Are you visiting Vancouver? Explore the highlights of the city and its surroundings with this 3 days Vancouver itinerary.
Vancouver is a beautiful cosmopolitan city in British Columbia, Canada.
Submersed in nature surrounded both by ocean and mountains this amazing location lends itself to a huge variety of outdoor experiences, from viewing wildlife to adventure activities.
This beautiful, modern city has also some excellent restaurants and exciting markets to visit, awesome shopping and an active nightlife. Visiting Vancouver, you have to experience the culture and make it onto the ocean and the surrounding mountains forming part of the city.
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The Ultimate 3 Days in Vancouver Itinerary
It’s difficult to squeeze all the things to do in Vancouver into such a short time, but this is my recommended 3-day Vancouver itinerary when visiting this wonderful Canadian city:
- On the first day get to know the city by exploring the Downtown area, the heart of Vancouver together with the nearby Stanley Park.
- Day two gets into nature and explores what I feel is the most spectacular part of the city, the mountains and the ocean. From downtown Vancouver it’s easy to reach the harbor and the Grouse Mountain.
- On the final day drive one of Canada’s most beautiful routes, the Sea to Sky highway and see the breathtaking Garibaldi Lake.
How to Get Around During your 3 Perfect Days in Vancouver
Vancouver has a great public transport system consisting of the Skytrain, Seabus and bus routes.
Using these it’s easy to get anywhere in the city for cheap. One day, one ride and a variety of other options are available.
For the Skytrain, you can buy tickets in the station from vending machines with cash (you do receive change) or card. Buying tickets on the bus you have to pay with exact change.
The SkyTrain end of the line is at the Waterfront station. From here you’re close to the SeaBus terminal, catch a seabus (boat) over to the North Shore SkyTrain ticket is valid for 90 minutes if you make it in time the SeaBus ride will be included! It is a nice 15-minute boat ride with good views.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Here’s a guide on Where to Stay in Vancouver with the top places to stay in Vancouver, BC.
One of the most common questions asked is ‘What is the best area to stay in Vancouver’.
Downtown Vancouver has great accommodation options and is close to everything, it is nice that you can walk to many Vancouver sites around the city center from here.
Public transport in Vancouver is great and some of the surrounding neighborhoods might be cheaper, with great AirBnB options, so definitely check it out.
Here you have other great accommodation options in Downtown Vancouver:
Check Rates for Hotels in Vancouver on Booking.com.
What to Do in Vancouver in 3 Days
Day 1 – Begin your 3 Days in Vancouver by Explore the Core of the City
Start to know the city by exploring its core in Downtown Vancouver, the area is small and easy to see on foot.
Starting at the Waterfront station I would visit sites in the order below:
Stop 1: Canada Place
Vancouver’s waterfront is an awesome place to start exploring the city. Canada Place located here is part of the Vancouver Convention center. The building is world-famous for its architecture designed in the form of a giant sailing ship.
Many of Vancouver’s visiting cruise ships dock here and it is interesting seeing these massive ships from up close.
The Canada Place deck is a good place to walk with views of the ocean and the North Shore Mountains. The Olympic Cauldron is located closeby.
The FlyOver Canada film experience at Canada Place is a lot of fun. It is a multi-sensory theatre, visitors watch a film about Canada strapped into seats for a virtual flight over Canada, from coast to coast even with wind and water splashing for effect.
Stop 2: The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG)
Housed in the beautiful former provincial courthouse building the gallery is one of the largest art galleries in Canada.
Hosting more than 10 000 pieces, with rotating exhibitions and 200 major artworks this is the city’s leading gallery. There are often several exhibitions going on, but go and check out the top-floor showcasing Emily Carr paintings, with plenty of nature-themed works from BC’s favorite historic artist.
On Tuesday evenings the admission fee is by donation. The gallery is situated in Downtown Vancouver next to Robson Square, and it’s a great visit for rainy dais in Vancouver.
Stop 3: Visit Gas Town
Gas Town is one of the oldest parts of the city, named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire steamboat captain who arrived in 1867. This area is a must see if you’re visiting Vancouver in 3 days.
The area is known for a trendy food and drink scene including chic cocktail lounges and hip restaurants. This is the area to stop for gourmet sandwiches and a variety of great local seafood for lunch.
Gas Town is also home to a mix of contemporary fashion and tourist-oriented businesses like souvenir shops, restaurants, nightclubs and indie art galleries.
The Gastown Steam Clock is a major tourist attraction. This is one of the only functioning steam-powered clocks in the world. The Steam Clock whistles and blows steam every 15 minutes, afterward go for a craft beer at the popular Steamworks Brew Pub.
Stop 4: Visit Vancouver’s Chinatown
Go for a walk through Vancouver’s Chinatown. The largest Chinatown in Canada was established in 1890. A great place for authentic Asian cuisine and souvenir shopping.
Go for a walk in the tranquil Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Based upon the Ming Dynasty’s private scholar’s gardens, it is the first of its kind built outside of China.
Stop 5: The Vancouver Aquarium
The popular Vancouver Aquarium is located inside Stanley Park.
It is the largest aquarium in Canada and home to more than 70,000 creatures, a huge diversity of marine creatures and reptiles including dolphins, anacondas, eels, sea lions, sea otters, sea turtles and more. It’s the perfect stop if you have 3 days in Vancouver with kids.
Following the aquarium, you can step out and start exploring Stanley Park.
Stop 6: Stanley Park
This huge park is surrounded by Vancouver Harbour and English Bay and has a total of about 27km (17 miles) of trails winding through the forest, perfect for a great hike.
The Stanley Park Seawall loops around Stanley Park and is a very popular attraction in Vancouver. The seawall path all the way next to the ocean is a favorite place for hikers, runners, bikers, and rollerbladers. Some come here for a swim.
Explore the park and city by bicycle with this Vancouver Bicycle Tour – Rent bicycles outside the park and cycle the seawall, a 5-hour cycling tour of Vancouver including Stanley Park, Gastown and Granville Market is available.
Day 2 – Continue Your 3-Day Itinerary in Vancouver by Exploring the Mountains and the Ocean
Surrounded by ocean and mountains, Vancouver has some spectacular nature scenery to explore during your three days in Vancouver and taking the Gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain or a Harbor cruise is a great way to do this. The city is known as an amazing playground for adventure sport enthusiasts.
Grouse Mountain offers fantastic terrain and facilities for snow sports in winter and great hiking in summer. Ocean lovers can rent a kayak, go surfing, scuba diving or diving with seals!
Stop 1: Grouse Mountain
The 1250 meters (4100 feet) high Grouse Mountain rising above the city is often called ‘the Peak of Vancouver’.
The beautiful mountain is located only 15 minutes by public transport from downtown Vancouver. The Mountain is open all year with a range of activities on the top.
The easiest way to get to the top is with the Skyride aerial tramway taking you to the top of the mountain in about 10 minutes with spectacular views. In summer the Grouse Grind is a very popular, grueling 2.9 km (1.8 mi) hike, with an elevation gain of 853 m (2800 feet) up Grouse Mountain, it has been nicknamed “Mother Nature’s StairMaster”. The average time it takes to hike the mountain is 1h30min to 2 hours.
The Grouse Grind is a one-way trail, hiking down is not allowed. You can buy a ticket for the Gondola ride down at the Grouse Mountain Chalet on the top. If you want to hike down it is possible to hike down on the BCMC trail.
Other popular summer activities are disk golf, chairlift rides and paragliding. If you are visiting Vancouver in winter, on Grouse Mountain skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing and more winter activities are very popular. The mountain is a top-quality venue for skiing and snowboarding with ski-lifts and 33 ski and snowboard runs as well as 6 snowboarding terrain parks. There is a lot to do on top of the mountain such as: a grizzly sanctuary, zipline, bird of prey demonstration, a lumberjack show and more.
A General Admission ticket for Grouse Mountain includes return transfer from Canada Place in downtown Vancouver to Grouse Mountain.
Stop 2: Ocean activities
Whale watching is the most popular ocean adventure in Vancouver. You can see these amazing creatures as thousands of whales migrate through the area between March and October.
Different whale species that can be seen are humpbacks, orcas, minke, and grey. Other animals often seen are dolphins, sea lions, and seabirds. Whale watching season in Vancouver is May until September with half and full-day tours available. Tours leave from centrally located Granville Island.
There are plenty of active options to explore Vancouver on the ocean.
Renting a kayak or Stand Up Paddle Board and starting paddling at Granville Island, English Bay Beach, or Kitsilano Beach is very popular. There are always mini-ferries, kayaks, dragon boats and yachts around.
See stunning views of Vancouver’s downtown area from the ocean and spotting wildlife like harbor seals, cormorants and even whales happen with a bit of luck. If you want to get wet, book a trip to go Scuba diving or snorkeling with the seals and sea lions.
Stop 3: Granville Island
Granville Island is a fun place to walk and shop. Since many of the ocean activities operate from here it is a good time to visit.
Not a real island, it is a peninsula connected to Vancouver and is a very popular shopping district and a hotspot for tourism and entertainment.
A favorite with foodies and music lovers with plenty of buskers performing in the streets all day and with a huge variety of excellent treats for sale. The public market is open daily from 09:00 to 17:00.
Day 3: Finish your 3-Day Vancouver Itinerary by Driving through the Sea to Sky Highway and Hiking to the Garibaldi Lake
On day three I would drive part of the Sea to Sky Highway, one of the most beautiful drives in BC and hike to the spectacular Garibaldi Lake.
If you want to stay in the city, seeing the Capilano suspension bridge and exploring Deep Cove is a great alternative.
If you have 4 days in Vancouver, add the latest and include the road trip from Vancouver to Garibaldi Lake. You’ll love it!
Stop 1: Drive the Sea to Sky Highway
The Sea to Sky Highway is a 121 km (75 miles) stretch of Highway 99 connecting Vancouver to Whistler. The highway has amazing views and goes past several of Canada’s most beautiful sites.
The best time of the year to drive the route and for hiking is June to September. You will only have enough time to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola or Garibaldi Lake.
Stop 2: Sea to Sky gondola
One of the most popular attractions in between Vancouver and Whistler and the perfect day trip from Vancouver, the Sky gondola takes passengers from near the highway, up high above Howe Sound.
You can also hike up to the top via the challenging Sea to Summit Trail climbing 900m over 7km. At the top, there are viewing platforms, a suspension bridge and the Panorama Trail.
Stop 3: Garibaldi Lake
The beautiful Garibaldi Lake with turquoise glacial waters is located in Garibaldi National Park at an elevation of 1450m surrounded by snow-capped mountains and alpine meadows. Hiking to this beautiful lake in Garibaldi Park is a great day excursion from Vancouver.
It is not an easy walk to the lake, you need a good fitness level to do the 18 km out and back hike to the lake. It is uphill all the way, gaining about 900m elevation. The hike takes most people for about 6 hours.
The trailhead in the Rubble Creek parking area can be reached by public transport from Downtown Vancouver using the Parkbus, they give you more than enough time to complete the trail.
If you have more time to spend in Vancouver, take a look at these Vancouver weekend getaways. You’ll love it!
Things to do in Vancouver in 3 days in a Map
If you are a more visual person, don’t worry! I created this Vancouver 3-day itinerary map so you can see where you will be heading during your 3 days in Vancouver!
Where to eat in Vancouver
Vancouver has some amazing restaurants, bars and street food not to miss.
Poutine is a very popular dish only found in Canada and is french fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. Poutine is sold on any market and take-away place, gut for something special try Fritz European Fry House in Davie Street.
A Japadog stand is something not to walk past, these hybrids between a hotdog and Japanese cuisine are very popular and delicious.
The beer scene in Vancouver is massive with hundreds of Craft Breweries to pick from. Mount Pleasant/Olympic Village is not far from Downtown with a huge variety of excellent close to one another.
Enjoy Vancouver’s thriving craft beer scene with this award winning Vancouver Craft Brewery and Food Tour. The 4-hour tour includes all beer samples, full meal, a free beer glass, transportation, and more!
Day Trips from Vancouver
Two of the most common questions asked is ‘how many days do you need in Vancouver’ and ‘Is 3 days enough in Vancouver’ and like most cities the answer depends on what type of trip you are looking for.
There are so many wonderful day tours that you can take from Vancouver if you don’t want to drive like this 7.5-Hour Sea to Sky Tour that takes you along the Sea-to-Sky corridor, visiting Horseshoe Bay, Shannon Falls and the famous Sea to Sky Gondola.
On this Half-Day Whale Watching Tour from Vancouver you will see several types of whales, as well as sea birds and other marine species; and you’ll enjoy the views of the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands and Howe Sound.
If you’re spending a week in Vancouver, you can explore Tofino, Victoria or Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in Vancouver Island. You’ll love it!
Many tours in Vancouver pick you up form your hotel which is a wonderful option.