This is National Geographic Traveller India’s handy guide to spending a few days in Vancouver, Canada. Here, you get prices for everything, to help you plan your trip and modify it depending on your budget. This itinerary is for a three-day holiday for a family of four (two adults and two children) and costs about ₹1.1 lakh (with mid-range accommodation but without airfare). It can be done for less or more, depending on what choices you make. Vancouver is a friendly city full of activities for adults and children alike. Whether spring, summer, or fall, local residents make it a point to head outdoors and enjoy the city’s gorgeous parks and waterfronts as much as its hipster hangouts, farmers markets, and wonderful eateries.
Waterfront cities have a grand air about them, exuding cool and charm at once. Vancouver is one such city. Hemmed in by the Fraser River on the south, the Burrard Inlet on the north, and the Strait of Georgia to the west, the city enjoys milder weather compared to other Canadian cities. It consistently features on varied lists as one of the world’s most liveable cities. And it’s easy to see why. With its clutch of trendy neighbourhoods, its vibrant culinary scene, and just enough of an alternative vibe, Vancouver has all the trappings of a great modern metropolis without compromising on its inherent love for fresh air. Expansive parks, cycle-friendly cafés, and runner-populated streets highlight the importance of access to an outdoorsy lifestyle in this city.
A taxi from the airport to the city centre costs around CAD35-40/₹1,720-1,965. A cheaper option is to take the Canada Line train which goes to three stations downtown: Yaletown-Roundhouse, City Centre, and Waterfront (25 minutes from airport to Waterfront; CAD7.50-8.75/₹375-438). Vancouver’s public transport system is efficient and easy to understand. Buses, ferries, and the SkyTrain are convenient ways to get around the city (www.translink.ca; day pass available). Radio taxis are available but you may have to call for one in advance because it is not easy to hail one down in the street.
Downtown Vancouver is the city’s buzzing core. A stone’s throw from the scenic waterfront, it is bursting with shops, bars, and restaurants. Pick a hotel here to be within walking distance of everything you need. The high-end Four Seasons is a block away from Robson Street—Vancouver’s main shopping quarter—and within easy distance of Gastown, the city’s oldest neighbourhood and the 1,000-acre Stanley Park (West Georgia Street; +1-604-6899333; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from CAD365/₹17,930). Opus Vancouver is a trendy boutique hotel in Yaletown, an upmarket district full of boutiques, galleries, and cafés (Davie Street;+1-604-6426787; vancouver.opushotel.com; doubles from CAD229/₹11,250). For a more economical option without compromising on style and comfort, check in to The Burrard, a cool, retro hotel from 1956 with free Wi-Fi, complimentary bike rentals, and a hip ambience (Burrard Street; +1-604-6812331; www.theburrard.com; doubles from CAD94/₹4,620).
Dive right into Canada’s stunning natural landscapes on your first morning. Fly Over Canada, a hi-tech Vancouver attraction, is a 4D flight simulation experience that takes you across 6,000 kilometres from Canada’s east to west. It begins with a 20-minute audio-visual show followed by a roller-coaster style 8-minute ride through fjords, rapids, snow-capped peaks, and bear country. The curved 20-metre-high screen and striking images, coupled with perfectly timed sprays of water and gusts of wind makes the experience so realistic, it’s hard to believe you aren’t actually flying (Canada Place; daily 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; flyovercanada.com; adults CAD19.95/₹980, children CAD14.95/₹735 for a 20-minute experience and 8-minute flight).
Make your way to Stanley Park for a glimpse of Canada’s great outdoors. It is amazing that a 1,000-acre park with cedar and fir forests, lakes, and beaches exists inside this sprawling metropolis of concrete and steel. The park also has the country’s largest aquarium (vanaqua.org). It deserves the better part of an entire day or even multiple visits. The best way to cover ground is to rent a cycle from Spokes Bicycle Rentals at the entrance (www.spokesbicyclerentals.com; CAD6.67/₹330 an hour). Water lilies cover Beaver Lake which is circled by a kilometre-long walking trail where I watched fat red squirrels, happy dogs being walked, and the occasional cyclist. In the fall, the ground is covered in a fiery carpet of maple leaves. Don’t miss the nine intricately carved and painted totem poles at Brockton Point that highlight the culture of the First Nations, or British Columbian Indians.
The Teahouse is perfect for a leisurely lunch with a lovely view of English Bay. On sunny days, like when I visited, you can sit in The Conservatory under an open glass roof surrounded by the green expanse. Anything that features the gorgeously fresh British Columbia salmon is a good bet, and lunch for two costs around CAD50/₹2,460 (www.vancouverdine.com/teahouse).
Vancouver’s waterfront is bordered by 22 kilometres of seawall, of which a nine-kilometre stretch lies within Stanley Park. Cycle along this to work off lunch or continue outside the park (you can with your rented bicycle) and pedal right into Musette on Burrard Street for a cup of coffee. The bike-focused café offers a truly local Vancouver experience (weekdays 7 a.m.-4 p.m., weekends 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; www.musettecaffe.com; coffee CAD3-$5/₹250.)
Once you’re downtown again, end your day with a relaxed stroll or frenetic hop through Robson Street, Vancouver’s main shopping area between Burrard and Howe Streets and West Hastings and Georgia Streets. All the big brands find place here—Gap, Old Navy, and MAC, along with Canadian names such as Lululemon, for Vancouver-made yoga and sportswear, and Blue Ruby for fashion jewellery. Holt Renfrew in the Pacific Centre mall is a high-end department store with international labels. Walk into Yaletown, a few blocks away, for chic, stand-alone boutique stores such as The Cross and Fine Finds.
Canyon views, suspension bridges, treetop platforms, cliff walks—the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is the ideal family-friendly adventure spot. Arrive early so you have ample time to enjoy all it has to offer. Swaying 230 feet above the Capilano River, the 126-year-old suspension bridge stretches for 450 feet across a deep canyon. I dodged large groups of Chinese tourists and stood still on the manically bouncing narrow platform just long enough to see schools of silver salmon swimming in the clear water far below. In the rainforest on the other side, seven suspension bridges swing among the treetops, nearly 110 feet above the forest floor. Walk between the branches of Douglas firs—some of which date back to the 19th century—and stop at the viewing platforms for a bird’s-eye view of the surroundings. The park’s latest attraction is The Cliffwalk, a glass-floored suspended walkway that forms a narrow precipice along the granite cliff face, high above the rushing river and canyon. Although it is touted as a daring experience, I thought it was quite tame (daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; www.capbridge.com; adults CAD32.95/₹1,620, children below 12 CAD12/₹590, below 6 free; entry fee covers all park attractions).
Post adventure, you’ll be hungering for a hearty meal. L’Abattoir in Gastown does amazing poached eggs with smoked pork belly on an English muffin or a quarter-pound breakfast burger with hash browns. I could eat breakfast foods for every meal of the day, but if you desire something else, try the quiche with dill, and end with scones and clotted cream. To really get into the spirit of brunch, you can knock back a cocktail or two (labattoir.ca; meal for two CAD40-50/₹2,210).
Next, head out to Harbour Air’s downtown base at Coal Harbour for a slightly expensive, but stunning Vancouver experience. A fleet of seaplanes operates from here, mainly ferrying business passengers between Vancouver and Victoria or Whistler, but also taking tourists out on aerial tours. On the 20-minute Vancouver Classic Panorama, I got lucky and sat up front with the pilot, geeking out on all the buttons and knobs in front of me. It was a sunny day and I got 180-degree views of the North Shore Mountains and Vancouver’s beaches, caught a glimpse of the Lions Gate Bridge through the clouds, and looked down at fiery treetops in all their fall glory. Every time the plane turned, I grabbed my seat until my knuckles turned white—I had the best seat in the house but I was also the only one apart from the pilot, who could see the impossible angles we were flying at. The take-off and landing on water were the best bits, when white sprays of water rose up all around us (www.harbourair.com; adults CAD114/₹5,750,children CAD62/₹3,108 for 20 minutes; check in 25 minutes prior to departure; remember to carry your ID).
Vancouver has a burgeoning culinary scene and the Four Seasons’ YEW seafood + bar is at its forefront. It focuses on local ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. I gorged on mountains of freshly shucked oysters, heaps of crunchy baby kale, albacore tuna, and lemon-soaked char. If seafood is not your thing, go for the buzzing ambience and whopping selection of 300 wines and pick your dinner off the conveniently titled “Not Fish” menu (meal for two from CAD70/₹3,440).
Hop aboard a rainbow-coloured Aquabus that, by now, you’ll notice as a common fixture on Vancouver’s waterways. These cute boats ferry up to 12 passengers between downtown neighbourhoods and Granville Island, and also offer the chance to take in the city’s sights by water. Just show up at any of the stops; Hornby Street is a good option if you’re staying downtown. A False Creek mini cruise crosses the ice hockey stadium, upmarket neighbourhoods with glitzy condos, and parts of the seawall (theaquabus.com; adults CAD8/₹393, children CAD4/₹197).
The tour deposits you at Granville Island—a former industrial district that’s now a hip quarter with an alternative feel, bursting with artists’ studios and food markets. As we approached the island, I spotted six massive graffiti-splattered silos—an indicator of the warehouse district’s transformation into a creative hub.
If you’re feeling sporty, jump into a single or double kayak and paddle down False Creek. The Ecomarine Paddlesports Centre rents out gear and offers lessons. The two-hour Taste of Kayaking lesson I took touched upon basic technique and safety, and then set me loose to navigate around larger stationary vessels on the creek. It’s a fun way to spend the morning. Life vests and instructors are always by your side on the water (ecomarine.com;CAD59/₹2,898 for two hours).
All that paddling and following instructions will stimulate an appetite, so head to Granville Island’s mainstay, its Public Market. Locals come to stock up on fresh produce and its artisanal food stalls are a big draw. Wheels of cheese, handmade chocolates, fresh cuts of meat, organic veggies, fat loaves of bread—pick up anything that catches your eye and put together a meal on your own. Or get sushi, fresh salad, or a slice of pizza from one of the many food stalls. Eat at communal tables inside the busy market, or by the water watching street musicians (meal for two around CAD25/₹1,228).
You could easily spend the day at this artsy hub, wandering into kitschy boutiques, catching a student theatre performance, and sampling great local food. There’s even a Kids Market housed in a 100-year-old factory building with special activity spaces and over 25 shops (www.kidsmarket.ca).
When you’ve had enough of Granville’s boho vibe, head back to Hornby Street for a classier alternative. The Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent collection has over 10,000 works, with a focus on local British Columbian artists. After this art appreciation tour, end the evening with a glass of BC wine accompanied by classical music at The Gallery Café’s patio (www.vanartgallery.bc.ca; +1-604-6624719; adults CAD20/₹982, children above 5 CAD6/₹295; glass of wineCAD8/₹393).
Appeared in the March 2015 issue as “Natty by Nature”.
is a freelance journalist who writes about travel, culture, and food. She travels for the outdoors: to dive deep in the Indian Ocean, crawl through caves in Meghalaya, and hike through the Norwegian fjords.
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