If you want to truly experience a place, you have to ask a local for tips. And that’s what we set out to do when we asked Canadians in five cities across the country to tailor-make itineraries for visiting Americans that love to discover the unexpected and go off the beaten path. The result? A local’s guide to each city that isn’t so much an itinerary, but instead a collection of things to do, eat, try, and experience.
You don’t have to spend long in Vancouver to realize it’s a culinary mecca. Claiming to have the most restaurants per capita, the vibrancy of the city’s food carries into the streets where you’ll find eclectic farmers markets, seaside paths for biking, and local artisans elevating their craft.
Joann of Slice of Pai splits her time between Vancouver and Paris and put together this list of Vancouver must-see spots and must-eat foods for Kirsten Alana, the photographer and traveler behind kirstenalana.com. Check out their experience in the video above, then read on to plan your own trip to this west coast gem.
Day 1: Artisan vibes and cafe culture
If you’re lucky, you’ll wake up to a beautiful sunshiny day in Vancouver, which means it’s the perfect weather for exploring by foot. Head to Gastown, a historic neighborhood, where you’ll find Nelson The Seagull — a kitschy cafe that bakes their own bread and serves up a mean avocado toast.
Post-breakfast, roam the streets of Gastown and discover a slew of shops that feature everything from plants and home goods (we recommend Orling & Wu, Old Faithful Shop, The Wild Bunch [inside The Birds & The Beets Cafe], and Inform Interiors), to curated local fashions and gifts (check out Nouvelle Nouvelle, One of a Few, Nifty Do, Meadow Gifts, and Neighbour), to art (stop by Espace D., Hill’s Native Art Gallery, and Gallery Gachet). If you’re keen to really get to know the neighborhood, rent a bike pre-breakfast and pedal from Gastown to English Bay, Stanley Park, or Mount Pleasant.
In Mount Pleasant, explore the side streets and discover murals (the first Mural Festival was in 2016), as well as tucked away little shops like Atelier St. George, where you’ll find unique pottery, textiles, and gifts. Then, head to Fairview Slopes, the neighborhood next to Mount Pleasant, and grab a bite at Farmer’s Apprentice (either brunch on Saturday or Sunday, or an early evening bite during the week). Here, you’ll find a minimalist space that’s focused on local fare, meaning your meal will be super fresh and highlight regional ingredients. They’re often super busy, so be prepared to wait — but trust us, it’s worth it.
Stop for an afternoon pick me up at Beaucoup Bakery, a local fav that features the freshest Parisian-inspired baked goods and delicious coffees, before heading to L’Abattoir for happy hour. Pull up a seat at the bar and people watch while sipping on a finely crafted Negroni in this super hip space. Then, we think you’ll be ready for dinner at Ask for Luigi, where you’ll find fresh pasta in a feels-just-like-home room.
Day 2: Neighborhood exploration and fine food
Didn’t get enough of Gastown? Check out Revolver, one of the city’s most popular coffee shops to start your day with a drink and a snack. Then, in the summer months, head to the Guelph Park Community Garden and Mount Pleasant Farmer’s Market. You’ll be immersed in local culture, with food trucks, market stands, and live music. If you time it just right, you might even be able to catch an outdoor yoga class as you wander through the garden plots.
A short walk from Guelph Park (locally known as “Dude Chilling Park”), you’ll find yourself on the Seawall in False Creek. From here, you can walk into town along the ocean, or take a water taxi. Either way, make your way to the Davie Village. Here, you’ll find English Bay, a popular urban beach surrounded by a colorful and eclectic community. Explore the streets before you head to Kingyo Izakaya for lunch. The special lunch bento box is a must-try here — they only make 10 a day, so be sure to swing by before they close at 2:30pm.
Continue your afternoon by bike, exploring the Seawall that winds through Stanley Park. You can check out the Vancouver Aquarium, stunning scenery, and totem poles here. Drop off your bike then make tracks for dinner, either at Osteria Savio Volpe in the Fraser neighborhood or Annalena, which is a bit closer to downtown.
Finish the night off at Back and Forth, a bar that features ping pong tables and videos games. Or take in some live music at a spot like Guilt & Co., Frankie’s Jazz Club, or Tangent Cafe.
Day 3: Culture and craft
Vancouver is known for its brunch, so head to one of these top local spots: Medina Cafe, Jam, or Fable. After you’re well fed, start a brewery tour, by bike, foot, or van.
Vancouver's beer scene is booming, meaning there are plenty of craft beer joints to check out. 33 Acres is tops for its minimalist decor and beer list, Brassneck is known for their inventive beers, and Strathcona Beer Company is known for their community space and pizza. And that’s only 3 of almost 70 breweries in the Greater Vancouver area! Split a flight (a taster of 3-4 beers) at a few spots, then track down some lunch at one of the many food trucks around the city. Check out this app and website to find ones near you.
Spend your afternoon exploring the culture of the area. Discover local and international artists at the Vancouver Art Gallery, First Nations art and history at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, and Capilano Suspension Bridge for a thrill along with Kia’palano, which sheds light on the First Nations history of the area.
Cap the day off with dinner at Tacofino in Gastown or Hastings Sunrise, followed by a night out on the town at the Vancouver Symphony, The Comedy Mix, or a show at a local theater.
Three days in Vancouver will make you wish for more! Discover more attractions here and start planning your trip.