Must see attractions in Vancouver

  • Top ChoiceSights in North Shore

    Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

    As you inch gingerly across one of the world's longest (140m) and highest (70m) pedestrian suspension bridges, swaying gently over roiling Capilano Canyon, remember that its thick steel cables are firmly embedded in concrete. That should steady your feet – unless there are teenagers stamping across. Added park attractions include a glass-bottomed cliffside walkway and an elevated canopy trail through the trees. This is a hugely popular attraction (hence the summer tour buses); try to arrive early during peak months so you can check out the historic exhibits, totem poles and tree-shaded nature trails on the other side of the bridge in relative calm. On your way out, peruse what must be BC's biggest souvenir shop for First Nations artworks, 'moose-dropping' choccies and a full range of T-shirts and ball caps. And if you're here during the winter holidays, the park is transformed with a sparkling array of more than one million fairy lights. If you're not sure how to get to Capilano, there's also a free year-round shuttle bus from downtown; check the website for scheduling details.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Fairview & South Granville

    VanDusen Botanical Garden

    This highly popular green-thumbed oasis is a 22-hectare, 255,000-plant idyll that offers a strollable web of pathways weaving through specialized garden areas: the Rhododendron Walk blazes with color in spring, while the Korean Pavilion is a focal point for a fascinating Asian collection. Save time to get lost in the hedge maze and look out for the herons, owls and turtles that call the park and its ponds home. Informative guided tours are also offered here daily from April to October. There's an excellent onsite gift shop plus a popular cafe. If you're here from the start of December onwards, you'll also find one of the city's top Christmastime lures, complete with thousands of twinkling fairy lights and shimmering installations strung on and around the wintering plants. Visiting with nature-loving kids? VanDusen offers a wide range of short summer camps for children.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Gastown & Chinatown

    Vancouver Police Museum & Archives

    Illuminating Vancouver's crime-and-vice-addled history, this quirky museum has had a recent makeover, uncovering the former coroner's courtroom (spot the elaborate cross-hatched ceiling) and sprucing up exhibits including a spine-chilling gallery of real-life cases (weapons included). The star attraction is the old autopsy room, complete with preserved slivers of human tissue; bullet-damaged brain slices are among them. Add a Sins of the City area walking tour to learn all about Vancouver's salacious olden days; tours include museum entry. Aside from its walking tours, the museum hosts an inventive array of additional activities, including a speaker series, September to April movie screenings, and late-opening adult nights (bar service in the morgue included). Check the website events page for upcoming happenings.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Fairview & South Granville

    Bloedel Conservatory

    Cresting the hill in Queen Elizabeth Park, this domed conservatory is a delightful rainy-day warm-up. At Vancouver's best-value paid attraction, you'll find tropical trees and plants bristling with hundreds of free-flying, bright-plumaged birds. Listen for the noisy resident parrots but also keep your eyes peeled for rainbow-hued Gouldian finches, shimmering African superb starlings and maybe even a dramatic Lady Amherst pheasant, snaking through the undergrowth. Ask nicely and the attendants might even let you feed the smaller birds from a bowl. Pick up a free bird-watcher's checklist from the front desk and record how many you see. The walkways are accessible for strollers, so this is a good place to bring the family.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Gastown & Chinatown

    Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden & Park

    A tranquil break from bustling Chinatown, this intimate 'garden of ease' reflects Taoist principles of balance and harmony. Entry includes an optional 45-minute guided tour, in which you'll learn about the symbolism behind the placement of the gnarled pine trees, winding covered pathways and ancient limestone formations. Look out for the colorful carp and lazy turtles in the jade-colored water. The adjacent Dr Sun Yat-Sen Park isn't quite as elaborate as its sister, but this free-entry spot is also a pleasant oasis with whispering grasses, a large fishpond and a small pagoda. Check the website for events including special exhibitions and summertime evening concerts.

  • Top ChoiceSights in North Shore

    Polygon Gallery

    North Van's former Presentation House Gallery renamed itself and relocated to this dramatic, sawtooth-roofed waterfront landmark in 2017, providing greatly increased wall space for the multiple exhibitions staged here throughout the year. Photoconceptualism remains a focus but expect thought-provoking contemporary art installations and evocative Aboriginal exhibits as well. There are free 45-minute tours every Saturday at 2pm. On our visit, a new North Vancouver Museum was also under construction across the street. Check out the panoramic second-floor views over the water and save time to visit the bookstore and lobby-level gift shop, complete with Polaroid cameras, artisan jewelry and papaya-themed jigsaws shaped like – you guessed it – papayas.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Fort Langley National Historic Site

    A fortified trading post since 1827, this is where James Douglas announced the creation of British Columbia in 1858, giving the site a legitimate claim to being the province's birthplace. With costumed reenacters, recreated artisan workshops and a gold-panning area that's very popular with kids – who also enjoy charging around the wooden battlements – it's ideal for families. If you need an introduction before you start exploring, there's an entertaining time-travel-themed movie presentation on offer. And make sure you check the website before you arrive: there's a wide array of events that bring the past evocatively back to life, including a summertime evening campfire program that will take you right back to the pioneer days of the 1800s.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Maplewood Farm

    This popular farmyard attraction includes plenty of hands-on displays, plus a collection of more than 200 birds and domestic farm animals. Your wide-eyed kids can pet some animals, watch the milking demonstrations and feed some squawking, ever-hungry ducks and chickens; don't miss Petunia the pot-bellied pig. The highlight is the daily round-up (3:30pm), when hungry critters streak back into their barn for dinner. Book ahead for a behind-the-scenes tour where your sprogs can learn what it's like to be a farmer, from grooming to collecting the eggs and preparing the feed. The $28 fee covers one adult and one child.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Maplewood Flats Conservation Area

    Managed by the Wild Bird Trust of BC, this delightful nature escape is surprisingly accessible from Vancouver yet it feels like a million miles from the city. Its tangle of trees, winding paths and protected wetland beach lure swallows, ospreys and bald eagles – and there are free guided nature walks the second Saturday of every month (10am); check their Facebook page for upcoming themes and other events. It's a nature-lovers dream; on one of our visits a deer and fawn wandered languidly across the pathway in front of us.

  • Sights in Fairview & South Granville

    Queen Elizabeth Park

    The city's highest point – 167m above sea level and with panoramic views over the mountain-framed downtown skyscrapers – this 52-hectare park claims to house specimens of every tree native to Canada. Sports fields, manicured lawns and formal gardens keep the locals happy, and you'll likely also see wide-eyed couples posing for their wedding photos in particularly picturesque spots. This is a good place to view local birdlife: keep your eyes peeled for chickadees, hummingbirds and huge bald eagles whirling high overhead. Check out the synchronized fountains at the park's summit – home to the Bloedel Conservatory – where you'll also find a hulking Henry Moore bronze called Knife Edge – Two Piece. If you want to be taken out to the ball game here, the park's beloved Nat Bailey Stadium is also a popular summer hangout for catching games of the Vancouver Canadians baseball team.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Grouse Mountain

    The self-proclaimed 'Peak of Vancouver,' this mountain-top playground, accessed via Skyride gondola (included with admission), offers spectacular views of downtown glittering in the water below. In summer, your ticket also includes access to lumberjack shows, alpine hiking, bird-of-prey displays and a grizzly bear refuge. Pay extra for zip-lining and Eye of the Wind, a 20-story, elevator-accessed turbine tower with a panoramic viewing pod that will have your camera itching for action. Reduce the admission fee by hiking the ultra-steep Grouse Grind up the side of the mountain; it's one-way only and costs $15 to return via the Skyride. Grouse lures visitors from downtown from May to September by offering a free shuttle from Canada Place. And in winter, it's all about skiing and snowboarding at this popular powdery playground.

  • Sights in Gastown & Chinatown

    Steam Clock

    Halfway along Water St, this oddly popular tourist magnet lures the cameras with its tooting steam whistle. Built in 1977, the clock's mechanism is actually driven by electricity; only the pipes on top are steam fueled (reveal that to the patiently waiting tourists and you might cause a riot). It sounds every 15 minutes, and marks each hour with little whistling symphonies. Once you have taken the required photo, spend time exploring the rest of brick-cobbled Water St. One of Vancouver's most historic thoroughfares, its well-preserved heritage buildings contain shops, galleries and resto-bars. Be sure to cast your gaze above entrance level for cool architectural features, including statuary faces.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Lynn Canyon Park

    Amid a dense bristling of century-old trees, the main lure of this popular park is its Suspension Bridge, a free alternative to Capilano. Not quite as big as its tourist-magnet rival, it nevertheless provokes the same jelly-legged reaction as you sway over the river that tumbles 50m below – and it's always far less crowded. Hiking trails, swimming areas and picnic spots will keep you busy, while there's also a cafe to fuel up. The park's Ecology Centre houses interesting displays, including dioramas on the area's rich biodiversity. There are also some fascinating free history-themed walking tours in the park on Wednesdays and Thursdays in July and August; check www.nvma.ca/programs for details.

  • Sights in Gastown & Chinatown

    Maple Tree Square

    The intersection where Vancouver began was the site of John 'Gassy Jack' Deighton's first pub, and the spot where the inaugural city-council meeting was held under a large maple tree. It drips with old-town charm. Snap a photo of the jaunty statue of Jack, plus the nearby, recently restored Byrnes Block, the oldest Vancouver building still in its original location. Stocked with historic buildings completed just after the 1886 Great Fire, Carrall St has a picturesque array of handsome heritage architecture. And a famous image from Vancouver's early days shows the first city council meeting being held here in a sagging tent, complete with a hand-painted 'city hall' sign.

  • Sights in Gastown & Chinatown

    Chinatown Millennium Gate

    Inaugurated in 2002, Chinatown's towering entrance is the landmark most visitors look for. Stand well back, since the decoration is mostly on its lofty upper reaches, an elaborately painted section topped with a terra-cotta-tiled roof. The characters inscribed on its eastern front implore you to 'Remember the past and look forward to the future.' The gate sits on the same site as a previous, temporary wooden one, built here for a royal visit in 1912. The lions on either side of the Millennium Gate originally had polished granite balls in their mouths, but they mysteriously disappeared soon after the gate was unveiled and have never been found.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Mt Seymour Provincial Park

    A popular rustic retreat from the downtown clamor, this huge, tree-lined park is suffused with summertime hiking trails that suit walkers of most abilities (the easiest path is the 2km Goldie Lake Trail). Many trails wind past lakes and centuries-old Douglas firs. This is also one of the city's main winter playgrounds. The park is a great spot for mountain biking and has many dedicated trails. It's around 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver by car; drivers can take Hwy 1 to the Mt Seymour Pkwy (near the Second Narrows Bridge) and follow it east to Mt Seymour Rd.

  • Sights in Gastown & Chinatown

    Gassy Jack Statue

    It's amusing to think that Vancouver's favorite statue is a testament to the virtues of drink. At least that's one interpretation of the John 'Gassy Jack' Deighton bronze, perched atop a whiskey barrel here in Maple Tree Sq. Erected in 1970, it recalls the time when Deighton arrived here in 1867 and built a pub, triggering a ramshackle development that ultimately became Vancouver. Rivaling the nearby Steam Clock for most-photographed Gastown landmark, the statue is roughly on the site of Deighton's first bar; he soon built a second, grander one nearby.

  • Sights in North Shore

    West Vancouver Seawall

    Take bus 250 from downtown Vancouver and hop off on Marine Dr at the intersection with 24th St. Peruse the stores and coffee shops in Dundarave Village, then stroll downhill to the waterfront. Take in the panoramic coastline from Dundarave Pier, then weave eastwards along the shore-hugging Centennial Seawalk route, West Van's favorite promenade. You'll pass joggers, herons and public artworks. After 2km, the trail comes to a halt. From here, head back up to the Marine Dr shops or weave over to Ambleside Park, where you'll find a dramatic First Nations carved welcome figure facing the water.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Lighthouse Park

    Some of the region's oldest trees live within this accessible 75-hectare park, including a rare stand of original coastal forest and plenty of gnarly, copper-trunked arbutus trees. About 13km of hiking trails crisscross the area, including a recommended trek that leads to the rocky perch of Point Atkinson Lighthouse, ideal for capturing shimmering, camera-worthy views over Burrard Inlet. Accessible via transit bus from downtown Vancouver, if you're driving here turn left on Marine Dr after crossing the Lions Gate Bridge to reach the park.

  • Sights in North Shore

    Horseshoe Bay

    This small coastal community marks the end of West Vancouver and the starting point for trips to Whistler, via the Sea to Sky Hwy (Hwy 99). It's a pretty village with views across the bay and up glassy-watered Howe Sound. Cute places to eat and shop line waterfront Bay St, from where you can also take a whale-watching boat trek with Sewell's Marina. This is also the home of the BC Ferries terminal for aquatic hops to Bowen Island, Vancouver Island and beyond.