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Why go to Vancouver

Framed by water and snow-capped mountains, Vancouver, the largest city of Canada’s west coast is stunning. But Vancouver holidays are about more than just scenery. Add easy access to world-class hiking and skiing and the museums, galleries, and buzzing dining scene, and you’ll see why Vancouver is consistently ranked among the world’s most liveable cities.

Vancouverites make the most of the natural beauty on their doorstep, and you should, too. Even a short drive from the centre will uncover mountain trails that lead past waterfalls, over suspension bridges, and up to a peak covered with centuries-old red cedars. Vancouver receives plenty of rain, so there are green spaces worth a visit in the city, too, including waterside Stanley Park.

If you want to explore further afield, the legendary Whistler ski resort is a 90-minute drive. During the ski season, head there to lose yourself in fresh powder on alpine trails. For pristine deserted beaches and artsy towns, black bears and forests, Vancouver Island is a tranquil escape from it all.

Back in the city, galleries showcase the best of local and indigenous artists, and museums offer insights into the heritage of the First Nations. For a different type of culture, catch the Canucks ice hockey team play Canada’s favourite sport at Rogers Arena. And if you feel inspired, you can get your skates on at one of the city’s eight ice rinks.

To experience more of Vancouver’s cultural variety, look to its dining scene. Considered one of Canada’s most ethnically diverse cities, Vancouver has no shortage of international cuisine, while fine-dining restaurants and neighbourhood bistros proudly showcase farm-to-table dining. You can just as easily find cheap eats, such as national favourite poutine, chips smothered in cheese and gravy, around the city – perfect if you’ve spent some time raising a glass or two to the thriving craft beer scene.

When to go to Vancouver

It’s just best to admit it: Vancouver gets plenty of rain. But the showers are vital for keeping the surrounding landscape green and rarely last too long.

Vancouver is a city with four distinct seasons, so the best time to visit depends on how you want to spend your days.

Fans of winter sports will find December to February ideal for powder on the nearby slopes, with temperatures sitting just below zero.

Spring is perfect for hikers, with temperatures around 10 to 15C. Meanwhile, summer months are high season, when the crowds increase with the temperature (averages around 22C). Expect to find plenty of people on the city beaches soaking up the sunshine – and be prepared for the highest accommodation prices at this time of year.

September and October are good options if you’re looking for cheap Vancouver holidays. There are fewer crowds, it’s not too cold, and the autumn leaves are abundant.

What to do in Vancouver

Vancouver holidays are about taking advantage of the city’s unique location. Enjoy a beautiful hike in the forest or join the locals on a stroll waterside through a vast park. If it’s raining (not uncommon in lush Vancouver), try the excellent Museum of Anthropology, revealing the history of the city and its first residents.

Stanley Park

Cycle or walk along Vancouver’s favourite trail for sweeping views of the waterfront and nearby mountain ranges. The nearly 10km (6 mile) seawall path traces the edges of Stanley Park. Stop along the way to admire First Nations totem poles and carvings at Brockton Point, the Lions Gate Bridge, and sandy beaches.

In the centre of the park, stroll past giant red cedars and Douglas firs, then visit the waterfowl, Douglas squirrels, and a beaver colony at Beaver Lake.

Hiking

Surrounded by mountains, Vancouver has spectacular hiking within a 30-minute drive of its downtown area. The gruelling Grouse Grind, nicknamed Mother Nature’s Staircase, is a two-hour climb through alpine forest, offering fantastic views from the top over a well-earned beer at the Grouse Mountain Chalet.

Lynn Canyon Park is a different kind of challenge. The picturesque walk stops by waterfalls and swimming holes before reaching the suspension bridge 50m (164ft) above the forest canopy.

Granville Island

On a small peninsula, Granville Island is best known for its covered public market selling local artisan products, such as cheese, olive oil, fish, and baked goods. There is an international food court, a microbrewery, and gin distillery in the buildings, too. When you visit, be sure to stop by the art galleries, jewellers, and independent fashion boutiques making one-of-a-kind creations on the island.

Keep an eye out for the Giants on the waterfront, six 21m (70ft) silos painted into colourful characters.

Gastown

Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood is an eclectic mix of hipster cafes, bars, and souvenir shops in 19th-century buildings. Vintage lampposts line the brick and cobblestone streets, and you’ll find a crowd in front of the unusual Steam Clock, which whistles every 15 minutes.

You can also check out a bronze statue of the man who founded the area, ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton. Or climb the Vancouver Lookout for a 360-degree view of the city.

Museum of Anthropology (MOA)

MOA is designed to promote understanding and awareness of British Columbia’s First Nations people and other culturally diverse groups from around the world. Inside, you’ll find a display of indigenous carvings and totem poles. The journey continues outside with a traditional Haida House.

The museum offers daily free tours, but you can also see the artefacts from different cultures, such as Cantonese opera costumes and Fijian Lali drums, if you walk around without a guide.

Where to stay in Vancouver

For families

Little legs won’t have to walk far to the main sights if you stay downtown. A little further south, Yaletown borders False Creek; it’s here you can find the ferry service across to Granville Island and the interactive Science World. There’s also green space in David Lam Park and Coopers’ Park, as well as a waterfront promenade.

To live like local families, head to Kitsilano – known as Kits to residents. It has a more chilled vibe, with tree-lined streets, sandy beaches, and public swimming pools.

For travellers on a budget

For a cheap Vancouver break, look to laid-back West End – it has plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets. Stay here to you’ll be between downtown and Stanley Park – you can spend a full day in the latter without spending a cent.

The city beaches are also a short walk – or hired-bike ride – away. Head to English Bay Beach in time for the incredible sunset views. When you’ve worked up an appetite, West End’s Denman Street is brimming with cool cafes and restaurants serving international cheap eats.

For food and drink

Yaletown has the best in upmarket dining in Vancouver, with local celebrity chefs serving up fresh seafood and fine Pacific Northwest cuisine. Stay around Mainland and Hamilton Streets for great nightcaps or if you fancy some dancing.

For something more casual, take a craft-brewery walking tour at Mount Pleasant, with several food-serving brewpubs within stumbling distance of each other. Most offer food ranging from artisan pizzas to gastro classics. Or, wander up to Main Street and take your pick from Lebanese cuisine, fried chicken, and much, much more.

For nightlife

For great nightlife, stay near Granville Street downtown – particularly in the blocks bordered by Nelson Street and Robson Street. Here, you’ll find nightclubs, restaurants, and late-night bars ideal for club hopping (expect queues on weekends).

To keep life more chilled, choose accommodation near the old centre of Gastown. You’ll be with a mixed crowd enjoying a drink or listening to live music in low-key pubs and relaxed cocktail bars.

For spotting local celebrities in pricey cocktail lounges and hotel bars, opt for Yaletown.

For culture

Art galleries, fashion boutiques, and diverse accommodation and dining are all downtown. It’s also home to the Vancouver Opera and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

To discover Vancouver’s multicultural vibe, you could stay near Japantown or Chinatown – both central and a short walk from downtown. Meanwhile, Kitsilano is a beachside neighbourhood with three great museums. It also has good transport links to Granville Island, where you can visit the city’s renowned public market.

Good to know

Flight time

9 hrs 40 mins

(from London)

Currency

Canadian dollar ($)

Language

English

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