Vancouver has to be one of the prettiest cities in the world. With rugged mountains as the backdrop along the North Shore and water surrounding downtown on 3 sides, it’s easy to see why people choose a 3 day trip to Vancouver for a long weekend getaway. To make the most out of your time here, we have put together this ultimate 3 day itinerary in Vancouver.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know when planning your itinerary for Vancouver from the things you must do in Vancouver, the best places to eat and also where to stay. We are thrilled to call this place home and feel that although there are endless awesome things to do here, you can definitely pack the best of it into a Vancouver 3 day itinerary.
Our guide was designed for 3 days, but you could easily make it longer or shorter by adding or removing some of the things to do here. We have mapped out an itinerary for each day but we also included some extra things to do in case you are planning a slightly longer trip.
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Things to Know Before You Go
- Public transit here is pretty impressive. There is a network of busses, trains and ferries to help you get around the city. You can pay with credit card on most transit or buy a pre-loaded Compass card.
- When looking for accommodation, we recommend staying downtown. This gives you easy access to transit, restaurants and shopping.
- Summer is the ideal time of year to visit.
- Pack comfy shoes. Like many city getaways, you’ll do a lot of exploring on foot.
- Pre-book some of your activities and restaurants. It gets busy here in the summer and if you are on a tight schedule you want to make sure you don’t miss anything or have to wait in line for ages.
How to Get to Vancouver
Vancouver Airport to Vancouver Metro Area
If you are coming from slightly further afield, then it is likely that you will fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR). There are several options to get from Vancouver Airport to the Vancouver metro area. You can take a taxi which will cost roughly $35, rent your own car or take public transport.
Public transport around the city is amazing. There is a great combination of trains (known as the SkyTrain) and busses to help you navigate during your time here. The Canada Line connects YVR to downtown Vancouver in less than 30 minutes and you can get trains from both the International and Domestic terminals.
The ticket from YVR to downtown costs $4.25 for a two-zone fare plus the $5 Canada Line YVR AddFare. If you have a pre-purchased fare such as a day ticket or a monthly pass this fee is waived. You can check schedules, maps and fares here to help plan your trip.
Vancouver Island to Vancouver
There are several ways to get to Vancouver from Vancouver Island. The most common way is to take the Vancouver Island to Vancouver ferry. These are operated by BC Ferries and leave from 3 separate terminals across the island which are Victoria, Departure Bay in Nanaimo and Duke Point in Nanaimo. The three ferry routes from Vancouver Island to Vancouver are:
- Victoria (Swartz Bay) – Tsawwassen
- Nanaimo (Duke Point) – Tsawassen
- Nanaimo (Departure Bay) – Horseshoe Bay
You can see the BC Ferries schedules here.
The second option is to fly from Vancouver Island to Vancouver. There are several flights going between local airports on the island (Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox and others) and YVR airport each day. However, we recommend taking a seaplane as this will take you right into Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver, reducing your travel time. The views you get on a seaplane from the island to Vancouver are spectacular.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Downtown is the ideal place to base yourself for a shorter stay. You will have easy access to multiple forms of public transport, you’ll have lots of choice for great restaurants and you’ll also be near the main shopping areas as well.
Budget: The Cambie Hostel Gastown – It’s not easy to stay on a budget in Vancouver, but the Cambie Hostel in Gastown is probably your best bet. The location is fantastic as you are right in the heart of Gastown, which is the coolest part of the city with loads of great bars and restaurants.
Mid-range: Blue Horizon Hotel – Stay in one of the corner guest rooms here and you will get a balcony with incredible views of the city. Located in the heart of downtown you will have easy access to public transport, shops and restaurants. There is also an indoor pool and a sauna here to relax in at the end of a full day exploring the city.
Luxury: Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver – Stay in total luxury in the Shangri-La Hotel. They have a full service spa, outdoor pool and fitness centre on site so you can make the most of your getaway. The hotel is also just 3 blocks back from the waterfront in downtown.
Getting Around Vancouver
Public transport is the easiest option for getting around Vancouver and it serves almost all of the key Vancouver must do activities. The busses and SkyTrains are excellent and one of the better public transport networks I have used anywhere in the world. You should be easily able to visit most places quite easily using public transport.
If you want slightly more freedom to explore then you may want to consider renting a car. This will also allow you to reach some of the less accessible attractions such as Cypress Mountain which isn’t serviced by public transit. The one thing to note is that parking in downtown can be very expensive so you may want to book a place that includes parking.
You can also use the local taxi services as well as Uber and Lyft which both now operate here. This will end up being more expensive than public transit but offers much more convenience. Similarly, Vancouver is home to many car sharing companies, such as Evo. If you happen to be a member, this is another excellent way to get around!
One of the other nice things about staying in downtown Vancouver is that you can also walk to a lot of different places including Granville Island and Stanley Park.
Best Time to Visit Vancouver
The best time to visit Vancouver is in the summer when you are likely to get warm, sunny days. Because of the great weather during summer, it does tend to be much busier this time of year and prices for accommodation will be much higher. If you want to avoid some of the crowds or find cheaper accommodation you could consider coming during the shoulder season, either side of summer.
The rainy season in Vancouver runs from around October until March, and there are often weeks on end of grey skies and rain. The temperature does remain quite mild here year-round, especially compared with the rest of Canada. Winter can be a great time to visit if you want to spend the majority of your time in the mountains with snow. However, unless winter sports are your primary focus, I would avoid the rainy winter months.
3 Day Itinerary in Vancouver
- Explore Downtown
- Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Visit one of the local mountains
- Bike along Stanley Park seawall
- Enjoy a delicious brunch
- Visit Granville Island
- Go Whale Watching
Things to Do in Vancouver
Like many cities, part of the appeal of visiting here is being able to spend a few hours walking through downtown and the surrounding areas to take in the sites. Explore Coal Harbour where you can walk along the waterfront and enjoy views of Canada Place, Stanley Park, the North Shore mountains and you can watch the seaplanes fly in and out of the harbour.
While you are in Coal Harbour, be sure to check out the Digital Orca, just beside Canada Place. This pixelated killer whale is a must-see while in Vancouver. Similarly, the Olympic Cauldron, with the scenic North Shore as its backdrop, was established as part of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.
One of the prettiest and funkiest areas in Vancouver is Gastown. The main street here is called Water Street and it is a beautiful cobbled road lined with historic old buildings. It looks even better at night when it is lit up and is full of people enjoying a night out in one of the many great bars in the area.
The Gastown steam clock is located on the corner of Water and Cambie Street. This is one of the few working steam clocks in the world. It whistles and blows steam on the hour every hour and is very popular with tourists in the city.
Another great area to explore is Chinatown. Head southeast from the Gastown steam clock and you will find yourself in Vancouver’s Chinatown district. This is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world and is home to some amazing food.
If you still have energy left in your legs then check out Yaletown, one of the fancier areas in Vancouver. Here you’ll find lots of high-end restaurants, plenty of patios to enjoy a beer or some lunch, and some boutique shopping.
Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular tourist attractions here and should make it onto any Vancouver trip itinerary. Walk across the 450 foot (137 m) long bridge and enjoy the view down to the Capilano River which flows 230 feet (70m) below you. The original bridge was built in 1889 using hemp ropes but nowadays it is made of slightly more robust materials.
If you do happen to be visiting during the winter holidays you will get to see Capilano Suspension Bridge at its absolute best as they run the Canyon Lights from early December to early January. They string thousands of lights along the bridge and through the forest to create a totally magical experience.
While the suspension bridge is the main attraction here, your entrance ticket gives you access to the whole park. You can also enjoy the Cliffwalk, which follows the granite cliff face above the river as you work your way along a number of interconnected bridges, platforms and walkways. The Treetop Adventure is a similar network of bridges and platforms that take you through the 1300-year-old old growth forest plus there are several other activities you can enjoy here too.
Book your tickets for the Capilano Suspension Bridge before you go!
How to Get to Capilano Suspension Bridge
They offer a free shuttle bus from several different locations downtown which is really great. You can see the free shuttle bus schedule here.
Alternatively, you can easily take public transit to get here. You can take the #246 bus directly from downtown to the park. Another great option is to take the SeaBus from downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay on the North Shore and then take the #236 bus to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.
Tip: If you are travelling on the Seabus or the SkyTrain and buying single trip compass tickets, buy your return ticket in advance at the Seabus or SkyTrain station to cover the entire trip. If you pay with cash on the bus, this ticket is valid only for bus travel and you will have to buy another ticket to ride the Seabus or SkyTrain.
Visit One of the Local Mountains
Vancouver is a stunning city and to truly appreciate how beautiful it is, you should see it from above. There are several local mountains that you can easily visit. These are Grouse, Seymour and Cypress Mountains. Each mountain has something different and it’s hard to pick which one is the best.
Grouse Mountain is the closest to downtown and is the only mountain you can access via public transit. Take the SeaBus from downtown across to Lonsdale Quay. From here take the #236 bus to Grouse Mountain.
Tip: If you are travelling on the Seabus or the SkyTrain and buying single trip compass tickets, buy your return ticket in advance at the Seabus or SkyTrain station to cover the entire trip. If you pay with cash on the bus this ticket is valid only for bus travel and you will have to buy another ticket to ride the Seabus or SkyTrain.
Grouse Mountain is usually accessed by a Gondola although if you want some serious exercise you can choose to hike the infamous Grouse Grind. Climb the 2,830 stairs to reach the top of the mountain. It is a gruelling 2.9-kilometre trail where you will gain 853 metres. It is absolutely brutal and not for the faint hearted.
We recommend taking the gondola and saving yourself a lot of time and effort. You can buy your mountain admission ticket which includes the gondola up Grouse Mountain here.
At the top you’ll get amazing views down to the city and over Stanley Park. It really is breath-taking. Grouse is also home to two resident grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. They live in the Wildlife Refuge which is included in your mountain admission ticket. The mountains around Vancouver are home to both grizzly and black bears and it is brilliant to get to see these magnificent animals up close.
Both these bears were rescued from different places in BC and now get to call Grouse Mountain home.
Grouse Mountain is accessible year-round and in the winter you can enjoy skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing and skating up here.
If you would like to get slightly further afield and you have rented a car, we highly recommend a trip to Cypress Mountain. It is only a 40-minute drive from downtown and there are some incredible hikes here including St Marks Summit, Eagle Bluffs and Bowen Lookout. If you are looking for an easy hike with amazing views then we suggest Bowen Lookout, particularly at sunset.
It’s a little bit more of an effort to get here but if you can make it you won’t be disappointed. If you visit in the winter then check out our favourite winter hikes around Vancouver.
Bike along Stanley Park Seawall
On a sunny summer’s day there are few better things to do in Vancouver than to cycle along the seawall around Stanley Park. Stanley Park is a peaceful oasis right in the heart of Vancouver. There are 400 hectares of West Coast rainforest to explore and along the seawall you’ll get to enjoy incredible views over the water, mountains and of the forest itself.
The route around the perimeter of Stanley Park is just over 10 kilometres long. You can choose to walk this route or cycle, but if you’re crunched for time, cycling is the way to go. It takes around 1 – 2 hours to complete this route on a bike depending on how many stops you make to take in the views or if you stop and grab a quick snack.
There are lots of cool things to see along this route including the Totem Poles at Brockton Point, the Lions Gate Bridge and Siwash Rock.
You can rent your own bike from the likes of Yes Cycle Bike Rental for $8.50 for the first hour and then $1 dollar less for each hour after that i.e., $7.50 for the second hour, $6.50 for the third hour etc.
A great way to experience this cycling route is to take a guided tour which will not only take you along the seawall but you will get to explore some of the trails through the middle of the park as well. You can check price and availability for a Stanley Park bicycle tour by clicking the button below.
Enjoy a Delicious Brunch
It wouldn’t be much of a trip without a killer brunch and luckily Vancouver has a ton of dedicated brunch spots to choose from. We’ve done the hard work and tested quite a few of these to let you know which are the pick of the bunch.
The most popular brunch spot in Vancouver is Café Medina. It is a super stylish café offering incredibly delicious food. While they have plenty of options to choose from, they are best known for their Liege-style waffles. As one of Vancouver’s most popular eateries, be prepared to wait in line to get a table, especially on the weekend.
Following closely behind is Jam Café which has a couple of locations in Chinatown and Kitsilano. They offer a menu of comfort fare in a rustic-city atmosphere with their food inspired from the south. You won’t go hungry after a visit to Jam Café and you certainly won’t leave disappointed. Jam Café doesn’t take reservations and we’ve almost never seen it without a queue. Similar to Café Medina, expect to wait a while to get your table.
While these are two of the most popular and some of our personal favourites there are endless choices. Some other top picks are Chambar, Catch 122 Café Bistro, Ask for Luigi and Sophies Cosmic Café. Honestly, it’s pretty hard for you to go wrong here.
Visit Granville Island
Just across the water from downtown, underneath the Granville Street Bridge you will find Granville Island. This is a cultural and artistic hub of Vancouver and is home to hundreds of unique businesses and studios with everything from delicious donuts to handmade broomsticks for sale.
For many years, Granville Island was an industrial wasteland but in the 1970’s it was transformed into one of the coolest and most interesting places to go in the city. Its most well-known attraction is the large Public Market. The market is home to over 50 vendors selling different food and produce. You’ll find fresh fruit and veg, sweet treats, baked goods and lots more in the market.
One of our personal favourites in the Public Market is Lee’s Donuts. They offer a delicious assortment of donuts and you can watch the whole donut making process form the window outside. If you visit on the weekend, expect to queue for a short while as they are so popular with locals and tourists alike.
Outside of the market there are lots of other cool shops and galleries to explore. One of the more unique offerings is Granville Island Broom Co. who makes handcrafted brooms. All the brooms are made on site using antique tools and equipment.
You can also walk the whole way around the island to get beautiful waterfront views back over downtown and on the northeast side of the island you’ll get to see a beautiful cluster of floating homes. After exploring the island, you should enjoy a drink at Granville Island Brewery, which was Canada’s first microbrewery. Many of their beers are developed in the brewery on Granville Island and they always have a great selection of craft beers to enjoy.
Whether you are looking to shop, eat or just take in some sites, Granville Island is one place that has to be on your list when planning what to see and do in Vancouver.
Go Whale Watching
What many people don’t know when visiting Vancouver is that the surrounding waters are home to numerous species of whales, including orcas, grey whales and humpbacks. Explore the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands and Howe Sound while keeping a keen eye out for wildlife.
The West Coast of Canada is one of the most spectacular places in the world and it is brilliant to get to experience it from the water. The local crews know exactly where to go to find some of the local whales and will fill you in on everything you need to know about the surrounding area as well as the animals you will see along the way.
We’ve been lucky enough to go whale watching in these waters and have seen humpbacks and orcas. It’s one of the coolest things that we have gotten to do here and this could really be the highlight of your trip to the West Coast.
Whale watching tours usually last for a half day and depart from Granville Island. You can buy your whale watching ticket here.
Other Things to do in Vancouver
If you are planning to stay an extra few days or looking to squeeze in some extra activities to your 3 day itinerary in Vancouver then here are some other awesome things to do here:
Take a Scenic Flight
Vancouver genuinely is one of the prettiest cities in the world. If you visit one of the local mountains and see it from above then you’ll truly get to appreciate this. Take your aerial view of the city to the next level by taking a scenic flight. This 20-minute flight will give you glorious views over Stanley Park, Olympic Village and the surrounding mountains.
Vancouver is home to quite a few different city beaches and on a piping hot day, there’s not much better than taking a few hours to relax in the sun. There are plenty to choose from but some of our top picks are English Bay, Kitsilano Beach, Wreck Beach, and Spanish Banks. All the beaches in the city are easily accessible via public transit.
Take the Sea to Sky Gondola
Ride the gondola to the top of the Sea to Sky Summit and you’ll get amazing views of Howe Sound and surrounding mountains, Shannon Falls and the famous Stawamus Chief. Once you reach the summit you will have access to several walking trails, viewing platforms, the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, hiking trails, rock climbing and more.
You can choose to hike this route as well but having done so ourselves we can tell you just how brutal of a hike it is. If you have the time, we are always big advocates of hiking! But if you are only here for a short time, save your legs the pain and take the gondola to the top.
The drive to the gondola is spectacular as you travel along the Sea to Sky Highway which has got to be one of the most jaw-dropping drives in Canada.
Watch a Vancouver Canucks Ice Hockey Game
It wouldn’t be much of a suggested itinerary for Vancouver if we didn’t mention hockey. Head to the Rogers Arena to watch the Vancouver Canucks take the ice in an NHL game. The stadium is less than a 10-minute walk from downtown plus there is a SkyTrain stop right outside the arena.
Visit the Vancouver Aquarium
Check out more than 70,000 animals and over 30 unique exhibits when you visit the Vancouver Aquarium. This is the perfect spot to take the family, especially if you do happen to get some rain during your trip. The exhibits range from the tropics to the arctic and you’ll have the chance to see seals, sea lions, sea otters, jellyfish, and loads more. You’ll find the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park.
Visit Deep Cove
Spend a few hours out on the water at Deep Cove, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. You can rent equipment right by the beach and paddle out into the calm waters to enjoy the stunning views as you are almost totally enclosed by the mountains and forest. If you’d rather stay on dry land, then go on a short hike to Quarry Rock to get some incredible views back over Deep Cove. Finish off your time here with some doughnuts from Honey Doughnuts and Goodies.
Where to Eat in Vancouver
Just like with brunch, there are plenty of great restaurants for you to choose from when planning your meals. Here are some of our favourites:
The Alibi Room – Some of the best ‘pub grub’ you’ll find. We’ve worked tirelessly to find the best burger in Vancouver and we’re convinced you’ll find it here.
Tasty Indian Bistro – A slightly fancier Indian restaurant but as the name suggests you’ll get some seriously tasty food and the setting in Yaletown is great too.
Sprezzatura – Some of the best pizza you’ll find in all of Vancouver. Trust us, we’ve tried a lot of places!
Per se Social Corner – A great atmosphere with lots of pizzas and tapas to choose from. It’s also a great spot to stop and grab a cocktail in the evening.
Hawksworth Restaurant – Widely renowned as Vancouver’s best restaurant. It’s expensive and fancy, so not really our cup of tea, but if you are looking for fine dining and award-winning food this is the place to come.
Check out this post for the best vegan restaurants in Vancouver.
Vancouver is an amazing city and while you can’t see it all in just 3 days, you can squeeze plenty of awesome things into a short trip. Whether you’re out adventuring in the mountains or exploring downtown, you’ll quickly fall in love with this beautiful coastal city!
Looking for more adventures around Vancouver? Check out more of our travel guides here: