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.
Visitors often only spend a couple of days in Vancouver before setting off to explore the rest of Canada.
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 one day in Vancouver.
This itinerary is designed for active, budget conscious traveller who has one day in Vancouver on foot. My philosophy is only spend your money on activities and good food!
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.
Vancouver Itinerary: 1 Day
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!
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.
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.
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.
I found this awesome steam clock while wandering the streets of Gastown. It’s probably a total tourist attraction but I stumbled across it by accident- I promise! I’ve been to Vancouver once before but I was busy sorting out my visa so I didn’t get to see a whole lot, so I’m excited to spend tomorrow exploring the city!
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.
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.
Money Saving Tip: You can also pick up a Vancouver Attraction Passport which will save you money on over 50 attractions around the city.
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?
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, 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 and the cleanliness leaves everything to be desired, 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.
Have you tried any of the above activities? Do you have any more suggestions for fun things to do in Vancouver?