Moon Vancouver: With Victoria, Vancouver Island & Whistler

Neighborhood Walks, Outdoor Adventures, Beloved Local Spots


By Carolyn B. Heller

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Set on the edge of the Pacific and bursting with culture and life, Vancouver is a delight to explore. Immerse yourself in the best of the city with Moon Vancouver.
  • Explore the City: Navigate by neighborhood or by activity with color-coded maps, or follow one of our self-guided neighborhood walks
  • See the Sights: Bike along the coast at Stanley Park, kayak local waterways, learn about indigenous history at the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology, and soak in gorgeous nature views from atop Grouse Mountain
  • Get a Taste of the City: Sip a perfect pour-over coffee, browse the artistically arranged stalls at the Granville Island Public Market, or dig into some of the best Chinese food in North America
  • Bars and Nightlife: Sample local craft beer, enjoy cocktails on lush patios or in cozy speakeasies, and plug into Vancouver's artsy side with an eclectic lineup of everything from indie rock to world music
  • Local Advice: Vancouver expert Carolyn B. Heller shares her favorite places in her adopted city
  • Strategic Itineraries: See the best of Vancouver with itineraries designed for families, gourmands, history buffs, nature-lovers, and artists, with day trips to Victoria, Vancouver Island, and Whistler
  • Full-Color Photos and Detailed Maps, so you can explore on your own
  • Handy Tools: Background information on the landscape, history, and culture, packaged in a book slim enough to fit in your coat pocket
Experience the real Vancouver with Moon's practical tips and insider know-how.
Hitting the road? Check out Moon Vancouver & Canadian Rockies Road Trip.



Vancouver cuts a dramatic urban figure. Set on Pacific coastal inlets with forested mountains beyond, it’s frequently named one of the world’s most livable cities. When you stroll along the waterfront, or through rainforest parks where evergreens reach the sky, it’s easy to see why. Steel-and-glass towers grow like cedars on the downtown peninsula, but in green Vancouver, you’re never far from a beach, mountain, or public park.

When the sun shines (and even when it doesn’t), Vancouverites are outdoors, running or cycling on the seaside paths, kayaking or paddleboarding local waters, or sipping a pour-over coffee or local craft beer in a sidewalk café. And unlike many North American cities, where the city center empties out when the office workers go home, many Vancouver residents live and work downtown, keeping the streets active from early morning into the night.

Home to 2.5 million people, Vancouver looks to the Pacific Rim. More than 40 percent of the metro area’s population is of Asian descent, influencing everything from art and urban design to food. Vancouver boasts some of the best Chinese cuisine outside China.

The indigenous people who’ve lived on this continent for thousands of years have also made their mark on the city. Vancouver has several museums, galleries, and other attractions where you can explore First Nations culture. An extensive collection of indigenous art at the airport welcomes visitors to the region.

Vancouver is a convenient starting point for trips along the British Columbia coast, north to the mountain resort of Whistler or across the Strait of Georgia to BC’s capital city, Victoria. There’s much to explore in this part of the world, and it all starts here.

the Seawall in Yaletown

Granville Island Public Market

Tofino sunset

Olympic rings in Whistler

totem poles in Stanley Park

signs for biking, walking, and craft beer


1 Hike and Bike Stanley Park: The rainforest meets the city in this parkland crisscrossed with trails.

2 Wander Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: This Chinatown oasis was the first authentic Ming Dynasty garden built outside China.

3 Graze Away at Granville Island Public Market: Nibble on charcuterie, cheeses, pastries, fudge, and other treats at this food lover’s heaven.

4 Visit the Museum of Anthropology: This striking modern museum illuminates the culture of British Columbia’s indigenous peoples and traditional cultures from around the world.

5 Feast on Chinese Food: More than half the population is of Asian descent in Richmond, where you can dig into some of the best Chinese food in North America.

6 Sample Craft Brews: Numerous craft breweries in the city welcome visitors for sampling and sipping.

7 Summit Grouse Mountain: Ride the tram up this North Shore peak for mountaintop hiking trails, a wildlife refuge, and spectacular views.

8 Find Outdoor Adventures: You don’t have to venture far from the city center to experience the rainforest, the mountains, or the sea, whether on a hiking trail, ski run, or paddling route.

9 Appreciate Indigenous Culture: Stay in Canada’s first indigenous arts hotel, sample traditional foods at a First Nations bistro, and find works by contemporary indigenous artists.

10 Take a Day Trip to Victoria: Ferry across the Strait of Georgia for a day trip to visit world-class Butchart Gardens, take afternoon tea at the grand Fairmont Empress Hotel, or go whale-watching.



In just a few days, you can experience the best of Vancouver, combining outdoor activities, cultural explorations, and time for strolling, snacking, and sipping. Vancouver’s public transit system makes it easy to get around without a car; this itinerary includes tips for the most convenient transit options.


Get your first glance of the city and orient yourself with the 360-degree view from the observation platform at the Vancouver Lookout downtown. Save your ticket to return later for the nighttime views.

view of Vancouver

Catch bus 50 on Granville Street to Granville Island. Browse the stalls and stop for a morning snack in the Granville Island Public Market before checking out the galleries and shops in the Net Loft, on Railspur Alley, and throughout the island. Don’t miss the museum-quality indigenous art at the Eagle Spirit Gallery.


Vancouver is a city of amazing views, so keep your camera handy.


The white sails of Canada Place are one of Vancouver’s most recognizable landmarks. Follow the walkway for up-close views, with the water and mountains beyond (click here).


From this downtown tower, you have 360-degree vistas across the city, overlooking Stanley Park, Gastown, and other districts. It’s a good place to get oriented (click here).


Follow the Seawall around Stanley Park for views across Burrard Inlet to the city skyline and North Shore mountains. At one point, you’ll pass under the Lions Gate Bridge, which makes a dramatic photo backdrop (click here).


Stop along False Creek near the Olympic Village to snap photos of city landmarks, including Science World and BC Place stadium. You’ll have good views of the downtown skyline (click here).


On a clear day, the vistas from the top of Grouse Mountain stretch north toward Howe Sound, over Burrard Inlet, and across metropolitan Vancouver (click here).


Located on the North Shore, this West Vancouver park offers beautiful views across the water toward downtown (click here).

For lunch, return to the Public Market or sit down for a more leisurely meal, highlighting Canadian products, at Edible Canada Bistro.

To start your afternoon on an active note, rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard at Ecomarine Paddlesports Centre and spend an hour paddling around the island. Back on land, refresh yourself with a sake sampling at the Artisan Sake Maker or a craft cocktail made from the small-batch spirits at Liberty Distillery before catching the bus back downtown.

Liberty Distillery sign

Your next stop is the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, which shows works by the noted First Nations artist. Nearby, you can wander the exhibits at the Vancouver Art Gallery, making sure to see paintings by BC’s renowned Emily Carr.

In the late afternoon, rent a bike and take a leisurely ride along the Seawall in Stanley Park, stopping to see the totem poles at Brockton Point, then pedal past landmark Siwash Rock. Pause to rest at English Bay Beach, which is also one of Vancouver’s best spots to watch the sun set over the ocean. Across the street from the beach, smile at A-maze-ing Laughter, a public art piece comprising 14 grinning bronze figures.

Have dinner downtown, perhaps the imaginative contemporary fare at Royal Dinette or a creative pizza at Nightingale, then return to the Vancouver Lookout to gaze over the city’s twinkling lights.


Enjoy breakfast at Forage or Medina Café before exploring more of the city’s cultural highlights.

From Granville Street, catch bus 4 or 14 west to the University of British Columbia and the Museum of Anthropology. This first-rate museum has a particularly strong collection of First Nations art, including an awe-inspiring gallery of totem poles. After exploring the museum, take a walk through the serene Nitobe Japanese Garden nearby.

When you’re finished on campus, take bus 4 back toward Kitsilano for lunch on West 4th Avenue: Thai food at Maenam or French bistro fare at Au Comptoir. Check out the 4th Avenue shops before stopping for dessert at Beaucoup Bakery & Café.

Bus 4 or 7 will take you from Kits to Gastown. Walk along Water Street, watch the Gastown Steam Clock toot its steam whistle, and stop into several of the First Nations art galleries, like Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery.

Continue into Chinatown for a late-afternoon tour of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the only authentic Ming Dynasty garden outside China.

Stay in Chinatown for dinner. Try the unusual combination of Italian and Japanese elements at speakeasy-style Kissa Tanto or share modern Canadian plates at Juniper Kitchen & Bar. After your meal, have a drink at The Keefer Bar, or take a cab back downtown for a nightcap at Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar or elegant Prohibition Lounge.


Today, you’re exploring the mountains and rainforests on Vancouver’s North Shore. Catch the free shuttle from Canada Place to Grouse Mountain. If you’re up for a challenge, walk up the Grouse Grind, a trail nicknamed “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” But there’s no shame in taking the Skyride; it’s North America’s largest tram system. At the top, laugh at the lumberjack show, explore the wildlife refuge, and go for a short hike. The views are spectacular on a clear day.

Come down the mountain, and at the Grouse entrance, catch bus 236 to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This 450-foot (137-m) span swings over a canyon high above the Capilano River. If you’re feeling brave, follow the Cliffwalk, a series of boardwalks cantilevered over the rushing river. Do you dare stand on the glass platform and look down (way down)?

Get back on bus 236 to Lonsdale Quay. Stop for a drink, with views of the city skyline, at Pier 7 Restaurant & Bar, or at any of other the spots in the Shipyards District, a short walk from the quay. Then take the SeaBus across Burrard Inlet to Waterfront Station downtown.

Have dinner in Gastown, where L’Abbatoir serves French-accented west coast fare on the site of Vancouver’s first jail or stylish Chambar combines flavors of North Africa and Belgium with local ingredients.

With More Time


Ride the Canada Line to spend a day in Vancouver’s “new Chinatown” in the city of Richmond. First up: dim sum in the Golden Village along No. 3 Road. At Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant, choose from a mix of traditional and modern Hong Kong-style plates, or at Su Hang Restaurant, try Shanghai-style dim sum.

After you’ve eaten, catch bus 403 southbound along No. 3 Road to the International Buddhist Temple, one of the largest Chinese Buddhist temples in North America. Visitors are welcome to tour the gardens and the peaceful temple complex.

From the temple, head to the village of Steveston, an active fishing port where the Asian communities have historic roots. Visiting the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site or the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site will introduce you to the area’s multicultural history. Walk along the wharf, where fishing boats sell their fresh catch. Pajo’s on the pier makes first-rate fish-and-chips.

Bus 401, 402, 406, or 407 will take you back to the Golden Village, where you can browse the Asian shops at Aberdeen Centre.

If you’re in town on Friday-Sunday mid-May-mid-October, take the Canada Line to Bridgeport Station for the Richmond Night Market. Graze your way through this Asian-style festival of street foods. Return downtown on the Canada Line.


From downtown, take bus 17 to VanDusen Botanical Garden and spend your morning strolling among the blossoms. When you’re ready to eat, hop on a northbound bus 17 for lunch at Salmon n’ Bannock, a modern indigenous bistro.

Continue east on Broadway through the Cambie Corridor to browse the neighborhood’s boutiques. There’s a cluster of shops near Main and Broadway, and more clothing and accessories purveyors on Main between 20th and 30th Avenues (if you don’t want to walk, bus 3 can take you along Main Street).

When you’re done shopping, it’s time for a beer crawl to try the city’s craft breweries. Both 33 Acres Brewing and Brassneck Brewery are a short walk from the intersection of Broadway and Main.

For a more serious exploration of Vancouver’s microbrewery scene, head for the Commercial Drive and East Village neighborhoods. Parallel 49 Brewing Company has a large tasting room that’s a popular neighborhood gathering spot. To sample some spirits, visit Odd Society Spirits, a small-batch distillery in a former motorcycle garage. To get to this district from Broadway and Main, take bus 99 eastbound on Broadway to Commercial Drive, then change to bus 20 going north and get off on Hastings Street.

When you’ve tasted your fill, bus 4 or 7 (on Powell St.) or bus 14 or 16 (on Hastings St.) will bring you back downtown for dinner at lively Guu Garden (a Japanese izakaya) or at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar for local seafood in a stylish setting.



The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is dedicated to the life and work of the notable eponymous indigenous artist (click here).


Tour Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first authentic Ming Dynasty garden outside China (click here).

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden


Take the youngsters to Science World, inside a geodesic dome on the banks of False Creek (click here).


Find an artistically arranged food-lover’s heaven at Granville Island Public Market (click here).


Seek out narrow Railspur Alley, a hidden gem where you can chat with artists at work in their studios (click here).


The Museum of Vancouver takes you on a hands-on journey through the city’s past (click here).


The Museum of Anthropology houses one of the world’s top collections of First Peoples’ art, including massive cedar canoes, elaborate carvings, and towering totem poles (click here).


Stroll among the flowers, waterfalls, and koi ponds in the serene Nitobe Japanese Garden (click here).


Among the 250,000 plants at the peaceful VanDusen Botanical Garden, the city seems far away (click here).


Parallel 49 Brewing Company is both a craft beer tasting hall and a spirited neighborhood gathering place (click here).


Odd Society Spirits makes small-batch vodka, gin, and a “moonshine” whiskey that you can sip in a fun and funky lounge (click here).


The large and lively Richmond Night Market is an amazing Asian food adventure and sells everything from kebabs to bubble tea (click here).


For zip-lining, paragliding, skiing, and snowboarding, head for Grouse Mountain (click here).


The Capilano Suspension Bridge sways high above the Capilano River in a rainforest park (click here).

Capilano Suspension Bridge


With so many outdoor attractions, cool ways to get around the city, and kid-friendly restaurants, Vancouver is a fantastic destination for families. Whether you’re exploring a rainforest park, riding a ferry, or following the Dumpling Trail, Vancouver serves up plenty of family-focused fun. Tip: Always ask about special family rates or discounts when you’re buying tickets to any sights or attractions.


Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day in Stanley Park, Vancouver’s rainforest green space at the end of the downtown peninsula. Visit the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre first (it’s less crowded in the mornings), then enjoy your picnic near Lost Lagoon.

After lunch, rent bikes to explore more of the park; there are several rental shops just outside the park’s West Georgia Street entrance. Follow the Seawall to see the majestic totem poles at Brockton Point, stop to cool off in the splash park near Lumberman’s Arch, and let the kids play in the sand or go for a swim at Second Beach, where there’s a large pool, restrooms, and a snack bar.

For dinner, try one of the Asian restaurants downtown. Most kids enjoy watching the dumpling makers at work at Dinesty Dumpling House, or you can dig into Japanese-style hot dogs at Japadog.


Buy a day pass for the Aquabus ferry, so you can hop on and off these cute little boats as you travel around Granville Island and False Creek. Take the Aquabus to Science World and spend the morning exploring the hands-on exhibits. When it’s time for lunch, cruise over to Granville Island, where there are plenty of family-friendly food options in the Granville Island Public Market.

Granville Island Public Market

Don’t miss the Kids Market, with its kid-approved shops and indoor playground. Check out Sea Village to let the kids imagine what it would be like to live on a houseboat. When you’re done exploring the island, rent kayaks for an excursion along False Creek.

Kids Market on Granville Island



Indigenous people have lived in western Canada for more than 10,000 years. For many visitors, the opportunity to explore this traditional culture and its present-day manifestations is a highlight.

Here are just a few of the numerous places where traditional culture remains strong. Another valuable resource for visitors interested in First Nations culture is the Indigenous Tourism Association of British Columbia (604/921-1070 or 877/266-2822,


Dedicated to the work of Haida First Nations artist Bill Reid, this gallery showcases Reid’s sculptures, carvings, and jewelry (click here).


Several First Nations made their traditional home in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Tour Stanley Park with an indigenous guide to learn more about the park’s First Nations’ heritage (click here).


This excellent museum illuminates the culture of British Columbia’s indigenous peoples and traditional cultures from around the world (click here).


This contemporary indigenous bistro uses traditional ingredients in its elk burgers, game sausages, and bison tenderloin. They serve plenty of salmon and bannock (a type of bread) too (click here).


Stay at Canada’s first indigenous arts and culture hotel, where works by First Nations artists adorn the one-of-a-kind guest rooms (click here).


In Whistler, learn about the history and present-day culture of the region’s First Nations communities at this modern gallery (click here).

traditional indigenous pit house at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Have an early dinner at Go Fish (it’s a short stroll along the waterfront from Granville Island), then catch the Aquabus back downtown.


Start your day at Canada Place with a virtual flight across the country at FlyOver Canada. You even feel the spray as you soar (virtually) over Niagara Falls.

In front of Canada Place, catch the free shuttle to Grouse Mountain. Ride the Skyride tram to the top, where you can visit the grizzly bears at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife, watch the falcons soar at the Birds in Motion demonstration, and get some chuckles at the Lumberjack Show. Go for a hike, and have lunch overlooking the city and water below.

bird of prey at Grouse Mountain

Your next stop is the Capilano Suspension Bridge (from the Grouse Mountain entrance, take bus 236 down Capilano Road). Give the kids a thrill as they look from the bridge to the canyon way below. Explore the Treetops Adventure, where you follow a network of gently swaying wooden bridges to eight treehouse platforms in the forest. When you’re ready to go back downtown, catch the free shuttle.

For supper, let the kids play with the jukeboxes at retro diner The Templeton or slurp up a bowl of ramen at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka.


Many of the city’s top people-watching locales are beaches and walkways. For more urban people-spotting, head for Gastown, Yaletown, or Granville Island.


Stroll the Seawall in Yaletown, the West End, or near the Olympic Village, particularly on a weekend afternoon or summer evening. You’ll have plenty of company (click here).


On the downtown peninsula near Stanley Park, this curve of sand attracts local seniors, gay couples, hordes of visitors, and pretty much anyone who wants to enjoy the views across the water. It’s especially busy at sunset (click here).


Bars and restaurants with outdoor seating line Hamilton and Mainland Streets. Try


On Sale
Jun 23, 2020
Page Count
368 pages
Moon Travel

Carolyn B. Heller

About the Author

A travel writer based in Vancouver, Canada, Carolyn B. Heller has celebrated spring in the Canadian Arctic, swapped fairy tales with a Druze family in the Golan Heights, studied Spanish in Ecuador and Costa Rica, and road tripped throughout North America. She writes about cultural, culinary, and offbeat adventures for Travel + Leisure, Atlas Obscura, Verge Magazine, Explore, The Takeout, Roads & KingdomsMontecristo, Canadian Traveller, and many other publications. And she’s the author of three Moon guidebooks: Moon Vancouver, Moon Toronto and Ontario, and Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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