Vancouver is one of those special cities that always manages to defy the expectations of its visitors.
Whether you have a week in the city or just one day, you have to make sure to try some of the sustainable dining options and killer cocktails inspired by the West Coast, take in the beauty of the mountains, and get lost in a few of the welcoming shops and galleries peppered throughout the city.
There’s no better time to visit Vancouver than spring, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. So grab an umbrella and be prepared to take in the city like a true local.
Here is our guide to a perfect spring day in Vancouver.
1. Get Caffeinated
Begin your day at Pure Bread Bakery on West Hastings, where you can fuel up on coffee and their life-changing sticky caramel buns and jalapeño and cheddar scones. You’ll fall so in love with the bakery’s cozy décor and friendly staff that you’ll never want to leave. Or if you’re on the city’s south side, head to Small Victory on Homer Street, where the owners take pride in everyday small victories like serving the perfect cup of coffee or savoury piece of fresh bread.
2. Walk it Off
It’s time to build up an appetite. Head to Stanley Park, where you can cut through the lush grounds and completely forget you’re still in the city. Next make your way to the Sea Wall, where you can go cycling, running, or walking as you take in the incredible sights. On a clear day you can enjoy panoramic views of Grouse Mountain, the Pacific Ocean, and maybe even a pod of Orcas if you’re really lucky.
After making your way onto the Sea Wall, you’re going to want to head to Coal Harbour where you can take in the beauty of the pristine mountains. Make sure to check out the digital orca created by Douglas Coupland, located adjacent to the Vancouver Convention Centre, as you head east towards Gastown – Vancouver’s gathering place for stylish locals. Here you can walk along the cobblestone streets and get lost in the many eclectic shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and impeccably curated galleries. Don’t forget to check out the iconic steam clock that was built in 1977.
4. Fuel Up
Next, partake in a local ritual – a long and leisurely brunch. The only downside is Vancouver is home to too many good brunch spots. If you’re visiting during the week, you’ll have a better chance of getting in at a decent time as the brunching regulars will most likely be at work. If you’re visiting over the weekend you could experience some longer waits. The Twisted Fork Bistro is a cozy, bustling brunch joint that serves up amazing home-style dishes. Café Medina, a Vancouver brunch institution, serves up an incredible Mediterranean-inspired all-day breakfast menu, with the most amazing Liege-style (authentic Belgian) waffles. To get a taste of true West Coast dining, head to Yew for a seafood-centric brunch experience and try the smoked salmon Benedict.
5. Head to the Island
After eating, head south and check out the cherry blossom trees as you make your way to Hornby Street. Here you can catch the Aquabus Ferry to Granville Island, Vancouver’s not-so-secret hidden gem. At the market you can check out the hundreds of stalls selling fresh seafood, produce and artisan goods. Finish your visit by exploring the many eclectic shops and galleries and stop for a quick pint and a snack at the Granville Island Brewery if you’re feeling hungry.
6. Get Your Culture On
Go back to the mainland and head to Robson Street, where you can check out some of the most talented buskers in the city. Then make your way to the Vancouver Art Gallery for your daily dose of culture. Take a photo on the gallery’s iconic steps, and then head inside to check out the latest exhibit, MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture. This is the gallery’s largest exhibit to date and features work from Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Quentin Tarantino.
By now you’ve most likely worked up a thirst, so join the après-work crowd for a pre-dinner bevy. Depending how far you want to wander, you can check out Keefer Bar in Chinatown for some of the most unique cocktails in the city – we suggest ordering the Dragonfly. Or check out L’Abattoir, a French-inspired eatery that was built in the 19th century on the site of Vancouver’s first jail. Here you can choose from a variety of innovative cocktails; we suggest trying the Gastown Swizzle or the Mexican Firing Squad Special.
Lucky for you, it’s now time to eat. If you feel like something more casual, venture to Ask For Luigi, an unpretentious gem in the city. This Italian spot was voted restaurant of the year at last year’s Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards, so you know you’ll be in for some wickedly good pasta. Or if you feel like rubbing shoulders with some of Vancouver’s elite, head to Hawksworth, a chic fine-dining eatery in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Here you can indulge on dishes that are inspired by Vancouver’s culture and infused with local ingredients.
9. Night Cap
Before calling it a night, head to Prohibition, an upscale, Jazz Era-inspired bar experience also in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Here you can choose from a variety of elegant cocktails, Absinthe tastings, and an impressive collection of wines and beers. From Wednesday to Saturday, guests can enjoy live music, but on any other night the bartenders in action serve as the evening entertainment. For a more casual vibe, head to Hello Goodbye in Yaletown for some fun and live music. This underground cocktail lounge is intimate and cozy for a drink, but a dance floor will ignite in the middle of the room if you stay past 10:30 p.m.