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2 Days in Vancouver: How to Plan a Picture Perfect Weekend in Vancouver, BC

If you’re thinking about spending a weekend in Vancouver, JUST DO IT. As British Columbia’s largest city, there is so much to do and see that you’ll probably end up coming back. While that may sound daunting, a weekend is plenty to get a good feel for the city, which will have you planning your next trip on the journey home. I wrote this 2 day Vancouver Itinerary to help you discover the best of Vancouver in 48 hours – from hip coffee shops and bars in Gastown, to a thriving food scene, and an exploration of a huge urban green space that is bigger than Central Park.

Our favorite cities – like Denver, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle – all have a few things in common. They all have a thriving food and drink scene based around the abundance of local ingredients (mainly produce and meat). They all have tons of green space within the city limits. And if you drive in any direction, you’ll find yourself right in the thick of amazing outdoor activities. Vancouver checks all three of those boxes.

If that’s not enough to convince you to visit – here’s a fact: Vancouver’s Stanley Park (which you’ll find at the edge of the Pacific Ocean in one of the most beautiful spots in Vancouver) is 10% larger than Central Park in New York.

Do we have you sold yet? After 2 days in Vancouver, BC, we bet you’ll see why so many travelers fall in love with the crown jewel of British Columbia just like we have. Want to hear the crazy part? We’ve been to Vancouver many times, but ALWAYS in the dead of winter. So we’ve never even seen it at it’s finest hour in the height of summer, when days are long and the weather is warm and dry.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, I would never recommend something to you that I don’t stand behind 100%.

Travel Tips for a Weekend in Vancouver

Before we get into the complete guide to planning a weekend in Vancouver, lets talk about the important logistics that you need to know to make the most of your time.

What is the Best Time to Visit Vancouver?

We can honestly say that Vancouver is a beautiful place to visit year-round. But we’ve only actually been in the winter time.

Spring/Summer is incredible if you want to soak up the sun at the beach, explore the myriad of lakes that surround the city, float down a river in an inflatable, play volleyball or hike a few mountains. The weather will be in the 70 and 80’s Fahrenheit, and it’s the perfect time to explore the city and beyond.

Autumn/Winter is perfect if you’d prefer snow sports, cozy cabin fires, the fantastic color of autumn leaves, ice skating, and snow-capped mountains. It’ll be more grey, and it might rain or even snow, but as long as you’re prepared and know what to pack, you’ll be able to make the most of 2 days in Vancouver in the winter.

Whenever you visit, just remember that Vancouver is well-known as one of the more temperate cities in Canada, so it’ll be a blast in any season.

Arriving in Vancouver

There are a couple of different ways you might arrive to kick off your weekend in Vancouver – plane, train, or road trip.

Vancouver Airport (YVR) – Downtown

If you are arriving into Vancouver via the airport, there are plenty options to get you to Downtown Vancouver:

  • By Car: There are lots of major car rental companies with desks at YVR, so hiring and returning a rental car is a piece of cake. I’d recommend booking ahead, though, just in case.

  • Taxi / Uber: YVR has a taxi stand right outside the airport where taxis are always waiting. They have set fares depending on where you are going, which you can find here. You can also order Lyft or Uber when you arrive, which is a more affordable option.

  • SkyTrain: The SkyTrain is a quick, cheap, and easy way to get from YVR to Downtown Vancouver. Trains leave the airport station approximately every seven minutes for most of the day. From YVR it takes about 26 minutes to get downtown for CAD 4.25. Just follow the signs for SkyTrain once you arrive at the airport and purchase a ticket at one of the automated booths. Use your ticket throughout the weekend for the SkyTrain AND buses – check the fares here. You can also watch a video here which explains how to catch the SkyTrain.

Seattle – Vancouver 

Amtrak Cascades Train: The Amtrak Train is another way to get to Vancouver if you’re traveling from Seattle. BONUS: It’s a stunning train ride up the coast along the Puget Sound. We did it on our New Years Eve trip to Vancouver a few years ago, and it’s a great way to travel between these two cities. Be sure to book ahead, always! 

Side note: you can also get the bus, but it’s a long, slow journey. The train is a much better option for 2 days in Vancouver in terms of timing, price, and scenery.

The journey takes approximately 4 hours and arrives at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. The station is located about 5 minutes away from the heart of the city or a 30-minute walk. We usually catch an Uber from the station to wherever we need to go, and it’s quick and painless.

You can also catch the bus, which will take around 10 minutes. All bus info can be found here.

How to Get Around in Vancouver

I’m always a fan of exploring a city on foot, and Vancouver is no exception. However, with so much to explore, there are Mobi Bike stations planted around the city that you can hire for a CAD 12 / day (they come with helmets), which are an awesome way to explore throughout your 2-day Vancouver Itinerary. 

Alternatively, the bus and SkyTrain are also convenient and easy. Download this app – it’s super useful and will suggest the quickest way around.

Where to Stay in Vancouver

If you’ve only got a weekend in Vancouver, we think you should definitely stay in Gastown. It’s where we’ve stayed multiple times in Vancouver, and it has some of the best food, bars, coffee, and atmosphere in the city. Plus, you’ll be super central.

Airbnb is king in this part of the city, and there are an unbelievable number of industrial-chic lofts with exposed brick to choose from.

*Best Airbnb in Gastown: Unique Loft in the Heart of Gastown*
We spent New Years Eve here a few years ago, and it’s truly a stunning apartment. Amazing place to stay, and our top pick in Gastown.

Other Airbnb options in Gastown:

DESIGNER MODERN LOFT – 1BED/1BATH/1PARK +PARKING (1 Bedroom / 1 Bathroom)

Live Like a Local in Historic Gastown (1 Bedroom / 1 Bathroom)

Vintage Guest Loft in Converted Warehouse (1 Bedroom / 1 Bathroom)

Best for groups/families: Sky High 3BR/2BTH – Spectacular Views & Parking!

Prefer a hotel? Here are two options in Gastown:

Best Overall Hotel in Gastown: Skwachàys Lodge
Best Value Hotel in Gastown: The Victorian Hotel

A close second would be West End, which will put you within walking distance of both Downtown Vancouver, and Stanley Park, which is a must-see during your time in Vancouver. Check out this bright, stylish one bedroom near Stanley Park.

A Complete 2 Day Vancouver Itinerary

A Weekend in Vancouver is a perfect intro to this beautiful city.

Day 1: Exploring Downtown

Vancouver is well known for its culinary scene, so Day 1 of the itinerary is a food-based journey.

You’ll explore the most beautiful and historic parts of the city with stop-offs along the way for coffee, food, and drinks to fuel up. 

We begin and end the day in my favorite part of Vancouver – Gastown. It’s Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, founded by a dude named Gassy Jack (he has his own statue, which you’ll find just down the road from the infamous Steam Clock). Gastown is laid with brick and flanked with boutique after boutique and plenty of cafes.

You’ll also explore Yaletown, Granville Island, and Stanley Park while sipping coffees and cocktails or beer and munching on the city’s finest delights. An awesome start to your 2 days in Vancouver.

Day 1: Morning

where to find the best coffee over your 2 day Vancouver itinerary

Coffee at Revolver Coffee

Oo-wee not only is this coffee DAMN GOOD, but it’s also the best in Vancouver. And I’m not the only one to say so. It’s a cozy, wooden-clad cafe in Gastown and is always bustling with people. Whatever kind of coffee you want – they have it. 

Breakfast at Heirs Pears

Heirs Pears is a 100% gluten free restaurant with a beautiful indoor space, which is sure to get you fueled up for the big day ahead. It’s a 10-minute bike ride or 20-minute walk from Revolver, but I’d suggest walking with your coffee in hand to take in the fresh mountain air. 

Head to Granville Island

After you’ve filled up at Heirs Pears, make your way to Granville Island. You can easily walk all the way, but why not make it fun? Take a 25-minute walk through hip Yaletown to the Vancouver Aquatic Center, where you can take a short Ferry Ride to Granville Island. It’s an awesome way to see the city from the water, and it only costs CAD 3.50 (you can easily purchase your tickets once at the Ferry).

Once you’ve arrived at Granville Island – take a long, languid walk around. The island is a hub of food, shopping, and creativity, and the more time you have, the more you will discover. I’d suggest making these essential pit stops.

The Public Market 

This market is the crown jewel of the island. It’s an indoor market featuring a vast assortment of food and crafts which you could explore for hours. Even if you’re not planning on purchasing anything, it’s an amazing place to take in the sights and smells that it has to offer. I think you’d regret not trying Lee’s Donuts, though (not gluten free – sorry gluten free friends).

Granville Island Brewery

If this is your first beer in Vancouver, you’re off to a flying start. You can book a tour or just stop in for one of their famous growlers – sure to keep you going for a few more hours of exploration. 

The Aquabus

If you didn’t get your water fix from the ferry to Granville Island, this Aquabus is a sweet way to see the city. You can purchase a day pass, which can be a great way to get around Vancouver if that’s your vibe, or just take a round trip from Granville Island. It stops at 8 destinations – Hornby Street, Granville Island, David Lam Park, Stamps Landing, Spyglass Place, Yaletown, Plaza of Nations, The Village. You can book ahead, but it’s not essential. 

Day 1: Afternoon

Exploring Stanley Park during a weekend in Vancouver

The Seawall 

From Granville Island, grab a bike and cycle over the beautiful Granville Bridge to the Seawall Bike Path. Once you’re over the bridge, it’s a 40-50-minute flat ride around the perimeter of Stanley Park. There are many amazing pit stops along the way – including the Stanley Park Totem Polls, Third Beach, or the Teahouse, and you can often spot seals, sea otters, and herons as you go!

Stanley Park 

Once you’ve made your way around the Seawall, drop off your bike at Second Beach and head into the park.

There are so many routes and attractions that won’t be able to be reached within one day, so I’d suggest hitting either The Rose Garden or Beaver Lake. The Rose Garden is most beautiful in Spring or Summer, so if you’re here in Autumn or Winter, go to Beaver Lake.

If you’d prefer a nice stroll, my favorite trail is Lovers Walk. The trees along this route are awe-inspiring, and there are some pretty cool sculptures too. 

Bella Gelateria  

Some gelato fuel will be well deserved at this point, and I promise you, there is a flavor for EVERY SINGLE PERSON at Bella Gelateria. They have everything from your classic flavors to Chocolate Belgian Brownie to Black Sesame to Buko Pandan (what even is that?!). It’s so good. Seriously. So good. And they’ve won all sorts of awards back in Italy for their gelato. It’s so good, that we went on a blustery, snowy December day, AND STOOD IN LINE OUTSIDE.

Day 1: Evening

Gastown is a place you have to explore during 2 days in Vancouver

Dinner at Mezcaleria or Nuba

Back to Gastown, where the food options are endless. I recommend either Mezcaleria or Nuba.

Mezcaleria is self-proclaimed as the ‘best authentic Mexican food and killer cocktails’, and I wholeheartedly agree. You don’t have to be a fan of Mezcal to love it here, but you do need to be a fan of Mexican food.

Nuba is also amazing. A popular Lebanese eatery and juice bar – it offers many gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options, and there’s always a bubbling atmosphere. Plus, it has many healthy but hearty options, which I always appreciate. We had dinner there on New Years Eve a few years ago, and we were literally the only people in the restaurant. It was a cool experience, and I would go back in a heart beat.

Drinks at Salt Tasting Room or Irish Heather 

The Salt Tasting Room is a great way to end your night. It’s a full experience – down a little alley and into a warm brick and wood space. Stop in for one of their specialty wines or, if you have room after dinner, try one of their tasting plates of cheeses, meat, and condiments, which they will pair with wine for you.

If a casual pub is more your style, Irish Heather is the way to go. It’s a warm Irish gastropub with friendly bartenders, imported pints, a long whiskey list, and plenty of cider options.

Catch a Performance at Guilt & Co

Guilt & Co is a dark, intimate spot for cocktails and live stage performances. They host performers from all over the world, and their cocktails are the bomb. Check their website to see what’s coming up and arrive early; the lines can get long!

A Different Kind of Walking Tour

If you’d prefer to walk off your dinner and learn more about the history of Gastown, try the Lost Souls of Gastown walking tour which immerses you in the chilling dramas of historic Gastown. It’s a 90-minute walking tour designed for adults, so leave the kids at home! 

Day 2: GET OUT OF TOWN!

By now, you’ll hopefully understand why everybody raves about the Vancouver culinary scene.

Day 2 is all about the other reason why people love Vancouver – THE ADVENTURES. There are endless options that will take you out of city life and into the abundance of natural beauty that sits just outside the city center. 

Day 2: Morning

Of course your morning will start with some of the best coffee in Vancouver.

Coffee Options!

Nemesis (Gastown)

Revolver is still my #1 coffee spot, but Nemesis is a VERY close second (and conveniently located just around the corner from Revolver). Their cold brew is what shot them to fame just a few years back. Give it a go. 

49th Parallel & Lucky’s Donuts (Kitsilano)

There are many 49th Parallel Cafes throughout Vancouver, and they’re all trendy, but this spot in Kitsilano is my favorite. The donuts are to die for – especially the Crème Brulee (Not GF).

Matchstick (Yaletown)

There are also a few Matchsticks around Vancouver, and again, they’re all outstanding and have bright, modern cafes that are lovely to sit in as you sip your brew.

Breakfast at Botanist

Botanist is an airy, high-end restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel. The ceiling is covered with plants and flowers – hence the name. Breakfast and brunch are not too-too expensive, and they have an awesome menu of everything from healthy chia bowls to not so healthy pancakes (but, who can say no to pancakes?!). They also do killer mimosas’ and morning cocktails. Book ahead for this one as it’s very popular!

Day 2: Mid-Morning and Afternoon

Time to get out of the City and Explore!

While there are tons of options, with only 2 days in Vancouver, you’ll want to hit one of the top spots. I’ve narrowed it down to my three favorite adventures just outside Vancouver.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

make sure to get out of the city sometime during your 2 days in Vancouver, BC

This 140-meter-long bridge is 70 meters above the Capilano River. The bridge boasts a stunning view, and if you’re afraid of heights, it’s a testing but gratifying experience.

Once you’ve done the main bridge, explore the park. There are shorter suspension bridges as well as treetop views that will keep you occupied. I’d suggest leaving around 2.5 hours to explore. 

The downside is, it’s a very popular tourist destination, so it can be hectic, and it’s pretty expensive at CAD 54.95 per adult. To avoid long lines, I’d suggest visiting the park before 10:00 am or after 5:00 pm if you can and book online ahead of time. 

The plus side is that they offer a free shuttle service from Downtown Vancouver on a first-come, first-served basis. All the info for the shuttle is here

Lynn Canyon Park

make sure to get out of the city sometime during your 2 days in Vancouver, BC

Lynn Canyon is a GREAT alternative to Capilano – there is a shorter, but equally beautiful suspension bridge and many trails through the canyon and across the river. The biggest difference is, it’s FREE.

If you’re brave, you can take a dip in the icy waters at 30 Foot Pool.

I’d suggest leaving around 2-3 hours to explore, or longer if you plan to take a hike or relax by the water’s edge. 

Explore Lynn Canyon Park during your 2 days in Vancouver

The easiest way to get to Lynn Canyon is by bus, which is an easy 30-minute ride from Lonsdale Quay in downtown Vancouver. The bus ride will take you to Lynn Valley Center, which is about a 15-minute walk to Lynn Canyon Park’s main entrance. You can find all of the info here

Deep Cove

Deep Cove is a small bay-side town located just a short distance away from Downtown Vancouver. The quaint little village is wedged between the mountains, and although it’s small, there is a ton to do to keep you entertained for the day.

The Baden Powell Trail hike up to Quarry Rock is very popular. It’s short (approx.1.5 hours round trip), easy, and takes you to a gorgeous look out over the harbor. Very Insta-worthy. There are lots of beautiful trails if you’re up for a more strenuous hike.

Once you’ve hiked, you can pick up a kayak or paddleboard at Deep Cove Kayak, located right at the edge of the water. It’s an awesome way to explore the bay and see some seals and sea lions. 

For some fuel, Bluhouse Market and Café is the winner.  It’s a cozy little cafe that supports local and fair-trade farmers, with a menu of vegetarian, vegan, and organic foods that will keep you sustained for the rest of your day. You can also pop into Honey’s Doughnuts (can you tell I like doughnuts?) who are pretty famous with people like Kate Winslet for their delicious treats.  

The easiest way to get to Deep Cove is via bus from the Burrard Station – grab the #211 bus, and it will take you all the way to Deep Cove with no transfers. You can also get a Seabus, which is a fun alternative! See all the info for both options here

Day 2: Evening

Make your way home.

You have made it to the end of your adventure-filled 2 days in Vancouver. I hope this itinerary has led you to some magical places and created some unforgettable memories in the beautiful British Columbia. If I do say so myself, this weekend in Vancouver is a weekend well spent.  

Got More Than 2 Days in Vancouver?

Lucky you! I’ve included some equally adventure-worthy suggestions below to extend your 2 day Vancouver itinerary.

Explore Kitsilano 

Kitsilano is a small neighborhood filled with boutiques, cafes, and of course, Kitsilano Beach. The highlights: 

  • Gravity Pope for high-end clothing
  • Rain or Shine for mouth-watering ice-cream – you gotta try the malted milk chocolate 
  • Kitsilano Beach for a volleyball game or dip in the ocean
  • Turf for healthy food or one of their smoothies (option to add boosters like ashwagandha and maca) OR if you want some exercise, they have great HIIT classes – just make sure you book online first!
  • Their There for coffee and pastries in the day or a finger-licken good burger in the evening

Explore the South Main Neighborhood

If you’d like to continue exploring the inner city of Vancouver, head to South Main Neighborhood between Cambie and Main Street, including W Broadway. I’d suggest hitting the following spots:

Port Moody

For a day of brewery hopping, the Port Moody Ale Trail is a super fun addition to any Vancouver itinerary. A strip of five breweries sits alongside a lake, and they all offer beer flights. You can sit on their patios and sip away then wash it all down with a taco from the taco truck (normally set up outside Yellowdog Brewery). 

The best way to get to Port Moody is via the SkyTrain (the journey is approx. 30 minutes). Hop on the Millennium Line, which you can catch from Downtown, and it will take you to Moody Centre Station, approximately 5 minutes’ walk to the breweries. Plan your SkyTrain travel here.  

Ice Hockey

The Vancouver Canucks are VERY important to Vancouverites as their star ice hockey team. The games are quite an experience. Check out the game schedule at BC Place via Ticketmaster.

Chinatown Tour

Chinatown has a rich and dense history in Vancouver. This 3-hour tour will delve into the history of the area, AND you’ll get to try your hand at making dumplings. NOT GLUTEN FREE, though.

Whistler

If you have time, a day trip to Whistler will not disappoint. The Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever driven on, so even if you don’t drive to Whistler, it’s well worth the experience.

Don’t have a car? Take this tour. It’s a full-day round trip tour to Whistler in a 4-wheel drive SUV which will take you along the Sea to Sky Highway and stop at three stunning waterfalls along the way (Shannon, Brandywine, and Alexander).  Once in Whistler, you get 3 hours to explore, and I would suggest trying to Peak-to-Peak Gondola – not for the faint-hearted!

Final Thoughts on a Weekend in Vancouver, BC

I absolutely love Vancouver. It has all of my favorite parts about the Pacific Northwest, just like my hometown of Seattle. An amazing food and drink scene, a thriving small business culture of doers and makers, and a wealth of outdoor activities just outside the city limits.

You’re going to have a phenomenal time in Vancouver, and I’d love to hear what your favorite parts were. Shoot me a note at matt@wheatlesswanderlust.com!

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