The Getaway
The Ultimate Vancouver Travel Guide: Discover the Best of the Pacific Northwest

Vancouver, a vibrant coastal city nestled in the heart of British Columbia, Canada, is a must-visit destination for any travel enthusiast. With its stunning natural beauty, diverse cultural scene, and endless outdoor adventures, Vancouver offers something for everyone. Whether you're a nature lover, a foodie, or a culture seeker, this city will captivate you with its charm and leave you wanting more. In this ultimate Vancouver travel guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip, from the best time to visit and where to stay to the top attractions and hidden gems you won't want to miss.

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01 How many days should I stay in Vancouver?

City Skyline and marina of Vancouver from Stanley Park chinaface / Getty Images

To fully experience the best of Vancouver, I recommend staying for at least 3-5 days. This will give you enough time to explore the city's top attractions, neighborhoods, and natural wonders without feeling rushed.

With a 3-day itinerary, you can cover highlights like Stanley Park, Granville Island, and the vibrant streets of downtown. Dedicate a day to biking or walking the scenic 22-kilometer Seawall path that hugs the city's waterfront. Another day can be spent discovering trendy neighborhoods like Gastown and Kitsilano, sampling diverse cuisines, and shopping at local boutiques.

If you have 5 days, add in exciting day trips like visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park or whale-watching excursions. With more time, you can also delve deeper into Vancouver's thriving art scene at galleries like the Vancouver Art Gallery or Museum of Anthropology.

Keep in mind that Vancouver is a highly walkable and bikeable city with excellent public transit, so you don't need to rent a car. Stay centrally in downtown neighborhoods like the West End for easy access to attractions. And while summer is the most popular time to visit, shoulder seasons from March to May and September to November offer mild weather and fewer crowds.

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02 What is the best time of year to visit Vancouver?

The best time to visit Vancouver is from May to September when the weather is warmest, and there is the least chance of rain. Summer temperatures in Vancouver average a pleasant 22°C (72°F), perfect for enjoying the city's outdoor attractions and activities.

For those looking to avoid the peak tourist crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder months of May or September. In May, the city's parks and gardens burst into bloom with colorful tulips, cherry blossoms, and rhododendrons. Festivals like the Vancouver International Children's Festival and Vancouver Craft Beer Week also take place.

September brings comfortable temperatures, fewer visitors, and events like the Vancouver International Film Festival and Vancouver Fringe Festival. Foodies will delight in the Feast of Fields farm-to-table tasting event and Richmond's Asian night markets.

While summer is ideal, don't discount a winter visit. Vancouver's coastal climate means winters are milder than other Canadian cities. Daytime highs hover around 6°C (43°F), allowing for sightseeing and special events like the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden and the Vancouver Christmas Market. You can also pair a city stay with nearby skiing at Grouse Mountain or Whistler Blackcomb.

No matter the season, Vancouver's natural beauty shines. But for the best combination of warm weather, outdoor events, and comfortable sightseeing, plan your visit between May and September.

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03 What are the best ways to get to Vancouver?

A rapid transit commuter train crosses the Fraser River in British Columbia JoshuaHolder / Getty Images

There are several convenient ways to get to Vancouver: By Air: Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is a major hub with flights from many domestic and international destinations. It's just 7 miles from downtown and accessible via public transit, taxi, or rideshare. The airport itself has an impressive array of dining and shopping options to enjoy, including a small jellyfish aquarium exhibit. By Train: Amtrak's Cascades line offers a scenic train route along the Pacific coast connecting Vancouver with Seattle and Portland. The comfortable ride takes you past ocean and mountain vistas. Trains arrive right in downtown Vancouver at Pacific Central Station. By Bus: Budget-friendly buses like BoltBus and Greyhound provide frequent service between Seattle and Vancouver, with the trip taking around 4 hours depending on border crossing times. Most buses arrive at Pacific Central Station, conveniently located near public transit connections. By Car: Driving from nearby cities like Seattle allows flexibility to stop at attractions along the way, like touring the Boeing Factory or visiting quaint towns on Whidbey Island. The 140-mile drive takes 2.5-3 hours, but factor in potential border wait times. Once in Vancouver, you likely won't need a car, as the compact downtown is very walkable with excellent public transit and bike lanes.

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04 Which airport should I fly into to get to Vancouver?

Airbus A330 on the runway in the Frankfurt airport Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock.com

The best airport to fly into for visiting Vancouver is Vancouver International Airport (YVR). As the second busiest airport in Canada, YVR offers extensive flight options and convenient access to the city center.

Located just 7 miles from downtown, YVR serves as a major transpacific hub with over 25 million passengers annually. It provides nonstop flights to 115 destinations in 25 countries, including the most flights to China of any North American airport. Major airlines like Air Canada, WestJet, and various international carriers operate out of YVR's six terminals.

Upon arrival, you can easily reach downtown Vancouver in around 25 minutes via the Canada Line rapid transit system. The airport itself offers an impressive array of amenities, including a wide range of dining and shopping options, free Wi-Fi, luggage storage, and even a small jellyfish aquarium exhibit.

Consistently ranked as a top airport in North America, YVR has been named the "Best Airport in North America" by the prestigious Skytrax World Airport Awards a record 14 times, most recently in 2024. With its extensive route network, modern facilities, and quick access to the heart of Vancouver, YVR is the clear choice for beginning your visit to this vibrant Canadian city.

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05 Where should I stay in Vancouver?

Vancouver City under the mountain Aolin Chen / Getty Images

When choosing where to stay in Vancouver, consider these top neighborhoods: Downtown Core: As the heart of the city, downtown offers convenient access to major attractions like Stanley Park, Canada Place, and Robson Street shopping. It's ideal for first-time visitors who want to be in the center of the action. Hotels here span all budgets, from the luxurious Fairmont Pacific Rim to more affordable options like the Hampton Inn & Suites. West End: For a taste of local life, stay in the West End residential neighborhood bordering downtown and Stanley Park. It has a laid-back vibe with indie shops, diverse eateries, and the lively Davie Village gayborhood. Budget-friendly hotels abound, like the Barclay Hotel on Robson Street. Yaletown: This trendy neighborhood boasts a cool urban feel with converted warehouse lofts, chic boutiques, waterfront parks and the False Creek Seawall path. It's one of the nicest parts of Vancouver and appeals to couples and stylish travelers. The OPUS Vancouver is a top boutique hotel pick here. Gastown: As Vancouver's oldest neighborhood, Gastown oozes historic charm with cobblestone streets, Victorian buildings, and the famous steam clock. It's a haven for foodies with some of the city's best restaurants and cocktail bars. Stay at the Victorian Hotel for a heritage boutique experience. Granville Island: While not the most convenient for sightseeing, this artsy enclave offers a unique experience with its public market, theaters, galleries and waterfront restaurants. The Granville Island Hotel is the only accommodation right on the island, or stay just across the bridge at the Residence Inn by Marriott for more affordable rates.

No matter where you choose, Vancouver's excellent public transit makes it easy to get around. But for the most convenient, walkable experience, downtown and West End are top choices. Weigh factors like budget, sightseeing priorities and preferred vibe to find the best Vancouver neighborhood for your stay.

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06 What is the best way to get around in Vancouver?

bike riding on the sea wall of downtown Vancouver Stanley Park Sterling Lorence Photo / Getty Images

The best way to get around Vancouver is by using the city's excellent public transportation system. TransLink operates an efficient network of buses, the SkyTrain rapid transit system, and the SeaBus ferry, making it easy to explore Vancouver's top attractions without a car.

Consider purchasing a DayPass for $11.25, which provides unlimited rides on all TransLink services for a full day. Just 3-4 rides make it worth the cost. The Frequent Transit Network offers service every 15 minutes or better on key routes, so you won't have to wait long.

Vancouver is also a highly bikeable city with an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes. Rent a bike from shops like Spokes Bicycle Rentals or Jo-E Cycles near Stanley Park to enjoy scenic rides along the Seawall. For an electric boost, try an e-bike tour with Cycle City Tours.

Walking is another great option in Vancouver's compact, pedestrian-friendly downtown core. Most attractions are within a 20-minute walk. Strolling the vibrant neighborhoods like Gastown and Yaletown allows you to soak up the local atmosphere.

If you need a car for a short trip, Vancouver has several car-sharing services like Evo and Modo. With gas and insurance included, they offer a convenient alternative to traditional car rentals.

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07 How to book tickets for major Vancouver attractions?

Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver Alexandre Deslongchamps / Getty Images

To easily book tickets for major Vancouver attractions, consider these options: Vancouver Attraction Passport: This pass costs $113.66 USD for adults and $57.66 for children, offering access to multiple top attractions at a discounted price. It includes admission to places like the Vancouver Lookout, with the ability to add on other experiences. The mobile ticket provides direct entry, and the app has helpful information on hours, reservations, and tips. Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour: For a convenient overview of the sprawling city, book tickets for a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour online or in person. Tickets are valid for 1-2 days, allowing you to see highlights like Stanley Park, Gastown, and Granville Island at your own pace with the ability to get off and reboard at any of the 24 stops. Prices vary by operator and duration. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park: This popular attraction amongst the treetops can be booked online in advance or at the park entrance. Admission includes access to the suspension bridge, cliff walk, treetop walks, and more. Ticket prices are around $54 CAD for adults. Going early or later in the day can help avoid crowds at this busy spot. FlyOver Canada: Found at Canada Place, FlyOver Canada is a must-do 4D flight simulation ride. Book your timed entry ticket online to soar over stunning Canadian landscapes from coast to coast. Prices start at $27 CAD for adults. Individual Attraction Websites: Most major Vancouver attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, and Museum of Anthropology have their own websites with online ticketing. Booking directly can sometimes yield discounts for seniors, youth, or families. Some spots offer timed entry tickets, making it easy to plan your day.

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08 Are there any tourist passes for Vancouver attractions?

woman walking in famous attraction Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver

Yes, there are a couple of tourist pass options available for attractions in Vancouver:

The Vancouver Attraction Passport costs $113.66 USD for adults and $57.66 for children. It includes admission to the Vancouver Lookout, with the ability to add on other attractions at discounted member rates. The mobile ticket provides direct entry to included attractions. The pass also offers exclusive savings of up to 50% off at select Vancouver restaurants and shops.

Another option is the Vancouver City Tour Pass which costs $128.55 per adult, a savings of about $15 compared to purchasing admissions separately. It covers entry to several top sites like Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Vancouver Lookout, and more.

While these passes don't include public transit, you can complement them with a TransLink DayPass for $11.25. This provides unlimited rides on the SkyTrain, SeaBus and buses for a full day, making it easy to get between the various attractions. Just 3-4 transit rides make the DayPass worth the cost.

Before purchasing a pass, carefully compare the specific attractions included and individual admission costs to ensure it aligns with your sightseeing priorities and provides good value. The passes can be an economical choice for hitting Vancouver's highlights but may not be worthwhile if you only plan to visit a couple of spots.

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09 How far is Banff from Vancouver?

Banff national park

The driving distance from Vancouver to Banff is approximately 850 kilometers (530 miles). It takes around 9-10 hours to drive directly between the two destinations on the Trans-Canada Highway 1.

However, most people prefer to break up the journey and take a more scenic route over 2-3 days to fully enjoy the stunning mountain vistas along the way. A popular option is driving via BC-99 N and AB-93 S highways, which wind through the Coast Mountains and Rocky Mountains, passing landmarks like Shannon Falls and Whistler.

If you don't want to drive, there are alternative transportation options. Rider Express operates a bus service from Vancouver to Banff that takes about 15 hours and costs around $161 CAD one-way. Flying is also possible - you would fly into Calgary Airport, which is about 90 minutes from Banff. Flight prices vary by season, with May typically offering the cheapest fares starting from $77.

While there is no direct train, Rocky Mountaineer runs scenic rail journeys between Vancouver and the mountain towns of Jasper or Banff. These luxury sightseeing trains offer unparalleled views of the majestic Rockies. Prices start at over $1000 per person for multi-day trips.

No matter how you choose to travel from Vancouver to Banff, the distance is significant. But the incredible mountain scenery and outdoor adventures that await make the journey well worth it. Just be sure to allow ample time to explore the many natural wonders along the route.

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10 How far is Vancouver from Seattle?

Seattle Skyline and Space Needle Joel Rogers / Getty Images

The driving distance from Seattle to Vancouver is approximately 140 miles (225 kilometers). The average driving time is around 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on traffic and border crossing times.

The most direct route is via Interstate 5 North, which offers scenic views of the Pacific Northwest landscape. However, there are a few alternate routes that provide unique experiences and attractions:Washington State Ferries: Taking a ferry from Seattle to one of the nearby islands like Whidbey Island can break up the drive with stunning coastal views. From there, you can drive north to the border crossing at Blaine or Sumas. Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway: For a more leisurely and picturesque journey, consider detouring onto State Route 11, also known as Chuckanut Drive. This 21-mile byway hugs the cliffs above Puget Sound, winding through lush forests and past charming towns like Fairhaven and Bellingham.

Along the way, there are several worthwhile stops depending on your interests and schedule:

  • Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo for aviation enthusiasts
  • Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham for shopping
  • Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine to stretch your legs at the border
  • White Rock in British Columbia for a waterfront lunch break

Keep in mind that border wait times can vary significantly, so check conditions on the day of travel and allow extra time. Also remember to bring proper identification like a passport or enhanced driver's license.

While driving offers the most flexibility, there are other transportation options between Seattle and Vancouver as well, including Amtrak trains, BoltBus and Greyhound buses, and flights into Vancouver International Airport. Weigh factors like cost, travel time, and desired scenery to determine the best mode for your trip.

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11 How far is Whistler from Vancouver?

Scenic street view with many tourists in Whistler Village. Whistler is a canadian resort town visited by over 2 million people annually. Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com

The driving distance from Vancouver to Whistler is approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles), which typically takes around 1.5 to 2 hours of non-stop driving along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99).

However, there are many worthwhile stops and viewpoints along the route that can easily turn the trip into a full-day or multi-day excursion. Popular stops include Shannon Falls, the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in Squamish for hiking, and Brandywine Falls closer to Whistler.

If you prefer not to drive, there are frequent shuttle bus services that operate between Vancouver International Airport (YVR), downtown Vancouver, and Whistler. Companies like Skylynx and Epic Rides offer comfortable coaches with amenities like free WiFi and luggage storage. They provide hotel drop-off service in Whistler Village.

For a more unique experience between May and September, you can also take a scenic float plane flight from Vancouver Harbour or YVR to Whistler with Harbour Air. The flight takes about 30-45 minutes, and free shuttles are provided from the Whistler floatplane dock to Whistler Village.

While driving offers the most flexibility to explore the many sights along the Sea to Sky corridor at your own pace, the shuttle buses and floatplanes provide convenient, stress-free options to travel between Vancouver and Whistler. With the short travel time, it's possible to do Whistler as a day trip, but an overnight stay allows you to fully experience the many outdoor activities and charms of this world-class mountain resort town.

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