Updated for travel in 2020.
Vancouver is my favorite city in Canada. It reminds me of Wellington back home in New Zealand, but on steroids! Vancouver has everything- majestic mountains and quaint beaches, a bustling city and abundant wildlife.
It satisfies both the adventurous traveller and the city slicker; with three ski mountains nearby, snow enthusiasts can be hitting the slopes within half an hour of leaving the city. For those who would rather shop, there are plenty of department stores and cute boutiques. It’s also a fantastic destination to visit solo.
Visitors often only spend a couple of days in Vancouver before setting off to explore the rest of Canada.
I’ve been to Vancouver several times but recently I visited Vancouver for an appointment and I only had one day to make the most of this picturesque Canadian city. I discovered it is possible to make the most of Vancouver in one day- you just need to plan well. I’ve designed what I believe is the perfect itinerary if you have only one day in Vancouver.
If you have more time in Vancouver I’ve included some more things to do as well. Here is my itinerary for how to spend the perfect 24 hours in Vancouver.
If you plan to visit Vancouver in one day, cycling the Stanley Park Seawall is a must!
One Day In Vancouver Itinerary
8:00 – Grab a coffee and donut from Tim Hortons
Start your day the Vancouverite way! Canadians are very proud of this restaurant chain. There are over 4,500 stores throughout Canada so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a Timmies in Vancouver!
9:00 – Cycle the Stanley Park seawall
Situated a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park is easily accessible and has been Vancouver’s “greenspace” for 130 years. The park contains over 500,000 ceder, fir and hemlock trees, and is home to 500 wildlife species including bald eagles, bats, beavers, birdlife and raccoons. It will take you approximately one hour to cycle around the seawall that surrounds Stanley Park, but longer if you want to explore the park and stop for photos.
There are a number of places you can hire bikes from, but an average price for a full day bike hire and lock is $30 plus taxes. Many rental companies will price beat each other, so make sure you do your research to find the best deal.
10:00 – Visit the Vancouver Aquarium
See dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, sea turtles and other sea creatures at Canada’s largest aquarium, located inside Stanley Park! Buy your Vancouver Aquarium pass online and skip the queues here!
12:00 – Have lunch at the Granville Island Public Market
It takes 30 minutes to cycle from the end of the Stanley Park seawall to the Granville Island Public Market.
Sample a variety of food from the stalls: homemade chocolate and fudge, salad and smoothies, Mexican, seafood- the selection will put you in a food coma! There are also several stalls where you can buy fresh produce if you wanted to make yourself a delicious, healthy meal for later.
Pick up some yummy fresh produce at the Granville Island markets
3:00- Check out Vancouver’s street art
The street art in Vancouver certainly brightens up this rainy city (it rains on average 140 days every year). For the best street art, head to Main Street and you will see murals from 4th until 14th avenue. There is a handy map with the locations of the permanent displays of art from the 2017 Vancouver Mural Festival here.
Every Vancouver one day itinerary should include seeing some of the stunning street art around the city
6:00- Have dinner at Meet in Gastown
Meet in Gastown is a super cool walk-in restaurant, and all items on the menu are vegan and gluten free (unless otherwise stated). Try the TeeM Poutine as a starter and wash it down with a tasty cocktail.
8:00- Explore Gastown
Gastown is the oldest suburb in Vancouver, so this is where you’ll find the city’s character. Wander down Water Street which is illuminated by vintage street lamps and visit one of the world’s only steam clocks on the corner of Water and Cambie Street. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in this area too, so Gastown is a good area for bar hopping.
I was warned by a few locals to be careful in Gastown as bikes are known to go missing in this area, however I felt very safe wandering the streets by myself.
Autumn in Vancouver is simply beautiful
Staying a bit longer? Here are some other things to see and do in Vancouver:
Fly Over Canada
Fly Over Canada is a virtual experience that will take you on a ride through the best parts of Canada. Purchasing your tickets online will save you money.
Seeing whales in the wild is an experience you’ll never forget. Tours are offered April through October. Book your tour in advance so you don’t miss out.
Go to a Canucks game
Canadians are very passionate about their ice hockey, just like New Zealanders are about their rugby! The Canucks are Vancouver’s team, and if you are lucky enough to be in Vancouver when they have a home game, make sure you buy a ticket to a game.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
Located in Lynn Valley, the Lynn Canyon Suspension bridge is free for all visitors to cross (unlike the touristy Capilano suspension bridge). Suspended 50m in the air, the bridge offers views of the canyon and its waterfalls and raging waters below. The bridge leads to a park where there are a selection of walks to choose from.
Short on time and would prefer a tour?
There are a few different tours you can join to make the most of your limited hours in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Delights 7 Hour City Tour is a popular day tour that allows you to sit back and relax on a mini coach while learning about Vancouver from an award-winning guide.
The Vancouver City Highlights tour is a 4 hour tour that will take you to most of the places in my itinerary, plus a few more.
Where should you stay in Vancouver…
If you’re on a budget
The Samesun Vancouver is the nicer but pricier of the two. It comes with complimentary Wi-Fi, towels, and best of all- a great free breakfast! Its location is in the heart of the city, and it has a restaurant and bar downstairs.
The Cambie is your typical, bare-bones cheap hostel. The best thing about this hostel is its location- right in the heart of Gastown. The Cambie is a heritage building so it is a bit old and shabby, but it is very well-priced for a hostel in an excellent location! The Cambie is a great hostel for meeting people as it is above a bar. For this reason however I would not recommend it as a place to stay for light sleepers. The Wi-Fi is free and hostel guests receive a $5 off breakfast voucher. Breakfast came to less than $5 for me including a tip.
If you want comfort at an afforable price
I just love Airbnb! It’s a great way to save money on accommodation, especially if you’re booking last minute. Airnnb gives travellers the chance to have an authentic Canadian experience if you choose to stay with a homeowner in their spaire bedroom
There are many hotels and such listed on this website too- so if the idea of sharing a house with someone doesn’t appeal to you, you can browse the many private listings too! Everyone wins.
The Granville Island Silos
If you like your luxury
If you prefer private, luxary accommodation I recommend staying at the Fairmont Waterfront. The Fairmont brand is absolutely fantastic in Canada, and if you like to travel in style or want to splurge, I always recommend spending a night at one of these hotels.
The L’Hermitage Hotel is another fantastic option and located within walking distance to Stanley Park and the Granville Market.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my article on what to see in Vancouver in one day. If you like it, make sure you share it on Pinterest or Facebook.
Have you tried my Vancouver One Day Itinerary? Drop a comment below!