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This summer I visited Vancouver for the first time. Before I went I knew that Vancouver was huge, but I did not realize just how much there is to do in this vast city! We ended up spending the majority of our two-day trip exploring Vancouver’s downtown area. This area is filled with historic buildings, restaurants featuring fantastic food experiences, and with an ancient forest just a short drive away. Keep reading to learn about 10 fun things to do in historic downtown Vancouver.
Marine Building – Attraction – Downtown Vancouver
This gorgeous big building is full of unique marine life details everywhere you look. Built-in 1930 in the art deco style it has been featured in movies and tv shows including Smallville. We walked around taking in its grandeur but it did not seem to be open to the public.
Forbidden Vancouver Tours – Nighttime Adult Walking Tour – Downtown Vancouver
Do you ever walk around a city looking at its building and wonder what stories they hold? I know I do! I am always curious about a place’s history and learning about how the landscape has changed over the years as it became more modern. The Forbidden tour showed us all of that and more! Our guide, Aman, was a fantastic storyteller. He not only shared the history of Vancouver’s beginning, with its Vegas-like reputation but also answered questions about buildings that were not on the tour as we passed. This walking tour took us through downtown Vancouver, into some back alleys, along Chinatown, and finished in Gastown. It was a great neighbourhood to end in with many restaurants and shops to explore afterwards.
Amenities: It impressed me with how many bathroom stops were on this walking tour.
Note: He normally only works the Saturday night tours, I would recommend contacting them to see when he is working and reserve for that night.
Cost: $25 plus taxes and fees made it about $60 for the two of us, completely worth it! Don’t forget to tip your guide!
Mister – Ice Cream – Downtown Vancouver
If you are looking for some yummy made-to-order ice cream, this is the place for you. We decided on the Dark Chocolate ice cream and they got the mixing bowl ready to go. The magic behind their recipe is the last ingredient, liquid nitrogen. With fog rolling down the bowl and across the counter, this experience already feels epic. They have black cones or cups. We wanted to share and choose to get a cup. Mimicking their logo the ice cream is shaped with a pointed top creating a hexagon. I loved the attention to detail and the taste was rich and delicious!
Cartem Donuteria – Coffee & Treats – Downtown Vancouver
We stumbled upon this hotspot out of curiosity. It was early in the morning on a Saturday and I was in desperate need of some coffee. I was having trouble finding a place open before 10 am. Then around a corner at 9:50 am we spotted a line in front of this closed doughnut shop, I had to try it out. For breakfast, we ordered a Mocha to start and three doughnuts; Earl Grey, Citrus Glaze, and Honey Parmesan. They all had distinctly different tastes and textures. It was worth waiting in line for them.
Milssam Tacorea – Tacos – Downtown Vancouver
This place had only been open for two weeks when we visited! Their fusion Mexican Korean tacos were so delicious! The combination of flavours paired really well together. We tried BBQ Red Chicken, Milssam Taco, Spicy Pork (in a thick bao bun), and Cauliflower tacos. My favourite was Spicy Pork in the bun.
Miku – Sushi – Downtown Vancouver
When visiting the coast you have to enjoy some delicious fresh seafood. After getting a recommendation from our foodie friends, we decided to visit this restaurant with its fantastic view of the harbour. We accidentally timed our arrival just before the lunch rush and were seated immediately beside the window with no reservation. I ordered BC Wild Sockeye Salmon Oshi Sushi; it was melt in my mouth delicious!
Tip: Make a reservation and ask for a window table.
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ – Food – Downtown Vancouver
Since we were in Downtown Vancouver on a weekday, I thought we should take advantage of weekday lunch specials. I found a great one at Gyu-Kaku, 3 items (meat) with salad and miso soup for $16.95 a person. We BBQ’d everything on our personal grill and enjoyed some Pork Belly, Miso Marinated Bistro Hanger Steak, Filet Mignon, Kalbi Chuck Rib, Toro Beef, and Yaki-Sabu Beef. Everything was so delicious!
Tip: Make a reservation, we lucked in and only waited 15 minutes for our table but the restaurant filled up shortly after 2:30 pm on a Friday.
Gastown – Attraction Area
Steam Clock – Attraction – Gastown
Want to see the World’s first steam clock in action? Head to Gastown. When the clock hits the hour, it puts on a big show of steam and plays a tune. Every 15 minutes the clock has a mini show. It is easy to find with all the tourists gathered around it.
West End Vancouver – Attraction Area
Stanley Park – A light hike – Near West End Vancouver
Getting there: We took the 019 bus and entered the park on the southeast side. Then walked to the Tatlow walk trail.
The day was cool, slightly overcast, and with hints of rain. It was perfect weather for walking through this ancient forest filled with trees over a hundred years old. My goal was to find some really big trees and this forest did not disappoint! There were groups of especially big trees on this trail and some big roots exposed making for great photo opportunities. We walked on this trail until we hit Lovers Walk then turned around. It was a short walk but the perfect length for a two day Vancouver adventure.
Tip: There are a few Geocaches hidden in this park. If you are looking for a virtual souvenir and ok with walking a bit off trail, check it out. We try to find at least one Geocache on trips.
Laurence and Chico Café – Coffee, Treats, & Fashion – West End Vancouver
I love this newly opened eccentric café! Created and owned by the Canadian fashion team Laurence and Chico. They have vibrant, creative, and fashionable details everywhere in the décor, including the bathrooms. The seats throughout the café are furry and fuzzy. With so many funky thrones to choose from it was hard to decide where to sit. Once I eyed a colourful throne with a unicorn horn, I knew it was meant for me! We ordered an Iced Mocha, Mini Sunset Cheesecake, and a Blackforest Mousse Tart. Everything was full of flavour. I really liked the fresh thyme that accented the cherry taste in the tart. The entire experience was out of this world.
Amenities: There are two bathrooms, one features dark lighting and mirrored walls, while the other has a ceiling of rubber ducks.
Where we stayed
My go-to for finding a place to stay in any city is Airbnb. Since we had a late check in time (our plane did not land until 10 pm on Thursday night), I had a difficult time finding a place that was ok with a late check-in. After some searching, I found a place within a 15-minute walk of the Richmond-Brighouse Skytrain station. In its former life, it was a hotel room, it had all the basic amenities and fit our needs. It is not on my map but you can find a link to the listing here. If you have never booked with Airbnb before, click here to get $45 off your first stay.
*Note: This trip was during my gluten days of summer and I do not know what gluten-free options are available at the listed restaurants. Next time I am in Vancouver I am excited to visit them all again and rediscover them through their gluten-free options.
What is your favourite thing to do in Vancouver? Share in the comments below or Tweet at me here