The sun rises over Vancouver’s skyline

27 Things to Do in Downtown Vancouver: What to Do in 2023

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

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 an 405 hectare (1,001 acre) public park situated alongside the Westernmost border of Downtown Vancouver.

This is one of the best things to do in Vancouver, downtown or not. This is not just any park. In fact, Trip Advisor has recently christened it the “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 renown Seawall, marvel at the exotic Coast Salish totem poles, or explore the wonders of the Vancouver Aquarium.

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 getting on 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 some exercise in as well.

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 all about local flora and fauna, and live Coastal First Nations history.
  • Vancouver City Highlights Tour: Check out the Vancouver Lookout, Capilano Suspension Bridge, and get a Vancouver downtown city highlights guided tour all in one.

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 an exploration of the history and culture of the indigenous people who’ve called the area home for time immemorial. 

Nestled right in the heart of downtown, this small gallery is the only facility of its kind 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.

The Bill Reid Gallery contains an extensive collection of his works along with those of many of his contemporaries. If you’re unable to make it out to UBC’s Museum of Anthropology then a trip is highly recommend.

Related: Best Things to Do in Summer in Vancouver

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’s a few amazing options:

  • Blue Water Cafe: Fresh, high quality, sustainable seafood. An extensive raw bar features premium cuts of sushi and sashimi, in addition to 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 their 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 in 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 lead and narrated by a neighourhood 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 Chinatown in North America, and it’s a great way to experience a bit of Chinese culture in the city.

It’s right on the outskirts of downtown and some of the best things do to here are:

  • 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 is 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 – taking you on an eight minute ride through Canada’s best natural and urban landscapes

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

Plan My 4D Flight Now

Shop up a Storm on Robson Street

People shopping along Vancouver’s Robson Street

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

The fun begins on Granville Street, where you can find the Pacific Centre Mall, which is home to popular department stores; the Hudson Bay Co., Nordstroms 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 if you’re in the mood for something a little more opulent.

Related: How Many Days Do I Need to Spend in Vancouver?

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’s 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 is the name 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 that 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 to 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 the breathtaking views of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

Vancouver Lookout Tickets

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 are currently in the midst of celebrating 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)

Related: Best Things to Do in Vancouver in Winter

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.

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

Head inside and marvel at any of the 11,000 pieces; including Coastal Indigenous works, famous local artists such as Emily Carr and a significant European Classical collection.

Grab My Tickets Now

Downtown Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Vancouverites colloquially refer to the city’s entire Northwestern peninsula as “downtown”. However, as you’ll see below the area actually contains a number of distinct neighbourhoods.

Whether you’re on 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 the Robson Street – arguably Vancouver’s best shopping district.

This is where you’ll find the majority of the best hotels in Vancouver, as well as some of the best cheap hotels in Vancouver.


A former warehouse district that’s been transformed into one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods.

The area is home to sidewalk cafés, chic restaurants, trendy bars and a variety of 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 concert goers.

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.

Coal Harbour

Stretching between Canada Place and Stanley Park, this 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 tranquility 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 sheer 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 as well as food and nightlife options.

Looking for Things to Do in Downtown Vancouver?

Still wondering what is there to do in downtown Vancouver?

I want to invite you to write me in the comments below with what you’re looking for – that way I can give you custom advice.

Whichever of my top things to do in downtown Vancouver you choose, I wish you the best of luck! 😊


I've used online guides on five continents to find the world's greatest travel spots and this is my chance to give back - with insider info on my home, the mighty Vancouver BC!

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *