So obviously I am here for longer than a day but it has been difficult to spread out sites and figuring out what to do. I didn’t do all the sites but I’ll outline what other sites there are in another post. I thought if you are visiting Vancouver then you would like to know what a day out itinerary would look like.
I am staying in an Airbnb (yet again, I know!) and it is slightly out of the way (Burnaby) but the transport links here are pretty good. I would highly recommend a Compass card which is the equivalent of a London Oyster card, it charges differently for zones 1,2,3 and if you cross from one zone to the other. I believe the maximum it can charge is $3.75 for a 90 minute continuous journey, so if you get on the Skytrain and get onto a bus, the charge will be included initially and you won’t get any further deductions when you board another form of transit.
How does the Compass card work?
There are kiosks where you can buy a daypass for $10 or add it onto your compass card. The charge for obtaining a Compass card is $6 and then you add credit (add stored value) but you can only use coins and $10/20 notes (I stood like a lemming for 5 minutes trying to add $50 value because I ball so hard). If you don’t want to keep the card as a memento then you can get a $6 refund at the main station offices in Central but a lot of people tend to leave it. Also the card will run into negative balance in case you run out of credit on your journey and will allow you to reach home and then you can top up if wanted. Here is the rundown:
- You can purchase a Compass card at kiosks at Skytrain stops but pay $6 for it
- It can run into negative balance and you can still reach home if needed
- $5 surplus is added if you are travelling into/out of Sea Island (YVR airport)
- Zone 1/2/3 – $2.20/$3.25/$4.30 costs and won’t charge further in 90 minute transit – so you can go from Skytrain to bus etc.
Sites in a day
Maybe you only have a day to see Vancouver and then you’re off to Banff, Jasper, Whistler? No worries, you can blitz the sites in 2-3 days. However during my initial orientation days (first two days – I usually just wander about and become accustomed to the transport and city), this is what I saw.
- Canada Place
- Vancouver Art Museum
- Vancouver Police Museum
- Stanley Park
- Granville Island
This famous district has a lot to offer, at first when I walked through, I thought this is just a hipster looking street but it has a lot of history. When you walk through you will pass the steam clocktower, which is one the few functioning steam clocks in the world. If you are lucky, the clock will bellow out steam every 45 minutes. If you walk further down Cambie street then you will reach the statue of Gassy Jack who was a bar owner and explorer who founded the area, we know as Gastown. There are a plethora of bars and restaurants about in the district which might take your fancy.
Canada Place – Flyover Canada & USA
This is located at the port and it is close to Gastown, I actually took the Skytrain Expo line to its terminus to reach Waterfront; which is itself a beautiful architectural station. Canada place is a five minute walk from here and you can freely enter the area. I’m sure there are shows or exhibitions in its Convention centre but I walked straight up to the pier and got a few cheeky selfies before heading up to the Flyover, which is a virtual reality flight over famous Canadian sites like Niagara falls and Canadian Rockies. The cost of the ticket was $27 – £15, which almost destroyed my daily budget but you get a free bag drop and a 30 minute ride. The initial show, you just stand in a room and a 360 panoramic film plays showcasing modern Canada and then you move into the VR flight area and strap in. At first there is complete darkness then it hits you, you’re flying over Canada, up and over fields and getting sprayed by the Niagara falls. Although it is a pricey ticket, I would highly recommend doing it.
Yaletown – Vancouver Art Museum
Another district in Vancouver and it is clearly signposted with flags displaying free wifi in Yaletown. It is another area where you can find fusion eateries and restaurants. I didn’t explore much of Yaletown but there were a lot of restaurants, coffeeshops and pubs around. However one site I really did enjoy was the Art museum. The cost of entry was $24 – 14 which again was steep for me but I was lucky because they had a showcase of art from Takashi Murakami.
The art itself was pretty spectacular because he mixes his art with bold colours and it appears there isn’t a pattern to the way he does this. In the exhibition, Murakami said he tries to combine his art with what is occurring in modern society and his most recent exhibit “The octopus who eats its own leg” is a metaphor for Murakami himself. He said that he is constantly stressed running exhibits across the world and always takes on work which is consuming him, so he is the octopus and he is consuming himself. In other pieces, he showcases his feelings towards the 2011 earthquake in Japan and also combines traditional oriental art with a modern twist.
Chinatown – Vancouver Police Museum
As I walked from spot to spot, I wandered through Chinatown and there are a lot of Chinese supermarkets and places to eat. Unfortunately, I think Chinatown has a lot of streets where the homeless reside, which was a sad site to see as it appeared that there were hoards of them in the alleys.
As I wandered about, I found the Police Museum. The museum itself costs $12 to entry – £6 and was a small museum but wasn’t busy at all. There are about 4-5 rooms and shows murder stories, autopsy room and the history of the Vancouver Police department. Interesting museum but nothing special.
This park is something special. I actually spent two days in Stanley park ( I didn’t camp there don’t worry). There is so much to see and do there that you could spend maybe 3-4 days exploring the different parts of it. I decided to walk through the park along some of the trails to Beaver lake and Second beach but you can follow the Seawall and walk alongside the river.
However if you aren’t a fan of walking then I would highly highly recommend renting a bike and cycling through Stanley park. The views are awesome as you will pass along the different beaches and at points, will be able to see the peak of Grouse Mountain, Mt Seymour and Lions Gate bridge. If you reach the peak of the park then you will see the famous Totem poles and venture back into the city. Stanley park is amazing on a clear day and a great family day out or couples walk. You could spend a day out here and picnic near the Teahouse restaurant, definitely a great experience.
Another site which is an interesting part of Vancouver. If you are looking to get to it then you will have to take transport, we took the Skytrain to Granville station and then a bus to Granville Market. The public market was the highlight of the island but there is more to do there than just this. It is a great day out for the family as they have a special area for children but also ferry rides along False creek and even to different points along the Vancouver harbour.
The public market was pretty cool, you can grab hot food in the food court then head out to the pier and enjoy the view. In terms of food, there wasn’t anything that I thought was really special, they served pizza to Chinese stir fry so I opted for a Canadian smoked beef hotdog. The fresh food stalls are a different matter as you can grab a fresh bagel at Siegels or smoked Canadian salmon at the fish counter.
After exploring the market you can wander around the local shops and see if any local art of handmade soaps interest you.
There is a lot to do in Vancouver, if you are stretched for time then you could squeeze in most of the city sites in 2 days.