If you’re new to the city or just spending a few days, of course, you’ll want to visit the spots that make Vancouver Vancouver.
But what if you can go beyond the typical tourist checklist? As a traveler, I’m always on the lookout for those hidden gems that only the locals seem to know about.
That said, let’s check out all the unmissable highlights and hidden gems in Vancouver that can make your experience extraordinary!
Hidden Gems in Vancouver
Address: UBC Botanical Garden, 6804 SW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1, Canada
Tucked away in the heart of the UBC Botanical Garden, the Greenheart Treewalk is a hidden gem offering an elevated perspective of the lush coastal rainforest.
Connected by a series of suspension bridges, this 310-metre-long canopy walk 20 metres from the ground will allow you to immerse yourself in the vibrant ecosystem while gaining a unique treetop viewpoint.
Pro tip: Visit during the late afternoon for a magical experience as the sunlight filters through the tree canopy.
Address: W 6th Ave & Fir St. Kitsilano, Vancouver, Canada
The Arbutus Greenway is a secret pathway that stretches across the city, following the old rail corridor.
The pathway is perfect for cyclists (cycling in vancouver) and pedestrians and it’s adorned with community gardens and public art installations.
Exploring this green corridor provides a peaceful escape and a different view of Vancouver’s neighborhoods.
Pro tip: If you’re biking from north to south in this 8.5 kilometre path, you can cap off your ride with a stroll around and a snack on Granville Island.
Address: 688 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1P1, Canada
Alley Oop, or the Pink Alley – both names make total sense, is a sign of decay turned symbol of life and excitement.
In 2016, the alley was painted in pink hues. So, it feels like stepping into a whole different place, perfect for those looking to capture a moment for the gram.
There are also basketball hoops around, making it a nice hangout place as well.
Pro tip: The vibrant murals change periodically, so check online for the latest street art installations, ensuring you catch the most recent and captivating displays.
Address: 3941 Point Grey Rd, Vancouver, BC V6R 1B5, Canada
Compared to other beaches in the city, Jericho Beach is one of those where you can still find some peace and quiet.
But what’s cool about this beach is the bunnies that just show up seemingly out of nowhere. Their origins are really doubtful and the city has warned against getting too close to these wild rabbits, but they’re still a real surprise to spot on any given day.
Pro tip: Sunset is the golden hour here; bring a blanket, some snacks, and enjoy the breathtaking view as the sun dips below the horizon.
Lighthouse Park Bunker
Address: 4902 Beacon Ln, West Vancouver, BC V7W 1K5, Canada
When we talk about Lighthouse Park, the first picture that probably comes to mind is the Point Atkinson Lighthouse, of course, and next are the popular trails in the park.
Now, if you venture off the beaten path in Lighthouse Park, you’ll discover an abandoned World War II bunker.
Located on the east beach, this historical site provides a glimpse into the region’s wartime past, with graffiti-covered walls and an eerie yet fascinating atmosphere.
Pro tip: Wear sturdy shoes for the trail, and explore during low tide to access the hidden caves and tidal pools around the bunker.
Address: SW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
While not exactly a secret, Wreck Beach is a hidden gem in the sense that it’s Vancouver’s only clothing-optional beach.
Nestled below the cliffs of Pacific Spirit Regional Park, it offers a more secluded coastal experience with stunning views, attracting locals seeking a different beach atmosphere.
Pro tip: Check the local tide charts before visiting, and aim for low tide to maximize beach space.
Legal Graffiti Wall
Address: 133 W Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6B 5N2, Canada
It’s a vibrant, lengthy alley that screams boldness. But what truly is “hidden” about it is its significance as the first of its kind in the city, and its representation of a transition that Vancouver is currently navigating.
Pro tip: This is of course part of a heavily debated sub-culture and it’s great to be updated on the authorities’ take on pursuing this progressive route.
Address: Vancouver, BC V6S 1M6 Canada
Southlands, a charming equestrian community in Dunbar-Southlands, feels like a countryside retreat within the city. Often overlooked by tourists, it’s a place where time seems to slow down.
Here you can explore horse trails, marvel at the heritage houses, and enjoy a peaceful escape from urban life.
Pro tip: Explore the quieter residential streets to discover charming hidden corners and unique architecture.
Address: 215 W 1st Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 0E5, Canada
Located in False Creek, Habitat Island is a secluded urban oasis accessible by foot or kayak.
The island is a haven for birds and wildlife and over 200 native trees. It provides a tranquil escape from the city buzz and offers unique perspectives of Vancouver’s skyline from Hinge Park.
Pro tip: You can check out other landmarks in the area after visiting Habitat Island. The Science World is just a 13-minute walk away.
Nitobe Memorial Garden
Address: 1895 Lower Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
Another hidden gem within the University of British Columbia, the Nitobe Memorial Garden is a hidden Japanese haven.
This meticulously designed garden offers serenity with its traditional tea house, koi pond, and cherry blossoms, making it an ideal retreat for contemplation and cultural appreciation.
Pro tip: Attend one of the garden’s traditional tea ceremonies for an authentic cultural experience amid the serene and meticulously landscaped surroundings.
Iona Beach Regional Park
Address: 900 Ferguson Rd, Richmond, BC V7B 1W7, Canada
A half-hour drive from Vancouver, you can escape the crowds at Iona Beach Regional Park (Iona Beach Regional Park), a serene spot near the YVR Airport with vast sandy shores and panoramic views.
This hidden gem is perfect for watching planes in action, star gazing, or simply enjoying the calming sound of ocean waves.
Pro tip: Bring a pair of binoculars to enjoy birdwatching; the park is a haven for various bird species, especially during migration seasons.
Address: 4600 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Y 2M4, Canada
When people want greenery and a nice city and ocean view, Stanley Park often comes to mind. Yet, not many venture all the way to Queen Elizabeth Park, home to the city’s highest point.
What makes this park extra special is the Bloedel Conservatory. It’s a perfect spot to escape the cold and immerse yourself in the sight of over 100 uncaged birds and 500 species of plants and flowers from around the globe.
Pro tip: Time your visit for the feeding sessions, where you can witness the birds’ lively interactions up close while learning more about the conservatory’s diverse flora and fauna.
Fraser River Park
Address: 8705 Angus Dr, Vancouver, BC V6P 6G2, Canada
Another park that doesn’t always pop into mind is Fraser River Park. Located in the city’s southwest corner, this park is perfect for picnics, leisurely strolls, and, thanks to its more secluded setting lined with poplar and alder trees, a peaceful escape into nature.
It also provides a nice waterfront view and a unique perspective on Vancouver’s industrial side. There’s also an off-leash area for your dogs!
Pro tip: Head to the park’s western edge during sunset for unobstructed views over the Fraser River.
Horseshoe Bay Lookout
Address: West Vancouver, BC, Canada
Hugging the east side of the bay along Horseshoe Bay Drive, this lookout is a perfect spot for a laidback picnic or to soak in the beauty of a sunset.
The only challenge is finding the platform. Keep an eye out for the rocky bank along the road and the sign indicating where to climb up to the viewpoint platform.
Once you’re settled in, watching the sunset, you’ll know that the search is all worthwhile.
Pro tip: You can continue on the Sea to Sky Highway to explore other spots off the beaten path!
Address: 5112 Gladwin Rd, Abbotsford, BC V4X 1X8, Canada
About an hour from downtown Vancouver, you can reach Skydive Vancouver’s (skydiving in vancouver) drop zone in Abbotsford.
While some may be focused on exploring hidden gems on land alone, there’s an exhilarating experience waiting when you cast your eyes skyward.
Whether you’re supporting a friend or witnessing others dive from a plane before you do, the special experience to unlock here is so worthwhile.
Pro tip: If skydiving is something that you want to be good at, you can inquire about lessons at Skydive Vancouver.
Address: Vancouver, Canada
Due to Vancouver’s southern location and the abundance of light sources, catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights in the city might be a rare occurrence.
But the possibility is not entirely ruled out. In July 2023, there was considerable buzz about the lights gracing the Vancouver horizon.
Pro tip: If the Northern Lights choose to stay hidden within the city glow, consider taking a drive to the Dark Sky Preserves in Abbotsford or heading up to Whistler to see the natural show.
What are some things you shouldn’t miss when visiting Vancouver?
Now that we’ve covered the hidden gems in Vancouver, let’s check out the things you shouldn’t miss while visiting the city! These more popular tourist-y activities are still worth a visit!
A hub of culture, art, and culinary delights, Granville Island is an essential stop for any Vancouver itinerary.
It used to be an industrial district and was redeveloped in the 1970s into this lively place where you can explore unique shops, enjoy street performances, and witness the creative process at various artist studios.
Aside from the burst of creativity and entertainment, the island is also home to the Granville Island Public Market. It’s the go-to spot for locals and tourists alike seeking fresh produce, artisan crafts, and gourmet treats.
Stanley Park has been a sprawling urban escape in the city since 1888. Though Vancouver has so many green spaces, it’s Stanley Park that’s quite popular for offering a serene break from the city bustle.
It’s also known as one of the oldest and largest parks in the city. With its forests, lakes, scenic seawall, and iconic totem poles, the park provides an excellent mix of natural beauty and recreational activities.
You can bike, walk, or rollerblade along the seawall, explore the park’s famous landmarks, and even spot some of the 230 species of birds sighted here by taking a trail like the 25.4-kilometer one to Coal Harbour and back via the Stanley Park seawall.
Above all, the views of the city and the ocean from Stanley Park make it an unmissable destination. From Prospect Point, the park’s highest point, you’ll see the ocean, West Van, and the Lions Gate Bridge.
Vancouver is home to several stunning beaches, each with its own unique character and foot traffic.
Kitsilano Beach, known as “Kits Beach,” offers volleyball courts, among other sports facilities, and striking mountain views. English Bay Beach is perfect for sunset views and waterfront dining, and is the main venue for the Celebration of Light.
A bit further west from Kits Beach, Jericho Beach is a little less crowded. But during the summer season, it also comes to life with all the people gathering for picnics or enjoying the water for some paddling.
If visiting all of Vancouver’s beaches isn’t possible with your limited time, dropping by at least one during your stay will make all the difference.
Vancouver’s food scene is diverse and delicious. From food trucks to fine dining, the city offers a culinary journey.
Visitors can indulge in fresh seafood in False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf and sustainable ingredients through restaurants like Forage or experience global cuisines in neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy on Commercial Drive.
If you’re arriving through the YVR Airport, you can also check out Salmon n’ Bannock on the Fly for an authentic food experience drawn from First Nations traditions.
You can also visit Purdys chocolate (Purdys Vancouver) to indulge your sweet tooth and a long list of bakeries (best bakeries in Vancouver) offering really good croissants, loaves, and other baked goods.
Vancouver’s geography is a masterpiece, and several viewpoints showcase it in all its glory.
From the iconic Vancouver Lookout, perched atop the Harbour Centre, to the jaw-dropping views at Queen Elizabeth Park, these viewpoints provide a unique perspective of the city, surrounded by mountains, ocean, and lush greenery.
You can stand atop Cypress Mountain or stroll through the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, and you’ll witness the city’s skyline against the Pacific Ocean and coastal mountains.
A visit to these elevated vantage points is not just an option but an integral part of experiencing the city’s breathtaking landscapes.
What is Vancouver, B.C. in Canada best known for?
2010 Winter Olympics
Vancouver gained international fame as the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and for good reason. The city not only succeeded in organizing a major sporting event but also showed off its knack for welcoming visitors from every corner of the globe.
One of the most memorable events was the Men’s gold medal hockey game between Canada and the U.S.. Canada’s Sidney Crosby clinched the gold after a really intense head-to-head match.
Yet, Vancouver’s pride goes beyond that thrilling game. The Winter Olympics left a lasting mark, leaving behind upgraded infrastructure and a noticeable boost in tourism.
The Olympic Village and landmarks like the Hillcrest Community Centre (once the Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre) can give you glimpses of the event.
As tourists keep pouring in for winter sports, we can also see how the city’s Winter Olympics stint played a big part in keeping the excitement towards sports in the city alive.
Love for the Great Outdoors
From skiing and snowboarding in the nearby mountains to kayaking in the surrounding waters, the city offers a year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
Within the core of the city, you can hike through old-growth forests in Baden Powell trail, or immerse yourself in the therapeutic practice of forest bathing (forest bathing vancouver) in one of Vancouver’s green spaces.
You can also take advantage of the bike-friendly infrastructure so you can effortlessly cruise through the city on two wheels. If you have a trusted furry companion, there are parks and trails where your dogs can roam off-leash (off leash trails vancouver).
Apart from all the green spaces and facilities meant to encourage people to go outdoors, it’s probably the breathtaking scenic views that make all these activities extra gratifying.
Green City Goals
Vancouver consistently makes it to the list of the most livable cities globally. In 2023, it it secured a solid spot in the top 5, trailing behind Sydney, Melbourne, Copenhagen, and the chart-topper Vienna, Austria.
This is all thanks to the city’s commitment to sustainability and environmental consciousness.
Guided by the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, Vancouver has set aside a significant chunk of its land for parks, promoted eco-friendly transportation and living, and is even aiming to achieve zero waste in the future.
Its dedication to maintaining a high quality of life for its residents through green initiatives cements Vancouver’s reputation as not just a highly livable city but also a shining example of green urban planning.
Vancouver has earned the moniker “Hollywood North” due to its popularity as a filming location for numerous movies and TV shows.
The city’s diverse landscapes, from urban settings to mountains and forests, make it a versatile backdrop for various productions.
If you’ve seen The Changeling, that’s the Flat Iron building in Gastown! You may not know it but you’ve also seen Vancouver in The Butterly Effect, Fifty Shades of Gray, and Deadpool.
The thriving film industry has not only contributed to the local economy but has also enhanced Vancouver’s popularity as a sought-after destination for filmmakers.
Largest Chinatown in Canada
Vancouver has a diverse population, and the largest proof of that is probably the Chinatown right in the heart of the city.
This Chinatown reflects not only the city’s multicultural identity but the long and rich history of the Chinese community in Vancouver.
Take a casual stroll along East Pender or the block between Main and Gore Streets, and you’re stepping right into their authentic culture, seamlessly woven into Vancouver’s vibe.
Whether you’re up for some dim sum or have a particular spot in mind, like Bao Bei, anytime is perfect to soak it all in. You can also go on a self-guided architectural walk or follow a guide on a local food tour.
But the highlight that you shouldn’t miss? For us, it’s definitely the Chinese New Year Festival in January or February.
Rainfall and Mild Climate
Vancouver, often lovingly dubbed “Raincouver,” is best known for its mild climate and frequent rainfall.
Right on the southwest coast of Canada, the city experiences moderate temperatures year-round, avoiding temperature extremes.
The Pacific Ocean’s influence ensures winters are mild, and summers are cool, making Vancouver an appealing destination for those who appreciate a temperate climate with a touch of humor regarding its occasional “liquid sunshine.”
This frequent rainfall contributes to the city’s lush greenery and thriving ecosystems, showcasing the natural beauty that defines Vancouver and its surroundings.