36 hours in Vancouver

This is an article in the 36 Hours In… series. To find more in the series, head here.

36 hours in Vancouver

Vancouver, BC. It’s one of the most liveable cities in the world, right? Well then, you’ll have more than enough to keep you happy for a mere 36 hours. From satisfying your tastebuds to getting rid of those calories the next day in a beautiful setting, we’ve got you covered for a great weekend in this lovely city.

Friday night

What better way to start off your weekend in Vancouver than with an ice hockey match? The Vancouverites are mad fans of their team the Canucks, but we recommend going to a Giants game – these young guys are fiercely trying to make an impression to get into the big league, and so the games are full on! Extra bonus – the tickets are also much cheaper.

36 hours in vancouver

Grab a beer and a hot dog rink-side for dinner and enjoy the game.

Saturday morning

Yes, it’s touristy, but it has to be visited – Gastown is the oldest part of Vancouver and is chockablock with charming brick buildings and cobbled streets. Many of the old buildings have been reborn as boutique shops selling designware and local fashion labels.

There are crappy tourist trap restaurants but if you look close enough (and use Yelp to guide you) you can find some excellent eats in the area. We recommend a truly fantastic sandwich at Meat & Bread on Cambie Street. Seriously, best. sandwich. ever.

best food in vancouver

Meat & Bread porchetta sandwich

Saturday afternoon

Let’s get out of the city. A short bus ride over the Lionsgate Bridge brings you to the North Shore, and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The $32 entrance fee is quite steep, but it’s a slick operation with lots of things to do and it’s all presented very well. The treetops walk and the cliff walk are highlights, along with the 137 m long suspension bridge, of course!

A free alternative to Capilano is Lynn Canyon, which is also on the North Shore. It’s slightly harder to get to (involves a ferry and a bus from downtown Vancouver) but you’ll avoid paying any entrance fees! Lynn Canyon has a smaller suspension bridge to Capilano but it’s a lot less crowded! The large network of easy hiking trails are a nice way to while away an afternoon. Horseshoe Bay (the first image in this post) is a lovely stop on your way back to the city.

Saturday night

Heading back into downtown Vancouver and it’s time to explore more of Vancouver’s culinary scene. Back to Gastown (as it’s close to the ferry/bus terminals) and you can find Nicli Antica Pizzeria, one of the best pizza joints in town.

Nicli Antica Pizzeria - prosciutto e rucola

Nicli Antica Pizzeria – prosciutto e rucola

If you’re into tapas, Six Acres (housed in Vancouver’s oldest brick building) could be more what you’re after. The atmosphere alone is reason to dine in this restaurant, and the food is damn good too!

After dinner it’s time for drinks and dancing. Gastown has a number of bars worth visiting, and we can recommend The Portside Pub – the drinks were great and we loved the fit out!

Sunday morning

It’s Sunday morning, and you’re feeling the effects of the drinks and dancing last night, aren’t you? Well, how about a delicious breakfast made from local food from Forage on Robson Street? We’d recommend spending the rest of your morning either walking or cycling around Stanley Park, Vancouver’s massive urban park at the western tip of the West End.

36 hours in vancouver

Stanley Park

There’s the seawall that runs around the outside of the park, or heaps of trails winding around the tall trees and lakes throughout this fantastic natural area so close to the city.

If you’re into the underwater world and don’t feel like much exercise, consider visiting the world-class Vancouver Aquarium, located on the edge of Stanley Park.

Sunday afternoon

To finish off your weekend in Vancouver, what better thing to do than to eat some more? Catch the cute wee ferry across False Creek from English Bay to Granville Island and sample the wares at the Granville Island Public Market.

There are also bakeries and breweries here so it’s easy to spend the afternoon filling your stomach with Vancouver’s goodies.

You’ll have to agree, this is a pretty great itinerary for a great city! With it’s combination of outdoor activities and great food you’ll definitely be satisfied for at least 36 hours. We always recommend buying a Lonely Planet guide to help you out while you’re on the ground. Buy one here!

Do you have any recommendations on must-do’s in Vancouver? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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24 comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to visit Vancouver and have quite a few friends from there. Seeing your photos and words really made it come to life for me. I love how you did the city both inside and out. Thanks for sharing this. I’ll be keeping your guide in mind when we finally make our way there!

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks Duke! We really encourage you to visit – it’s a great city with lots to do. We especially loved how easily accessible the great outdoors was!

  2. My home town! Great post; you covered the main highlights of the city. You caught Gastown in it’s revived stage. There was a stretch of about 10 years where Gastown just fell apart and became a bit of a dump. But in recent years it’s come back to life and I’m glad you got to experience some of it’s charm.

    • Petra
      Author

      Oh great! We really liked Gastown, aside from the touristy crap – but it was easy to get past that. I can imagine what it was like, you only have to walk a few blocks further east and it’s still like that!

  3. We’re from Vancouver and love living here. You covered the main highlights well! Were you able to make the trip to Whistler from Vancouver when you were here in the area (after your 36 hours in Vancouver, of course!) ? If not, you should definitely add it to your list… since you liked how easily accessible the great outdoors was, you would probably love it!

  4. Wow, great article! I am a local Vancouverite and former tour guide and I have to say this is a fantastic representation of my beautiful city. I love that you offer up and touristy option and then a cheaper, less-touristy option. Especially the Giants vs. Canucks! As much as we love our Canucks, tickets are like a second mortgage and frankly, the Giants games are a lot more entertaining. Also, Gastown is my favorite part of the city. On a quiet and rainy day it’s a little like stepping back in time. Thoroughly enjoyed your article!

  5. I would also highly recommend visiting Kitsilano for the best beaches in the city and great shopping and dining along West 4th and West Broadway. Deep Cove for the short hike to a fantastic viewpoint at Quarry Rock or kayaking Indian Arm followed by famous Honey’s donuts. Also shopping and dining in Mount Pleasant and Commercial Drive, the Cannery musuem and fish and chips in Steveston Village, Asian night markets in Richmond. So much to see and do in Vancouver!

  6. Pingback: An upside-down year: 2015 in review - The Global Couple

  7. ewan martin quirk

    Excellent heads up for a quick visit. Pick any of the commercial strips in town; Main Street, East Hastings,Commercial Drive, Broadway at Cambie village.each has its own vibe. Great little restaurants everywhere. Never pack a lunch here!

  8. Darline Woloshyn

    I like that you recommended Horseshoe Bay as a destination but it really isn’t on the way back from Lynn Canyon to the city. There is a bus that goes from downtown to Horseshoe Bay, which is also where you catch the ferry to the Island and to the Sunshine Coast. It’s a wonderful spot for a walk around the docks and lunch on a sunny day.

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks for the clarification Darline 🙂 when we went to Horseshoe Bay we were with a friend who drove us from Lynn Canyon to Horseshoe Bay to the city so it felt like it was on the way back! It’s beautiful there 🙂

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks for your clarification Darline! When we went to Horseshoe Bay we were with a friend who drove us, so it felt like we went that way! 🙂 It’s such a great spot though, isn’t it?

  9. Tessa

    How about taking the Seabus (the terminal is right at the western entrance to Gastown) across to Lonsdale Quay Public Market and then taking a connecting bus to Grouse Mountain, taking the Skyride to the top for lunch and amazing photo opportunities of our city? If you have friends who can drive you to Horseshoe Bay along Marine Drive, how about on the return drive to the city, taking the turn-off to Cypress Bowl and stopping at the viewpoint part way up for a free view of the city?

  10. Jeanne

    My husband and I will be in Vancouver on the 2nd and 3rd of September, 2016, before we hop a cruise to Alaska. We thought it would be fun to take a tour boat out to see the orcas on Saturday. Has anyone done that? I love the idea of eating in Gastown Friday night.

    • Petra
      Author

      That sounds like such an awesome idea Jeanne! We didn’t go on a boat to see orcas because it was the wrong time of year when we were there, so do your research to make sure the boats are running in September!

  11. As a person who lives in Vancouver I always kinda like reading this type of stuff. Because frankly I have no idea where to guide people if they were to ask me. There are great cities of the world (like Paris) where we sort of forget, regular people live and work.

    I’m on my way to Auckland next week, my first time in Oceania and I’ve got no idea what to do. It seems like a car rental or a couple flights from Auckland are almost necessary. I’m hoping not to break the bank but am open to pretty much anything from an Auckland home base.

    Just an FYI from a Vancouverite (alright, I live in the suburbs, its too expensive to live in Vancouver) the Giants no longer play in Vancouver proper. They now play in Langley, BC. For us suburbanites it’s a bit easier and cheaper to get to, but on public transit from Vancouver or the surrounding area it would be ridiculously lengthy and inconvenient. The Canucks are pretty bad right now, so you can get in the arena on the cheap, go to a Canucks game! If you’re in section 315, come find me and say hi 🙂

    • Petra
      Author

      Thanks Brett! Great tips. Yes I definitely recommend a rental car in Auckland, our public transport is almost useless. Get to Waiheke Island (wineries), Waitakere Ranges (bush walks and beaches) and sample the excellent food Auckland City has to offer (Britomart, Federal Street, Ponsonby Central are great areas for food). Enjoy your time in NZ!

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