3 Day Itinerary in Vancouver for First Timers

Gastown Vancouver

Are you not sure how to best fit all of Vancouver’s main attractions into 3 days? No worries! We’ve done all the legwork for you. In this article, you’ll find a detailed 3-day Vancouver itinerary.

With the Pacific Ocean and mountains within easy reach, a vibrant city atmosphere and a long list of exciting dining options, it’s easy to see why Vancouver consistently ranks as one of Canada’s top three places to visit.

If you spend three days in Vancouver, you’ll have a reasonable amount of time to explore the main highlights without feeling too rushed.

You can enjoy scenic city views in Stanley Park, go whale watching, savor the aromas of just-brewed coffee and freshly baked pastries from urban coffee shops, stroll the waterfront Granville market or simply soak in the sun on one of the many beaches.

And if you are looking for a centrally located hotel within a close proximity to TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s transportation network, stay at the DOUGLAS Autograph Collection or the adjoining JW Marriott Parq.

The options for entertainment and outdoor activities in Vancouver and the surrounding area are countless.

3 Days Itinerary in Vancouver Quick Overview

Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain

Day 1

  • Breakfast at Cafe Portrait
  • Stanley Park
  • Vancouver Aquarium
  • Granville Island
  • Sunset on the Beach

Day 2

  • Breakfast at Douce Diner
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge / Lynn Canyon
  • Grouse Mountain
  • Dinner on Mainland Street in Yaletown

Day 3

  • Whale Watching / Seaplane Tour
  • Gastown
  • Dinner at Waterfront (Coal Harbour)

Day 1

Capilano suspension bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge

Kickstart your 3-day itinerary in Vancouver by having a hearty breakfast/brunch at Cafe Portrait in West End. It’s a cute, artsy cafe with unique decor, good food and pastries only a short walking distance from English Bay and Stanley Park.

After your breakfast, you can rent a bike from one of the many rental shops on Denman Street and head straight to a scenic Stanley Park.

The park is an oasis right in the heart of Vancouver, with 405 hectares of lush coastal greenery. 

Make sure to stop at the Third Beach, check out totem poles to learn some of the city’s Indigenous history and take some photos of the panoramic views of the Vancouver skyline and the North Shore mountains from Stanley Park Seawall.

If you travel with kids, they’ll love Stanley Park’s Vancouver Aquarium. It’s Canada’s largest and oldest aquarium, with over 65,000 species. Amazing animals that can be discovered at the aquarium include sea otters, Giant Pacific Octopuses, Axolotls, and Reticulate Whiprays.

Giant Pacific Octopus

After spending a few hours in the park, it’s time to explore the cultural and culinary scene of Granville Island.

There’s plenty to do here. But the best part is eating at the popular Granville Island Public Market. The market is home to about fifty local food vendors, each offering unique culinary delights. The market has something for every palate, from fresh produce and seafood to pastries, cheese, desserts, and international street food.

On a sunny day, you can grab your snack and eat it outside the market on one of the benches overlooking False Creek.

If you have extra time, stroll the streets filled with artisan studios, craft workshops, and street performers, stop for a coffee or craft beer and browse the many galleries. You can also buy souvenirs from local artisans.

After a day of exploring, unwind at one of Vancouver’s many stunning beaches as you watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Some popular beaches include English Bay Beach, Kitsilano Beach, Sunset Beach, Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks Beach.

If you travel with children, Science World is a must-see. It’s a perfect place to learn the basics of science and spark their curiosity. Every exhibit is engaging, interactive and informative, making it a fun activity for both kids and adults. Just keep in mind that the museum closes at 5 pm, so build that into your itinerary.

TIP: Check house-sitting websites in Canada to save on accommodation.

Day 2

White Rock pier
White Rock Pier

On your second day, get ready to explore the epic outdoors of North Vancouver. But first thing first, have a nice breakfast at Douce Diner.

A 15-minute drive from downtown Vancouver will take you to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

This popular tourist attraction features a suspension bridge, Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk and more. Crossing the 450-foot-long (137m) bridge swaying over a canyon and Capilano River will make your heart skip a beat.

Don’t miss out on Treetops Adventure, a canopy walk of seven small suspension bridges. They’re anchored high among the giant Douglas firs and decorated by enchanting fairy lights.

If you prefer a more low-key activity, explore Lynn Canyon Park instead. It’s a free alternative to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, with beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails and a suspension bridge.

The next stop to add to your perfect Vancouver itinerary is Grouse Mountain. Here you can enjoy spectacular views of Vancouver and the surrounding mountains from the Gondola Skyride.

Once you reach the peak of this Vancouver Lookout, you can say hi to the mountain’s two resident Grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. The lumberjack show is also fun. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try ziplining or paragliding.

In the evening, make your way to Yaletown for dinner on Mainland Street. This trendy neighborhood is known for its vibrant dining scene and nightlife. You can find here every cuisine, from classic Italian to upscale Japanese restaurants. After dinner, take a stroll in David Lam Park and admire the city lights reflecting on the water.

TIP: You can hop on a free shuttle to Capilano Suspension Bridge (year-round) or Grouse Mountain (summer months only) that departs from Canada Place at regularly scheduled times throughout the day.

Day 3

Stanley Park
Stanley Park

Get up early and make your way to Granville Island for a half-day whale-watching adventure around the Gulf and San Juan islands.

Vancouver is known as one of the best places in the world to see orca whales in their natural habitat. But you can also spot humpback, gray, or minke whales.

Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures offers a lifetime whale sightings guarantee, so you can return any time until you see the whales.

But the good news is that they have about a 90% success rate in spotting the whales, so there is a high chance you’ll see some. The best time to go whale watching in Vancouver is from April to October.

If you don’t feel like whale watching, the other alternative is to hop on a seaplane tour and see the Vancouver skyline from a bird’s eye perspective.

After your adventure at sea or in the sky, it’s time to explore the downtown core and Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood. Most of the action is centered along Water and Cordova Streets. Here, you’ll find great souvenir shops, cozy cafes and plenty of fashionable boutique stores.

Make sure to check out Gastown Steam Clock, one of only two in the world (the other is a replica of this, the original one). It was built by a local clockmaker in the mid-1970s and powered by a steam system. Watch for the burst of steam every 15 minutes.

The area is also home to some of Vancouver’s most popular restaurants, so you can take the Gastown food tour or explore on your own. Fancy tacos from Tacofino, pizza at Gastronomy Gastown or vegetarian comfort food at MEET restaurant?

In the evening, focus on the stretch between Canada Place and Stanley Park – an area known as Coal Harbour with many waterfront restaurants.

You can choose from Miku, one of the best sushi restaurants in Vancouver, or Cactus Club Cafe for a drink and scenic waterfront views. Cardero’s Restaurant is an excellent spot for seafood lovers.

TIP: Take a photo of the Digital Orca with a fantastic backdrop of mountains and water only a few minutes’ walk from Waterfront station.

If you Have an Extra Day or Two

Granville Island
Granville Island. Images courtesy of Kamila Jakubjakova

Redwood Park Fairy Forest + White Rock

If you travel with kids and have extra time, take a trip to Surrey and explore the Redwood Park Fairy Forest. This magical trail is filled with fairy houses, painted rocks, and hidden treasures.

After spending some time here, head down to White Rock for a relaxing afternoon. You can stroll Canada’s longest pier, eat fresh fish & chips, and have ice cream as a dessert.

If you visit White Rock in the summer, you can nibble on blackberries along the promenade.

What’s also unique about White Rock is a giant white boulder on the beach.

Whistler + Sea to Sky Highway

Another special place in the vicinity of Vancouver is Whistler. It takes less than 2 hours’ drive to get there, with the journey itself being part of the adventure.

The road leading to Whistler is known as Sea to Sky Highway, with many exciting stops along the way. You can make it into a full-day road trip, stop at Shannon Falls and take the Sea to Sky gondola ride before you reach Whistler.

It’s a picturesque ski town nestled in the mountains. If you’re visiting in the summer, you can marvel at the emerald color of Green Lake or take a dip at Alta Lake. It’s also a paradise for hiking.

In winter, the town turns into a winter wonderland where you can enjoy powdery snow at the world-class ski slopes of Whistler Blackcomb.

No matter what time of the year, enjoy a stroll around cosmopolitan Whistler Village. It’s full of charming boutiques and cozy cafes. Local’s favorite is Australia-inspired Peaked Pie with a delicious selection of hearty pies.

Make sure to take a photo with the Olympic rings from the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Whistler.


Once you get enough of Vancouver, you can hop on a BC ferry to British Columbia’s Capital City of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

The city is much more laid-back than Vancouver, and you won’t find any high-rise buildings here. Victoria is charming with its historic buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and English-inspired gardens.

Some of Victoria’s must-do activities are visiting Butchart Gardens, having an afternoon tea at the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf for fresh seafood or strolling the waterfront.

Downtown is beautiful, buzzing with trendy cafes and shops. Victoria also has the Canada’s oldest Chinatown.


For those of you who seek a road trip outside of Vancouver, Tofino is a great place to visit. It’s a beautiful surfing village on Vancouver Island that takes about a 4-hour drive from Nanaimo.

A must-stop along the road trip from Nanaimo to Tofino is Cathedral Grove. It’s Vancouver Island’s most accessible old-growth forest, with towering trees that are hundreds of years old.

Once in Tofino, there are plenty of things to do, from surfing, hiking coastal trails, storm watching, kayaking, or simply relaxing on the beach.

Tofino is known for its pristine white sandy beaches, perfect for surfing. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or a newbie, you’ll love surfing at Cox Bay Beach.

Getting Around Vancouver

Public Transportation

TransLink operates a vast network of buses, trains, and ferries that can get you just about anywhere within Vancouver.

SkyTrain is a light-rail transit system that runs from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport, through New Westminster, and over the Fraser River to suburban Surrey.

SeaBus leaves across Burrard Inlet every 15-30 minutes, connecting downtown Vancouver to North Vancouver in just 12 minutes. The downtown terminal is Waterfront Station, beside Canada Place and a five-minute walk from the Vancouver Visitor Centre.

Apart from the SeaBus, the only other ferry services within the city are on False Creek – False Creek Ferries and Aquabus. From Granville Island, 12- to 20-passenger ferries run every 15 minutes from 7 am to 10 pm daily to Hornby Street and under the Burrard Street Bridge to the Aquatic Center and Vanier Park (Museum of Vancouver). Every 30-60 minutes, both companies also provide services to Stamp’s Landing, the Plaza of Nations, and Science World.

BC Ferries

BC Ferries links Vancouver with Vancouver Island with a fleet of year-round ferries. Ferries depart from Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver International Airport (allow one hour by road from downtown Vancouver) and Horseshoe Bay, on Vancouver’s North Shore.


Downtown Vancouver is not bike-friendly, but nearby areas such as Stanley Park and Kitsilano are perfect for cycling. The main concentration of rental bike shops is on Robson and Denman Streets, two blocks from Stanley Park.


Vancouver isn’t the most driver-friendly city, especially downtown, where congestion is a significant problem, particularly during rush hour. Parking in Vancouver is often challenging to find during business hours. 

But if you want to explore Whistler or go on a road trip, it makes sense to rent a car. DiscoverCars, Turo or Enterprise have a good selection. You can also take advantage of car-sharing companies like Evo.

About the Author:  Kamila is a former flight attendant and founder of Expat in Canada. She has traveled to 50+ countries before deciding to make Canada her home. When she isn’t writing, you can find her drinking a cup of tea or exploring Canadian great outdoors.

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Kamila Jakubjakova
Kamila is a former flight attendant and founder of Expat in Canada. She has traveled to 50+ countries before deciding to make Canada her home. When she isn’t writing, you can find her drinking a cup of tea or exploring Canadian great outdoors.