Have a few hours to spare before or after your cruise from Vancouver? There is no shortage of ways to fill the time here. We have a few recommendations for making the most of a half day, full day or two days of exploration.
If you have a half day
A trip to Vancouver of any length should include a few hours on Robson Street
, where shopping and dining are the main attractions. Locals and visitors alike descend on this open-air strip of downtown for its boutiques and big-name stores, fine dining and quick bites, art galleries and spas, and some of the best people watching in the city. It's the ideal place to pick up last-minute cruise provisions -- sunglasses, bathing suits or something fancy for luxe, on-ship dining.
If a few raindrops start to fall or you need a break from the sun, the perfect indoor retail respite is steps away from Robson. Pacific Centre offers some of Vancouverites' favourite stores, including luxury department store Holt Renfrew.
Once you've seen its fashionable side, let the city show you its natural angles. Vancouver Lookout, located in the downtown Harbour Centre, whisks you up 130 metres (430 feet) for a 360-degree view of the city, which you're sure to agree is ideally placed amid the North Shore Mountains and Pacific Ocean for maximum beauty in all directions.
A short walk brings you back to Canada Place, steps from where several cruise ships depart (cruises also depart from nearby Ballantyne Pier). Head to Canada Place and wander along the Canada Trail, a colourful glass walk across a map of Canada that explains much about the country's history and curiously named locales.
If you have a full day, add:
Most cruise-ship passengers don't have time to hunt for Vancouver's hidden culinary gems. Luckily, two walking tours will lead you right to its gastronomical havens.
Edible British Columbia tours the famed Granville Island Public Market's aisles of fresh, local produce, cheeses, chocolate, honey, syrups, seafood and all the other items that keep the region's cuisine culture fresh and distinctive. You'll sample many of these tasty treats and perhaps see a cooking demonstration. For a peek into another Vancouver food scene, A Wok Around Chinatown leads you through the neighbourhood's specialty shops filled with exotic fruits, spices from around the world and Asian herbal remedies.
Cap a day of exploring food culture with a little high culture -- a performance by the Grammy Award-winning Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. With programs like Tea and Trumpets, Kids Koncerts, Pops and several masterworks series, programs suit everyone from the lifelong classic music aficionado to the novice concertgoer. Performances are enhanced by the use of video screens, with close-ups of the musicians that allow the audience to see every tap of the keyboard, flick of the bow and puff of the reed.
If you have two days, add:
Stanley Park is one of Vancouver's top destinations for soaking up seaside panoramas. From gardens and aquariums to beaches and fine dining, it's easy to spend a whole day exploring its lush expanses. Learn more with The Complete Guide to Vancouver's Stanley Park
A nearby must-see is English Bay Beach, located right at the Stanley Park Seawall. In the summer, you'll see Vancouverites and visitors laying out and catching some sun. With its proximity to restaurants and shops at the Beach Avenue and Denman Street junction, it's all you need in one stop: good food, beautiful sights and beach atmosphere.
Had enough of just looking at the waters that surround Vancouver? Get geared up at Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre, which offers rentals and tours of the area's picturesque waterways. Experienced guides lead two-and-a-half-hour paddles.
Once you've beheld the glory of the park and waters, hop on -- and off -- a city bus tour to see several other main attractions. All you need to do is look at a route map and head to the nearest stop. Both The Vancouver Trolley Company and Big Bus, Ltd. hit the most popular sights in downtown, including Granville Island, Vancouver Art Gallery, Gastown and Chinatown, as well as too many others to see in one day.
There's no better conclusion to your short stay than a quintessential Vancouver feast -- one that's as international as this city. Yaletown is one of Vancouver's hippest areas, filled with sidewalk cafes, trendy restaurants, a thriving nightlife scene and boutique hotels. Home to more than 65 different restaurants, the neighbourhood has cuisine from all over the world. Try blue water cafe + raw bar for Japanese, Charm Modern Thai for Southeast Asian or La Terrazza for Italian. Or search for more options here.