At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks


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Vancouver, British Columbia, a modern city proud of its rich First Nation history that served as the foundation of its culture, has a variety of things to see and do that will keep you busy and entertained for days, at least. 

But, if you only have a day to explore this diverse urban city, here are the top things to do and see in Vancouver in a period of 24 hours.

Vancouver, British Columbia

24 Hours in Vancouver: The Ideal Travel Itinerary

Breakfast

Vancouver fancies itself as a destination for foodies, and Granville Island Market is the perfect place to experience and taste it. Make your way to Granville Island for breakfast.

It’s roughly a 15-minute walk from Downtown, and various ferries take visitors across False Creek to the island where this vibrant market, mixed shops, restaurants, and bars are located.

Granville Island Market, Vancouver

While the market officially opens at 9am, you will find plenty of places serving breakfast long before that, so don’t be shy to go early.

Morning

Keep exploring the Granville Island Market, where you will find arts and crafts, souvenirs, clothing, First Nations craftwork, plenty of fresh foods, and tasty treats.

After your time on the market, head to Canada Place, in front of the Vancouver Convention Center in Downtown, to catch a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

As the name says, the main feature here is the breathtakingly suspended bridge 230 feet above Capilano River. But it is more than that. 

Nature walks along towering evergreens, impressive First Nation Art, and a gravity-defying skywalk, are some of the other attractions at this park that make it worth spending a few hours there enjoying the West Coast rainforest.

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If you have more than 24 hours in Vancouver and would like to explore more of British Columbia, you can also do a day trip to the stunningly beautiful town of Whistler, just an hour and a half north of Vancouver.

This family-friendly destination has everything from hiking trails, relaxing parks, adventure courses, and even bobsledding year-round! Check this post for some excellent suggestions on cheap summer family activities in Whistler.

Capilano Skywalk

Lunch

Let’s have one of Vancouver’s unique street cart meals: Japadog! This is a hotdog with a Japanese twist.  There are various options to select that include beef, turkey, veggie, and some of the toppings include teriyaki sauce, seaweed, mayo, and others. 

The least I can say is that they are Duh-licious!  There are a few carts and locales in the city, so spotting one won’t be hard (check their site for locations).  In case, there is one close to the Vancouver Convention Center.

Japadog, Vancouver

Afternoon

Start the afternoon with a leisurely walk along the Seawall Path that borders the whole city along its coastline. As an Architect and Urban Designer, I can attest that Vancouver has one of the best-designed waterfront urban spaces in the world. So, make sure to experience it.

Since biking is a popular activity in Vancouver, why not rent a bike and pedal along the Seawall Path and on Stanley Park? There are many bike rental places in the city, and one I would recommend not far from the waterfront is Spokes Bicycle Rental.

Biking in Vancouver

It is inevitable to enjoy a bike ride in a city that is full of interesting architecture, active bays and harbors, beautiful creeks, and a stunning backdrop of white-capped mountains.  Biking is pretty easy and safe as there are many dedicated bike lanes throughout the city.

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While biking through Stanley Park, the “green lung” of Vancouver, take some time to enjoy nature and explore its many internal paths. 

This park is 10% bigger than Central Park in New York, so we are talking about a true urban park with a lake, gardens, playgrounds, totem poles, and more!

Also in Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium, so park your bike and take the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the underwater world. 

Not only you will see the usual animals like dolphins, sharks, jellyfish, and sea lions, but you will also see some of British Columbia and arctic specific animals like the beluga whales and sea otters. 

Another impressive exhibition is the Amazon Rainforest.  Here you walk inside a greenhouse-like space where sloths, parrots, exotic birds, and other animals are loose. 

Don’t worry; it is totally safe. Other animals include monkeys, snakes, giant fishes, caimans, and more. (of course, not loose)

Vancouver Aquarium Jellyfish

Dinner

After a busy afternoon, enjoy a good meal in Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, Gastown. It is touristy but pretty. Water St. Café might be one of the best restaurants in Gastown, and Vancouver residents and dining critics love it. 

Also, Steamworks Brewing Co. makes for a great dining option with an ample dinner selection and tasty food.  It is also consistently rated as one of the best pubs in Gastown for good food, a great atmosphere, and, most importantly, its own terrific micro-brewed ale.

Night

Feel free to stroll Through Historic Gastown during the early night while shops are still open. See the historic cobbled streets and buildings, gas lights, and the world’s first steam clock; among trendy shops, bars, and restaurants.

Gastown, Vancouver

If you are into hitting the hotspots after dark and still have some energy to burn, then Granville Street is the place to go. Vancouver’s nightlife is rich and varied and ranges from karaoke bars to sports bars, to dance clubs, and everything in between.

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Granville Street has plenty of choices, from casual Irish pubs such as Doolins to chic cocktail bars like The Granville Room, or dance clubs like Caprice, Republic, and Crush. 

If you are not into any of these, there’s also enough nightlife on the street that makes it easy to enjoy the night while hopping from one place to another.

Where to Stay in Vancouver

I recommend staying at the Samesun Backpackers Lodge. It has a great environment, affordable, and is easily accessible since it is located on Granville Street. 

But, keep in mind this is a “party hostel.” If looking for something more low-key, there is an excellent selection of hotels close to the convention center, like the Fairmont Hotel and the Days Inn.

There is so much to see and do in Vancouver that 24 hours is nearly not enough. However, this is just a small selection of the best things that can be done in this world-class city. Enough to give you a good taste to make you want to return for more.

Images 1, 2, 4, and 7 from Flickr’s Creative Commons.
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12 Comments

  1. The nearly 11-mile loop around the island is hands-down one of the best runs in the world (that we know of).

    1. I agree that Vancouver has one of the best waterfronts in the world and that the bike runs they have are one of the best too. I loved biking in the city. It was such a relaxing yet active experience.

  2. As residents of Vancouver, I’d say you’ve nailed it. If you’ve only got 24 hours, that would be an ideal itinerary!

    1. Thanks Cam! I found these to be great places to visit while I was there during TBEX. I wish I had more time to explore more, but I’m really glad I got to enjoy a lot of it.

    1. Thanks Sarah! I had a great time there. I really want to spend more time there so I have to go back! πŸ™‚

  3. Great photos and great advice! Cycling around the seawall and Stanley Park is one of the best things I’ve done in Vancouver.

    1. Thanks Sebastian! I hope you do go there as Vancouver is a beautiful city. I loved it and really want to go back.

  4. Bring back memories of my great tour i still remember when i visit first time in Vancouver. I have taste foodies in Granville Island Market. It is less complicated than it is.