What to do in Four Days in Vancouver
Beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, is perched on the edge of the Pacific. It’s a gateway to Canada, The United States, and to Asia. It’s also the home to some of the finest First Nations art and artists. Vancouver is a melting pot where all influences can be seen and visited in a short period of time. Their metro system is robust and the people are very friendly, making this a great place to tour as a solo traveler. But what to see on a long weekend in Vancouver? Follow my itinerary below.
For an overview of Vancouver, including tips to keep in mind when planning and packing for your trip, check out my overall guide.
Start off by exploring historic Gastown and downtown Vancouver. Gastown is the oldest neighborhood in the city, founded in the 1860s. The name derives from the owner of one of the original taverns, ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton, not from any gas found in the area. I’m not sure if I’d want to eat at Gassy Jack’s tavern… Today it’s a great walkable neighborhood full of boutiques, galleries, and lots of restaurants. Free walking tours take place several days a week from the company Tour Guys, giving you a sense of the rough-and-tumble history of Vancouver, and some sights to see in the present. Walking tours can also be a great way to meet other travelers.
In the afternoon, head towards the entrance of the huge and picturesque Stanley Park, and rent a bike (I used Spokes, but there are several options). Stanley Park is perched on the water’s edge, and is a massive park filled with tea houses, multiple restaurants, beaches, a kids railroad, and more. Take off on a bike trip 6 miles around the island, hugging the coastline. The bike path along the sea wall is wide and flat, and the views out to sea, across the harbor, and back into the wooded park are all spectacular. It’s one of the more popular places to bike for both locals and tourists, so you might run into a lot of the same people on your loop! Make sure to stop at the Brockton Point Totem Poles, as well as underneath the Lions Gate Bridge for a photo op.
You’ll also pass by several beaches to stop and wade in the water in warmer weather. When on the west side near Third Beach, you can lock up your bike and walk up to the Teahouse, a fantastic cafe overlooking the water. If you’re uncertain about going alone, there are bike tours you can join up with to explore the park. Also, if you happen to be in Stanley Park on a Tuesday, Third Beach plays host to a sunset drum circle. There are several other restaurants and cafes scattered around the park that can be accessed by the trails cutting through the middle. Third Beach is also a popular place to watch the sunset from in the evenings.
Head out to Granville Island for a day of food, shopping, and art. Granville Island was a former warehouse and industrial area south of downtown. Over the past few decades the warehouses have been turned into an eclectic selection of galleries, shops, distilleries, markets, performing spaces, and more. You can drive there (there is parking, but there will also be traffic jams) or take metro or a ferry to the island. Check out the calendar in advance, as they host a lot of festivals and plays. Highlights to check out:
-Public Market for the variety of food on sale
-Lee’s Donuts for, well, donuts
-Tony’s Fish & Oyster Cafe for fish & chips or the chowder
-Liberty Distillery and Granville Island Brewing Company for drinks
Granville Island is on a big push to be completely green and self-sustainable (they pride themselves on wanting to be a ‘zero-waste’ island). They do not sell plastic bags, and ask you to bring your own refillable water bottles. Food scraps from the markets can also be composted on-site.
If a day shopping and viewing hasn’t tired you out, take a ferry from Granville Island west over to Kit’s Point ($5 one-way). From there, you can walk through the park, past several museums, and down to Kitsilano Beach Park, a gorgeous beach from which to see the sunset. Being south of downtown, it will be less crowded than beaches further north. In the summer months, there’s a swimming pool nearby. You’ll often find art installations along the beachfront walk. The Vancouver Maritime Museum is a short walk away.
For day three, you have two options - more water and nature, or more city! For more nature, take a bus or taxi up to Horseshoe Bay, where you can catch a 20-minute ferry over to Bowen Island, one of the many channel islands around Vancouver. This small island has a beautiful downtown area, and opens up to a variety of options for hiking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and more!
If you’re a beer fan, and want to experience more of the urban areas of Vancouver , why not take a craft brew tour? Vancouver’s beer scene is incredibly rich, and there’s a variety of both walking and bus tours to experience some of the beer, food, and craft brew culture of the city. For a solo traveler, it’s also a great way to meet new people. Brassneck is one of the more popular breweries amongst beer snobs, although 33 Acres also has a lot of good food options on site.
A great museum to combine with your craft brew day would be the Bill Reid Gallery right in downtown. This small museum and art gallery is dedicated to Indigenous artist Bill Reid, and features both his works as well as revolving exhibitions featuring other First Nations artists. It’s open 10-5pm, and adult entry is $13.
Spend your last day enjoying the amazing nature of greater Vancouver. If you don’t have a car, there’s a shuttle bus that goes to Capilano Suspension Bridge. This (admittedly touristy) spot has some fantastic paths around and across a gorge. This might be a challenge for the heights-adverse!! Check out their calendar, as they have night tours with lights and special decorated evenings seasonally. If you are in the mood for more nature, a short walk down the road is the Capilano River Park that has several trails providing dramatic views of the river and its steep cliffs.
If you do have a car (or want to take a taxi/bus), I would instead visit the amazingly beautiful suburb of Deep Cove, a 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. They’re known for their kayaking and boating. However, you can also hike up to Quarry Rock and see the amazing views. You can have a great post-hike meal in town at one of the fantastic local cafes along Gallant Avenue. I’d recommend either starting or ending your day there with a donut from Honey Doughnuts and Goodies.
Other options to visit in Vancouver if you have more time:
Museum of Archeology
A list of hiking trails around Vancouver
Step-by-step instructions on visiting Victoria on Vancouver Island:
I hope you enjoyed this look at what to do in four days in Vancouver!
And pin this itinerary for later!