Vancouver Weekend: The Best 2 Day Or 48 Hour Itinerary
Planning a Vancouver weekend?
As someone who was raised in Vancouver and still spends ample time in the city, I often get asked what to do during a visit. Many friends fly in for a quick trip or on their way up to Whistler, another ski resort or Vancouver Island. Here is what I would recommend to anyone coming to the city to enjoy the perfect Vancouver weekend (or 48 hours).
Vancouver Weekend – DAY 1
7 AM – Coffee
I’m an early riser these days so I need my caffeine pronto! Coffee culture is improving in Vancouver after many years of Starbucks running the show. I have a handful of favorite cafes in different neighborhoods and have written about them below.
Morning coffee at Matchstick
8 AM – Breakfast
If I was having my perfect day I would go for breakfast at Cafe Medina. It’s pretty popular so I haven’t been in a while because of lineups. If you do happen to go, order a waffle with some dipping sauce, a lavender latte, and their tagine with merguez sausage. Yum!
*Please remember brunch is a popular Vancouver weekend activity so the best places to eat will also be the busiest (long lines).
Cafe Medina’s waffle!! So tasty!
9:30 AM – Stanley Park
Stanley Park was voted the best park in the world by users of Tripadvisor. I think it’s the best too! The best way to see the park is to rent a bike and cycle around it. I recommend renting a bike on Denman Street. I rent from a place called Spokes.
Here are my favorite photo stops in Stanley Park
- Coal Harbour
- Totem poles for photos
- Brockton Point Lighthouse
- Prospect Point as well as Lionsgate Bridge
- Siwash Rock
- When you finish you come out at English Bay. Take a photo of the “Inukshuk”
- Take a photo of A-maze-ing Laughter statues at Morton Park
- Bike down Denman to return the bike. You definitely need to add Stanley Park into your 24 Hours in Vancouver itinerary whether a few hours or even a quick drive. It really is amazing.
Stanley Park is a must do in Vancouver whether a few hours or even a quick drive through. It really is amazing and one of my favorite places in the city.
Stanley Park’s totems
The Stanley Park Seawall
12 PM – Aquabus
Make your way to Yaletown from Stanley Park. Yaletown is not my favorite neighborhood in Vancouver (it’s Yuppie-ville) but there is an Aquabus stop here and a few The Aquabus is an adorable water taxi that’s cheap, gives you great water views of the city and will bring you to my next recommendation. Don’t eat yet! You’ll want to eat at your next destination. Grab a snack if you’re hungry!
Cheap yet gorgeous cruise on the water!
12:30 PM – Granville Island
Granville Island is home to a public food market, theater, restaurants, an art school, a brewery, a distillery, artisans making everything from rice grown in BC sake or handmade brooms, retail shops, and more. The public market houses row after row of vendors selling produce, seafood, meat, baked goods, and gourmet food. It’s a popular place for locals and visitors to come. I always visit Granville Island when I go home. Always. You’ll probably snack your way through the market so you may not be hungry for an official lunch. If you are there are tons of great places to eat on Granville Island, I personally like Go Fish for fish and chips.
I always visit Granville Island when I go home. Always. You’ll probably snack your way through the market so you may not be hungry for an official lunch. If you are there are tons of great places to eat on Granville Island. I really like Go Fish for their fish and chips.
3 PM – Walk To Olympic Village And Mount Pleasant and Riley Park
Olympic Village has changed in the last few years since…..the Olympics. There are restaurants, shops, and condos galore. I like to walk the Seawall and make my way to Mount Pleasant.
The Birds sculpture by Myfanwy MacLeod (one of them anyway)
Mount Pleasant gets a bad rap from some Vancouverites. It can be a bit hipster but what can you do. I’m a fan of the craft breweries in the area. My favorite is Brassneck on 7th Avenue and Main Street. If you like donuts, next door is Cartems Donuterie. It’s so good. If you are hungry, there’s usually a food truck parked outside of Brassneck. If you walk south or up the hill there are some cool shops along Main Street if you keep walking towards Riley Park.
I’ll take a craft beer flight, thank you very much!
A delicious donut from Cartems
5 PM – Early Dinner in Gastown or Chinatown
After hanging out around Mount Pleasant, head to Gastown for dinner and then drinks. There are several restaurants that I recommend but I’d go for some Mexican at Tacofino Bar if you’re not from California and have plentiful taquerias near you. There is also Guu for Japanese tapas, Nuba for Lebanese (vegan-friendly!) or head over to Bestie in Chinatown for some sausages and beer!
7 PM – Bella Gelateria
Bella’s gelato is life! There are two locations, one in Yaletown or one over in the Fairmont Pacific Rim and near the Convention Centre. They tend to be very busy but it is the best gelato in the city. Award winning, no joke!
8 PM – Cocktail Time!
I love ending my night with a cocktail. A few places I like to go for drinks are Hawksworth and Boulevard. Both are a bit ritzy but they have incredible drinks. I’m also a big fan of hotel bars. I love Bacchus in the Wedgewood Hotel. It’s sort of an old man bar…FYI. If you’re looking for a bit of a party place, my friends opened a new bar/club called Alexander in Gastown. I went once and DJ Questlove was spinning.
A whiskey sour at Boulevard
Vancouver Weekend – DAY 2
8am – Coffee
Depending on where you are staying we have cafes to choose from downtown, in Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, and more. Le Marche is a really quaint neighborhood cafe and market in the Riley Park neighborhood. I have some friends who live nearby and it’s a regular haunt when I’m in town. Today let’s have a smaller breakfast and head out outdoors!
Le Marche St. George!
9:30am – North Vancouver
We are going to head over to the North Shore (North Vancouver) for some outdoor time. There are several options to choose from in North Van but for this particular one, the early bird gets the worm!! The earlier you go the better chance you can get a solo shot on the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge. There’s another suspension bridge, Capilano, which is close but it gets even busier since it’s one of the biggest attractions in the Vancouver area.
With Lynn Valley, there’s hiking close by but some people don’t have time for a hike or just want the photo of the bridge. Please note that if you’re adding this to your Vancouver weekend plans, it will be tough to get a solo shot on the bridge.
Patience and going early is the secret to one of these shots! Photo credit: Ordinary Traveler
Another one of my favorite places on the North Shore is Deep Cove. You can either add this after going to Lynn Valley or you can go here instead. I love it. I first start off with a hike along the Baden-Powell trail. It’s not too hard in my opinion (I’m not crazy in shape so I think most people who are mobile can do this hike). You head up towards a spot called Quarry Rock for some epic views!
There are some spots for sitting!
After the hike, go and have a doughnut at Honey’s and then shop at the cute little shops in the area like Room 6 and Ahoy.
Mmmm Honey’s doughnut (hella deep fried but awesome)
12 pm – Lunch
Asian food is Vancouver’s forte. If you like Asian food, you’re in luck. You have your choice of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and even Cambodian.
If I were to choose, I would go for Japanese. I love sushi and in SoCal and everywhere else in the world it’s really expensive for quality fish. Since Vancouver is close to the ocean, fish is plentiful and well priced. There’s a lot of average sushi in the city but a few of my favorite places would be Ajisai in Kerrisdale (easier to get to with a car) or Itoga on Robson which I have written about before.
If you’re not in the mood for sushi or Asia, perhaps try one of the many food trucks around the city. Japadog was created in Vancouver and is famous for their hot dogs with Japanese toppings.
A chirashi bowl at Sushi Itoga
1:00PM – Gallery / Museum Time
By now I’m craving a bit of culture. I recommend visiting a gallery or museum for a few hours. Vancouver Art Gallery is not huge but it usually has a really great visiting exhibit. Tuesdays in the evenings are by donation but I’m a museum nerd so I’ll pay for admission.
Other galleries or museums:
- Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art – He’s a prolific Canadian and First Nations artist
- Museum of Anthropology at UBC – loads of First Nations art, a beautiful venue but it’s far away at the University of British Columbia. Worth it if you have a car.
3PM – Gastown
Gastown is touristy and local at the same time. In the summer, you’ll see hoards of people coming to see the steam clock. It’s really not that exciting but what is are the shops in the area. My friend Michelle owns a shop called One of A Few which is fantastic. She has impeccable taste and style and curates a great line list. If you’re a dude, then you’ll want to check out men’s shops like Roden Gray, Inventory, and Haven.
One of A Few Shop
Vancouver’s own Flat Iron building
If you need to re-up your coffee, go to Timbertrain Coffee Roasters or Revolver. Both are right in the heart of Gastown. If you need some savory snack go to Bao Down or go to Soft Peaks for some yummy soft serve with toppings!
A yummy bao at Bao Down
Mmmm Soft Peaks!
4PM – Chinatown
Chinatown in Vancouver is the 3rd largest in North America. It’s getting gentrified with non-Asian shops but what can you do right? There are still cool gems to hit up here.
The Chinatown gate at Pender and Taylor Streets
One of my favorite places in Chinatown is Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden. There is an area that is free if you don’t want to pay the entrance free which is the park. It’s a great place for photos and a little bit of a zen escape from your day.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Park
If you need a snack, head over to New Town Bakery on Pender for cheap Chinese baked goods. I love the bbq pork bun or the cocktail bun which is filled with coconut. I also love Pazzo Chow close to Sun Yat-Sen which is a little Italian market and deli. My friend Maya owns it and I love her focaccia and Nutella!
If you love sneakers, make sure to go to Livestock. My friends Garry, Rob, and Garret own it and it’s the best sneaker shop in Canada.
6PM – Dinner and Drinks
We’re going to kill two birds with one stone with this Vancouver weekend recommendation! Go to the Settlement Building! Housed in said building is the Vancouver Urban Winery, Postmark Brewing, and Belgard Kitchen. So drinks of wine or beer will be satisfied or hungry folk as well.
Do some tasting flights!
Delicious mushroom pate
Extra Vancouver weekend suggestions:
- If it’s summer and the weekend, head to Richmond on the Skytrain for the Richmond Night Market which is the biggest Asian night market in North America. Eat street food, drink boba, and buy things like gadgets, smartphone accessories, and toys.
- If it’s the end of summer, perhaps the Pacific National Exhibition is happening. This would be Vancouver’s equivalent of a county fair. There’s livestock, games, rides, fair food, and free concerts.
- If it’s winter, head up to the three local mountains for snowshoeing, views, tubing, and skiing/snowboarding
- In the spring time head to Queen Elizabeth to check out the cherry blossoms
- In the fall head to the many local parks to see the leaves in full autumn glory!
And that is what I think is the best Vancouver weekend itinerary. If I was going home and in a perfect world, I would still squeeze in all these activities if I could because I love them even though I have done them a million times.
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