Tourism Vancouver provided me with complimentary entrance to some attractions. All opinions are my own
Hello, fellow travel lovers. I travel a decent amount for my “real” job, which can be tiring at times. However, the first few trips are always the best because I’m not over work meetings and adjusting to new time zones. The first work trip of the year was my recent trip to Vancouver, Canada. Well, technically it was New Orleans, but whatever.
Vancouver was absolutely gorgeous and I had the best time exploring the city. And thankfully for you (if you plan to visit sometime soon), I’ve put together this little Vancouver city guide. I hope you enjoy. If you’ve been and have anything else to add, please do so in the comments. Would love to hear for my (fingers crossed) next trip to Vancouver.
Oh, and in case you were wondering how I ate at so many places in 48 hours …. I was technically in Vancouver for a week, but I only spent 48 hours as a tourist. The rest of the time I was working during the day and eating as much as possible during the night. And on one last note, some of the activities I enjoyed were complimentary thanks to Tourism Vancouver. I’ll mark them with an *.
Where to eat and drink
- Chambar – Downtown(ish) – I went here for brunch my first morning on the recommendation of a coworker. Everything looked delicious, but I ended up settling on the Brochette de Porc which was surprisingly not as heavy as I anticipated. I didn’t find out until later, but it’s owned by the same people who own Medina, which is why their menus might look vaguely similar.
- Miku – Downtown/Canada Place – This was probably my favorite meal of the trip! I had miso soup, the Aburi sushi lunch and the Spiced Winter Trio dessert. Yum, yum, yum!
- Homer St. Cafe and Bar – Downtown – I cam here for dinner my first night, but was too full for a “proper” meal. I settled for a charcuterie board and roasted potatoes instead …. which is basically a full meal anyways. The waitstaff was friendly and the restaurant was so cozy. I wish there as one here in Boston!
- Medina – Downtown – I actually had breakfast here twice. Word to the wise – if you go on the weekend, expect to wait in a serious line. I got there right when they opened and there was already a line. If you go during the work week, it’s not so bad. Both times I got the avocado toast with a fried egg and their hot chocolate with lavender. Seriously delicious!
- Granville Island Public Market – Granville Island – If you go into the market, there are loads of vendors and stalls to pick up a snack here and there. It’s like walking tapas.
- Edible Canada – Granville Island – If you want a sit-down option in Granville Island, I enjoyed my lunch at Edible Canada. My fish bahn mi sandwich was filling without being overly heavy, especially considering it was fried fish. My fries were meh, so I’d save the calories and skip them in the future.
- Hokkaido Ramen Santouka – West End – I couldn’t leave Vancouver without going for ramen. Seriously, I think it’s physically impossible considering there is a ramen place on almost every corner. The best ramen restaurants is a hotly contested topic, but I ended up at Santouka because I prefer pork broth. I got the spicy version (can’t remember the name) and was in heaven. Plus, they claim to have “probably the best gyoza in Vancouver.” Not definitely, but probably.
- Bao Bei – Chinatown – This was easily my second favorite meal. Oh my god was this amazing. We got a variety of dishes, but my favorites were the shao bing, green beans and crispy pork belly.
- Meat & Bread – Gastown – The menu here isn’t large, but their sandwiches and local root beers are 100% worth the stop. I had the Porchetta but have heard all of their options are perfection.
- Tacofino – Gastown – Who doesn’t love a good taco joint, right? Between the two I had (pork and fish), I much preferred the Pork Al Pastor, and the bean dip in the salsas/guacamole starter was amazing. I wish more Mexican/taco restaurants carried bean dip, but I might be in the minority on that opinion.
- Cartem’s – Downtown – If you’re looking for a donut place to spend too much money at, this is your place. These were tasty, but I think we have better options in Boston. I’m sure that’s a controversial statement. #donthate
- Pourhouse – Gastown – My mac and cheese here was really tasty. I don’t know if it was the best I’ve ever had, but worth a try if you’re looking for a cozy place with delicious food and drinks. Plus, the fries were amazing, which made up for my fries fail at Edible Canada.
What to do and see
- Bike through Stanley Park* – If you don’t bike around the Sea Wall and through Stanley Park, did you even visit Vancouver?! It doesn’t take long (1 hour if you’re a speed demon like me), but it gives you such a lovely view of the landscape and downtown. Plus, it’s relaxing and fun. I rented from Bayshore Bike Rental.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge* – North Vancouver – If you like trees and bridges, we need to be best friends. You also need to go to Capilano Suspension Bridge. The only reason I’d go again, honestly, is if someone promised me that no one else would be there. I went at 9 in the morning because I thought I was sneaky and no one else would be there. Surprise — all of the school field trips were there, so I was fighting upstream against maybe 100 school children trying to get the perfect ‘gram of my peaceful morning with nature. Regardless, it’s still a beautiful spot just outside downtown and there are free shuttles running throughout the day.
- Granville Island – If you like walking, people watching, eating and shopping, you must go to Granville Island. If you don’t like those things, who are you?! But seriously, Granville Island makes for a lovely morning/afternoon as it has everything you could need in one spot. Afterwards, take the aqua bus to wherever you need to go next for a different view of downtown.
- Forbidden Vancouver – Downtown/Gastown – I love ghost tours, so I know this isn’t for everyone. But if you’re in the mood for some hauntings and some history, check out the Forbidden Vancouver “Lost Souls” tour. Each tour is led by a professional actor who gets in character the entire time, which is a fun twist. I would go back multiple times, which is how much I loved it.
- FlyOver Canada* – Downtown/Canada Place – The “Ultimate Flying Ride” is about 20 minutes long and unlike anything I’ve typically done. The name is pretty self explanatory — it’s a virtual flight ride over Canada. Hard to describe without plagiarizing, so just go to their website and/or take a ride for yourself.
Where to shop
- Robson & Granville Streets – These two streets run perpendicular to each other and intersect along the way. They are both mainly chain stores (i.e. Lululemon, Sephora, Nordstrom, etc), but if you’re looking for a solid day of shopping, you can’t go wrong.
- Granville Island – The only place I ended up making a purchase at was Hammered & Pickled (got a ring), but there are so many shops featuring local artisans. And apparently, Granville Island is the second-most visited tourist attraction in all of Canada after Niagra Falls.
- Meadow Gifts & Apparel – Gastown – I stopped here on a mid-day walk during work. It’s a cute place to grab some random odds and ends – air plants, jewelry, cards, etc. I walked out with a simple brass ring that I’ve been wearing non-stop. And in case that sentence made it sound like I stole it, I did not.
- One of a Few – Gastown – This is a very hip shop in an equally cute Gastown. I didn’t end up getting anything here, but they had dainty, simple jewelry pieces and some lovely perfumes that caught my eyes (and nose).
- H-Mart – Downtown – This is totally random since it’s more-or-less a convenience store, buuuuut it’s where I bought $60 worth of Asian face masks. So if you’re looking to do some skin care shopping, stop by and see what they carry that you can’t get at a Sephora or Ulta.
What to Know
- One of Vancouver’s nicknames is “Raincouver,” so I bet you can see where I’m going with this. I brought rain boots and an umbrella but didn’t use either, surprisingly. Sure, some days were overcast and a bit drizzly at times, but nothing that normal shoes and a trench coat couldn’t handle. Like any place you go, just check the weather before you go and keep in mind that Vancouver (like Seattle), might be a bit more wet than most cities you visit.
- Due to its year-round temperate climate (at least compared to the rest of Canada), Vancouver has a relatively large homeless problem. It’s not any better or worse than most big cities, but just pay attention to where you walk. The neighborhood around East Hastings and Main Streets can get a bit dodgey, so just be vigilant and do go anywhere you feel uncomfortable.
Rumor Has It
Sadly, as with most trips, I didn’t have time to do absolutely everything I wanted to. Here are some other highly-recommended things to see/eat while in town. I can’t vouch for them myself, but I trust the folks who recommended them.
Tell me: Have you been to Vancouver before?