We arrived in Vancouver after a relaxing few days exploring Tofino and were immediately thrown into the chaos of a two hour traffic jam, one way streets, and trying to find parking while really hangry. We were not instantly bowled over by Vancouver, and I think we said "I hate this place and want to leave" about ten times on the first night.
Our grumpiness could not last because Vancouver fought hard and won us over. In the space of a few days we went from "this place is horrible" to "yeah, I could see us living here", which is the ultimate sign of an awesome place. Vancouver was like a badly behaved puppy; you can try to stay stern with it and teach it a lesson but it's so darn adorable that you end up smushing your face on it after approximately three seconds. That's not a great analogy but you know what I mean.
So, what did Vancouver do to win us over and make us want to move there?
1. Stanley Park
It's easy to see why Stanley Park has won "best park in the world" awards (I would love the job of being judge of that) as soon as you step into 400-hectacres of lush rainforest, trails, sea walks, beaches, seals, ice cream, and more. We spent a whole day exploring Stanley Park and there was still so much we hadn't done. You could easily spend two days exploring the park and still might not do everything you want to. It's not just the park itself, it provides you with stunning views of Vancouver and the mountains to the north.
We considered hiring bikes but after realising how often we'd be stopping to take photos, we decided against it and walked our legs off instead.
I'm not going to lie, when we were researching what to do in Vancouver I kept seeing Stanley Park pop up and I thought, "it can't be that great, surely?" Cynical me was so wrong. It is that great and I am so jealous of those lucky Vancouverites who have this place right in the middle of their beautiful city.
2. Granville Island Market
Walking around the delicious delights of Granville Island's food market was one of the first times we said "I could live here." We had this romanticised idea of popping down to Granville Island for some fresh produce, meat (Daz got way too enthralled by a meat counter and was practically drooling) or cake (that was my turn to drool). I'm sure that's not what the majority of people living in Vancouver actually do, but it's a really nice thought.
We explored the market and enjoyed some food outside while taking in the mountains, bridges, and buildings all around us. For such a huge city, it feels very calm on Granville Island and if you're lucky enough, you might spot a seal while eating a burrito; not sure where else in the world you can do that.
One of the things we loved most about Vancouver is that it's so easy to escape the hustle and bustle of being in a city of 2.5 million people. There is a lot of sandy space scattered around Vancouver, where you can do a spot of swimming if you fancy it, seal spotting, volley ball, build sandcastles; not things you generally associate with being in a city.
Again, I'm jealous of the people living in Vancouver who can take a stroll to the beach whenever they fancy it. Do you know how far away our closest beach is? Over two hours!
That brings us nicely to our next point; beautiful sunsets. Sunsets were a thing that evaded us on the first part of our trip because it was so cloudy. After a day of exploring Stanley Park, we decided to head down to Third Beach to watch the sun set and we were treated to a beautiful one.
Around us, friends and families were having mini parties on the beach, playing some awesome tunes, playing games, and watching one very brave man partake in a bit of swimming at 9pm. It felt so relaxing and you can tell that the locals truly appreciate the beautiful spaces they've got in the city.
5. Vancouver at night
The city does not get any less beautiful when the sun goes down. The bridges and buildings light up, forming mesmerising reflections in the water that are too good not to photograph.
After dark, we visited Coal Harbour, the Lion's Gate Bridge and the TELUS Science Centre and we were not disappointed at all. If you visit Vancouver, you need to make some time to see the city light up at night because it's wonderful. And you will definitely not be the only one out there with your tripod and camera, that city is a photographers delight.
As if Vancouver hasn't already got enough going for it, it pulled out the big guns; wildlife. You haven't got to try hard or look for long before you'll spot a seal swimming around the sea wall. We also spotted squirrels in Stanley Park, and we saw our first raccoon! Now, I know "trash pandas" are considered vermin but we don't have them in the UK and we were so excited when we spotted one. Fantastically, it was coming out of one of those big container bins and went and hid under it as soon as it saw us. We were really happy about seeing one and ticking another "new animal" off our list.
7. Mountains & Forests
Within less than an hour you can be out of the city and exploring forests and mountains, with the only reminder that you're near a city being the tall buildings you can just about see on the horizon.
We only had time to explore Deep Cove and Lynn Canyon, but there's so much more to see around Vancouver; there's Grouse Mountain, you're not that far from Squamish, you could catch a ferry over to Vancouver Island, or you could take a drive up the Sea to Sky Highway.
Vancouver really is a city that has it all. While we didn't explore much of the inner city because we didn't have time, we liked what we saw. We took a walk around Yaletown one night and the place was bustling and had a really relaxed vibe. Our three days in Vancouver were clearly no where near enough and we'd both love to go back and see some more of the city, and who knows, maybe we'll end up living there?
Pin me for your Vancouver adventure planning