Skip to Content

Pros and Cons of Seattle vs Vancouver BC (living & visiting)

Are you planning a trip to the Pacific North West and wondering whether to visit Seattle or Vancouver? Or perhaps you’re trying to weigh up Seattle vs Vancouver as a city to live in?

Both Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia have a lot to offer and which one you choose to visit might depend on your specific interests and preferences.

Seattle is known for its iconic landmarks, such as the Space Needle, as well as its thriving coffee culture and rich music scene. Vancouver is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and is often referred to as one of the most liveable cities in the world. It has a vibrant arts and culture scene, as well as a thriving food and drink culture.

Both Seattle and Vancouver are great destinations and places to live. They have unique attractions and experiences, and the cities are surrounded by natural beauty. Ultimately, the choice between them will come down to personal preference, your visa situation, and the type of trip you are looking for.

I spent 6 years weighing up the pros and cons of living in Vancouver and took many trips to Seattle. When it comes to Seattle vs Vancouver, there are many similarities between the two cities, but also quite a few differences.

If you can’t decide whether to visit Vancouver or Seattle, then this blog post, which considers the things to do in both cities, the Vancouver vs Seattle cost of living, transport, and more, should help you decide.

People in Vancouver vs Seattle

things to do in seattle vs vancouver

In general, people are more friendly in America than they are in Canada. I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing or not but people in America are far more likely to strike up a conversation with strangers than Canadians are.

When we were travelling around the US in our van we noticed it straight away. We had people talking to us in parking lots when they saw our van, speaking to us over dinner when they heard our accents and many other similar interactions.

This virtually never happened in Canada unless we’d had to already start interacting by picking up something someone had dropped or saying ‘sorry ‘ should we bump into someone.

However, Seattle also has the infamous Seattle Freeze which can be experienced by many who are new to the city. It refers to how difficult it can be to meet new people when you first move.

There’s also said to be a bit of a division between people who grew up in Seattle, and those who’ve just moved there later in life. Honestly, the same is said of Vancouver but if you’re willing to make an effort and join social groups and clubs then you’ll meet people it just might not be instant.

Vancouver is also regarded as one of the most multicultural cities in Canada. Though I think other cities around the world are far more multicultural, it isn’t unusual to hear many other languages being spoken in Vancouver.

However, Vancouver’s cultural communities aren’t particularly well integrated. Some would argue that when it comes to Seattle vs Vancouver, Seattle has achieved better integration whilst others would say Seattle just isn’t as mixed.

Food: Seattle. vs Vancouver

tacofino gastown restaurants in gastown (1 of 1)

I personally think Vancouver has a much better food scene than Seattle, but it comes down to what type of food you like in the end.

In Vancouver, you’ll get world-class Asian foods from ramen to sushi and everything in between. Vancouver’s sushi is some of the best and cheapest you’ll find outside of Japan.

Vancouver also has several Michelin Starred restaurants and each neighborhood has delicious places to eat. My favorite though is some of the restaurants in Gastown including St Lawrence and Jules.

But if you’re looking for pizza you may prefer Seattle and the same goes for burgers and more typical ‘American’ foods.

Coffee too is said to be better in Seattle but there are an increasing number of great coffee shops in Vancouver, so I think it just depends on where you go.

Overall, with the choice of Seattle vs Vancouver, you’ll find more diversity in Vancouver’s food scene than you will in Seattle.

Seattle vs Vancouver Cost of Living

yaletown vancouver travel guide

Both cities are very expensive although Vancouver is considered more expensive, and the jobs generally pay a lot less than jobs in Seattle. However, you don’t need to pay for healthcare in the same way in Vancouver, so that’s a huge bonus and you typically get more vacation time.

In general, when it comes to the cost of living in Seattle vs Vancouver, Vancouver is more expensive. Food, clothing, the gym, and other activities cost more in Vancouver than in Seattle.

Gast too is far more expensive in Vancouver to the point that some people in Vancouver will willingly wait at the border control to fill up their tans in Bellingham or Point Roberts.

Seattle has no state income tax which means your take-home pay is higher than in Vancouver where taxes are high

The jury is out when it comes to the cost of rent in Vancouver vs Seattle. It’s high in both cities but some would argue it’s slightly cheaper in Vancouver where you can find 1-beds downtown for less than you would be able to find a similar 1-bed in Seattle.

Seattle vs Vancouver Weather

best things to do in seattle

Seattle and Vancouver both have temperate climates, but there are some differences in terms of weather patterns.

Seattle has a reputation for being rainy and overcast, but it’s not as bad as many people think. While it does rain often in Seattle, especially in the winter months, the same can be said of Vancouver (or Raincouver).

July is the hottest month in Seattle with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F) and the coldest is January at 5°C (41°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 10 in July. The wettest month is December with an average of 150mm of rain.

In fact, Vancouver has some of the mildest weather in Canada with temperatures ranging on average from 20 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit) during Vancouver in summer to 0 – 5ºC (about 45 Fahrenheit) in Vancouver in winter.

In both Seattle and Vancouver, it’s not very common to have snowfall in the middle of the city during the winter. When this does occur, the cities have trouble dealing with it and both kind of come to a halt for a few days.

Both cities are surrounded by water, which can have a moderating effect on temperatures. This makes them generally milder compared to other cities at similar latitudes. However, Vancouver is located further north than Seattle and can be slightly cooler, especially in the winter months.

Health care in Vancouver vs Seattle

best things to do in seattle

Health care in Vancouver is, in my personal experience, fast, efficient, and, most importantly, free. Most jobs in Vancouver will give you extra health insurance which includes trips to get massages, dental care, eye care, and other types of medical care.

It’s hard to get a family doctor in Vancouver, but there are plenty of walk-in doctors who can see you the same day. When I’ve had to go to the doctor, I’ve been able to see a specialist where needed within the same month and have had scans and tests done quickly.

This wouldn’t have happened in the UK, which is why I consider it fast, but I haven’t experienced health care in the US.

In the US you can get benefits through work, but this can still come with a deductible which is not the case in Vancouver.

Jobs in Seattle vs Vancouver BC

vancouver public library

Jobs generally pay a lot less than jobs in Vancouver vs Seattle. My husband works in tech and wages in Vancouver are about 1/3 – ½ that which he could expect in Seattle. Many people work for US-based companies in Vancouver on the basis that it can make moving to America easier where they’ll have access to a higher salary.

However, you don’t need to pay for healthcare in the same way in Vancouver, so that’s a huge bonus and you typically get more vacation time. Vancouver’s work-life balance is typically very good and so worth taking less money for.

Vancouver wages also aren’t that bad depending on the market you’re in. Working in tech and marketing in Vancouver, we made more money than we could expect from the same jobs in London in the UK. Having lived in London and Vancouver, London’s cost of living is higher, the benefits are worse and you only get a little bit of extra vacation time.

Seattle has high employment rates and, if you work in tech, you’ll find no trouble getting work. Seattle is home to big tech companies including Amazon and Microsoft. While Vancouver has a tech scene, it’s nothing in comparison.  

However, Vancouver does have a diverse economy and there are plenty of jobs in tourism, the green economy, and film and entertainment It’s not called Hollywood North for nothing!  

Public Transport in Vancouver vs Seattle

west end vancouver travel guide (7 of 8)

When it comes to Vancouver vs Seattle for public transport Vancouver wins, but Seattle does have some options for visitors and residents looking to use public transport.

Considering, the US really doesn’t do a very good job with public transport except for maybe in New York, the public transport in Seattle is okay.

Vancouver has buses, the Skytrain, the Seabus, and the False Creek Ferries. Plus, it’s extremely walkable and bikeable. Yes, there’s some traffic that Vancouverites love to moan about but it’s not that bad.

Vancouver’s public transit is really good and means you don’t need to own a car to live in Vancouver.

Seattle has a metro system that includes buses, light rail, and water taxis. There’s also Sound Transit which connects the cities throughout the Puget Sound area including Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett.

When it comes to biking, Seattle has been improving its bike infrastructure, though I think Vancouver is years ahead.

Nightlife in Seattle vs Vancouver

gastown steam clock thing to do in gastown

The nightlife is undoubtedly better in Seattle than in Vancouver. Seattle has more small live music events across the city as well as more big live events. There are also more options when it comes to clubs and bars in Seattle than in Vancouver, but it is a larger city overall.

Vancouver though does have plenty of live music from bands who are doing international tours. There are some bars and clubs for a night out, but they’re not great.

Best place to visit on vacation: Seattle vs Vancouver

cypress mountain lookout views

Vancouver is considered a world-class destination whereas Seattle is seen as more of a city-break destination; a place you visit once and not again.

People come back to Vancouver time and time again due to its natural beauty and its access to Vancouver Island and places like Victoria, Whistler, and elsewhere.

While both cities are known for natural beauty, I’d argue Vancouver is far prettier. Everywhere you go in downtown Vancouver you can see the ocean or the mountains and more often both.

Seattle has a nice waterfront area, but that’s about it. The rest of the city isn’t particularly green and the parks pale in comparison to Stanley Park or Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver.

When it comes to attractions in both cities, I’d argue they’re on a similar level. Seattle has the Space Needle, Vancouver has the (less impressive Vancouver Lookout), Seattle has Pike Place and Vancouver has Granville Market. Both have art galleries and independent shops.

For things to do outside of the city, Vancouver is easily the winner. You’re 2-hours away from Whistler for world-class skiing and a place that many Seattleites visit on their weekend trips. You’ve got North Vancouver too which has three ski hills and world-class mountain biking. If you like outdoor activities, then living in Vancouver will be a dream come true.

Where to stay in Seattle

best things to do in seattle

Seattle has a wide range of accommodations, from budget-friendly options to luxury hotels, so you can find a place to stay that suits your needs and budget. Some of the best places to stay in Seattle include the options below.

Luxury hotels in Seattle

  • The Four Seasons Hotel Seattle: This luxurious hotel is in the heart of downtown Seattle and offers stunning views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.
  • The Thompson Seattle: This chic hotel is in the trendy neighborhood of Belltown and offers stylish rooms and a rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city.

Seattle boutique hotels:

Budget Hotels:

Where to stay in Vancouver

prospect point in summer

Below are some of the best accommodations in Vancouver, based on various budgets.

Luxury Hotels:

  • The Rosewood Hotel Georgia: This luxurious Vancouver hotel offers elegant rooms, a rooftop pool, and a world-class spa.
  • The Fairmont Pacific Rim: This stylish has luxurious rooms with stunning views of the harbor and the mountains.
  • The Loden Hotel: This contemporary hotel in downtown Vancouver offers stylish rooms and a convenient location.

Vancouver budget hotels

  • The Burrard: Great hotel in the center of Vancouver with plenty of greenery.
  • Times Square: based in the West End right next to Stanley Park, this hotel in Vancouver includes suites that can make your trip more affordable.

Best things to do in Seattle

If you’re planning a trip to Seattle, here are the best things to do and the top Seattle attractions.

You can find out more about the best things to do in Seattle in my guide to the city.

  • Visit the Space Needle: The Space Needle is an iconic landmark in Seattle and offers panoramic views of the city and beyond.
  • Explore Pike Place Market: Pike Place Market is a historic public market located in the heart of Seattle, offering a variety of food, craft, and specialty vendors.
  • Tour the Museum of Pop Culture: The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, is a must-visit for fans of music, science fiction, and popular culture.
  • Take a ferry to Bainbridge Island: Bainbridge Island is a beautiful, scenic ferry ride from Seattle and offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking and kayaking.
  • Visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass: This museum features the stunning glass art of Dale Chihuly, showcasing his unique and creative works.
kitsilano vancouver (1 of 4)

Best things to do in Vancouver BC

When it comes to visiting Vancouver, I have 100s of guides and lists of things to do no matter what time of year you’re visiting the city.

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.

However, here are my top five suggestions for the best things to do in Vancouver.

  • Visit Stanley Park: Stanley Park is a beautiful, lush park located in the heart of Vancouver and offers a variety of outdoor activities and attractions, including hiking trails and the Vancouver Aquarium. Biking around the Seawall in Stanley Park is a must.
  • Explore Granville Island: Granville Island is a vibrant, cultural hub located in the heart of Vancouver, offering a variety of food, craft, and artisans. There are so many delicious places to eat in Granville too.
  • Take a tour of the Capilano Suspension Bridge: The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a stunning suspension bridge located just outside of Vancouver and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding forests and mountains. If you’re looking for a free activity, check out the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.
  • Visit the Museum of Anthropology: When it comes to museums in Vancouver, the Museum of Anthropology is the best. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in First Nations culture and art, featuring an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits.
  • Visit Grouse Mountain: Grouse Mountain, often called the Peak of Vancouver, sits above the city and can be accessed via a Gondola or by completing the Grouse Grind hike. At the top, there are cafes, restaurants, and other attractions including a lumberjack show, hiking, birds of prey and the two resident grizzly bears Grinder and Coola. In the winter, Grouse is a popular place for skiing. 

How to get from Seattle to Vancouver BC

Getting from Vancouver to Seattle is pretty easy and you have several options for going about it. Just bear in mind that if you’re driving you’ll need to factor in border patrol which can take a long time depending on how busy it is.

Flights from Vancouver BC to Seattle

You can fly from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The flight typically takes about 1 hour and various airlines operate this route, including Air Canada, Delta, and Alaska Airlines.

Don’t forget you will need a passport to enter Canada. And, you may also need an ESTA visa depending on your nationality.

You can also take a seaplane from downtown Seattle to downtown Vancouver. This takes about an hour but the advantage is there’s no hanging around at an airport and you land right in the center of either city. My husband was able. to travel this way between the two for work once and said it’s such a beautiful flight!

Driving from Seattle to Vancouver Canada

The most common route for the Seattle to Vancouver drive is via I-5 N.

How far is Vancouver from Seattle? It’s about a 142-mile (229 km) drive and the journey typically takes about 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on traffic and border crossing time.

There are multiple border crossing points; the Peace Arch crossing at Blaine, WA, is a major one. Make sure you have the necessary identification for crossing the U.S.-Canada border, typically a passport.

  • Note: Wait times at the border can vary, so check online for current wait times.

Trains from Vancouver to Seattle

Amtrak operates the Amtrak Cascades train service between Seattle and Vancouver. The train ride takes about 4 hours and it’s known for its beautiful scenic views of the Pacific Northwest coastline.

The train departs from King Street Station in Seattle and arrives at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver.

  • Note: Be sure to bring your passport for the border crossing, and arrive a bit early, as customs and immigration checks are performed at the Vancouver station. Also, note that this service can be unreliable and there are often delays and/or a bus replacement service.
vancouver bc place things to do in yaletown

Final thoughts on Seattle vs Vancouver

Vancouver always wins in the debate of Seattle vs Vancouver in my eyes, but it depends on what you’re looking for.

Both cities are quite laid back and have that easy, west-coast lifestyle. They’re surrounded by natural beauty but it’s more accessible from Vancouver than Seattle.

Is Vancouver worth visiting? Absolutely!

Vancouver is prettier and has better food, but the nightlife and the job market tend to be better in Seattle.

Overall, the difference isn’t huge, and it really comes down to what your visa situation is. While visiting Canada and the US doesn’t require a visa for many countries, living and working there does. It’s arguably easier to get a visa for Canada than it is for America and so that might be your limiting factor.

Plus, Canadians have a reputation for being “nice” whereas America has all sorts of political and social issues. That’s not to say Canada doesn’t, but I think you’re typically better received if you say “I’m from Canada” than “I’m from the US” but other nationalities.

FAQs on Seattle vs Vancouver

Is Seattle vs Vancouver nicer?

I think Vancouver is nicer than Seattle. Vancouver is prettier and you can see mountains or the ocean wherever you are downtown. Seattle has a harbourfront, but it’s not as pretty in terms of the buildings or surroundings.

Is Vancouver similar to Seattle?

The two cities are both on the waterfront and their residents are known to enjoy outdoor activities including hiking and skiing. There are some cultural differences since the two cities are in different countries.

Is Seattle cheaper than Vancouver?

Food and the overall cost of living are slightly cheaper in Seattle vs Vancouver. However, neither city can be considered cheap.

Is Vancouver as rainy as Seattle?

Both cities have similar climates and are very rainy. It’s generally considered to rain more in Vancouver since it’s in a rainforest and closer to the mountains. Though both have dry, warm summers which make up for the gloomy winters.

Should I spend more time in Vancouver or Seattle?

When it comes to cities to travel to, you should budget more time for visiting Vancouver. You can visit most of Seattle’s attractions in a day, but Vancouver will take longer as there are more half-day and multi-day trips to do close to the city.

Which city is better to live in, Vancouver or Seattle?

When it comes to Vancouver vs Seattle, Vancouver BC and Seattle are both coastal/harbor-based cities and as a result, they have very similar climates. The cost of living is similar, though you’ll pay more for food in Vancouver. In general, Vancouver BC is better to live in because Canada has a lot of benefits over living in the US. There are also more outdoor activities close to the city of Vancouver than there are to Seattle. Though both are in great locations if you like the outdoors.

What’s the population of Vancouver BC?

Vancouver BC population according to the latest census is 2.6 million which includes the Metro Vancouver area.

is Vancouver in Canada or Washington?

Both! There is a Vancouver Canada in British Columbia and a Vancouver WA in Washington State, USA.

Last Updated on January 8, 2024 by Hannah

    This post may include affiliate links. These give me a small source of income and come at no additional cost to you.