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
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
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.
Related: Best Walking Tours in Vancouver
Walk Through Gastown
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:
- Epic souvenir shopping at places like the Coastal Peoples Gallery
- Happy hour craft beer and cocktails at places like Clough Club
- Some of the city’s best restaurants, like St. Lawrence
- The Gastown Steamclock: Vancouver’s most photographable object
- The Vancouver Police Museum: maybe the most macabre museum in Canada
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
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.
It is named after the acclaimed Haida artist, carver and goldsmith Bill Reid who did more to popularize the style than any other.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Maybe this year is the year! (editor’s 2023 note: no, it isn’t)
Hit up the 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
Whether you’re up for cool things to do in downtown Vancouver or something a little more laid back, downtown contains many of the top areas to stay in Vancouver.
Let’s take a closer look at the area’s geography to clear up the confusion.
Related: Best Vancouver Festivals
The Downtown Core
The central portion of downtown contains the Financial District, the Granville Strip entertainment district and Robson Street – arguably Vancouver’s best shopping district.
A former warehouse district transformed into one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods.
The area is home to sidewalk cafés, chic restaurants, trendy bars and various beautiful parks along its stunning stretch of the Vancouver Seawall.
Related: Best Hotels in Yaletown
The Stadium District
The location of Rogers Arena and BC Place, the home to the city’s perennially suffering professional sports franchises; the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, the MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps and the CFL’s BC Lions.
The area also contains a variety of hotels, bars and restaurants catering to sports fans and concertgoers.
It’s even home to Parq: our number-one choice on our list of the best Vancouver casinos.
Related: Best Hotels near Rogers Arena
The West End
This largely residential neighbourhood is most widely known as the gateway to Stanley Park.
However, the West End also contains Davie Village, the home to much of the city’s LGTBQ community.
The area also houses numerous bars and restaurants, a collection of parks and some of Vancouver’s best beaches nestled along the shores of False Creek.
Stretching between Canada Place and Stanley Park, Coal Harbour is a peaceful waterfront area contains a mix of residential and commercial buildings.
The area is most known for the striking juxtaposition between its large glass condominium towers and the peaceful tranquillity of Burrard Inlet.
Related: What is Vancouver Known For?
Gastown and Chinatown
Technically downtown includes the neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Gastown.
However, due to the abundance of attractions in these historic neighbourhoods, we’ve elected to grant them the special attention they deserve.
You can get free visitor tips, things to do, food, and nightlife options by clicking the links below:
Looking for Things to Do in Downtown Vancouver?
Still looking to fill out your downtown Vancouver things to itinerary?
I invite you to write me in the comments below with what you want. That way, I can give you custom advice for your travels.
Whichever of my top things to do in downtown Vancouver you choose, I wish you the best of luck! ?