I’m from Vancouver, so I thought I’d start by giving some tips on what to do and see in my hometown and favourite city in the world.
When to go:
Vancouver is beautiful all year round, despite the whining you may have heard about all of our rain, but the best time to visit is definitely summer. The most exciting part of Vancouver is the outdoor activities, and in the summer that includes hiking, kayaking, climbing, swimming, and much more.
That said, you won’t be wasting your time visiting in the winter; the skiing is pretty spectacular out West, and even if you don’t have time to venture up to Whistler, there’s some great local mountains as well.
Bus: The bus system is relatively good, but varies where you are in the city. You’ll have no problem moving around the downtown core, but may run into more difficulties the farther out of town you get. Public transit is sorted into three zones, with costs increasing depending on how many zones you travel through.
SkyTrain: The SkyTrain is Vancouver’s answer to the Tube, and works like an above-ground Metro system. They’re currently updating the system, so soon it will be more comprehensive and cover more ground.
Canada Line: This above-ground train line was built for the 2010 Olympics. You can take it straight from YVR airport to Waterfront Station, and from there you can connect to anywhere in the city.
Sea Bus: The Sea Bus is a public transit boat that connects Waterfront Station in downtown to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It costs the same as bus fare, though remember the Sea Bus qualifies as “2 Zone” so you may have to pay slightly more for the crossing.
What to do:
There are endless things to do in Vancity, but below are some of my favourites:
– Hike to Quarry Rock. This easy hike never gets old, and always yields spectacular views. Come spend the day in Deep Cove, and leave about 3 hours for the hike so that you can take your time and really enjoy it.
– Visit the Vancouver Aquarium. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the Vancouver aquarium. It is so well put together, and is known for being considerably more ethical towards the animals than a lot of other sea worlds/aquariums.
– Drive to Heaven. Heaven is the local name for a lookout point on Cypress Mountain. A short ways up the mountain’s road, you can pull off into a small viewpoint. It’s stunning day or night.
– Spend the day at Granville Island. Granville Island is not, in fact, an island, but its unique culture would lead you to believe that it is. Packed with crowds and street performers, it’s a great place to spend a weekend afternoon.
– Run/Walk/Bike the Stanley Park Seawall. The seawall is consistently spectacular, and can be enjoyed running, walking, or biking. To get around the whole park is 8.8km, but it’s easy to as far as you would like.
Where to eat:
Vancouver has an endless selection of restaurants, and it would be impossible to go over them all, but here are a few that I never miss when I’m home:
– Finch’s Tea & Coffee. Finch’s is known by most as the best sandwich in town, and on weekdays you’ll see it lined up out the door at lunch time. Go and pick from a huge selection of baguette-style sandwiches, and expect to receive it wrapped up in plain brown paper tied up with string.
– Nuba. Nuba could be my favourite restaurant of all time. Their Lebanese food is to die for, and you won’t regret leaving yourself lots of room to eat. Don’t miss the Najib’s Special, a beautiful deep fried cauliflower dish. I’ve been known to get a second order.
– Sushi Bella. You can find sushi on every corner downtown Vancouver, but my personal favourite can be reached by taking the SeaBus across to North Vancouver. Sushi Bella has all the traditional rolls, but also makes fusion sushi named after Vancouver landmarks. Personal favourite: The Grouse Mountain roll.
– Bier Craft Tap & Tapas. This is another personal favourite that I’ve been going to for years. Not only do they have the best selection of Belgian beer in town, but their tapas never disappoint. If you’re a mussels fan, they’ve got you covered, and I never go without ordering the baked brie.
– Honey’s. I could be biased with this one, having grown up in Deep Cove, but I still believe Honey’s makes the best doughnuts in the world. They’re best when warm, but I’ve never had a bad one.