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Local’s guide: The best one day in Vancouver itinerary

Welcome to Vancouver, a vibrant coastal city located in the province of British Columbia, Canada. This beautiful city is full of outdoor adventures, beautiful sites, museums and fun things to do no matter what time of year you chose to visit.

As someone who has been living in this city for six years, I have been asked countless times by friends, family (and even a couple of strangers who were on a layover in Vancouver), about the best things to do in Vancouver if they only have one day to explore. 

While I always personalize my recommendations based on their interests and preferences, there are some activities that are a must-do for everyone visiting this beautiful city.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a foodie, or a history buff, Vancouver has something to offer everyone. With its stunning natural beauty, world-class cuisine, and rich cultural heritage, this city has a lot to see and do. 

From exploring Stanley Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America, to strolling through the historic neighbourhood of Gastown, there is no shortage of things to keep you busy for a day.

In this blog post, I’ll share some of the best things to do in Vancouver that I believe everyone should experience, regardless of their interests. These activities are perfect for those who are short on time but still want to get a taste of what this city has to offer.

So, without further ado, let’s get started on our one-day itinerary for exploring Vancouver!

Looking for more things to do in Vancouver and nearby? Check out my Vancouver travel guides which are full of information on the best things to do in Vancouver, the best Vancouver restaurants, and detailed guides for each of the main neighborhoods.

How to spend one day in Vancouver BC

vancouver convention centre best vancouver views

We’ll start this itinerary at Canada Place since this is where you’ll arrive if you’ve just stepped off a cruise ship ready for your Vancouver day trip, or have taken the Skytrain all the way to downtown Vancouver. 

If you’re starting this one day Vancouver itinerary from elsewhere in the city, just catch the sky train to Waterfront station and follow it from there. 

Or perhaps you’re doing a day trip to Vancouver from Seattle? In which case, park your car downtown and start your itinerary then. 

Do you need to rent a car in Vancouver?

Not for these recommendations for one day in Vancouver as these are all in downtown Vancouver. 

For additional activities, you can use public transport, or make the most of the free shuttles to attractions like Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain. Depending on how many are in your group, you may still want to rent a car.

I use comparison sites like DiscoverCars and RentalCars to book my car rentals as it’s easy to check prices and compare the best deals!

Canada Place

one day in vancouver (1 of 1)
View of Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains from Canada Place

Starting at Canada Place, I recommend taking a walk around the back of the Convention Centre. Here you’ll get your first glimpses of the North Shore Mountains of Grouse Mountain, Mt Seymour and the Cypress Mountain ski area. You can also see Stanley Park off to your west.

Canada Place, perched right by the water in downtown Vancouver is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a cruise ship terminal, hotel, and convention centre and is home to the amazing FlyOver Canada experience. 

If you have longer than 1 day in Vancouver, I’d recommend checking out this experience. 

During this 8-minute immersive flying ride, you’ll feel like you’re soaring through the country’s most iconic scenes, complete with sights and sounds that will leave you feeling like you’ve truly experienced Canada.

If you just have 24 hours in Vancouver, then skip this and follow the seawall as it winds around giving you incredible views, until you get towards the intersection of Denman Street and West Georgia Street and our next stop. 

Bike the Stanley Park Seawall

harry jerome statue stanley park biking
lions gate bridge biking stanley park

At the intersection of Denman Street and W. Georgia Street in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour/West End neighbourhoods, you’ll find plenty of places to rent bicycles for biking in Stanley Park.

This is the absolute must-do for anyone visiting Vancouver even if you only have a few hours in Vancouver. 

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve cycled around Stanley Park, run or walked around and through it. It’s such an amazing park to have right in the heart of downtown Vancouver and I never take it for granted. 

While the Vancouver seawall (a paved multi-use path for cyclists and pedestrians) is 22 km long, the Stanley Park section of the seawall is about 10 km long.

You could walk it in a couple of hours since it’s pretty flat (unless you go up to Prospect Point), but I recommend cycling it to see everything a bit quicker and fit more into your one day in Vancouver itinerary. 

Pick up your bike from a bike rental store such as Spokes, and then follow the other cyclists back across West Georgia Street and down towards the water. 

The cycle path is a one-way path around Stanley Park and it’s super easy to follow. 

You’ll pass through some of the top attractions in Stanley Park such as The Vancouver Aquarium, the totem poles, Brockton Point Lighthouse, go underneath Lions Gate Bridge and then emerge on the southern side of the park where you’ll pass First and Second Beaches before coming out towards Stanley Park Brewing, the tennis courts and a loop back towards your bike rental where you started. 

However, I recommend holding on to your bike for a few more hours to explore English Bay Beach and Granville Island.

If you skip the bike ride, I recommend walking over towards the Totem Poles, or exploring some of the inner trails out towards the Lost Lagoon or Beaver Lake.  The Stanley Park trails are some of my favourite parts of the park and most visitors miss them! 

Another fun way to experience Stanley Park is to take a horse and carriage ride through it. These tours will teach you history and facts about Vancouver and its original inhabitants. 

English Bay Beach

english bay beach west end vancouver in one day
English Bay in the early morning

I used to live a few minutes walk away from English Bay Beach and it was part of my morning coffee walks before work. 

Though I personally prefer Sunset Beach which I lived even closer to – it’s quieter and arguably prettier – English Bay Beach is at the heart of the West End and is perfect for relaxing on, swimming in, or just enjoying the views. 

If you want to get coffee, I recommend heading to JJ Bean on Davie Street. This was my go-to coffee shop and they do some great muffins and croissants!

There’s also Craft beer Co. and Cactus Club on English Bay Beach, both of which have great views of the beach and some of the best patios in Vancouver.

Grab lunch at Granville Island Public Market

granville island market vancouver bc
best granville island restaurants
Lucky’s Donuts, Granville Island

If you have a half day in Vancouver, combine this with Stanley Park above.

From English Bay Beach, ride or walk along the seawall until you get to the ferry dock under Burrard Street Bridge. It’s right at the eastern end of Sunset Beach and near a dog park too.

This is the terminal for the False Creek Ferries, they’re quite small so you can’t take bikes on them. 

If you have your bike, lock it up securely (using a D-lock as bike theft is rife in Vancouver), or cycle a bit further to the bottom of Hornby Street where you can take the Aquabus to Granville Island and carry your bike on the ferry with you. 

Instead of taking Robson Street into the centre of the city, skip the downtown area for now. Head south to Granville Island. Take any of the streets south until you reach Pacific Street. Follow the road to Granville Bridge.

No matter which ferry company you chose, get a return ticket to Granville Island. I used to love riding these ferries around False Creek. It’s such a fun way to get to Granville Island, or around False Creek. 

You can even see whales in here (it’s very rare but has happened), but you’re more likely to see seals bobbing about in the water. 

Granville Island island is a popular Vancouver tourist attraction thanks to the Granville Island Public Market.

At the market, you’ll find local produce including fruit and vegetables, meat and fish as well as food stalls for lunch and various other sweet treats including Lucky’s Donuts. There’s also a large art market, a children’s toy shop and theatre and great restaurants and the Granville Island Brewing Company.

You should budget at least an hour for exploring the Granville Island restaurants and shops. If you want to spend your afternoon taking a jet ski or boat tour, or wish to go whale watching from Vancouver, this is where you’ll take those tours. 

Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery

vancouver art gallery

Next up on your day trip in Vancouver itinerary it’s a dose of culture!

Take the Aquabus or False Creek Ferry back across to Sunset Beach/Hornby Street and make your way into downtown Vancouver to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery

Whether you’re cycling or walking, it’s easiest to walk straight down Hornby Street which has a dedicated bike lane making it safe for cyclists. 

The Vancouver Art Gallery is home to some of the most creative and innovative art exhibits and includes artwork from the famous Canadian painter, Emily Carr, as well as temporary exhibits.  

The collections and exhibits cover a wide range of mediums. It holds paintings, sculptures, multimedia installations, and a large collection of photographs including pieces from Indigenous artists. 

A ticket to the Vancouver Art Gallery costs $30.45 but if you’re visiting on a Tuesday, you can get a ticket by donation and pay what you wish when visiting in the evening.

The gallery is right downtown and super close to shopping centres. You’ll find several food trucks just behind the art gallery too which are well worth checking out if you haven’t yet had lunch.

This Vancouver food truck website shows you where and when the food trucks are in the area, as well as what food they do. 

After exploring the gallery, you can sit outside in the plaza and watch the frequent demonstrations, protests, or street performers that gather on the art gallery steps! There are even food trucks nearby, so you can enjoy a snack with your people-watching.

From here, head along Robson Street to enjoy some shopping until you get back to wherever you hired your bike on Denman Street. If you’ve been walking, then head over to the next stop on this one day in Vancouver itinerary. 

  • Opening hours: Sat, Sun, Mon, Wed, 10 am – 5 pm, Tuesday: 12 pm – 8 pm, Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
  • Price: C$30.45
  • Tickets

Visit Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

dr sun yat sen garden vancouver china town

Using public transit, walking or getting an Uber/Lyft, head over the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

The next stop on this Vancouver one day trip is the city’s Chinatown.

Vancouver’s Chinese garden, is located in the heart of Chinatown. This tranquil spot, designed in the style of a Ming Dynasty garden, provides a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, at the end of your visit, you can enjoy a complimentary cup of tea!

Although the garden is relatively small and can be toured in about 30 minutes, it is truly breathtaking on the inside. 

If you visit in the spring, you’ll be treated to a stunning display of pink Vancouver cherry blossoms throughout the entire garden. 

If you just want a sample of the Chinese Garden, there’s a free section you can enter. Though smaller than the main area, you’ll still get to wander around the ponds, trees and boardwalks without having to pay a thing. 

  • Opening hours: 10 am – 3 pm daily, closed Monday and Tuesday
  • Price: C$16
  • Tickets

Wander around Gastown, shop, eat dinner or grab some drinks

gastown steam clock thing to do in gastown
best things to do in gastown vancouver

It’s now time to visit Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood and one of the top things to see in Vancouver in a day: Gastown.  

From the Chinese garden, it’s just a short walk to the cobbled streets of historic Gastown where you’ll find some of Vancouver’s best independent shops which are perfect for buying souvenirs, the Gastown steam clock and plenty of great restaurants.  

Though the Gastown Steam Clock is not longer steam-powered, it’s still a fascinating attraction that produces a puff of steam every hour and whistles a short tune every 15 minutes. 

After checking out the clock, take a stroll through the oldest parts of the city with their Victorian-style architecture and rows of brick buildings.

Gastown has a ton of character and charm, with cobblestone streets and unique architecture that make it a really enjoyable place for a late afternoon or evening stroll.

If you’re visiting Gastown between 3-5 pm, be sure to check out any one of the numerous happy hours at the restaurants and pubs in the area. Or, take a Gastown food tour to discover the best places to eat.

If it’s dinner time now, then be sure to check out some of Gastown’s best restaurants. These include: 

  • Nuba: which does delicious Lebanese cuisine that’s perfect for sharing
  • St Lawrence: This is one of Vancouver’s first Michelin-starred restaurants. You’ll need to book this one several months in advance but it’s so worth it! 
  • Tacofino: Casual Mexican food and one of my favourite places to eat in Vancouver. Get nachos to share and a couple of tacos each. 

There is also a tonne of bars in Gastown including Guilt & Co. which has live music most nights, 6 Acres for beer and Steamwhistle brewing back near Waterfront Station. 

Finish your day in Vancouver by watching the sunset from the Vancouver Lookout

top of vancouver revolving restaurant

Finish off your day in Vancouver by visiting the Vancouver Lookout. This is a must-visit attraction offering one of the best views of Vancouver and even all the way out towards Mt Baker in the US on a clear day! 

Standing at almost 150 meters high, the tower provides a panoramic view of the city that includes an observation deck, a gift shop, and a restaurant.

Top tip: if you grab dinner at the restaurant, you don’t need to pay for a Vancouver Lookout admission ticket! 

You’ll take an elevator to the top where the observation deck is. The best time to visit is at sunset when you’ll be able to see the mountains cast in a beautiful light.

Since it’s so close to Gastown, it’s the perfect stop before or after grabbing dinner there. 

  • Opening hours: 8.30 am – 11 pm in summer, 11 am – 4 pm in winter
  • Price: C$20.26
  • Tickets

More Vancouver itinerary ideas

prospect point snow in winter
Prospect point in the snow in Vancouver

If you manage to whizz through the above, or something doesn’t sound up your street, you can replace things, or add some more of these Vancouver itinerary ideas to your day.

These are also my top recommendations for people who have longer to spend in Vancouver.

Take a tour of Vancouver’s craft breweries and murals

vancouver murals 2-2

Vancouver’s craft beer game is super strong. I lost track of how many breweries there were in Vancouver and there’s an increasing number in North Vancouver too. 

You’ll find loads of the best breweries between West 5th and West 8th streets on either side of Main Street in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver

This neighbourhood is the most ‘cool’ and full of hipsters and independent boutiques, coffee shops, great restaurants along Main Street and more.

If you have more than one day in Vancouver, I highly recommend spending some time in this part of Vancouver.

You can also take a self-guided walking tour of the murals in the area. There’s a mural festival every summer where artists give old buildings a lease of life with a new mural. You can watch them paint during the festival but can take a tour all year round. 

One of the main draws for the area is the sheer number of breweries they have here. Some of my favourites are Main Street Brewing, Faculty and 33 Acres. The latter is very hard to get a table at though, so be prepared to wait! 

Ride the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver

shipyards north vancouver best rooftop bar vancouver
Lonsdale Quay North Vancouver
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view from the Sea Bus to North Vancouver

North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay has a great market, restaurants, cafes and fantastic views of downtown Vancouver.  

While you can drive to North Vancouver, traffic can be a nightmare at certain times of day and getting the Seabus from Waterfront Station to North Vancouver is far more enjoyable. It’s like a sightseeing trip combined with transport all in one.

The sea bus is very regular and runs every 15 minutes throughout the day. You can take bikes on it too. 

Once you arrive in North Vancouver, explore the quay and the Lonsdale quay market which is similar to Granville Market but often less busy. 

There are also some great North Vancouver Breweries nearby which are well worth checking out including North Point Brewing and Wild Eye.

Visit the Vancouver Aquarium

vancouver aquarium 1 day in vancouver
vancouver aquarium 1 day in vancouver

The Vancouver Aquarium sits inside Stanley Park and is one of Vancouver’s top attractions, especially if you’re visiting with kids.

It’s home to so many amazing sea creatures including a family of otters, sea lions and seals who’ve been rescued from boating accidents and other accidents. 

I used to volunteer for the aquarium when it was a non-profit and it’s a really great research-focused and care-oriented aquarium.

The aquarium is massive, covering over 9,000 square meters and containing more than nine million litres of water. Inside, you can explore dozens of habitats from the Amazon area to the West Coast jellyfish and aquatic life including the Seth Rogen octopus! 

You can also see the penguins and watch their feeding times which is super fun. 

  • Opening hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily
  • Price: C$46.20
  • Tickets

Go shopping on Robson Street

brunch at forest robson street
brunch at Forage on Robson Street

If you’re looking for things to do in Vancouver in one day, a visit to Robson Street is a must. It’s one of the best shopping districts in the city, with a wide range of stores that cater to every taste and budget. 

Whether you’re into luxury brands like Gucci or prefer to shop at Canadian favourites like Roots, Lululemon or Artizia, Robson Street has something for everyone.

What’s more, the street’s central location means it’s easy to access from anywhere in Vancouver, whether you’re coming from Stanley Park or BC Place Stadium. 

The best shopping on Robson Street runs from Granville Street westwards towards Denman Street in the West End. 

The west end is home to some of the best places for ramen and sushi in Vancouver. And so if you’re in the mood for ramen, I highly recommend getting it here. 

Some of my favourite ramen places in Vancouver were Ramen Danbo as well as Marutama Ramen for its chicken broth. All of them offer vegan and vegetarian broths and ramen too. 

Overall, a trip to Robson Street is a fantastic addition to any itinerary for one day in Vancouver. With its diverse array of shops, restaurants, and cafes, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

capilano suspension bridge canyon lights

If you have more than one day to spend in Vancouver, a great destination is the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Located just 20-30 minutes from downtown in North Vancouver, this park is a pristine slice of nature that’s sure to take your breath away.

The park is named for the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was built in 1889 and has since become a world-famous attraction. Spanning 137 meters across Capilano Canyon and suspended 70 meters over the Capilano River, the bridge offers spectacular views of the canyon and the beautiful forest below. 

But the Capilano Suspension Bridge is just the beginning of what the park has to offer. Make sure to check out the Treetops Adventure too. 

This is a series of bridges that drift between towering thousand-year-old Douglas Fir trees. The bridges float 30 meters above the forest canopy, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding nature.

There’s also the Capilano cliffwalk where you’ll walk along boardwalks jutting out into the canyon and have beautiful views to admire.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the most iconic attractions in Vancouver, and it’s easy to see why. With its breathtaking views, thrilling adventures, and fascinating history, it’s a destination that should definitely be on your list.

However, it’s also one of the most expensive attractions in Vancouver. 

While I still think Capilano Suspension Bridge is worth it, there are some free alternatives such as Lynn Canyon or other places where you might wish to spend your money instead. 

  • Opening hours: Varies slightly throughout the year, but mostly 10 am – 8 pm
  • Price: C$69.25 (BC residents can show their ticket stub to get a year’s annual pass)
  • Tickets

Take a whale watching tour from Vancouver

campbell river whale watching (5 of 5)

There are several companies that operate whale watching tours from downtown Vancouver (mostly from Granville Island) but also from Coal Harbour too.

Though I usually recommend heading over to Vancouver Island for wildlife tours, if you’re not planning on heading that way then taking a whale watching tour from Vancouver is still worthwhile.

The best time to go whale watching in Vancouver is in the summer when you have a higher chance of viewing both the redient orcas and the transient orca pods. 

You can also see seals and humpback whales during these tours.

Book a Vancouver whale watching tour

Panoramic seaplane tour

seaplane tour vancouver

A Vancouver floatplane tour was one of the first tours we did in Vancouver when we first moved there. I bought it as a present for my husband’s birthday and when our families came to visit us, we got them tickets too. 

It’s such a fun tour and gives you a great view of downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park and out towards the North Shore Mountains. It’s incredible! 

For an unforgettable bird’s-eye view of Vancouver, you should definitely consider taking a seaplane tour. 

Departing from Canada Place harbour, the 30-minute tour is available multiple times throughout the day. It’s not a cheap thing to do in Vancouver, but it’s so worth it.

Book a panoramic sea plane tour in Vancouver

Go on a hike near Vancouver

hiking brothers creek west vancouver trail

One of the main reasons we moved from the UK to Canada was to enjoy outdoor activities including hiking. In Vancouver, you’re truly spoilt for choice when it comes to where to hike. 

From the trails of Lynn Canyon park and other easy hikes including Dog Mountain and Bowen Lookout to harder trails like St Mark’s Summit, Brunswick Mountain and Mt Harvey or the Lions, your options are almost endless. 

When hiking in Vancouver you have to be bear aware as there are many black bears living on the North Shore. If you’re unsure what the principles of being bear safe are, you should book a guided Vancouver hiking tour where you won’t have to worry about navigation either.

I’ve over 100 Vancouver hiking guides to many of the hikes in and around Vancouver that I’ve personally done. They also include the best hikes in Whistler and the best Squamish hikes so if your travels are taking you along the sea to sky highway, I’ve got you covered there too.

AllTrails is my go-to hiking app for finding, planning, and navigating while I’m out on the trails. With offline maps on AllTrails+ you can be confident you’re still on the right track, even without mobile signal.

Head up to Grouse Mountain

dam mountain trail
paragliding on grouse mountain
things to do on grouse mountain in summer

If you’re looking to experience Vancouver’s natural beauty, Grouse Mountain is a must-visit destination. Known as the “Peak of Vancouver,” the mountain offers stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. 

You can reach the top by either taking the Gondola or by hiking the Grouse Grind trail. Admission and the Gondola ride cost C$61 and if you’ve hiked the Grouse Grind you can get a download ticket for C$20. 

Note: You’re not allowed to hike down the Grouse Grind. You must get a gondola download ticket or take the BCMC trail down. I wouldn’t recommend the BCMC if you’re not used to Vancouver-style hikes as it’s steep, rocky, rooty and not easy terrain to navigate. 

The Grouse Grind is definitely more of a workout than a picturesque hike. It’s all stairs of varying heights and evenness. You’ll get passed by locals running (yes, really) up it so pay attention and be sure to move out of their way. 

It takes more visitors 1-2 hours to complete with 1 being at the quicker scale of things. 

The more relaxing way to get up to Grouse is to take the gondola. With your admission ticket, you can ride the gondola up and down and take the Peak chairlift to the peak of Grouse Mountain in the summer. 

The summer at Grouse also has the grizzly bear exhibit, lumberjack shows, a bird of pretty demonstration and additional activities including a scenic helicopter ride, paragliding, zip lines and more.

There are also other hiking trails up here such as Dam Mountain, Little Goat Mountain and Thunderbird Ridge. There’s also Crown Mountain but this is a very strenuous all-day hike that shouldn’t be attempted unless you’re a fit and experienced hiker. 

You could easily spend the best part of a day just exploring Grouse Mountain. 

At the top of the mountain, there is an excellent restaurant and café where you can relax and enjoy a snack or drink while taking in the breathtaking views of Vancouver, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains. 

In the winter Grouse Mountain is a ski resort and while it’s a great ski area, I would recommend skiing at Mt Seymour or Cypress over Grouse instead if you’re looking for 1 day in Vancouver winter activities.

  • Opening hours: 9 am – 9 pm daily
  • Price: C$72.45
  • Tickets 

Take a day trip to Victoria

victoria in winter parliament buildings

Many people are surprised to learn that Vancouver is not the capital of BC, it’s actually the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Though I recommend people spend more than one day on Vancouver Island so you can visit places like Tofino and Campbell River, it is possible to visit Victoria in a day. 

In Victoria, you can explore the colourful Fisherman’s Wharf, the beautiful harbour and Butchart Gardens. 

Read this to learn more about planning a day trip to Victoria. 

Drive the sea to sky to Whistler

lions bay loop trail (1 of 1)
The Sea to Sky Highway

The Sea to Sky is the name given to the highway that runs between Vancouver and Pemberton. It’s super scenic with ocean, mountain or forest views the entire way.

Driving this road from Vancouver to Whistler and back is one of my top recommendations for people visiting Vancouver and looking for things to add to their Vancouver itinerary.

Along the way you can stop off at scenic swimming points, go hiking in Squamish or ride the gondola to the top of the Sea to Sky, view impressive waterfalls such as Shannon Falls or Brandywine Falls and then explore the town of Whistler, home to North America’s largest ski area. 

If you don’t have a car in Vancouver but want to visit Whistler, this day trip from Vancouver to Whistler stops off at the best sights along the way and includes your transport.

Best Vancouver sightseeing tours

gastown flat iron building

Exploring a city like Vancouver can be overwhelming, especially if you have limited time. There’s just so much to do and see and so picking a few things can be hard! 

That’s why I’ve handpicked the best sightseeing tours for you to make the most out of your one day in Vancouver without the stress of planning.

Vancouver highlights (by e-bike)

For a unique way to see the city, try this tour of Vancouver by e-bike which takes you around all the city’s highlights. 

It’s a 5-hour bike tour with a knowledgeable local guide during which you’ll visit popular spots like Gastown, Olympic Village, English Bay, and Granville Island while learning about the city’s culture and history. 

I’ve seen these tours while wandering my city and people always seem to have such fun!

Book this e-bike tour here.

Vancouver city tour

In just 4 hours, this sightseeing tour will take you to the top attractions in Vancouver. Your local guide will personalise the itinerary for you and will typically include places such as Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown, and Gastown.

Book this Vancouver city tour

Getting around Vancouver

hannah thatadventurer blog
Hannah with Elvis the van

When planning a trip to Vancouver, you might want to consider the transportation options available to navigate the city. This is especially true if you’re adding any of the additional activities to your Vancouver itinerary.

Luckily Vancouver is one of the easiest and most well-connected cities to get around in North America. It has a subway system, buses, bikes, and car sharing and it’s very walkable too. 

Driving in Vancouver

If you’re sticking to the activities listed under the one day in Vancouver itinerary section I wouldn’t recommend hiring a car.

Traffic can be bad in Vancouver and there’s just no need for a car for these downtown activities unless you have young children or mobility issues. Parking in Vancouver can be hard to find and expensive too. 

You also won’t need a car to explore Grouse Mountain or Capilano Suspension Bridge. Both are easy to get to via public transport and have free shuttles to take you from downtown Vancouver to them.

However, if you’re planning on exploring further afield (e.g. Whistler or Squamish) then having a car will be useful. 

If you do decide to rent a car, check if your accommodation has somewhere to park it. Many Vancouver hotels will charge an additional fee for parking. In that case, it might be worth hiring a car for just one or two days, rather than the whole time you’re in the city. 

I use comparison sites like DiscoverCars and RentalCars to book my car rentals as it’s easy to check prices and compare the best deals!

Public transit in Vancouver

Vancouver’s public transit system is pretty good, especially when it comes to cities in North America. Sure, it’s not up to London in the UK’s standards, but it’s also a much smaller city. 

You can get the Skytrain, sea bus, aqua buses and normal buses all over Vancouver and they’re pretty regular and on time. 

You can pay with your normal credit or debit card on the buses and Skytrains or you can get a compass card which is slightly cheaper and you just need to top it up every now and again unless you set it to auto-top up by creating an account online. 

Car sharing 

If you have a Canadian license or a license from Europe or America, you should be eligible for using the car sharing services such as Evo and Modo

Just make sure you try to register in advance of your trip so that they’re set up in advance. For Evo, you may need to change the location on your app store to be able to download the app.

Use my code 227NTN4Z to join Evo for free and get $25.00 of free drive time.
Download the app (iOs & Android) or visit

Essentially, these car-sharing apps are where you can rent a car for a few minutes or a few hours. Evo was the service I used when living in Vancouver and it maxes out at around $100 a day for rentals, plus you don’t need to pay for any of the gas you use.

If there are a few of you who can split the costs, it can sometimes work out cheaper than renting a car once you’ve factored in car insurance and gas prices. 

You can pick up and drop off the car at designated checkpoints around the city, and the best part is they get lots of free parking.

Taxis, Uber and Lyft

Though they were banned in Vancouver for many years, Uber and Lyft have been allowed in Vancouver for several years now making it super easy to get around the city. 

I’d recommend getting the Skytrain from the airport to downtown Vancouver to avoid the surcharge placed on taxis and ride sharing companies, but otherwise, their prices are quite reasonable and are a good option for early mornings and late nights when the other public transit isn’t fully running. 

Walking and biking

biking arbutus greenway (4 of 4)

Vancouver is super walkable. You can either walk through downtown core, or take the longer, more scenic route along the seawall to almost anywhere you want to get to downtown. It’s very easy to spend one day in Vancouver without a car. 

Vancouver isn’t a large city either so if you combine walking with the aquabuses you can see most of Vancouver without the need for a car or a bus. 

Cycling in Vancouver is also a great way to get around the city. There are loads of bike paths in Vancouver with many of them separated from the road which makes it feel safe. I’ve cycled in many major cities around the world and have never felt safer on my bike than I did in Vancouver.

There’s also a bike share scheem through Shaw, which works like those in many cities across the world and you just pay to use the bike collecting and docking it at the bike stations located around the city.

Local’s tip: If you plan to leave a bike unattended somewhere in Vancouver ensure you’re using a super strong D-lock. Bike theft is one of the most common crimes in the city and your bike will go missing if not locked up with aD-lock! 

When is the best time to visit Vancouver

The best time to visit Vancouver, BC depends on what you are looking for in your trip. Vancouver has something to offer throughout the year, but the weather and activities available can vary greatly depending on the season. Here is a breakdown of each season to help you decide:

Spring (March-May)

Spring is a great time to visit Vancouver if you enjoy milder weather and fewer crowds. The cherry blossoms bloom in April make for a beautiful sight and can be found throughout the city.

The temperature is typically around 10-15°C (50-59°F), so you will want to bring a light jacket or sweater. Spring is also a great time for hiking and outdoor activities as the snow begins to melt in the mountains.

Summer (June-August):

Summer in Vancouver is the peak tourist season, and for good reason. The weather is sunny and warm, with temperatures typically ranging from 20-25°C (68-77°F). In the last few years, there has been a week or two of extreme heat with temperatures in the high 30s ºC.

There are plenty of outdoor festivals, concerts, and events happening throughout the city, including the famous Celebration of Light fireworks festival in late July and early August. Summer is also a great time for outdoor activities, including hiking, swimming, and kayaking

It does mean Vancouver is busiest during these months though with hotel prices higher than at other times of the year. 

June is also called ‘June-uary’ by locals since it typically sees a lot of rain making it feel like January.

Fall (September-November)

Fall in Vancouver is a beautiful time, with the changing leaves creating a colourful backdrop throughout the city. 

September is usually just slightly cooler than July and August and is one of my favourite times for exploring Vancouver.

The temperature can range from 10-20°C (50-68°F), and there are typically fewer crowds than in the summer months. Though it can rain a lot, there’s plenty to do on a rainy day in Vancouver.

Fall is a great time for outdoor activities, including fall hiking, cycling, and visiting local farms and orchards for apple and pumpkin picking in Vancouver.

Winter (December-February):

Winter in Vancouver is mild compared to other parts of Canada, but it can still be chilly and very wet. 

Temperatures typically range from 0-10°C (32-50°F), and it can rain frequently. 

However, the mountains surrounding Vancouver offer plenty of opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. Winter is also a great time to visit the city’s indoor attractions, such as museums, art galleries, and restaurants and there are loads of things to do in Vancouver at Christmas.

Overall, the best time to visit Vancouver really depends on your preferences and what you want to do during your trip. If you enjoy warm weather and outdoor activities, summer is the best time to visit. If you prefer milder weather and fewer crowds, spring and fall are great options. And if you enjoy winter sports and indoor activities, winter is a good time to visit.

How to get to Vancouver

bc ferries to bowen island
BC ferries

By air

The best way to get to Vancouver is by flying into Vancouver International Airport (YVR). This airport is located is about 20-30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. 

As a major city in North America Canada, Vancouver is well connected to cities all over the world. 

You can book flights from major Canadian and international airlines such as Air Canada, British Airways, and West Jet. 

The easiest way to get from VYR to downtown Vancouver is to take the Skytrain but there are car rental companies at the airport and you can take Uber or Lyft too.

By ferry

If you are coming from Victoria, you can take a ferry departing from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen ferry terminal and then drive 35 minutes or so to downtown Vancouver. 

Alternatively, you can take the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay in west Vancouver. 

BC Ferries operate all these ferry services and booking in advance is highly recommended, especially at weekends and in the summer months. 

Final thoughts on one day in Vancouver

seawall stanley park vancouver
Vancouver can look almost tropical!

When it comes to what to do in Vancouver for a day, there are so many activities and sights to explore.

Some of the best things to do in Vancouver in a day include visiting Stanley Park or Gastown, a historic neighbourhood with charming brick buildings and great restaurants. 

Another must-see attraction is the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding forest and has a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy.

For a unique cultural experience, head to Granville Island, where you can explore the bustling public market, shop for local crafts, and visit the Vancouver Art Gallery. For those interested in marine life, the Vancouver Aquarium is a great option, with habitats that include penguins, sea urchins, and other sea creatures.

The Vancouver Lookout is a great spot for panoramic views of the city, day or night. 

With these and many other options available, a day in Vancouver is sure to be filled with adventure and unforgettable experiences.

FAQs on a Vancouver one day itinerary

Is 1 day enough in Vancouver?

You definitely need more than one day to really visit Vancouver and embrace everything it has to offer. However, if you can only have one day in Vancouver then you can still see some of the city’s top attractions including Stanley Park, Granville Market and Gastown.

What to do in Vancouver Canada for 24 hours?

Explore the highlights of Vancouver in just one day! Take a scenic stroll around Stanley Park, visit the historic district of Gastown, and check out the marine life at the Vancouver Aquarium. Finish off the day with a sunset at Sunset Beach or English Bay Beach.

How do you spend time in Vancouver?

Many locals spend time in Vancouver by embracing the great outdoors. Vancouver is surrounded by ocean, mountains and forest and so cycling, walking and running around the city’s Stanley Park and Seawall are the best ways to experience the city’s beauty.

What to do in Vancouver in 4 hours?

If you only have 4 hours in Vancouver – perhaps you’re on a layover – catch the Skytrain to downtown Vancouver, rent a bike and cycle around Stanley Park and to English Bay Beach. Grab a beer at Craft Beer Market on Pacific Street, or a frosé at Cactus Club. If you still have time, catch the aqua bus to Granville Market for a wander, and then head back to the airport!

What to do in Vancouver for one night?

If you’re looking for what to do in Vancouver for one night, I recommend exploring Gastown’s bars and restaurants or heading over to Granville Street for live music at the Commodore Ballroom. There are also lots of bars in Yaletown. 

Last Updated on January 3, 2024 by Hannah

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