What do you do in Vancouver when you want to do it all? 5 locals share their top 5 Vancouver must-sees. Welcome to 5×5.
See ya, guys, I’m moving to Vancouver. Ok…not really but, after this latest slew of 5×5 recommendations rolled in, I’ve never been more tempted to sell everything and hit the road, Canada-bound. Though I grew up visiting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where part of my family is from, I’ve never ventured west to British Columbia. And I think it’s time. It’s telling when the majority of what the locals have to recommend involves some sort of outdoor activity and healthy, delicious food, and there’s no shortage of those delights in the recs below. As we gear up for our #FPLet’sMove event in Vancouver on January 25th, we paid a virtual visit to Canada’s most diverse and densely populated city with a few of our favorite influencers. If you’re planning your own visit to Vancouver, be sure to add their must-sees to your list, you won’t want to miss ’em!
Escape the usual bustle of the city and head across False Creek on an Aquabus that’ll transport you to magical Granville Island. Hop into any one of the number of delicious cafes and grab a hot coffee to keep your hands toasty while strolling through the busy public market. Enjoy buskers singing, dancing, or juggling knives, go on a photo opp searching for hidden alleys strung with fairy lights or grab one of the most delectable bagels smothered with cream cheese and smoked salmon that you’ll ever have (Siegel’s!). Get lost wandering through the unique boutiques, stop and enjoy dinner on a patio while watching the sunset, watch a comedy show at The Improv Centre and don’t forget to pick up some brie to enjoy with a glass of wine back at home.
P.S. Visit the Kid’s Market for a throwback store of childhood games or to just use the miniature entrance and exit doors!
375 Water St., Vancouver, BC V6B 5C6, Canada
Vancouver boasts many izakaya-style restaurants but my favourite would have to be Guu Gastown. It’s Japanese pub-fare with a twist. Grab a mega-sized Sapporo or a ramune-infused cocktail and share tapas of hot stone bowls, yaki udon or ebi mayo (to name some favs) with a group of friends.
1298 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1S6, Canada
Who doesn’t love an eggs benny? Make that a perfect eggs benny with a side of truffle-lemon hash browns. Yolks does justice to their name by providing the best yolks in the city. If you’re not into eggs, the chicken and waffles are equally as heavenly as the egg benedicts. Tip: avoid the long weekend brunch wait lines by calling in sick at work and grabbing a weekday brunch instead.
325 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7
Located in Gastown, Revolver Coffee makes all their drinks fresh to order in front of you and has a rotating menu of some of the best coffee beans around the world. Catch up with a friend and try new coffee over Revolver’s tasting flights or grab a seat by the front window for some of the best people-watching views. This coffee experience won’t disappoint.
Stanley Park Seawall
Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC
Collect your thoughts with a jog or bike ride along the Stanley Park Seawall. Stretching over nine kilometres, the gorgeous scenery and waterfront views will carry you away from the city for a break with fresh air. Although pretty busy with tourists year round, the park’s big enough for everyone to still enjoy.
False Creek District
False Creek is one of my favourite communities in all of Vancouver. Within walking distance are quite a few of my favourite spots: Craft Brewery, Earnest Ice Cream, The Flying Pig, JJ Bean, the list goes on and on. The architecture and views are breathtaking. My husband and I love to grab a pint of Earnest to go and walk around the various public squares while watching rowing teams practice along the water. There are quite a few unique benches and spots to sit and take in the incredible atmosphere.
Matchstick Coffee Roasters
213 East Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC V6A 0B1
With multiple locations to choose from, Matchstick provides the atmosphere and cup of joe you need to fully embrace the Vancouver lifestyle. The masterminds behind Matchstick believe in hand-crafted preparation of each and every coffee. Every time I meet a client in Vancouver, I eagerly ask them to meet me at Matchstick for the best pour-over they’ve ever had. They go above and beyond by roasting their own beans and providing a comfortable, memorable and incredible experience.
East is East
Multiple locations — see website for addresses
My first time at East is East, I sat at a community table with friends while another group of people was placed with us. Though a bit nervous, we began eagerly chatted while enjoying the most flavourful dishes I could have ever imagined (and a chai that blew my mind!). Drawing inspiration from Mongolia through Tibet, India, Persia, to Istanbul, East is East not only offers an incredible dining experience, they provide an atmosphere to connect and enjoy other people.
Neighbourhood Quality Goods
4301 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3R1
This shop is a story about two kick-ass women who decided to start something incredible. Focusing on providing local goods from incredible entrepreneurs in our city, Neighbourhood Quality Goods is my one-stop shop for all the essentials. Each time I visit the store, I’m introduced to a new local artisan or creative mind that they’ve brought into stock. This is a place that encourages the creativity and community that Vancouver is known for.
West Vancouver, BC V7W 1K5
Though technically not in Vancouver, Lighthouse Park is easily transited to just outside of the city, in North Van. The trails here feel endless, as do the options. My favourite thing to do is pack a blanket and a picnic to enjoy on the rocks overlooking the ocean, city skyline and, of course, the Lighthouse. We love visiting Lighthouse Park because of the off-leash trails — our dog, Zivah, is a big fan of a leash-free romp in the forest!
Pacific Spirit Regional Park
5495 Chancellor Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1E4
Pacific Spirit is my favourite place to go and feel like I’m surrounded by nature even when I’m in the city. The trails through this gorgeous forest transport you to a different world! This gem is less busy than the ever-popular Stanley Park, and also sports some incredible views of the city skyline.
I spent all of my summers growing up on Bowen. About ten years ago my family turned my grandmother’s old cabin into our family home. We built it as a family, and it is the most special place in the entire world to me. You can get to Bowen from downtown Vancouver in about a half hour by water taxi, or you can take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Van. Everything slows down as soon as you step foot on that rock. There are a bunch of great spots to eat. Lovely trails, fantastic beaches and a really great hike/climb to the top of Mt. Gardner where you get the most breathtaking views of the Howe Sound, Sunshine Coast, West Vancouver and the Burrard Inlet.
4545 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC V0N 1B4
When my family isn’t on Bowen, they’re all in Whistler. My four brothers live there most of the year and my entire family are avid skiers/boarders. You can find me here most winter weekends. Whistler Blackcomb is a world-class resort with just about everything to offer. That said, when I’m there I mostly hang out low-key with the family, ski, do the aprés, go for long snowy walks with our dog and rest up. If you want to rip it up at night, the village has a ton of great restaurants and nightclubs. I generally avoid the village and pretend that Whistler is just a sleepy little ski hill.
Growing up in Deep Cove we would hit Quarry for gym class. It’s a lovely little hike that can be tackled in less that two hours by hikers of all abilities. When you get to the top you are looking out at the Indian Arm and back down at Deep Cove — it’s stunning. It’s always a really nice excuse to hit up my old stomping ground.
Chau Veggie Express
5052 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC V5P 3T8
I always get super excited to visit this little gem. It’s a family business run by my friend Maria. The menu is mostly vegan and inspired by the Vietnamese roots in their family and culture. Unbelievable noodle bowls, salad rolls and other treats. The flavours at Chau are unlike anything I’ve had before. They also work with a super talented dessert chef who is always coming up with the most delicious concoctions.
200 Granville Street (entrance on corner of Howe and Canada Pl), Vancouver, BC V6C 1S4
This place blows my mind every time! Miku is located on the water, next to Canada Place — right downtown. The view, venue and service are all top notch…but the food! Vancouver is known for its next level sushi — you’d really be hard pressed to find bad sushi in this fine city. Miku takes it to a whole new level. Their famous flame seared oshi sushi is a must try!
6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4K9
Taking the gondola up to Grouse Mountain, you leave your worries and the city behind. On a typical Vancouver day (fog and rain), you’ll ascend into the clouds and feel like you’re in another world. A dreamy, sleepy-hollow type of world. On a less-typical Vancouver day (SUN!), you’ll get a stunning and endless view of the entire city. At the top you can ski, snowboard, skate, hike or dine. You can also get married up here — like we did 5 years ago :)
2902 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3G3
While there are almost too many great places in Vancouver to get a coffee, 49th Parallel is a notch above the rest. Our favourite location is in the Mt. Pleasant area (which by name alone will tell you it’s cool). A perfect atmosphere if you want to get some work done, hang with some friends, have a meeting or just relax. Oh and did we mention they sell the always amazing Lucky’s Donuts? Yeah. So Good.
Meat and Bread
370 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2N3
Meat and Bread might take the top spot for us in the incredible-Vancouver-restaurant category. Its so simple — it serves what its name says it serves. Some of the best sandwiches you’ll ever have in a stylish, industrial setting. It’s often super busy as everyone in Vancouver loves it, but it’s worth the wait.
Honorable mention, Whistler: “When you visit Vancouver you have to go to Whistler. Non-negotiable.”
Tacofino – Erin’s favourite
Multiple locations & food truck – see website for details
Eternally on the hunt for the best fish taco. I have yet to find one better than this. Tacofino began as a single food truck in Tofino (Vancouver Island) and became SUCH a hit that we basically wished it into existence in Vancouver. Now we get the best fish tacos, in the city, and we don’t have to eat them outside. :)
3663 Park Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7J 3G3
If you’re looking for a true BC wilderness experience but don’t want to travel out into the middle of nowhere, you’re looking for Lynn Canyon. Barely outside the city you find trails through the forest and around lakes and get that fresh, crisp, forest smell. It’s hard to get lost, but easy to find new trails and views. It also comes with the added excitement of potentially meeting a (friendly?) bear!
244 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z7
Best. Chicken. Wings. Ever. Come ready to eat! Vietnamese-Cambodian inspired deliciousness, the chicken wings at Phnom Phen are A MUST ORDER (large size). This place gets PACKED very fast. Be prepared to wait 45+ min when it’s busy. Other popular favorites to order is the butter beef, #35 – Beef Luk Luk (you know you eat there a lot when you memorize the # on the menu) and the hot and sour soup — it’s unlike anything I have ever had before.
4989 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC V5P 3T7
Great spot for some good dim sum (Cantonese-style cuisine in bite-sized portions served in steamer baskets or on small plates). Western Lake offers decent portions, decent quality at a good price. This place gets busy really fast and very very crammed so don’t be alarmed if you can’t get out of your seat once you sit down. I usually look at the pictures on the menu and order the top 10 items. They’re usually the most traditional/popular items. The key to dim sum is going with 4 or more people so you can really share and taste everything as most dishes come with 4 pieces.
110 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6J 3B1
Reckless Bikes is one of the many places to rent bikes by the hour in Downtown Vancouver. It is a MUST. In a day you can see and enjoy a lot of Vancouver – city, water, nature, culture. Once you rent the bike, grab a map and hop on the Seawall. There are a few routes you can take but for the most part the sea wall is all connected. Click here for a really awesome bike route map. There is so much to see and explore, take your time and take it all in.
ST. Marks Summit, Cypress
If you’re feeling ambitious and want to be active, make your way to Cypress Mountain for some hiking. There are SO MANY trails here to pick and choose from. I recently did the St. Marks Summit. This hike is no walk in the park, so make sure you have appropriate gear, snacks and water. It took me about 2 hours to get to the lookout point (AMAZING isn’t it) and then about 1 1/2 hours to get back down. Time is dependent on your tempo. Here is an excellent website with great detailed instructions on the trail.
159 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H5
Pure Bread is pure heaven for the senses. The bakery is incredibly attractive and presentation is on point. The smells of everything are delectable. This is a breakfast/lunch/snack place to go to for something savory or sweet and accompanied by a good cup of coffee. They have a wide assortment of baked goods to satisfy any craving. The bakery is quite small so it’s more of a grab and go place which works out perfectly because it is located in Vancouver’s oldest historic neighbourhood known as Gastown; great to explore on foot…with your baked goods and coffee.
Bonus: Quarry Rock, Deep Cove: “It’s a leisure hike (takes me about 30 minutes with my dog) and the view at the top is so beautiful and serene. While you’re out here, take some time to wander around the pier, marina and the various shops and restaurants around.”
+ Are you a Vancouverite? What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments!
PS – What to do in Denver
Headshot image of Hello Tomorrow by Shari + Mike Photographers
Headshot image of Chrystal Pearl by Rachel Barkman
Lead image by Hello Tomorrow
All images provided by contributors unless otherwise noted in source