Skip to Content

How to Spend One Day in Vancouver, BC: An Ideal 1-Day Itinerary

How to Spend One Day in Vancouver, BC: An Ideal 1-Day Itinerary

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Many people know Vancouver, British Columbia for the 2010 Winter Olympics and know it as a place to visit to go skiing, hiking, or other outdoor activities. But besides all the outdoor activities, the city itself is also definitely worth a visit too!

Vancouver is the biggest city in the province of BC and the third-largest city in Canada. It is located on the west coast of Canada, bordered by the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver is a busy urban center with tons to see and do and is famous for its stunning natural beauty surrounding the city.

But that’s not all! Around the world, Vancouver is known as one of the most livable cities. With the perfect mix of culture, food, fun activities, and natural wonders it’s really not hard to see why. I myself love Vancouver!

Unfortunately, if you are limited on time then you’re going to have to make some tough choices. With so many fun things to do in Vancouver, how could you possibly narrow it down to create a one-day itinerary?! Well if I’m being honest, this isn’t an easy task.

That’s why I’ve written this blog! I’ve hand-selected the absolutely best of the best attractions, places to eat, and more so that you don’t have to. So, whether you are including Vancouver as part of a larger BC itinerary, or just stopping through on a one-day layover, here is the ideal 1-day itinerary for visiting Vancouver, BC.

Related read: Visiting in winter? Check out all the best winter activities in Vancouver!

1 Day in Vancouver Itinerary

Morning at Stanley Park

two ladies riding bikes at Stanley Park in Vancouver
My friend and I bicycling the Stanley Park Seawall.

First things first on our 1 day Vancouver itinerary: coffee. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got to get a cup of coffee before any adventures can be had! Luckily, Vancouver has so many amazing options to choose from. Since the first stop on our itinerary is Stanley Park, you’ll want to choose something close by. I recommend stopping by the local chain JJ Bean (located on Bidwell Street) or Milano Espresso Bar (located on Denman Street) as close-by options that are delicious.

Once you’re fueled up with some coffee and breakfast, head to Stanley Park. This urban park is 405 acres of forest, with walking paths weaving through it. Along the perimeter of the park is a 10km seawall, which you can walk, run, or bike along and have amazing views out over the ocean and Vancouver Harbor. It’s one of the best easy hikes in Vancouver!

Depending on your energy level, there are a few awesome activities to do in the morning here:

1. Bike or rollerblade around the seawall

While you can definitely walk around the seawall, I think it’s more fun to bike! Rollerblading is also a popular option. If you don’t have your own bike or rollerblade, there are a number of stores right by Stanley Park to rent them, such as Spokes Bicycle Rentals, where you can rent a bike for $8.57 CAD/hour.

The cycle trail around the Stanley Park sea wall is 12 kilometers long and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to cycle at a moderate pace. 

You can also just join a bicycle tour in Vancouver. This particular bicycle tour includes cycling around Stanley Park, but also includes going to a few other main attractions such as Gastown, Chinatown, and taking the Aqua Ferry over to Granville Island! And the best part? It is a full-day guided tour that doesn’t cost much more than you would pay for a bicycle rental for the day!

2. Walk through the central park area

A lot of people will walk the seawall but forget about the middle of Stanley Park! The Park has a huge forested area with a ton of different trails and paths to explore. There are hidden, tucked-away ponds, gardens, and totem poles to see. Seriously, head to the middle of Stanley Park and just explore, you can use Google Maps to get you out later!

3. Chill out at the beaches

If you’re just looking to chill, Stanley Park is home to Second and Third Beaches, which are great to hang out at! Second Beach also has an awesome pool if you want to go for a swim there, too.

Lunch at Granville Island

Enjoying drinks on Granville Island
Enjoying drinks on Granville Island

After your morning at Stanley Park, it’s time for lunch! Our next stop on this Vancouver itinerary is over at Granville Island, just across the harbor from the park. While you can take public transit or drive there, the best way (and most fun!) to get there is by water taxi.

To get to the water taxi dock, you’ll need to walk (or get a taxi/Uber) from Stanley Park along the coastline to the Aquatic Centre Ferry Dock. It’s about a 30–45-minute walk along English Bay beach. It’s a beautiful walk and is a very popular area with lots to see! Once at the Aquatic Centre Ferry Dock, you can take the Granville Island Ferry across to Granville Island – it’s a short trip (~10 minutes) and costs just $3.50 CAD. It’s such a fun way to travel get a new perspective of the city!

Once at Granville Island, you’ll likely head straight to the Granville Island Public Market to get something to eat. There are so many unique stalls selling fresh produce, cheese, bread, amazing desserts, fresh-cut flowers… definitely spend some time exploring the market!

There are also a ton of amazing restaurants and food stands to get something to eat. Anything from fish and chips to German bratwurst to homemade pie is available here! Grab something to eat and then go sit outside near the harbor to relax and enjoy watching the boats come and go.

Other things to do on Granville Island include shopping, watching street performers, going to the Kids Markets, or even checking out the brewery. Yep, that’s right, Granville Island Brewing is waiting for you with ice-cold beer on tap and a brewery tour which I loved!

Afternoon Exploring Vancouver

After getting a bit to eat and taking some time to relax, it’s time for your next adventure! There are so many things to do in Vancouver, depending on what your interests are. Here are some of the most popular tours and experiences that you can check out in the afternoon:

1. Whale watching tour

Orcas swim through the waters near Vancouver, Canada
Orcas are beautiful creatures!

This has got to be one of the most fun and unique experience you can have while visiting Vancouver. This whale watching tour will take you from downtown Vancouver and take a cruise on a catamaran with beautiful views of the Gulf Islands and Howe Sound. An expert guide will bring you to areas where you can see whales, birds, and other marine life.

It’s the perfect way to spend a day out on the water! The cost for his tour is $199 CAD, offers complimentary drinks, and has a 93% whale sighting success rate! The best part is they have a tour leaving at 2:30 pm so it fits perfectly in your Vancouver 1 day itinerary!

2. Seaplane tour

Seaplane ride in vancouver
Ready for take off!

If you’re looking for a new perspective of Vancouver, this seaplane tour is the way to go! You will soar high up above the city of Vancouver, with scenic, panoramic views of the city and surrounding area. It’s a small group tour, with just 14 people, and will take 30 minutes. The tour costs $145.95 CAD and will depart from the Canada Place harbor at multiple times of the day (2:30 pm included!)

You can also use a seaplane as a mode of transport. Instead of driving from Vancouver to Whistler, you can take this flight which will drop you off in Whistler. There are tons of awesome things to do in Whistler too, so it’s well worth visiting for a couple of days.

3. Go hiking

A lade sits at the top of the Stawamus Chief hike near Vancouver, Canada
At the top of “The Chief” hike near Vancouver.

Vancouver is known for being an outdoorsy city, and it makes sense why! Vancouver is beautiful and there are tons of places to go for hiking, biking, and everything else outdoors-related. If you’re up for a hike, there are a few short day-hikes that are close by downtown Vancouver. Some good options are Pacific Spirit Park near the University of British Columbia, or Twin Falls in North Vancouver, or Dog Mountain on Mount Seymour.

4. Visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Views of the treetop walk at the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, BC
The bridge is only part of the attraction. The treetop walk is so stunning!

This is probably one of the most iconic Vancouver attractions, so should definitely be on your list of places to check out. The Capilano Suspension Bridge, located in North Vancouver and accessible by public transit, has so much to see and do. Besides the epic 137-meter suspension bridge, there is a tree-top canopy walk, cliff walk, story center, history talks, and coffee shop!

You can easily spend a few hours here taking in the best of the best of the local rainforest. Admission is $54.95 CAD/person. This is a great activity to do if you’re on a honeymoon in Vancouver!

5. Head up to Grouse Mountain

View from Grouse Mountain at sunset.
View from Grouse Mountain at sunset. Photo Credit: BigStock

Vancouver is surrounded by numerous mountains, many of which are popular ski and snowboard hills. Grouse Mountain is called the “Peak of Vancouver” and has the most epic view of the city and surrounding areas. To get up to the top of the mountain, you can either hike the Grouse Grind (a very intense hike!) or take the Gondola up to the top.

Admission and the gondola costs $61 CAD. In the winter there are activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. In the summertime, you can go hiking, visit the resident bears, and listen to nature talks. There is an awesome restaurant and café at the top of the mountain, so you can grab a snack or drink while soaking in the amazing view of Vancouver, the ocean, and the surrounding mountains.

6. Go Shopping on Robson Street

Robson Street sign in Vancouver
Robson Street in downtown Vancouver is a popular place to visit.

Vancouver is home to some pretty good shopping districts, and Robson Street is one of the best places to go! Robson Street is located right in downtown Vancouver and has a ton of great shops, from luxury brands (Gucci) to Canadian brands (Roots) to popular favorites (Zara). After a day of shopping, you can also stop into one of the many coffee shops or restaurants for a drink and snack!

7. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery steps. Photo Credit: BigStock

This art gallery is home to some of the most creative and innovative art exhibits. It hosts works by the famous Canadian painter, Emily Carr, in addition to rotating exhibits that fit different themes and perspectives. Admission to the Vancouver Art Gallery is under $25 CAD.

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.

Related Read: Visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery is one of the most popular things to do in Vancouver when it rains – find out about other great rainy day activities!

8. Go for craft beer and ice cream in Mount Pleasant

beers from Main Street Brewing in Vancouver
Who doesn’t love craft beer?! Photo Credit: Main Street Brewing

Main Street is home to Mount Pleasant, a quirky and trendy neighborhood just outside of Downtown Vancouver. It’s a great area to explore and go shopping at the numerous vintage, record, or consignment stores. But, the absolute best thing to do is go for a beer and then some ice cream! Mount Pleasant has multiple breweries, including 33 Acres and Main Street Brewing Co. And for ice cream, you’ve got to try Earnest Ice Cream – it is so good!

Dinner in Gastown

The famous steam clock in Vancouver that we visited on our food tour through Gastown, Vancouver
The famous steam clock in Vancouver that we visited in Gastown, Vancouver

Gastown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and has a lot of character and charm. The cobblestone streets and unique architecture make it a really enjoyable place to go for an evening stroll. It also has a ton of amazing restaurants and bars, so it’s perfect to go out for dinner or cocktails.

Gastown is located near Waterfront SkyTrain station and is easy to walk through the entire area. Make sure you check out the famous steam clock in the middle of Gastown – you won’t miss it because there are usually crowds around taking pictures. It’s pretty cool to see this antique-style steam clock, that chimes and steams to tell the time!

After you spend some time walking around, perhaps popping in and out of some of the shops, you’ll be hungry for dinner. There are a lot of great places to eat in Gastown, but here are a few recommendations of restaurants and bars to check out:

MeeT in Gastown: This is an amazing local chain that serves plant-based meals that both vegans and meat lovers will enjoy!

Nuba: This restaurant is the place to go and get some delicious Lebanese food in a charming, eclectic environment.

L’Abattoir: French-inspired West Coast food in an upscale restaurant – perfect for date night!

Guilt & Co.: They serve super creative and delicious cocktails in a cool basement setting with live music.

The Diamond: Treat yourself to something fancy at this specialty craft cocktail lounge!

Blarney Stone: Great for a night out at the longest-running Irish pub in Vancouver! Live music, a dance floor, and lots of great beers!

I actually did a food tour in Gastown once and loved it. The food here comes from all over the world and it’s all top quality!

Watch the Sunset

Vancouver lookout at sunset
Vancouver Lookout at sunset

It’s been a busy day of exploring Vancouver, but hopefully, you have some energy for the final activity: watching an epic sunset by the beach. The best place to see a sunset for free in Vancouver is Sunset Beach (makes sense!). Either Sunset Beach or English Bay Beach, which are right next to each other, offer the most impressive sunsets in the city.

These expansive beaches are always busy with people coming out to watch the views. I definitely recommend picking up an ice cream, taking a seat on a log, and then just taking it all in! These beaches are across the city from Gastown – where you hopefully enjoyed an awesome dinner! So you may want to catch a taxi or an Uber across town.

You can also see a good sunset from the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is within walking distance from Gastown. If you have a car with you and are serious sunset-seekers, you can also head to Queen Elizabeth Park, Burnaby Mountain, or Lighthouse Park to catch some epic sunsets!

My favorite place though is at “The Lookout”. Go up into the clouds 169m above Vancouver and enjoy the panoramic views during the day, night, or at sunset! To get to the top, you’ll jump into a glass elevator and take a 40-second ride up to the top viewing deck where you can see Vancouver from up above!

The Lookout is open from 9 am to 9 pm in the winter and from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm in the summer. It costs $18.25 for an adult. If you’re planning a special event you can also rent the space for weddings or events.

Vancouver Full and Half-day Sightseeing Tours

Lynn canyon, Vancouver
Lynn Canyon, Vancouver

Not everyone will want to navigate a city like Vancouver on their own. Don’t worry, I get it. The city is huge and it can be tiring trying to work everything out yourself – especially in one day! So, I’ve picked my favorite full and half-day Vancouver tours for you to check out. This takes the stress work out of your Vancouver itinerary!

Vancouver Highlights (by bike)

This 5-hour sightseeing tour takes you all over Vancouver with a local guide to explore places such as Gastown, Olympic Village, English Bay, Granville Island, and more. You’ll learn all about the city and culture without the need to plan a thing!

Vancouver City Tour

At only 4 hours this sightseeing tour gives you plenty of time to enjoy other activities. With that said, the tour visits attractions such as Canada Place, Robson Street, Granville Island, Chinatown, and Gastown. The best part is, the tour costs less than $100 and includes your Vancouver Lookout admission.

Vancouver Sightseeing and Photography

Those with more time can enjoy this epic 9-hour sightseeing and photography tour around Vancouver. You’ll visit Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge, English Bay and Stanley Park, Granville Island, and Gastown. All while learning about photography! This tour is still great value at $180!

Vancouver Highlights Private Tour

Want a more personal experience? Then this 4-hour private tour is the way to go. Show your guide this itinerary and let them do the driving for you. on top of that you’ll get even more local knowledge and be taken around in a Mercedes Benz!

Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver city skyline
Vancouver City skyline

Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is that in the summer and winter the city books up in advance very fast! Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!

Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:

The Cambie Hostel Gastown – This budget hostel is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. Rooms are clean but the bathrooms are a little cramped. It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality.

Times Square Suites – For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park you can’t go past the Times Square Hotel. It’s very hard to fault this hotel and the location is perfect. It is a good mix between being affordable as well as a very nice hotel.

Hyatt Regency Vancouver – For those wanting the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown, the Hyatt Regency is a perfect choice. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed!

Click here to browse all hotels in Vancouver!

For more detailed information about the best areas to stay in Vancouver and the best hotels, read our blog about where to stay in Vancouver!

Getting Around Vancouver 

Aquabus or Water Taxi to Granville Island in Downtown Vancouver
This is a unique way to get around Vancouver!

Transportation and ease of navigating a new city are super important to consider when planning a trip. It will help you determine where to stay and what you’ll be able to visit while in the city. In Vancouver, there are a few different options for transportation in and around the city.

Driving

This is probably the best form of transportation if you want to explore anywhere outside of downtown Vancouver and participate in activities like hiking or skiing, which require getting a bit further away. Traffic in downtown Vancouver can be fairly busy, just like any city center.

There is ample parking available both on the streets and in parkades, though it can be expensive. Some hotels provide parking, so check ahead of time. 

If you can rent a car so you can explore Vancouver with ease! Just be prepared to pay for parking unless your hotel includes it.

Car share

A great option besides renting a car is using a car share service like Modo or Evo. These services allow you to rent a car and pay based on the time it’s used (i.e., pay for 30 minutes, two hours, or the full day, depending on how long you drive for).

You can pick up and drop off the car at specific checkpoints around the city and the best part is they get lots of free parking. This makes it super easy to use a car for just the time that you need it. 

Public transportation

Vancouver’s public transit system is not as extensive as many other major cities, but it is still a good way to get around to main attractions. The SkyTrain provides excellent access to some of the neighboring cities, such as Burnaby, New Westminster, or Surrey, so it offers a good option if you plan on exploring outside of downtown. It also runs from the airport, so again, a good option to get into the city from the airport. 

There are also many buses in the city that run frequently. Note that public transportation options are extremely limited overnight, with only a couple of night buses and no SkyTrian options after around 1:00 am. All public transportation is run by the company TransLink and is fairly affordable; a single trip costs $3.05, and a day pass costs $10.75 CAD.

Taxis and rideshares

Taxis are available throughout the city, as are Uber and Lyft. These are good options in the downtown core but can get pricey if you are going further outside of that region. For example, the taxi cost from YVR to Vancouver is about $30-50.

Aquabus

The Aquabus is one of the more unique ways to get around Vancouver. These small boats visit 8 locations in the harbor all the way from The Village to Granville Island. The Aquabus costs $17 for a full day pass or round trip tickets start at $3.85 but prices vary depending on the route you take. You can check out all their routes and prices here.

Walking and biking

Vancouver is a very walkable city, and it is possible to walk just about anywhere in the downtown core.

Biking is also a good option, as there are dedicated bike lanes throughout most of the city. You can rent bikes all over the city and pretty much ride everywhere you want to downtown. I love doing this, especially on a beautiful day!

Renting a Car in British Columbia

Winter road in British Columbia, Canada
Get out and explore in a rental car. The views from the road are just as amazing as the destination!

If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between cities and even just getting out to the best attractions within them requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Rental Cars.com all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada and using crown land and campsites you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Canada Travel Essentials

Bailey stands on a mountain in essential gear for the Canadian Rockies
A windproof jacket and Buff will save you in the mountains!

Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.

Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!

Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part though? It comes in pink!

Bear bells: These are a must and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $12 and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.

Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.

Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.

Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.

Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!

Before you go…

Bailey poses wit her ice cream on our Vancouver foodie tour
Thanks for reading!

So, there you have it! The perfect 1-day itinerary in Vancouver, BC. Whether you are just there for a 1-day layover, or it’s part of a larger BC trip, there are so many awesome things to do in Vancouver. This itinerary gives you the best of the best! We hope you enjoy your stay in Vancouver.

Thanks so much for reading! We really hope this has helped inspire your visit here. We really love Vancouver and are sure you will too!

If you have any questions just leave a comment below and we will get back to you! Also, if you loved this travel guide jump over and check out all our other Canada travel guides or these related articles below!

35 Things to do in Whistler

Things to do in Banff National Park

Vancouver to Whistler Road Trip Itinerary

How to Plan the MOST ROMANTIC Vancouver Honeymoon
← Previous
17 Fun Things to do on Granville Island, Vancouver & Guide to Visiting
Next →