How To Spend 2 Days In Vancouver – 48 Hour Itinerary
Nestled on the west coast of Canada, amidst coastal rainforests, lies the city of Vancouver. The biggest city in British Columbia offers an array of activities for city lovers and outdoor enthusiasts (it’s no wonder I like the place so much!)
Three years ago I landed in Canada for the first time, Vancouver was the first Canadian city I ever visited. I had no idea where I was going or what I was really doing (except going to work a ski season in Whistler). I’ve since explored far more of Vancouver and grown to love the city. Initially Vancouver didn’t appeal to me much, but it’s a city that shouldn’t be rushed. Take your time and you’ll find hidden gems all over.
I’ve always found Vancouver to be a bit of a strange city, it’s small compared to what I’m used to, and extremely modern. And, quiet. (I’m from London! Anything less than 8million people is quiet..) I’ve always said Vancouver (especially South Granville) reminds of Los Angeles/Hollywood. There are also parts of town that really have that San Francisco feel – Like Davie Street. Vancouver definitely embodies that laid back West Coast vibe.
2 Day Vancouver Itinerary
Being a city that’s full of modern architecture, offers one of the BEST food scenes, and is so close to nature, there’s no reason not to love Vancouver! If you’re looking to spend a couple days in the city and want to know how to make the most of your time, this two day Vancouver itinerary hits the cities main spots!
Getting Around In Vancouver
With the main attractions in Vancouver being relatively close to each other, the best way to get around is by public transport or walking. A compass day pass will give you unlimited access to all buses, all zones on the Sky Train and the sea bus. The cost of a one-day compass pass is $10.50. If staying in the Downtown Vancouver area, most of the cities attractions will be within walking distance. You can also opt to take a Hop on-Hop off bus for 24 or 48 hours.
Day 1: Stanley Park, Canada Place, Gas Town
49th Parallel is the place to head for coffee. The name 49th Parallel refers to the circle of latitude that crosses over the city of Vancouver. This small chain coffee shop serves the best espresso I’ve ever had. I first discovered their coffee at CAMP coffee here in Whistler, and instantly fell in love. Not only does 49th Parallel serve great coffee, they also serve Lucky’s Donuts – a perfect combination. With stores dotted all over Vancouver, you’re bound to come across them during your visit. Make sure you check them out!
Stanley Park is by far one of my favourite places and a Vancouver must-see. The views as you pass the Lion’s Gate Bridge into the city are incomparable. This is to Vancouver what Central Park is to New York and Hyde Park is to London. If you only have 2 days in Vancouver, make sure you prioritise a visit to Stanley Park – you won’t regret it!
There are several ways to get around Stanley Park, walk, rent a bike or opt to take the horse-drawn cart. The only down-side to the horse-drawn cars is that they don’t allow you to get out at any of the stops, so if you want to check out a certain area you’ll have to walk back to it. Stanley Park is almost as big as Downtown Vancouver itself, renting a bike is the most efficient way to see the park.
The Totem Poles are what draws most people, and I must admit, this is my favourite part of Stanley Park. Native art is just so fascinating to look at. And I love that this part of Canadian culture is still alive and well in BC.
There are many sights to see along Stanley Park’s sea wall, including the girl in a wet suit, Siwash Rock, and the SS Empress Of Japan Figurehead. Head to Prospect Point for incredible views of Lions Gate Bridge and West Vancouver.
The summer months make Stanley Park the perfect spot for a picnic. Picnix Vancouver is a company that offers a unique picnic experience. Their picnic wagons convert into a small table and come complete with reusable dining ware, picnic blanket, pillows, sun umbrella and outdoor games. Their Stanley Park package serves 2-3 people including a five-course tasting menu featuring local cheeses, charcuteries and cheesecake for dessert.
The summer also brings with it the “Theatre Under The Stars” which is an open air theatre right in the centre of Stanley Park. The show season starts around June and ends in September. Previous years seasons have seen shows like Mary Poppins, Newsies and Mamma Mia take residence here.
Coal Harbour & Canada Place
Coal Harbour is the neighbourhood just next to Stanley Park. Here you’ll find a multitude of bars and restaurants right on the waterfront. Canada Place is an easily recognisable building in Vancouver’s cityscape.
There are public art sculptures all over Vancouver, in Coal Harbour you’ll find the “Digital Orca” statue, which looks like a pixellated Orca made from lego.
The Pink Alley in Vancouver is exactly what it sounds like! The Pink Alley, also known as Alley Oop, is another favourite among the Instagram crowd (yes, of course I joined in!) The idea behind “More Awesome Now”, this once grey and dreary alleyway has been transformed into a vibrant and fun place to experience in the city. The alleyway is still accessible to cars so just make sure you move out the way when taking those insta-shots!
Explore Gas Town
Gas Town is another area of Vancouver that I love to walk through. It’s a tourist hotspot, but for good reason, you won’t find anywhere else like it in Vancouver. Since it is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, it’s charming streets and Victorian buildings make you feel as though you’ve walked back in time.
The main attraction here is the Gas Town Steam Clock. Built in 1977 the Gas Town Steam Clock is relatively young compared to its surrounding buildings. But it’s old world Victorian style means it fits in perfectly! What makes this clock unique is that it is powered by a steam engine and every hour, on the hour, the whistle will blow. Built and designed in Vancouver by horologist Raymond Saunders, the Gas Town steam clock was the first of it’s kind.
Gas Town is home to a multitude of bars, restaurants and gift shops for all your souvenir needs. You’ll also find some of the best native art galleries here. Since Gas Town is home to a diverse range of eateries, the best way to experience it is through a walking food tour!
Sample The Dim Sum In China Town
Vancouver’s China Town is the biggest in Canada. This animated neighbourhood is the place to come for the best Dim Sum in Downtown Vancouver. The Jade Dynasty restaurant offers Dim Sum all day. Prices per item are $6.25 each – a bargain! If Dim Sum isn’t your thing they also offer a full menu featuring everything from tofu to fried rice.
Switch out the hustle and bustle of the city with a tranquil oasis by visiting The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It’s the perfect way to escape the concrete jungle.
Pet The Cats At Vancouvers Catfé
Serving catpuccino’s and mewocha latte’s is Vancouver’s Catfé, a short walk from China Town. Admission is $10 and proceeds go towards the temporary foster care of all cats until the are adopted! You’ll get a 1-hour time slot and all the cat attention you could need! They’re hot beverages even come with cute cat designs. Maybe not everyones cup of tea but I love anything cats!
See The Canucks Play
One of the most Canadian things to do in Vancouver is watch the Vancouver Canucks play at Rogers Arena. If there’s one place to watch the Hockey it’s right here in the great white north! If visiting in Winter, you’ll be able to catch games anywhere from October to April.
Day 2: Granville Island & Capilano Suspension Bridge
Honolulu Coffee Company is another unique chain in Vancouver that fuses coffee with Hawaiian culture, serving freshly ground Kona & Maui coffee. On a rainy day, Honolulu Coffee is the perfect place to experience the spirit of aloha. Even the interior will brighten your day, complete with traditional Hawaiian music. Make sure you try their Hawaiian Latte which features flavours of coconut and macadamia.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
At 460ft long and sitting 230ft above the Capilano River, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver’s top attractions. It was originally built in 1889 and brings in just over 1million visitors per year. Located on Vancouver’s North Shore the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a bit further out but can be accessed via the free shuttle from Canada Place.
Since it’s construction it has gone through several refurbishments with several additional park features being added. During busy times the bridge can get pretty crowded and does sway somewhat, but despite my fear of heights I really enjoyed this!
There are several other bridges inside the park including the Treetop Adventure and the Cliff Walk. It’s also home to one of the largest collections of First Nations Totem Poles. Last year I visited the park during it’s “Capilano Lights” Christmas season, but if visiting in the summer it’s recommended to get there early to avoid crowds.
Admission Price: $53.95 (Fall 2019)
Granville Island Public Market
Next you’ll want to head to Granville Island, located across False Creek under the Granville Bridge. The area Granville Island now sits on was once just a sandbar that was used as a fishing area by the first nations people. In the late 70’s it was revitalised from it’s industrial past-self into it’s present day state.
The Granville Island Public Market is home to over 50 independent food vendors and is the ultimate culinary destination in Vancouver. This lively market is reminiscent and comparable to Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market, New York’s Chelsea Market, London’s Borough Market or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. If it’s not obvious, I really like public markets! I often find that if there’s a public market in a city, there’s a high probability you’ll find some of the best food there. Granville Island Public Market is no exception!
Granville Island Brewing Company
With Vancouver being home to some really good micro and craft breweries, a visit to Granville Island is never complete without sampling a cold beer from Granville Brewing. They offer a multitude of flights, depending on your individual tastes.
Imagine eating a hotdog topped with seaweed, teryaki sauce, or kimchi! Sounds odd? Sounds yum! Japadog takes hotdogs to the next level, combining North America’s love of hotdogs with the founders home country cuisine of Japan.
I love hotdogs, I also love Japanese food – and Japadog has to be one of the best hotdogs I’ve tried. This is definitely a staple when visiting Vancouver.
Cocktails At Notch 8
Finish your trip with some of the best cocktails you’ll find in Downtown Vancouver. Located inside the Fairmont Hotel, Notch 8 makes perfectly crafted cocktails. This is where I celebrated becoming a permanent resident at 10 am in the morning – the staff were kind enough to open the bar early! (They were still serving breakfast – oops!)
Other Things To Do In Vancouver
Vancouver may be a small city but it’s packed full of activities. Here are a few more ideas for your trip:
- Vancouver Art Gallery
- Museum of Anthropology
- Queen Elizabeth Park
- Science World
- Vancouver Aquarium
- Vancouver Lookout
- Grouse Mountain
- Whale Watching
Vancouver is also a great place to base yourself for any day trips. Day trips to Victoria and Whistler are very accessible from the city. If you’re staying longer than two days you might want to venture further afield.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Vancouver?
Vancouver is known for it’s rain, but that’s not to say it rains all the time. (Just a lot of the time!) I like to think of Vancouver as the London of Canada, if you’re used to any kind of British weather, apply the same rules in Vancouver. I never left my house in England without an umbrella, and I don’t here in the Pacific Northwest either. The summers in Vancouver can be really nice, blue skies and sunshine most of the time, while the autumn/fall brings the rain! Don’t let the weather stop you from visiting. Vancouver can be beautiful in the rain, especially at night when the city lights reflect off the rain drops. So put on your sexiest raincoat and live a little!
Where To Stay In Vancouver
If you like to be close to and within walking distance of the main attractions, then anywhere in Downtown Vancouver would be ideal. I really like the neighbourhood of Yale Town because it’s less crowded, has a locals vibe but also close enough to public transport, and it’s within walking distance to China Town and Gas Town. There are hotels for every budget but prices can get steep, book ahead to get your hotel of choice!
I also like Air bnb simply because if you are renting a car you can find apartments that offer free parking!
Like most places, two days in Vancouver is a very short time to see everything the city has to offer. Plan your time accordingly and you’ll be able to see the cities top sights and attractions. Vancouver is an amazing place for food – so make the most of your time exploring it’s different culinary scenes. Get in touch with nature while you’re here, take in the amazing views of the mountains and soak in the fresh air.
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