Located at the nexus of the Coast Mountains and Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is where nature and urban culture collide. Rich with art and culinary offerings, Vancouver's off-the-beaten track gems are guaranteed to surprise and inspire—whether it's your first time in this majestic city or you're a repeat guest.
Here's how to soak it in on a four-day city escape.
Day 1: Go sight-'sea'ing
Sandwiched between Burrard Inlet and False Creek, downtown Vancouver feels like a walkable island. A 90-minute Zodiac tour with Sea Vancouver is a thrilling way to get oriented to it all.
The ride begins at Coal Harbour on the downtown waterfront, and whips participants along the inner harbour—towards the open ocean—along the beaches of Western Vancouver, down the southern edge of downtown, and back again. Along the way, you'll pass cruise and freight ships, spot bald eagles, dolphins and other marine life, and get a peek at the attractions you'll visit the next few days.
All that exhilaration and fresh air will have you working up an appetite, so for lunch, stroll over to nearby Tap & Barrel, a waterfront establishment known for its extensive list of local beers and wines on tap. Locals and visitors alike hail the locally-sourced fare, such as spicy tuna burgers.
Afterward, spend the afternoon strolling along the waterfront (watching seaplanes lift off and enjoying the views of the North Shore Mountains), before heading back to The Loden, a chic and intimate boutique hotel, just blocks away. Tableau, the in-house bistro, is an elegant and locally-beloved gem.
Day 2: All about art
After breakfast at the new 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, meander towards the Vancouver Art Gallery, the largest art museum in Western Canada. In addition to timely special displays, the museum pays tribute to regional artists who have dedicated their careers to depicting the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Among them, you'll find works by Emily Carr, one of Canada's most renowned artists, and a small but impressive indigenous art collection. The plaza right outside the gallery hosts a hub of food trucks, making it a great spot for a casual, budget-friendly lunch (fish tacos at Tacofino's Pink Truck are always a favourite).
After shopping on Robson Street, splurge on dinner at Hawksworth Restaurant, where the award-winning décor is inspired by the Vancouver Art Gallery, just across the street. Seasonal, sustainably-sourced dishes—such as the hamachi ceviche with sea buckthorn, passionfruit, avocado, and crispy rice—are equally inspired.
Day 3: Due north
To start your day, catch a free shuttle from one of four downtown stops to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, an outdoor recreation area in the heart of some of the region's most pristine nature. A walk not for the faint of heart, the 137-metre suspension bridge rests several hundred metres over the Capilano River.
For rainforest activities that range from mild to wild, try the Kids' Rainforest Explorers Program—a fun and educational self-guided tour through the tops of massive 250-year-old Douglasfir trees. More daring guests will love Cliffwalk, a series of suspended walkways that jut out from Capilano's granite cliff faces.
Once back on solid ground, head to Lonsdale Quay Market (on the north side) with over 80 vendors including The Salmon Shop, Bowen Island Pizza, an onsite brewery, and coffee roaster. On Friday nights, stop by for live music and enjoy a less touristy alternative to Granville Island.
To head back, catch the Seabus, a 12-minute catamaran ferry that departs from a terminal adjacent to the market, and enjoy sea breezes and stellar views of the skyline. In the evening, you can venture to Vancouver's century-old Chinatown, now filled with buzzy eateries such as Bao Bei or Virtuous Pie, a vegan pizza, or an ice cream shop that reflects the city's strong eco-friendly ethos.
Day 4: Into the woods and onto your plate
Stanley Park is one of the largest urban green spaces in the world. With more than 500,000 cedar, fir and hemlock trees, plus beaches, and an aquarium, it's one of the city's must-visits. Hop on a cruiser bike (if you're staying at The Loden, they're complimentary for guests; otherwise rentals are available near the park entrance) to discover the gems of this 400-hectare park on your own.
If your visit coincides, join a foraging excursion with Swallow Tail tours. Over the course of several hours, you'll learn how to spot wild, tasty edibles that grow naturally throughout the Pacific Northwest, then enjoy a light chef-prepared lunch and cooking demo.
For a picture-perfect finish to your trip, head to Kitsilano Beach to watch the sunset. Once a hippy enclave, this seaside neighbourhood is now home to some of Vancouver's most expensive real estate and a destination-worthy dining scene. It's also where you'll find one of the city's most creative culinary concepts: Cacao. Here, chef Jefferson Alvarez—who has worked in the kitchens of globally-renowned restaurants such as Arzak and Aquavit—takes Latin-driven dishes for a distinctly Canadian spin, thanks to ingredients such as elk, local seafood, and wild mushrooms.
It's nature meets artistry – and doesn't get more Vancouver.