After years of travelling around Ireland and Europe, we decided that it was the right time to go further to explore other continents. Trying to persuade each other that Alaska (Aiva’s idea)or South America (Valter’s idea) is just the place to go, we came up with an unflawed compromise – summer holidays in Canada.
For the first time, we left all the planning process to the Canadian Sky travel agency based in Dublin. We did not have to worry about a thing; everything from flights, accommodation, breakfast and even a few small extra excursions were organised by professionals. We just had to pack our bags and be ready for nine days in Canada!
We started our Canadian journey in the province of Alberta, stopped to marvel at the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park and travelled all the way to the West coast in the last two days exploring what Vancouver city has to offer.
We have been fortunate enough to visit a good few fantastic countries over the years. However, there’s only one place that surfaces in my mind at least once a day, if not more. Irresistibly implacable, rainy Vancouver stole my affection and my heart, and for a brief moment, I thought about staying in Canada forever.
While roaming around the beautiful British Columbia region and Vancouver city, I saw the world, myself and everyone around me in a different light, as if it was my first day on planet Earth.
My heart was beating much faster, and my senses were flooded with the sounds and smell of the Pacific Northwest. I felt so alive and upbeat as if I had just discovered a brand new planet.
The Best Attractions You Must Experience In Beautiful Vancouver City
The next morning the sky was loaded with grim and moody clouds, racing fast and hanging low, almost within reach. We met our fellow travellers, tour guide, and bus driver and after a brief introduction to Vancouver and a breakfast, consisting of deep-fried potatoes, eggs, and toast, we set out to see the city starting with a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
#1. Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge
We were standing on the Capilano Suspension bridge, surrounded by evergreen Douglas Fir and Red Cedar trees when a sudden wave of serenity washed over me, sending my heart in flutters. I have been chasing this feeling for a while now and desired to hold on to it and desired to nurture it.
Capilano Suspension bridge story started with a Scottish engineer George Grant Mackay who purchased 6,000 acres of forest on either side of Capilano River and with the support of two First Nation people hung a footbridge made from hemp rope and cedar planks across the creek.
Over time, the bridge was rebuilt and reconstructed and exchanged hands many times. In the past 25 years, lots more attractions and activities have been added for visitors to enjoy.
To this day Capilano has the most magnificent collection of remarkable totem poles in the world, symbolising the Aboriginal people who call this area home and representing history. Totem poles are made mostly of red cedar, and carvings reflect different animals, including my personal favourite: Thunderbird – a supernatural bird of power and strength.
Getting to Capilano Bridge, located 10 minutes away from Downtown Vancouver, is very go for one of four locations for a free shuttle bus. We went to Canada Place, where lots of helpful staff were present. Other places for a free shuttle bus are:
Melville Street / Entrance of Hyatt Hotel
Blue Horizon Hotel / 1225 Robson St.
Westin Bayshore / 1601 Bayshore Drive
#2. Explore Stanley Park
After a short debate, we decided against renting bikes and instead went for an invigorating walk around the Seawall in Stanley Park, Vancouver’s first park. If you are not in the humour for a useful exercise, there are hop-on-hop-off trollies as well as horse-drawn carriages.
With massive 405 hectares in size, it offers to its visitors fertile peacefulness. In the centre of it is Vancouver Aquarium and along the way, you can find other amusements like Brockton Point Lighthouse, Siwash Rock, Beaver Lake and incredible Brockton Point Poles, to name a few.
The Seawall is a very scenic path that is 8.8 km long, and it lines Vancouver’s waterfront with the North Shore Mountains, grand Douglas fir and red cedar trees providing that incentive beauty around every corner, be it summer or winter time, early morning or late at night.
I could not wait to make it to the Brockton point where nine Totem Poles are on display. The collection started in the 1920s when the Park Board bought four totems from Vancouver island’s Alert Bay. Few more followed over the years with the most recently added in 2009, carved by Robert Yelton of the Squamish Nation.
#3. Wander around Downtown Vancouver
By travelling to the Pacific Northwest region and visiting Vancouver city, we materialised one of our biggest dreams. Holding hands and listening to the hissing sound of the Steam Clock, built by Canadian horologist Raymond Saunders, we realised how privileged we are to have 365 days a year to learn, travel, interact and explore.
Moreover, now I can safely claim, that Vancouver is my favourite city in the world so far! If you think that is a bold statement, let me assure you it’s not. It took me a stable 30 years, but I finally found my dream place. Initially, a small settlement called Gastown, Vancouver’s name is forever embedded deep in my heart.
Downtown Vancouver is where you can find shopping, nightlife and business districts on top of many cafes and hotels. Dance away at one of the venues on Granville Street, visit the impressive Vancouver Art Gallery, shop in one of the stores on Robson Street or experience high-end culinary wonders in world-class restaurants.
#4. Go for a ride with a waterbus to Granville Island
Granville Island is a peninsula situated south of downtown Vancouver along False Creek and is easily reachable by public transport, individual vehicles and by foot.
Although Granville Island Public Market and Canada’s first microbrewery are the most prominent attractions, you can also uncover many craft studios and artisan shops where it is possible to find unique souvenirs to bring back home.
Back in 1990, Granville Island, in fact, was an industrial site housing hundreds of different factories, sawmills, and plants and over the years it slowly transformed into one of the busiest, trendiest places for locals and tourists alike.
For the devoted foodies, this is a place to be. Endless amount of stalls filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, baked goods, seafood and artisan food, all housed indoors.
How to get to Vancouver
Vancouver is the largest city located on Canada’s West Coast, and Vancouver International Airport is one of the most significant airports in North America and is situated 25 minutes from downtown. Air Canada is the best option to travel to Vancouver as it provides access to more than 190 cities in the world.
Vancouver International Airport is 15 kilometres from the city centres and as we arrived at 3 am we took a taxi to our hotel.
The quickest way to get downtown is to travel with Vancouver Airport Skytrain. It takes only 25 minutes, and it has plenty of room for luggage, including snowboards and skis. There are more than 15 stops along the way, including Yaletown, Waterfront, and Vancouver City Centre.
Tips, Hints, and things to do in Vancouver
- Most of the attractions around the Capilano Bridge are high off the ground if you are someone with a fear of heights this could be challenging although the cliff walks itself is not that scary – the whole structure is fixed in place with reliable cables, so it does not swing around like a suspension bridge. At its highest point, Cliff walk is 90m above Capilano River.
- Vancouver is one of the biggest film production centres in North America. So, look out for your favourite film sets. Big Blockbuster movies like Deadpool, Planet of Apes, Juno, Smallville, and Twilight, were all shot in Vancouver city.
- Most purchases in British Columbia are subject to a 7% Provincial Sales tax.
- Bring proper footwear, and lots of water and hike the near-vertical Grouse Grind, nicknamed Nature’s Stairmaster with 2.830 steps. Starting at the bottom of the Grouse Mountain requires great physical strength, but pleasant views of the Lower Mainland are well worth it. You can also use the gondola to get to the top.
- Explore different neighbourhoods like Gastown, Yaletown, China Town, West End and Coal Harbour. Each of them has its very own temperament with dozens of various attractions and sites to see.
- Pay a visit to the University of British Columbia’s state-of-the-art Museum of Anthropology, designed by architect Arthur Erickson, for the great art, sculptures and totem poles of the Pacific Northwest.
- Cheer on local ice hockey teams like the Vancouver Canucks.
- For those on the budget, a great alternative to Capilano Suspension Bridge is nearby Lynn Canyon Park with hiking trails, waterfalls, and its very own Suspension Bridge. It is serene, quiet and free!
- Homelessness is a huge problem in Vancouver, so don’t be surprised by what you see, especially in the Downtown Eastside.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Vancouver and what places of interest did you get to visit? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Vancouver and have travel-related questions!