Some experiences mentioned were provided free to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.
When it comes to traveling, I’m the type of person to have a full written-out itinerary to maximize time and hit all of the must-see spots. But sometimes, my itinerary ends up being a little too efficient. Case in point: my recent trip to Vancouver. Turns out, I planned our trip so well that we ended up hitting most of what we wanted to see in the first three days!
If you’ve got only 72 hours, here’s the perfect Vancouver itinerary to hit all of the best activities and sights you can’t leave without checking out.
Note: any prices mentioned are in Canadian Dollars.
Day 1 Vancouver Itinerary
Roedde House Museum
Start your day by stepping back in time. The Roedde House Museum is a restored Victorian home that used to be inhabited by Vancouver’s first bookbinder, Gustave Roedde, and his family. You can walk through the house and inside the furnished rooms that are set up to demonstrate what late-Victorian family life. There are original belongings from the family’s history, as well as other vintage artifact exhibits. You can do it at your own pace or take a guided tour for $5. On Sundays, they host a “Tea and Tour” for $8 complete with a tea tasting. Outside the home is Barclay Heritage Square, a beautiful park to spend time in.
Take a 15 minute walk through Downtown Vancouver, stopping at any shops or eateries that catch your eye and arrive at the next destination. Alternatively, take an 11 minute bus ride east.
Vancouver Art Gallery / Chan Centre for the Visual Arts
Next, spend an hour or two at the Downtown at the Vancouver Art Gallery— or, depending on when you’re reading this, the newly re-named Chan Centre for the Visual Arts. At the time of writing this post, the gallery is in the midst of a transition to a new location (and the new name). A little bit of a shame, since the current building has a lot of history to it being the 1906 courthouse and added to the charm in my opinion. The new gallery, set to open in 2023, will be a sight of its own, though. There will be community spaces, free-access galleries, and 25 permanent collection galleries. As for now, you can still enjoy the original building for the next few years and the exhibits featuring modern art, interactive experiences, and multimedia work.
Take a 20 minute bus ride southbound to the entrance to Granville island.
Granville Island is a hub for local food vendors, artisans, and performers. Visit the Public Market to grab a bite to eat and shop for unique hand-made souvenirs. Take a moment to peek in the art galleries featuring local and international painters, sculptors, and other crafters. Into live entertainment? You’re sure to find street performers showing off talents, but Granville Island also houses independent theaters that perform both improv shows and full-on productions. While you’re here, if the weather allows, you’ll want to take advantage of the water sports and tours, leading us to our next itinerary item…
Water Adventure Tours
If you want to enjoy the seaside views with a hint of thrill, you’ve got to book a tour with Vancouver Water Adventures, located on Granville Island! Their City & Seal tour is $59 per person, and lasts an hour and a half taking you along the coastline of English Bay, out to Lighthouse park, and over to the Seal Colony! The boats go fast, so don’t be surprised if you end up doing donuts out on the water! You’ll be given a different perspective of Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge, Siwash Rock, and more. The guides are extremely knowledgable and engaging, sharing history and fun facts about Vancouver. Be sure to bring sunglasses and sunscreen, too.
Grab some food from The Granville Island Public Market, and pack it away to picnic. Make your way to the ferry dock right outside the market, and ride to your final stop of the day.
Sunset Beach Park
End your day with a picnic on the beach. Sunset Beach Park lives up to its name as one of the best places in the city to catch the sunset. It’s a designated “quiet beach” to keep the environment tranquil, and there are public washrooms on site. There is even an off-leash dog area if you’ve got a pup with you!
Day 2 Vancouver Itinerary
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park or Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
You can’t leave Vancouver without experiencing one of the suspension bridges. These are bridges nestled among the trees with breathtaking views of the waters below. Both are in North Vancouver, with the main difference being that Capilano is specifically a built up tourist attraction that will cost $16.95-$53.95 (varying by the age of the visitor), while the Lynn Canyon bridge is free.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park gives you a lot more than a bridge to cross. There is a Cliffwalk, a glass walkway jutting out from a granite cliff, as well as a Treetops adventures which is a maze of shorter suspension bridges even higher up in the trees. They lead guided tours included in the price of admission focusing on the history of the park as well as the ecology of the West Coast rainforest. Of course, you can always explore nature on self-guided walks through their solid boardwalks and enjoy the fun facts posted along the way at your own pace. If you’re visiting in the winters nighttime visit may be a better option to appreciate the Canyon Lights festival where the bridges get lit up. There are multiple restaurants, cafes and shops inside the park, too, so feel free to grab a bite before leaving!
If you opt for the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, you’ll also be able to explore the many gorgeous trails in the area. There are swimming holes and waterfalls definitely worth exploring for nature-lovers.
If you decide to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, they offer a free shuttle service to and from Downtown Vancouver and several major hotels. Take the return shuttle to Canada Place, then hop on a bus westbound.
Explore Stanley Park
Stanley Park is a must-see. There is endless lush greenery, rose gardens, ponds and wildlife. It can be jarring to see so much plant life adjacent to a pretty urban city! Depending on your energy levels after the morning activities, you can choose to either stroll along the Seawall or rent a bike to explore! I suggest Yes Cycle rentals, which can be find just outside the park. Your bike rental includes a free helmet, basket and bike lock, so you can stop and explore on foot at any point during your ride. You’ll definitely want to stop and smell the roses, literally! The company also organizes guided tours if you want to be sure you don’t miss any great sights.
If you’re self-guided on your ride through Stanley Park, take an hour or two to check out the Vancouver Aquarium. There are a ton of educational shows and exhibits with a variety of sea life. Be sure you don’t miss the penguins and sea lions! Admission is $38 for adults, and it’s an enjoyable attraction with or without kids!
Happy Hour/Dinner at Stanley’s Bar & Grill
Finally, enjoy happy hour and/or dinner at Stanley’s Bar & Grill in the Stanley Park Pavilion (right behind the gardens). They have a killer happy hour daily from 3pm – 5pm with all appetizers 2-for-1, plus $5 beer pints and $5 hot chocolate with Bailey’s. They also serve salads, soups, burgers, pasta, and have vegetarian options. If the weather is nice, eating on the deck is a must!
Day 3 Vancouver Itinerary
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland California Adventure, you might be familiar with this type of ride. FlyOver Canada is a simulated flight experience that lets you feel like you’re flying over different Canadian landscapes. The special effects experience will make you feel like you visited a lot more than just Vancouver! You stay in a suspended seat, feet dangling in front of a spherical screen that shows you the best Canadian landmarks. You feel wind in your face, mist and even scents! It’s a super cool virtual reality ride, with admission costing $29 during the week and $31 on the weekends.
For $18.25, ride a glass elevator 40 seconds and 550+ feet above Vancouver to the observation deck of Vancouver Lookout. You get panoramic 360 degree views of the city, and will find posted information about the landmarks you can see at each angle. There’s also a revolving restaurant where you can have a meal or indulge in cocktails while taking in the view.
Next, we’ll travel to Chinatown– both walking and the bus will take you about 10 minutes.
Chinatown & Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park
Time to shop in Chinatown! Find some cheap souvenirs to bring home for friends (or yourself). Head to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park, an oasis full of beautiful flowers, a koi pond, and peaceful moments to be had in the gazebos amongst the Chinese gardens. The park is public and free to access, but you can pay to enter the museum portion of the park to participate in guided tours. In my personal opinion, you can forgo the paid part because there is enough to see in the free park. Keep your eye peeled for the turtles!
Something to note, Chinatown is a bit run down and also contains most of the homeless population of the city. You can find great food and shops, but you won’t find the same level of beauty as the rest of the city, unfortunately.
Walk a few blocks north and you’ll hit Gastown, the last stop of the day.
Another great place to find reasonable souvenirs, Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood with a bit of that old-school charm still making it a fun area to walk through. You’ll also find reasonably priced souvenirs here, plus breweries, eateries and boutiques. Take a photo with the iconic Steam Clock, and be sure to catch it play its tune. Have a drink, grab some food and end the day with one of the funnest tours of the city…
Forbidden Vancouver Tour
The Forbidden Vancouver walking tour was my absolute favorite educational experience. They cover the underground, taboo stories of the city’s prohibition era including government corruption, speakeasies and opium dens of Vancouver’s past. You get to see historical landmarks and hear insight on the behind-the-scenes, lesser known tales about their past. The tour company also runs other themed tours like ghost tours, LGBTQ history of Vancouver tours and chocolate tasting tours. The guides are incredibly engaging, knowledgable and funny.
This 3-day Vancouver itinerary really hits all the highlights of the city while still giving you a little room for improvisation. Vancouver is such a dynamic place with so much to do, whether you’re a nature lover or a history buff. I hope you’re able to visit and have a great time in this gem of BC!