In Vancouver, the problem is less about finding things to do and more about finding the time to do them all. A tree-lined trek through the mountains or seawall stroll through the city? An immersive cultural cavort or a culinary-centric adventure for your taste buds? You get the picture.
With outdoor adventures, cultural excursions, and culinary pursuits all steps from your door, part of the fun is attempting to pack everything in. Whether you’re looking to explore the outdoors or savor the sips and sights of the city (or a bit of both), here’s how to spend the perfect weekend in Vancouver.
Where to stay in Vancouver
Luxury: Fairmont Pacific Rim
Book now: Fairmont Pacific Rim
Situated on the harbor in the the swanky neighborhood of Coal Harbour, this hotel perfectly showcases Vancouver’s best assets. Shopping, cultural sites, and world-renowned restaurants are all within walking distance. Or rent a bike from the front desk and a short ride along the seawall will take you to Stanley Park. Inside the hotel, the lively Lobby Lounge and Raw Bar is always buzzing, where live music can be enjoyed fireside as you enjoy sophisticated cocktails and nosh on freshly prepared sushi.
If you can swing it, splurge on a Signature Harbour View Suite–spacious at 900 square feet, with scenic views of the harbor, Stanley Park, and the North Shore mountains. These suites feature state-of-the-art touch panels that control the lighting, drapes, entertainment, and temperature, plus a king-sized canopy bed offering a pillowy-soft spot to rest your head. A curated collection of vinyl with a working record player is on hand to set the mood. Be sure to take a dip in the rooftop pool, and unwind at Willow Stream Spa—rated one of the city’s best spas—before or after heading out to explore your surroundings.
Wallet-Friendly: Skwachàys Lodge
Book now: Skwachàys Lodge
Vancouver is located on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations and is committed to honoring and highlighting the land and the people who first called the city home. A stay at Skwachàys Lodge is a way to connect with Indigenous arts and culture, and it is only minutes from historic Gastown, where there’s lots to see and do.
Coast Salish art takes the spotlight at this Indigenous-owned and -operated art hotel—the only one of its kind in Canada. The hotel features immersive Indigenous experiences where guests can partake in a sweat lodge ceremony, traditional smudge ceremony, or in-studio visits with artists-in-residence. It features 18 custom-designed guest suites decorated with the works of local Indigenous artists and includes a street-level art gallery, where you can pick up a piece of artwork or other keepsake to take home. As a social enterprise, efforts from the hotel go directly towards providing housing support for urban Aboriginal artists—a great way to give to the community while gaining a new appreciation for Aboriginal art.
Where to eat in Vancouver
Water St. Café
For brunch, head to Water St. Café, located in historic Gastown directly across the cobblestone street from the famous Steam Clock, and housed in a 1906 heritage building. People-watch while fuelling up on a savory crab cakes benny served with crispy lemon herb potatoes, house-made hollandaise sauce, and fresh tomatoes (a local favorite), or satisfy your sweet tooth with the Cherry Amaretto Buttermilk Waffles while sipping a cup of coffee.
Botanist is a must for dinner and drinks, where fresh fare inspired by the Pacific Northwest perfectly pairs with a medley of creative cocktails mixed up by Canada’s top bartender. Order the “We’ll Take It From Here” six-course tasting menu, switched up seasonally to keep things fresh. The Spring variation features dishes like the wagyu beef tartare, served with gruyere foam, garlic scapes, and fermented potato, and charred striped bass, served with sunchoke Leche de Tigre and cilantro oil; the vegan option is equally pleasing to the palate.
Opt for the wine pairing add-on, or try some of the city’s most creative cocktails, with a story behind each drink. What the Flower is a popular choice, composed of gin, electric daisies, cherry blossom tea, lemon, ginger, and cardamom, and the tasty Que Padre! combines a tequila Blanco with Aperol, Spanish vermouth, cranberry, orange blossom, and citrus oils.
Salmon & Bannock
Combining modern fare with Indigenous flare, dinner at Salmon & Bannock—Vancouver’s only Indigenous-owned and -operated restaurant—is a unique dining experience that is more than a meal. Traditional music is played, stories are shared, and Aboriginal artwork decorates the bright red walls. While the salmon dishes and bannock sides are the stars of this hot spot, the melt-in-your-mouth Bison Pot Roast, simmered for 24 hours before serving, is also a showstopper.
Things to do in Vancouver
Take an Indigenous-led walking tour through Stanley Park
Book a tour: Talaysay Tours
This 1,000-acre park, in the heart of the city, is known as the Central Park of Vancouver and is the city’s top tourist attraction. The park is filled with sandy beaches, woodland walkways, playgrounds, gardens, a heated outdoor pool, and the Vancouver Aquarium—a stroll or bike along the 5.5-mile paved seawall is a must.
To gain a deeper understanding of Stanley Park and its significance, book a guided trek with Talaysay Tours. From the Talking Totems tour, which guides you through the historic and contemporary totem poles in the park, to the Talking Trees tour that explores stories of the people who have relied on the trees for centuries, these Indigenous walking tours will give you a new perspective on past and present cultural aspects of Vancouver.
Ride a gondola to the peak of Vancouver
Journey up the mountainside of Grouse Mountain on the Skyride—North America’s largest aerial tramway system. (The base is only 15 minutes by car or shuttle from downtown Vancouver.) During the winter, you can ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or tube down the snowy slopes. In warmer months, visit the wildlife refuge, where you can watch the resident grizzly bears in their natural habit and listen to informative ranger talks. Hike the trails, or simply take in the views from the peak as you dine at one of the mountaintop cafés and restaurants.
Get a taste of the Vancouver region on a foodie tour
Book a tour: Vancouver Foodie Tours
Take a tasting tour through the city with Vancouver Foodie Tours, a female-owned local food tour company that gives you access to top food spots in Vancouver while sharing the history and stories behind what makes the city’s culinary offerings special.
Visit gastro gems like Lee’s Donuts (a celebrity favorite), Bon Macaron, and the Lobster Man, and stroll through the Public Market, where quality produce, seafood, meats, and bread draw the most esteemed chefs and foodies from across the country. Or walk through Richmond—a nearby city with the largest proportion of Asian residents in North America—where you can dine on dumplings and dim sum, guzzle bubble tea, and learn about traditional eating customs and etiquette as you’re guided through the area’s best Asian eateries.