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27 Things to Do in Downtown Vancouver: What to Do DT

If you’re looking for the best things to do in downtown Vancouver, I’ve got the mother lode.

These downtown Vancouver attractions run the gauntlet from a chill urban oasis to epic food and drink to full-on nights out.

Let’s figure out what to do in downtown Vancouver!

Things to Do in Downtown Vancouver

Check out Stanley Park

The Seawall runs past Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a 405-hectare (1,001 acres) public park situated alongside the Westernmost border of Downtown Vancouver.

This is one of the best things to do in Vancouver, downtown or not. And trust me, it’s not just any park. In fact, Trip Advisor has recently christened it “The Best Park in the World.”

Stanley Park is a uniquely natural evolution of the pre-existing coastal rainforest that has been adapted to its surrounding urban environment.

Here you can bike along the park’s world-renowned Seawall, marvel at the exotic Coast Salish totem poles, or explore the wonders of the Vancouver Aquarium.

I also suggest taking Stanley Park tours to get the full experience.

Related: Best Hotels Near Stanley Park

Take a Tour of Downtown Vancouver

Courtesy: Forbidden Tours

You can check off all the places to visit in downtown Vancouver by taking one of Vancouver’s top sightseeing tours.

I find this the best way to take in the sights, learn about the city, and even get in some exercise.

Some of the top tours include:

  • Lost Souls of Gastown: Live the Great Vancouver Fire, smallpox outbreaks, and tales of revenge and redemption in this delightfully macabre Vancouver walking tour.
  • Stanley Park Bike Tour: Take a guided bike tour of Vancouver and weave through old-growth forest trails, learn about local flora and fauna, and live Coastal First Nations history.
  • Vancouver City Highlights Tour: Check out the Vancouver Lookout and Capilano Suspension Bridge and get a Vancouver downtown city highlights guided tour all at once.

Walk Through Gastown

the gastown steam clock erupts with steam in vancouver canada

When people ask me what to do in downtown Vancouver my gut reaction is to direct them to Gastown.

Vancouver’s most historic district is famous for its cobblestone streets and bars, and the best things to do in Gastown include:

Looking for more places to eat? Check out my post on the best restaurants in Gastown.

Related: Best Gastown Hotels

View Local Indigenous Art at the Bill Reid Gallery

the raven and first men miniature version at the bill reid gallery in vancouver bc

A Vancouver itinerary cannot be considered complete without exploring the history and culture of the indigenous people who’ve called the area home for time immemorial. 

Nestled in the heart of downtown, this small gallery is the only facility dedicated entirely to contemporary Northwest Coast Indigenous Art.

vancouver whale tour banner

It is named after the acclaimed Haida artist, carver and goldsmith Bill Reid who did more to popularize the style than any other.

The Bill Reid Gallery contains an extensive collection of his works and those of his contemporaries. If you can’t make it out to UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, then a trip is highly recommended.

Eat at Some of Vancouver’s Best Restaurants

Booking a table at one of Vancouver’s best downtown restaurants should be an automatic for anybody, visitor or local.

Here are a few amazing options:

  • Blue Water Cafe: Fresh, high-quality, sustainable seafood. An extensive raw bar features premium cuts of sushi and sashimi and an extensive selection of local and imported oysters and caviar.
  • Cioppino’s: Award-winning chef and owner Pino Posterano masterfully combines the rustic simplicity of his Calabrian roots with elevated Italian culinary techniques and fresh West-coast ingredients.
  • Marutama: Ramen spot that was initially founded in Japan, famous for its creamy chicken broth and house-made noodles. Also a great gyoza spot and one of the best value places downtown.

Take a Downtown Vancouver Food Tour

Eating must eat Vancouver food doesn’t have to mean booking a table at Vancouver’s best restaurants.

One of the best ways to get a guided tour of downtown Vancouver is to see the city while scheduling stops at some amazing Vancouver treat spots.

Two of my favourite Vancouver food tours that include Vancouver downtown activities include:

  • Gastown Historic Food Walking Tour: A walk through Gastown’s classic cobblestone streets with an improv comic as a guide and stops for seven food tastings and three alcoholic beverages. Expect poutine, dumplings, cheesecake, and more.
  • Wok Around Chinatown: Prowl for goodies at traditional medicine shops, cookware stores, and a Chinese bakery – all led and narrated by a neighbourhood chef. You’ll learn the streets and crispy BBQ duck.

Walk Through Chinatown

A parade in Chinatown, Victoria BC

Chinatown Vancouver is the second largest in North America, and it’s a great way to experience a bit of Chinese culture in the city.

It’s conveniently located right on the outskirts of downtown. Some of the best things to do here include:

  • Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Garden: The first Chinese “Scholars” garden built outside of China remains the largest outside of Asia and is an amazing urban escape right in the chaos of downtown Vancouver.
  • The Chinese Cultural Centre Museum: The first Chinese Canadian culture museum. Here you can experience the Chinese Canadian immigrant experience in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 
  • Chinatown Millennium Gate: These terracotta tiled arches create one of the most emblematic spots in downtown Vancouver and make an awesome photo spot.
  • Chinatown BBQ: The best BBQ chicken, pork, or duck you’ll ever get – done in the traditional Hong Kong style, this is one of the best value meals in the entire city.

Take a 4D Flight Across Canada

riders laughing as they fly over the canadian landscape at the flyover canada ride in vancouver bc
Courtesy: Flyover Canada

Right at Canada Place, next to the Vancouver Cruise Terminal, you can strap in and prepare yourself for an amazing flying experience.

The Flyover Canada ride uses state-of-the-art 4D video technology to create a flight simulator for the ages. This contraption takes you on an eight-minute ride through Canada’s best natural and urban landscapes

You’ll get special effects, such as wind, mist, and scents and a thrilling, realistic flight experience. Who needs to buy a flight across Canada when it’s right here?

Shop up a Storm on Robson Street

People shopping along Vancouver’s Robson Street

Some of Vancouver’s best shopping is along Robson Street, right in the heart of downtown.

The fun begins on Granville Street, where you can find the Pacific Centre Mall. This spot is home to popular department stores, the Hudson Bay Co. and Holt Renfrew.

At Robson Square, you’ll find a multitude of shops and boutiques, including favourites like Roots, Lululemon, Nike, Muji and Aritzia

Head a block North to the “Luxury Zone,” which can be found on Alberni and West Georgia Streets. This area is perfect if you’re looking for something more opulent.

Experience Vancouver Nightlife

young people drinking at a bar on commercial drive in vancouver

Fun things to do in downtown Vancouver usually stop (and end) at Vancouver’s best bars.

Downtown Vancouver also has a handful of nightlife districts bound to make you turn it into a crawl. Here are a few areas you’ll want to check out:

  • The Granville Strip: Vancouver’s closest answer to the Vegas Strip, the Granville Entertainment District, is six blocks of bars, mostly frequented by young people, backpackers, and clubbers.
  • Yaletown: A plethora of bars, restaurants and lounges catering to yuppies, celebrities, foodies, and anybody else cool. It’s Vancouver’s most stylish nightlife area.
  • Gastown: World-class cocktail bars and cheap and cheerful dive bars serving up the best Vancouver craft beers are the names of the game here. If you’re a drinker through and through, this is it.

Take in the Views at Vancouver Lookout

The view of Burrard Inlet from Vancouver Lookout
Instagram: @vancouverlookout

Located a stone’s throw away from Waterfront Station, the Vancouver Lookout is a 553-foot (168 metres) tall observation deck. It provides visitors with stunning panoramic views of the Vancouver skyline, the North Shore Mountains and Burrard Inlet.

Take advantage of the interactive displays or a multi-lingual tour from a knowledgeable local guide. That way, you can learn more about the city’s past, present and future.

The best part is that admission is valid all day! So you can head up in the morning and return at dusk for sunset views over the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the best things to do in Vancouver when the sun is going down.

Catch a Canucks Game

the vancouver canucks take the ice in rogers arena

Hockey is so deeply intertwined with Canada’s cultural identity that it’s arguably as much of a national religion as a national pastime.

Playing out of downtown’s Rogers Arena, the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks have just celebrated their 50th anniversary. While their play has resulted in more broken hearts and hockey riots than championships, Vancouverites still can’t get enough.

If you’re in town between October and April (or June if we make the playoffs!), read up on your hockey slang and grab some Canucks tickets.

Maybe this year is the year! (editor’s 2023 note: no, it isn’t)

Hit up the Art Gallery

The entrance to the Vancouver Art Gallery

Housed in a stunning 165,000-foot neo-classical building in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. The Vancouver Art Gallery is guaranteed to add a little culture to your visit.

You’ll find it adjacent to Robson Square, which frequently hosts political rallies and cultural festivals. The VAG (I swear I didn’t make it up!) is the city’s informal cultural heart.

You can head inside and marvel at any of the 11,000 pieces. These include Coastal Indigenous works, famous local artists such as Emily Carr and a significant European Classical collection.

Things to Do Downtown Vancouver Map