Canada, Travel Guide

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver

Last month, I spent a weekend exploring Canada with my husband and a couple of friends. Originally, we wanted to visit Banff but since we needed more than 3 days to explore the national parks there, Vancouver was the easier choice for us. A weekend is definitely not enough to see everything but with some careful planning, we were able to get the most out of our three days in the city.

I’ve never been to Canada before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. For some reason, being in Vancouver didn’t seem like I was out of the country. It reminded me a lot of Seattle; scenic, trendy and diverse. Like Seattle, what I love the most about Vancouver is that it’s teeming with outdoor activities. And the best part? Most of the popular hiking trails are only 1-2 hours away. If you’re like us and don’t really take relaxing vacations, then this guide is for you.


Things to know before you visit:

  • Getting around – Public transportation is available by Skytrain, buses or ferry. Uber or Lyft are not available in Vancouver.
  • Currency –  Canadian Dollar. We didn’t really need to exchange currency because credit cards are widely accepted in the city.
  • Best time to go – I recommend visiting during Spring or Fall. We went around mid-July and it was really hot and crowded (understandably).
  • Driving in Vancouver – If you plan on driving to Vancouver here are some additional must know’s:
    • Gas is kinda pricy and so is parking.
    • Speed limits are posted in kilometers per hour.
    • Biking is popular in the city. Be aware of bike lanes.
    • There are no freeways or large highways in Vancouver. Which means there will be a lot of street driving. Street driving = lots of traffic lights!
    • Blinking green lights exist at pedestrian controlled intersections. Drive through cautiously.
    • If you’re planning to drive to Vancouver from Seattle like us, make sure you leave early in the morning. Crossing the border can take some time.

Where to Stay:

Since we visited during peak season, we decided to book an Airbnb to save on costs. Most of the hotels we looked at were crazy expensive so it was considerably cheaper to rent a house for 4 people. We stayed in New Westminster, which was still kinda far from the downtown area so I suggest looking somewhere in the highlighted area from the map below. Like I mentioned earlier, Vancouver doesn’t really have any freeways so if you plan on staying outside of the highlighted area, it might take sometime to get to downtown especially if you don’t have a rental car.


Where to Eat :

  • Go Fish Ocean Emporium (Granville Island) – the lines are loooong and rightfully so. Their fish and chips are the bomb!
  • Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (Robson Street)- one of the best ramens I’ve tasted. Make sure you order the kara miso ramen.
  • Saku (Robson Street) – if you love Japanese food then you should eat at Saku. I love their katsu sets. They serve it with unlimited rice, salad and soup.
  • Nero Belgian Waffle Bar (Robson Street) – we got the Liege and Bresilienne waffles. Both were absolutely delicious!
  • Purebread – wide selection of delectable baked goods. Go for your carb and sugar fix!
  • Rain or Shine Ice Cream – famous for their malted milk chocolate honeycomb, honey lavender and coffee toffee flavors.
  • Medina Cafe – one of the trendiest brunch spots in Vancouver. Try the fricassee and lamb meatballs.
  • Revolver Coffee – do a taste test and order the espresso flight: 2 different coffees each served 2 different ways.

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

Cod and chips (served with coleslaw, pomme frites and condiments) + Grilled salmon tacos at Go Fish Ocean Emporium

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

Rosu Katsu Set at Saku. Love the presentation

Katsu Nabe and the cute interior at Saku

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

Waffles at Nero Belgian Waffle Bar

Shoyu Ramen and Kara Miso Ramen at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka


Day 1

Granville Island

Our first stop is the famed Granville Island, Vancouver’s premier cultural hub. Attracting millions of visitors each year, Granville Island is home to several shopping boutiques, a public market, numerous fine art galleries and an extensive marina. Before grabbing something to eat, we explored the indoor public market. It was barely noon and the place was already buzzing with locals and tourists alike. Here you will find several food stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, cakes and pastries. There were also local artisans showcasing a variety of their work, ranging from oils and candles to leather goods and artworks. After checking out most of the shops, we finally headed to Go Fish Ocean Emporium for lunch, located just outside the public market along the Island Park Walk. The wait time was around 45-50 min. Thank goodness it was worth the wait. The cod and chips were so good!

  • Granville Public Market: open 7 days a week, 9 am till 7 pm.
  • Go Fish Ocean Emporium: open Tuesday to Sunday; Tuesday to Friday (11:30 am till 7 pm) & Saturday and Sunday (12 pm till 7 pm).

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.comA Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

Stanley Park/Seawall

In the afternoon, we met up with one of my good friends, Melissa (who I met on Instagram) and her bf Tom for a sunset bike ride at the Seawall. At first I thought we were just going on a casual bike ride but it turned out to be really tiring. My calves were burning! It took us about 2 hours (including several stops) to do the whole 6-mile bike trail that loops around Stanley Park. Some of the must see’s along the way are: Lions Gate Bridge, Siwash Rock, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Totem poles and Third Beach. Since the Seawall is the most popular recreational spot in the city, we were worried it might be too crowded at 6 pm. Surprisingly, it was not! Make sure to follow the rules posted along the way and to always wear your bike helmet.

For dinner, we ate at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, located just a few blocks away from Spokes. If you love spicy ramen, make sure you order the kara miso ramen.

  • Spokes Bicycle Rentals: open 7 days a week, 8 am till 8:30 pm. We rented 1 speed cruisers for 2 hours ($17.14 CAD).
  • Hokkaido Ramen Santouka: open 7 days a week, 11:00 am till 11:00 pm.

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

Day 2:

Joffre Lakes

The next day, we woke up early to drive up north towards Pemberton. It’s been one of my goals to hike the entire trail for Joffre Lakes so I made sure we had enough time to reach the third lake. From our Airbnb, it took us about 3 hrs to reach the trailhead. We underestimated how popular this hike was because it was already busy and packed at 9 am. I highly suggest going on a weekday and maybe staying in Pemberton or Whistler if you plan on doing this hike without the crowds. Or you could also wait till the summer season is over and go around fall.

Good to know:

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Trail: 6.8 miles/11 km roundtrip
  • Time: 4-5 hours depending on your ability and amount of stops you take
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • Facilities: Pit toilets are available at the trailhead and at Middle and Upper Joffre Lakes
  • What to bring? Comfortable hiking/running shoes, drinking water, sunscreen, bug spray, food/snacks and camera.

Lower Lake

From the parking lot, it’s about a 5-10 min walk to get to the Lower Lake. Right then and there, we were blown away by the beautiful scenery. With Matier Glacier (where Upper Lake is located) peaking behind the tree-covered mountains, we got a quick preview of what’s to come. Make sure you use that bug spray because the bugs here are as fierce as Beyonce! If you’re able to make the hike towards the next lake, do it! Don’t just stop here because the Middle Lake has even better views.

Middle Lake

The hike towards Middle Lake was quite the workout. I love to hike but it’s been awhile since I’ve done one so it definitely kicked my butt! Aside from a few flat areas the trail is mostly uphill. We were huffing and puffing by the time we got to the Middle Lake. It took us about 2 hours to get there. Was it worth the struggle? Well, I mean check out this view and tell me if this isn’t one of the most gorgeous lakes you’ve seen? The turquoise water was so stunning and that view of the glacier behind it made it even more picturesque! But don’t be fooled by the pics I took because most of the people finish their hike here so this area is extremely busy and crowded. The line to take a picture on that log alone was really long so we decided to forgo and move on.

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

Upper Lake

After soaking in the views, we made our final push towards Upper Lake. The distance from Middle and Upper Lake is relatively shorter which delighted our aching feet. It only took us about 30 min to reach Upper Lake. The lake itself is stunning but the scenery leading up to it wasn’t too bad. We enjoyed going through a forest and seeing the beautiful, cascading Holloway Falls.

We refueled with some food and drinks and chatted for awhile before heading back to the trailhead. It was much faster going back down but it did take a toll on our knees especially on certain dirt areas on the trail. As busy as Joffre Lakes was, I truly enjoyed our time here. It was a nice change of scenery especially coming from Las Vegas where we don’t often get this kind of views.

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

Day 3

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

On our last day in Vancouver, we decided to check out the instagram famous Capilano Suspension Bridge, located just 15 min from Downtown Vancouver. We got there right when they opened at 8 am and there were already more than a handful of people in line. I don’t know how people were able to get pictures without anyone in their shots because right after paying our tickets, we ran towards the suspension bridge to get some photos and we never got the opportunity to take any because it was constantly busy. 🙁 The bridge is 450 feet long and towers 230 feet above the Capilano River. Originally, the bridge was the only attraction in the park. Later on, they started building additional attractions around the bridge which includes treetops adventure, cliffwalk and living forest. The park isn’t particularly huge so we were able to go through the whole park in 2-3 hrs. If the price is a bit steep for you, a great alternative would be visiting the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge instead (free entrance).

  • Capilano Suspension Bridge: $46.95 (Adults)

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.comA Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.comA Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.comA Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

What do you think? Would you visit Vancouver for the weekend?


Additional places to see:

  • Garibaldi Lake
  • Lindeman Lake
  • Sky to Sea Gondola
  • Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
  • Cascade Falls
  • Shannon Falls
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
  • Gastown

Heading to Vancouver? Pin this weekend guide!

A Weekend Guide to Vancouver jannaonajaunt.com

20 Comments

  1. Tom Bourlet

    August 24, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Ah I’ve never made it over to Vancouver, but the pics look incredible. I don’t fancy walking across that bridge though haha. Middle Lake looks like something out of a movie, truly spectacular. Also, I really like the style of writing on your headers by the way 🙂

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 28, 2018 at 11:55 pm

      Thanks Tom! The bridge kinda made me nervous too but after awhile I got used to it lol. Middle Lake is so stunning no? The turquoise water and the snow capped mountains really looks like something out of a movie. And thank you! I like it too! 😀

  2. Danik

    August 25, 2018 at 3:27 am

    I love Vancouver. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world but not because of the city itself, but I love it as a base. Checking out the nature/mountains and ocean nearby is always on my list and there is no better area than Vancouver. Loving your photos and so glad you did a guide post for those who haven’t been Vancouver-tised yet. 🙂

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 28, 2018 at 11:58 pm

      Haha love that “vancouver-tised”! I really enjoyed checking out the nature in Vancouver. I love that they have the best of both worlds: mountains and oceans – something I truly miss and dont often see here in Las Vegas. Thanks for liking the photos!

  3. Claire

    August 26, 2018 at 1:36 am

    Wow I’d heard great things about Vancouver but I didn’t realise that the lakes were so beautiful! That bike ride sounds like a great idea – good exercise to burn off that delicious food! I’m not surprised the lines at Go Fish Ocean Emporium are long, that fish and chips looks epic!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 29, 2018 at 12:00 am

      The lakes were out of this world! Beautiful, indeed! I guess you’re right haha we needed that bike ride to burn off the calories but it was kinda bad timing because we had to hike 6 miles the next day, which killed my hamstrings and my calves btw! lol

  4. Leah

    August 26, 2018 at 3:25 am

    I’ve only been to Toronto, but Vancouver has been on my to-do list for ages. I love the mountains in the summer are magical, and I want to go to those lakes. Marvelous!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 29, 2018 at 12:01 am

      You should definitely check out Joffre Lakes! Truly one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen. I suggest visiting in Spring or Fall to avoid the crowds.

  5. Milijana WorldTravelConnector

    August 27, 2018 at 8:04 am

    I can understand when you say you were blown away by the beautiful scenery of the Lower Lake! I was blown away when I saw your photos. What a gorgeous place!
    And settings of the Middle Lake and the Upper Lake are breathtaking!

    Btw, love your humor – the bugs are as fierce as Beyonce! Lol

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 29, 2018 at 12:03 am

      Glad you think so too! It really was breathtaking! Wish it wasn’t as crowded when we went but nonetheless, the place is spectacular and a must see!
      HAHA you caught that! They really were as fierce as Beyonce! :p

  6. Kirstie Saldo

    August 27, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Beautiful, beautiful Vancouver! I heard it can be expensive in Vancouver but that Nature’s Edge Boardwalk is really inviting! Grilled salmon tacos seems like a great idea, too!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 29, 2018 at 12:04 am

      I heard that too! I saw the prices for the homes there and were blown away by how expensive they were. And those were just regular houses. Kinda reminds me of the housing market in SF.

  7. Jennifer

    August 28, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Maybe because I grew up just 1.5 hours from Canada and it was super easy to take the bus for the day to Toronto, but going to Canada has never felt any different than the US to me. So I totally get what you mean about not feeling like you were traveling abroad. I hear Vancouver has an awesome dumpling trail that I’d love to eat my way on though!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 29, 2018 at 12:10 am

      It was kinda weird for me but glad I’m not the only one. It seems very similar to some of the cities here in the US. Dumpling trail? I’d have to google that!

  8. Ferna

    August 29, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Your weekend is a blast. I got envy by the places you visited. I could understand the crowd to get the photo of the lake, it’s so stunning so probably taking the line is an absolute success. I also got interested of he coffee. Oh well, Vancouver is just a place to never misssed for a weekend in Canada.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 30, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      Yeah it was super crowded. Wish we went on a weekday or maybe even in the Fall. But overall, beautiful place!

  9. KATRINA

    August 29, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    We plan to have a caravan-vacation in Canada next year by November and we plan to head not in Vancouver but thanks for showing us around – now I should insist my husband to see it in real! I love to bridge park the best!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 30, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      You guys should add it to your list! Vancouver is a must when visiting Canada!

  10. Mansoureh

    August 30, 2018 at 11:31 am

    When I read that you went to Canada only for 3 days. I was shocked. I didn’t realise that Canda is so close to the north of the USA since I live in Europe. This is a privilege. I would love to go to Canada, but I might go for at least 2 weeks. I really want to go to Middle Lake. I think the hike worth the view

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      August 30, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      I know right! haha we still missed a couple of places but overall, I think 3 days should be good. You should check out Toronto and Banff too when you do visit for 2 weeks

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