Vancouver travel itinerary - 10-day shopping, markets & attractions
Add a Canadian Rockies trip to Calgary if you have longer.
Your Air New Zealand flight will land you in Vancouver mid-afternoon. Settle into your inner-city accommodation, then take a stroll to Yaletown. After a long haul flight, exposure to natural light helps to reset your circadian rhythms and avoid jet lag.10 days
Yaletown is a beautiful and interesting part of Vancouver. It's full of sidewalk cafes, chic restaurants, unique shopping, leafy parks and historic commercial buildings that have been converted into elegant residential spaces.
Things to see and do in Yaletown
- Stretch your legs on a self-guided walking tour, such as the art walk - you'll discover mosaics, glass art, a fountain and sculptural installations
- Enjoy a casual dinner at the Yaletown Brewing Company, which has a delicious range of seasonal beers on tap and an extensive menu for a first taste of Vancouver's food scene
North of Vancouver's CBD is a vast area of green that's almost an island - Stanley Park. It's much more than a park though; it's a place to find top attractions, eat great food and have fun. You can easily walk to Stanley Park from accommodation in the West End or Downtown areas of the city, or jump onto the transit system - you'll be there in 10 minutes.
Things to see and do today
- Rent bikes and ride around the Stanley Park seawall, keeping an eye out for otters and seals
- Explore art in the park - there are totem poles, monuments and sculptures to find
- Play a round at the Pitch & Putt, much more challenging than mini golf
- Snack or lunch at one of the park's restaurants, cafes or snack trucks
- Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the park's main sights
Vancouver is very handy to big mountains, which are a core Canadian experience for travellers. From the central city you can catch a shuttle, taxi or a combo of ferry and bus to Grouse Mountain - it's only 12 kilometres from the CBD. Ascending the mountain involves the scenic ride of a lifetime. Once you're up, there's a wonderful choice of things to do. On your way back to Vancouver, stop to explore the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Things to do at Grouse and Capilano
- Start with the Grouse Mountain SkyRide, an aerial tramway system that provides absolutely massive views of the city, mountain peaks, Pacific Ocean and gulf islands
- Venture inside the world's only elevator-accessible wind turbine
- Meet Grinder and Coola, the grizzly bears at Grouse Mountain's wildlife refuge
- Go ziplining across the peaks, reaching speeds of 80km/h
- Eat at the Peak Chalet, which has four venues for high-altitude snacks and meals
- Walk across the famous 137-metre Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is 70 metres above a river valley
- Dare to do the Cliffwalk, a series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms attached to a cliff within the forest
- Learn about First Nations culture with the Kia'palano tour
Vancouver has a long and exciting whale watching season. It begins as early as February, when giant gray whales travel past Vancouver on their way to the Bering Sea. It continues right through to the end of October with pods of humpback whales, minke whales and orca. Porpoises and dolphins are also commonly seen in the waterways of British Columbia all year round.
How to see whales and dolphins
- Most whale watching tours operate from 1 April to 31 October
- For half and full-day whale watching boat tours, operators will either pick you up from a central city location or you can meet them at the port of departure
- Some tours let you combine whale watching with a trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island and a seaplane or helicopter flight back to Vancouver city
Today you'll explore coast between Vancouver and Squamish, which is at the top of Howe Sound. This route is called the Sea-to-Sky Highway and it's considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world. You can either find a local operator for this magical journey, such as Landsea Tours & Adventures, or rent a car and guide yourself.
Things to do on the Sea to Sky Highway
- Visit the quaint seaside village of Horseshoe Bay for fish and chips, then head off on an eco-tour of Howe Sound from Sewell's Marina
- Explore the Britannia Mine Museum, where you can rumble through the dark on an underground train
- Catch the Sea to Sky gondola at Squamish for astounding views of Howe Sound, forest and mountains
- Walk across the spectacular Sky Pilot suspension bridge
- Enjoy great Canadian-style food at a Squamish restaurant or brew pub
Named after 'Gassy' Jack Deighton - a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barman who opened the area's first saloon in 1867 - Gastown is where Vancouver began. It's the original settlement area of the city, so a self-guided walk will reveal many fascinating places, objects and stories. Today we also recommend you head up the Harbour Centre Tower for a 360° view of the city, harbour and mountains. There's a revolving restaurant up the tower, if you want to make a meal of it.
Things to do in Gastown
- Visit the old morgue that's now a Police museum
- Eat lunch at a pub or craft brewery, or nip into nearby Chinatown for amazing Asian food
- Check out the boutiques and First Nations art galleries for something beautiful to take home
- Find the Steam Clock and the statue of 'Gassy' Jack Deighton
- Go on a Gastown Tasting Tour, which is like a progressive dinner
A hundred years ago Granville Island was an industrious place full of factories and sawmills. Today it's a fascinating and creative neighbourhood where you can enjoy food, art and street performers.
If you're feeling fit you can easily walk to Granville Island from Downtown Vancouver. For urban scenery along the way, find a route that takes you through the back streets of Yaletown. Alternatively, use the rapid transit system down Granville Street.
Things to do at Granville Island
- If you're walking to the island, catch a colourful passenger ferry over False Creek
- Go straight to the Public Market - it's the heart and soul of the island. Here you can browse for hours amidst the stalls
- Explore local flavours on a Vancouver Foodie Granville Island Market Tour
- Catch a show at one of Granville Island's many theatres
- Find a waterfront restaurant for dinner with a view
When in Canada, do Canadian things! That could mean starting the day with a Tim Hortons breakfast biscuit, eating a Cadbury Crispy Crunch or seeing elk and bears at Vancouver Zoo. Canada has a rich culture, a love of sport and a great sense of humour.
Things to do that are oh-so-Canadian
- Watch an ice hockey game at Rogers Arena, or indoor lacrosse if you're visiting during summer
- Eat poutine - French fries, fresh cheese curds and brown gravy
- Try some candied salmon - locally caught, hot-smoked salmon glazed with maple syrup
- Take a coast-to-coast scenic flight over Canada without leaving the ground - FlyOver Canada is a total sensory experience
- Visit Canada Place, which first opened in 1986 as the Canada Pavilion for Expo '86 - lots to see and do here!
Get out on the ocean again, this time with a harbour or coastal cruise. There are many operators ready to pick you up from your hotel, each offering a different interpretation of the perfect day on the water. When the cruising's done, head to Chinatown.
Things to do today
- Keep it simple with a straightforward harbour cruise, like the City and Seals tour
- Make a half-day of it with a lunch cruise up the coast to see fiords
- Zoom to Granite Falls on a Zodiac Tour from Granville Island
- Head up to Howe Sound to find seals and eagles
- Wander around Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown
- Follow your nose to a dim sum restaurant for dinner
If there's still room in your suitcase, your final day in Vancouver can be all about the shopping.
Canada is famous for its active wear, maple syrup, mountain equipment, whisky and hockey shirts. Have fun finding the perfect memento (or 10!).
- Head to Robson Street and Alberni Street for big brands and plenty of choice
- Shop at Nordstrom, North America's best-loved department store
- Find Main Street for vintage shops
- Explore Canadian fashion at Holt Renfrew
- Nab some bargains at the McArthurGlen Design Outlet mall near the airport
- If there are any corners left to fill, visit Granville Island Public Market one more time!
Make the most of your holiday in Canada by adding on an unforgettable train-based journey to the Canadian Rockies. The legendary Rocky Mountaineer offers a choice of packages, from 2-day escapes to 13-day epic adventures. The views are astounding, the on-board food is five-star and the hotel accommodation at each overnight destination is super comfy.
Highlights of a Canadian Rockies adventure
- A half-day tour of Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Sightseeing in Banff, including Bow Falls, Lake Minnewanka and the Hoodoos
- The Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain
- A tour of Yoho National Park, where you'll find the Emerald Lake and a natural rock bridge over the Kicking Horse River
- A visit to the Columbia Icefield, where you'll ride an ice explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier