Day 1 - See what downtown Vancouver has to offer
Some cities in the world have city centres where you can spend endless days wandering the streets seeing what it has to offer. Vancouver is one of these cities. The vast majority of the city’s hostels are located in the downtown area making it extremely easy to go back and forth to your accommodation while exploring it.
Nelson Park which lies right in the centre of the downtown area is a good landmark to use as a starting point before wandering the streets. Just east of here is Robson Street which is full of shops and restaurants and is constantly compared to Rodeo Drive. Continue travelling east past Alberni Street (packed with more shops) and Georgia Street, a wide tree-lined street, and you will finally find yourself at Canada Place. This cruise ship terminal has many great vantage points to the city’s surrounding mountains. The sail like roof on Vancouver Convention Center is worth the stroll alone.
Vancouver’s Chinatown, which is the second largest in North America, is the perfect place to end up just before returning to your hostel. Traipse through the streets to discover arguably the best selection of restaurants in the city, while in the evenings Keefer and Pender Streets transform into large open-air markets.
Day 2 - Stanley Park and the West End
Located to the north west of downtown Vancouver is Stanley Park. Located within a 10km Seawall, it is continuously one of the city’s main attractions. If you are feeling energetic, the walk around wall which circles the park is spectacular. Along the 10km you are treated to breathtaking views of the mountains, the ocean, and of the city centre itself. In particular, the views of the North Shore and Lions Gate Bridge from Prospect Point are particularly endearing. Here you might also be lucky enough to have an encounter with one of the city’s racoons.
If you have any energy once you complete this trek around the wall there are still a host of inland walks through the acres of rainforest and parkland to keep you occupied. These will bring you to the Totem Pole Park and the park’s gardens also.
Losing yourself in this park for the best part of the day is effortless so by the time you find the time to leave you will find yourself in the West End. Overlooking English Bay, some of the cafés and restaurants here boast some breathtaking views and it is a great place to sit down and unwind after a day in the park.
During the summer a free shuttle bus operates throughout Stanley Park and passes by all main points of interest.
Day 3 - Back and forth across the bay
On the south side of English Bay is where you will find Granville Island, one of the most colourful areas of the city. A public market here ensures the streets are always buzzing with activity. Here you can find bakery, fish, fruit, seafood and wine stalls along with much more. If you enjoy sampling different types of food then you will be in your element moseying from stall to stall to see what tantalises your taste buds the most.
On Granville Island there is also a vast selection of shops and restaurants so finding somewhere to eat after wandering around its streets for a while is no problem (if you don't get anything from the stalls). Street performers also line the streets here while there are many places to sit down at the marina and take in the views.
Just west of the island is Varnier Park museum complex. Vancouver Museum (open Tues-Sun; 10am-5pm; 9pm on Thurs; admission $10) looks at the city’s history and is recognisable through its saucer-like shape. The Maritime Museum (open Tues-Sat 10am-5pm; admission $8) next to here is another uniquely shaped building and also worth visiting. The other museum in the area is the Pacific Space Centre.
Just back across the bay is Yaletown, possibly the liveliest part of Vancouver. There are new bars and restaurants opening, here all the time meaning it has one of the most varied selection of eateries and hotspots in the city. A night here shouldn’t be missed.