Vancouver holiday highlights

As the beating heart of the city, Downtown Vancouver plays host to the main arts, entertainment, sport and commercial venues. At the north of Downtown you’ll find the ever-evolving harbour front, which overlooks Burrard Inlet, and Canada Place, which is both an entertainment complex and the departure and arrival point for many Alaska and Pacific Coast cruises. To sample the city’s nightlife, you should head to the neon-lit Granville Street. Lined with numerous bars, restaurants and clubs, the area really comes to life once the sun has set.

Next to the ultra-modern Downtown there’s an area with a distinctly different atmosphere. The National Historic Site of Gastown is the oldest part of the city, growing from a single tavern, owned by revered story-teller ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton, to a thriving centre of Victorian warehouses in the late 1800s. Today it is one of the most stylish neighbourhoods with boutiques, galleries and independent eateries. Two of the most photographed sights include the steam clock and the statue of Gassy Jack in Maple Tree Square.

Wander west from Downtown and you’ll reach upmarket West End, a largely residential neighbourhood centred on Robson Street – the city’s main shopping throughfare. One of the most popular spots, particularly at sunset, is English Bay Beach. Keep walking (or cycling) west and you will reach Stanley Park, a vibrantly green oasis just minutes from Downtown. Miles upon miles of trails circle and criss-cross the park past First Nations artworks and family attractions.

Most easily reached by a short boat ride across False Creek, Granville Island is a fantastic spot for those looking for a more laid-back way of life. The major attraction here, particularly for foodies, is the Public Market. The colourful stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, catch-of-the-day seafood, baked goods and gourmet dishes are best discovered on a walking tour during which you can sample some of the produce. Other highlights on the island include numerous theatres, art galleries and souvenir shops.

Backed by the North Shore Mountains and located across the Burrard Inlet, North and West Vancouver act as a gateway to the great outdoors. The region’s most popular attraction here is the Grouse Mountain, which is reached by the Skyride gondola. Keen hikers can take the alternative route up the mountain – the 1.8 mile-long Grouse Grind trail. The views from the top are well worth the effort. Those with a head for heights and a love of nature should head for the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Along with it's American neighbour Seattle, Vancouver is the departure point for many Alaska cruises. One of our most popular stay and cruise itineraries is an overland trip from Calgary to Vancouver – travelling part of the way on the iconic Rocky Mountaineer train – prior to a cruise with Celebrity Cruises. You'll make you way through the breathtaking Inside Passage and past glaciers to the Alaskan cities of Juneau and Ketchikan before returning to Canada. We can't think of many better ways to explore western Canada and the northern Pacific coast.

The city of Vancouver itself relatively flat and very bike friendly, making it perfect to explore on two wheels. You reach visit any of the parks and beaches with ease and enjoy the fresh sea air and wonderful green spaces. Getting around by foot is also an option here as the city is relatively compact. If walking or cycling does not sound like your thing there is an extensive bus network, as well as the SkyTrain which connects the city and its suburbs, and the SeaBus which takes you across Burrard Inlet to North Shore – all of which are operated by TransLink.

Vancouver key facts

Time difference

GMT -8 hours

Capital

Provincial capital: Victoria

Currency

Canadian Dollar (CAD)

Flying time to destination

Vancouver: 9½ hours

Language

English is widely spoken all over Canada except Québec, which is bilingual (French-English).

Passport & visas

An Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) is now required for British citizens travelling to Canada, please speak to a Personal Travel Expert for details

Vancouver good to know

Tipping

Many Canadians in the service industry rely on tips to supplement their income. Tips or tax are not usually automatically added to a bill in Canada, but you should always check. Taxi drivers, hairdressers and waiters are generally given 10-15%. Bellhops, porters and doormen are generally paid Can$1 per item of luggage. It may be advisable to carry small change for this purpose. These figures are for guidance only and assume that service has been good.

Public holidays

01 January: New Year's Day
February: Family Day
March/April: Good Friday
May: Victoria Day
01 July: Canada Day
September: Labour Day
October: Thanksgiving Day
25 December: Christmas Day
26 December: Boxing Day

Shopping in Vancouver

Most goods are available slightly cheaper than the cost at home. Canadian arts and crafts fashioned from pewter, wood, silver and pottery (as well as Native Canadian art like soapstone-carvings, totem poles and weavings) are best found in the regions where they are produced.