By Briana Seftel
One of the most liveable cities in the world, Vancouver is a breath of fresh air - literally. With the incredible North Shore Mountains as its backdrop, British Columbia's largest city is not just an urban playground but a nature lover's paradise! Here are the top 8 things to do in Vancouver, especially if it's your first time visiting.
Photo via Instagram user @kalenemsley
1. Feel like Indiana Jones on a suspension bridge
If you have an adventurer's spirit, you'll certainly want to explore one of Vancouver's suspension bridges! The most well-known (if touristy) is Capilano Suspension Bridge, a 460-foot bridge crossing Capilano River in North Vancouver. For a more local's experience, venture to Lynn Canyon Park and walk across the bridge. Unlike Capilano, Lynn Canyon Park is a public park and therefore completely free to visit.
2. Browse local goodies at Granville Public Market
The Public Market on Granville Island is a gourmet paradise. Open seven days a week, the indoor market is home to over 50 vendors selling cheese, charcuterie, bread, seafood and fresh produce, not to mention dozens of prepared food options from pierogies to tacos! One of the best ways to get to the market is by one of the adorable mini-tugboat ferries that criss-cross False Creek.
Smaller but much less crowded is Lonsdale Quay Market in North Vancouver. Take the ferry from the Waterfront station to Lonsdale Quay as you take in the great views of Vancouver's skyline.
Photo via Instagram user @kr.stenj
3. Explore one of North America's oldest Chinatowns
One of the largest and oldest Chinatowns in North America, Vancouver Chinatown is a cultural and historic wonderland. Established in the 1890s, this neighborhood is one of the best places in the city to slurp delicious noodles and find rare remedies at an apothecary. Don't miss the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, a beautiful and calm oasis with lily ponds, 150-year-old miniature trees and graceful pavilions.
4. Visit a local brewery
Vancouver's booming craft beer scene means plenty of local breweries producing fantastic ales, lagers, stouts and pilsners. Many of the city's craft breweries are close to downtown and within easy walking distance of each other - meaning a beer crawl isn't out of the question. You'll also find a handful of breweries in the historic brewery neighborhood of East Van. If you'd rather skip the tour and go straight to the beer, visit a brew pub like Yaletown Brewing Company or CRAFT Beer Market.
For a full list of Vancouver's breweries, check out BC Craft Brewers Guild
Photo via Instagram user @geebird11
5. Say hello to Gassy Jack
See where the city began in the historic neighborhood of Gastown. In 1867, Captain John “Gassy Jack” Deighton became one of Vancouver's first settlers and his statue on Water Street stands to this day. After paying your respects, head over to the famous Gastown Steam Clock, one of very few functioning steam-powered clocks in the world. Despite its Victorian look and feel, the clock was built in 1977 as part of a city revitalization project.
6. Bask in the sun on Kitsilano Beach
There might be no better place to spend a warm, sunny day in Vancouver than Kitsilano Beach, known as "Kits" Beach to locals. Located in the fashionable neighborhood of Kitsilano, this beach is a popular place to swim in the cold Pacific water, play a game of volleyball and enjoy a picnic. It also has superb views of Stanley Park and Vancouver's skyline!
Photo via Instagram user @ErikAndersen
7. Go for a bike ride in Stanley Park
Stanley Park is the lungs of Vancouver and one of the world's greatest urban parks. Boasting miles of trails, beaches, Canada's largest aquarium and more, this 1,000-acre park is perhaps best explored on two wheels. Rent a bike from one of the many Mobi by Shaw Go bike share stations and get riding! You could also choose to stroll the 17-mile Seawall - the world's longest uninterrupted waterfront path! From different points, enjoy spectacular views of Lions Gate Bridge, English Bay, North Shore Mountains and the Burrard Inlet.
8. Take a day trip to Whistler
Just two hours north of Vancouver is the year-round resort city of Whistler, home to the largest ski resort in North America. Nestled under the spectacular Coast Mountains, Whistler is one of the world's top skiing and snowboarding destinations. Even if you're not visiting during winter, there's still plenty to enjoy including scenic hiking trails, shopping, spas and museums.