned from my year long trip across Southeast Asia but since wanderlust had already started tormenting me again, I didn’t hesitate to book a flight and head for yet another adventure. Whereas I have been to Canada before, I have never visited Vancouver, the place which has recently been voted the third most livable city in the world. I heard a lot of good stories about the city – stories about an utterly relaxed lifestyle, mild climate, a beautiful setting by the Pacific and the great outdoors right at its doorsteps. It was time to discover and see for myself.


Explore Stanley Park by bicycle

It was the end of winter when I arrived and you might think that winter in Canada is not really the time of the year for outdoor activities. Not so in Vancouver. Most of the time the air was clear, the sky bright blue and the winter sun shining its bright light onto the city. Perfect for being outside, so we decided to rent bicycles and go around Stanley Park. Being Vancouver’s first and largest park, it is a green oasis right beside the city center and its high rise buildings. Just after 5 minutes of cycling, you feel completely disconnected from the busy city life, surrounded by natural rainforest, views of the sea and far away, snowcapped mountains appearing like a mirage with their reflections on the mirror like waters.

Lions Gate Bridge Vancouver

Lions Gate Bridge seen from the seawall

Vancouver Seawall view

View from the seawall to North Vancouver

To honor the country’s indigenous people, the so called first nations, the government put up traditionally carved totem poles which line the path that goes around the park. The same path will take you along Vancouver’s famous sea wall. That’s probably the best part of the ride as it gives great views of North Vancouver and Lions Gate Bridge and also takes you along some of its picturesque beaches.
Renting a bicycle will cost about $10 to $15 for 4 hours which is enough to tour the park. Bike Shops are widely available around the park area. Just shop around and compare prices.


Traditional totem poles in Stanley Park

Vancouver Seawall Lions gate Bridge

Geese relaxing in Vancouver’s Stanley Park

Lions Gate Bridge Vancouver

… and off they go. Enough relaxation for today.


Indulge in the city’s Asian cuisine

Asian food in Vancouver? Why would I wanna do that, you might think. But trust me, I was also skeptical at first but became a huge fan of the city’s Asian cuisine.
Vancouver is truly multi-cultural and has a huge Asian population with the major groups coming from China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. They all brought their unique and traditional cuisines with them and established Vancouver as one of the top spots for Asian food outside of Asia. The culinary scene in Vancouver is one of the most diverse I have seen and the good thing is that the food is very authentic. Here in Europe, Asian restaurants have adapted their dishes to the European gusto whereas in Vancouver traditional recipes are still prevailing – probably due to the fact that they cater to their own countrymen and women. The Korean, Chinese and Japanese food I tried was absolutely fantastic and the Phở Bò was probably the best I’ve had outside of Vietnam.

Hot Soup

Some Japanese hot soup

Vancouver Korean Bibimbap

Korean Bimbimbap in Vancouver Downtown


Spend a day at Granville Island

Imagine an island in the middle of the city. That’s Granville Island. What used to be an industrial manufacturing area is now a trendy urban oasis buzzing with a lively artistic community. Granville Island is under the south end of Granville Street Bridge which connects Downtown Vancouver with Kitsilano and because it’s in the middle of the city, the Island is super easy to get to. Granville Island features cafés, theaters, galleries, craft studios, waterfront restaurants and the famous farmer’s market which is open 7 days a week. Here you can buy fresh fruit, all kinds of local produce or sample freshly made fudge or a warm muffin. With a coffee to go with it you can relax in the waterfront courtyard and listen to some of the professional buskers. From Granville Island you can also hop on one of the regular Aquabuses which will take you on a scenic trip along False Creek.

Explore Gastown by night

Gastown is a historic quarter of Vancouver, close to the city’s harbor. This district’s streets are lined with Victorian buildings that today house galleries, boutiques, studios, bars and restaurants. It’s this mix of historic charm and hip vibrancy that gives Gastown its special atmosphere.  At night the quarter is illuminated by its characteristical street-lamps, dipping the cobblestone streets in a warm glow. Gastown’s most famous landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. What was built to harness the steam coming from an underground grate and keep people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather, has now become an iconic landmark.
Finish your day around Gastown and check out some of the native galleries and grab a cold beer and some chicken wings at one of the many bars around. But don’t venture too far as Hastings Street to the North can be quite dodgy at night.

Steamclock gastown Vancouver

The famous steamclock in Gastown, Vancouver

Gastown Vancouver

Gastown by night

The Lamplighter in Gastown

The Lamplighter in Gastown

Gastown alley, Vancouver

Hidden alley in Gastown


Coffee culture

Vancouver residents just love their coffee and they go about it with a passion. At almost every corner you will find a coffee shop, from small and cozy to spacious and trendy. The baristas take their job serious and will create all kinds of the tasty brew for every taste. Whether it’s sweet and creamy or strong and invigorating – they will have the right caffeine fix for you. And most of the time it comes accompanied by a home baked sweet treat.
Talking about treats. Don’t leave Vancouver without having tried the breakfast Canada is famous for – pancakes with maple syrup. It’s sweet, it’s filling, it’s typically Canadian and it tastes great. Try IHOP, the International House of Pancakes where the name says it all.

Cup of Coffee

Vancouver is famous for its coffee culture

Pancake stack

It’s a must. Pancake stack at IHOP – International House of Pancakes


Last thoughts…

Vancouver is a great city which is so diverse that it offers something for every kind of taste. Whether it is a lively nightlife, beaches, outdoor activities or good food – Vancouver will probably have it. Another great thing is that the city has some of Canada’s real highlights right at its doorstep. Skiing in Whistler, exploring or surfing Vancouver Island and trekking some of British Columbia’s national parks.  I totally believe that Vancouver is one of the world’s most livable cities. However. the only downturn is that it is pretty expensive. It is actually North America’s most expensive city to live in, ahead of New York City and Los Angeles. So make sure to come with a well stocked travel budget.

Have you been to Vancouver? What are your favorite activities in one of the most liveable cities of the world? Let us know and leave a comment below.

Disclaimer: Title pic by Chris Zielecki | Flickr Creative Commons
Categories: Canada, Cuisine | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “5 things to do in Vancouver

  1. Hi Philipp. Great to read this. After Asia, Canada is my favourite destination, and along with the Philippines the friendliest people I’ve encountered.

    I visited Banff/Calgary twice but never Vancouver, it’s high on my list of wishlist destinations and I looked in to a possible work transfer to the city a couple of years ago. Nice to read that it also has quite a strong Asian culture, it’s made me more intrigued to visit!

    Thanks for the post Philipp

    • Hi Rich, I have never been to Calgary. How is that place? Snowboarding in Banff must be pretty sweet. Vancouvr is truly a gem. Honestly, I would not mind living there as well. It just has a great and relaxed atmosphere and the people are super friendly. That and the many outdoor activities the city offers make it a great place to live. But yeah, it is really to expensive, rents are super high, and to make a half way descent living there you would probably have to earn very well…. You still looking at relocating there?

  2. April Violet

    Always enjoy your photos that accompany your writing. I was in Vancouver in August for the first time and did the SeaWheeze Half Marathon and the course took us from downtown to the Seawall on Stanley Park and showed the beautiful and vibrant city. Will have to remember to revisit this blog 🙂 when I do Seawheeze again next year and hopefully visit for a longer time to be able to explore more. I’m not quite sure though that Vancouver is the most expensive city to live in North America. I think San Francisco beats Vancouver on that part. When I was there and local peeps would ask where I lived (would reply East Bay area in California– about an hour east of San Francisco), they would always comment that San Francisco is a nice city but it’s expensive to live in and I agree. And yes the city has a big Asian population that I thought it was a bit funny when a Canadian from Montreal in the plane (Air Canada) sitting in same row as me made a comment after the flight attendant made her announcement in English then French. He had said that it doesn’t make sense why they have to announce in French when I’m sure most of the passengers don’t speak French unless going to Montreal. He thought that Chinese would be better suited than French language 😉 Anyway, I enjoyed Vancouver even for just 3 days.

    • Hi April, wow you ran a half marathon. I don’t think I could do it right now. But that must have been one scenic run then. I don’t know about the most expesnive city but people told me about it and if you google it, it also comes up. even beating places like NYC and Los Angeles. So yeah, in any case, it is really expensive which makes it hard to make a descent licing I guess. Same probably goes for San Francisco. Yet another place I really like. Sort of a European flair. Alright April, thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate it. Cheers, Phil

      • Thanks for the reply Phil. I did find the article about Vancouver being most expensive to live in North America–thanks. “The report ranks cities based on the cost of 160 products and services, such as gas, food, rent and transportation.”
        But, I also found a link comparing Vancouver and New York cost of living (http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Canada&city1=Vancouver&country2=United+States&city2=New+York%2C+NY) I’m not an expert on economy nor have lived in Vancouver or New York, but my understanding from the info I saw is that because New Yorkers on average earn more than Vancouverite, thus, having more purchasing power.

        Anyhow, will be in Vancouver again next summer and will make sure I do plan better on my budget and revisit this blog 🙂 Thanks also for sharing on Facebook such wonderful photos you captured at the right time and place. Cheers and more awesome adventures your way!

    • Hi April, I guess what it comes to is that both of these cities are super expensive to live in. I think I would prefer Vancouver though since it has so many outdoor activities close by.
      Glad you liked those pictures on Facebook I post…always happy to hear positive feedback like that. All the best to you and have fun next year when you’ll be back in Vancouver ….

  3. Esabela

    Wow the photos are fantastic! I’m surprised I like them a tad better than your “older” photos (Asia mostly). Congratulations and yes, Vancouver does sound a lovely place to visit. Thanks! And btw, now I am officially a fan of your photos (vis-a-vis just appreciating them) *wink*

    • Hi Esa, thanks for your comment. Really interesting to here that you like these pictures a tad better. May I ask why? I took them with the camera of a friend…very simple model and basic lens. Would be interesting what you especially like about them. Thanks for being a fan now 😉

      • Esabela

        well then these are all a proof that the equipment is merely a tool – kudos Phillip! i especially like the “feel” of the photos and their framing/ staging. the pictures for me didn’t just take shots, nor just moments. they seem to be a part of a story. i guess too it boils down to taste. i mean these are images i am personally gravitated towards. one other bit could be nostalgia – i get a bang out of nostalgia. these pictures (especially the granville island ones) transport me back to my gradeschool days when i was so fond of reading reference books about anything and everything in the world. (yes, truth be told there wasnt the internet that time for us here – ssshhh). your pictures are very much alike from those “fragrant” books i read. (yes, again, truth be told, i love the smell of books and i deliberately smell them first time i open them).

        more power and do keep it coming!

  4. Great pictures! Especially the first ones over the water, definitely a better panoramic than my camera gives!

    • Hi Florence,
      thanks a lot. I am glad you liked the pictures. It was a really nice day..cold but sunny with clear air to breathe. I think the pis somehow convey that atmosphere… Cheers

  5. I can’t believe you went to Canada and ate at IHOP… what an American thing to do!!! HAHA

    • Damn, I was told it is really good by a Canadian … Where should I have went?

      • Oh it is really good… especially late at night while drunk.. . it’s also just not very Canadian and I was surprised you went there of all places. As for where you should have gone for some good pancakes, I have no answer to that question as I was only ever in Canada for about 10 minutes as a child, and was really just making an American themed joke b/c thats what we Americans do…

    • I am a little bummed out that it is actually American. But it was very good I have to say. Was a big and good breakfast hehe.

      • I think it if worst thing that happened to you during your trip to Vancouver is that you ate at an American food chain, then you did pretty good all things considered… Besides I’m sure they used real Canadian syrup.

  6. Great photos as always. I hope to visit Vancouver some day!

  7. Great post!

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