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Vancouver city break & things to know before travelling to Canada


Some basic information about Vancouver

Vancouver has topped the list of the world's most liveable cities for many years. No wonder, with its beautiful location, abundant waterfront and green areas. It's a safe and friendly city with plenty of recreational and sporting activities in, and around Vancouver.


Vancouver cityline

Vancouver is the third largest city in whole Canada, with almost 2,5 million inhabitants, but to the surprise of many, Vancouver is not the "capital" of British Columbia. This title is held by the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. It is also mistakenly believed to be the capital of Canada, but that is not true either, as Ottawa is the capital of the country.


Vancouver fountain

Vancouver, in the modern sense, is a very young city. The first European settlers arrived only towards the end of the 19th century. However, archaeological research suggests that the Vancouver area was inhabited by indigenous people (e.g. the Squamish) as early as 8-10.000 years ago.


Vancouver was originally called Gastown (the name now given to the small historic quarter of the city), then Granville, and finally in 1886 was named Vancouver after the British Captain George Vancouver.


Vancouver Gastown


Visa, eTA:

To travel to Canada, a visa is required only for stays of more than six months, but for shorter stays, only a permit is required. This permit is called the eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization), which is very easy to apply for online and usually arrives within an hour. The fee is 7 CAD (2024) and it is valid for up to five years, allowing multiple entries.


Air Canada

And it is very important, that it is also required if you just have a stopover at a Canadian airport. Without it, you will not be allowed on flights to Canada.


Climate in Vancouver

Vancouver has an oceanic climate. Cooler summers (average daytime temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius), milder winters and a plenty of rainfall. In comparison, when we were there in early June it was 30+ degrees with bright sunshine and no precipitation. So for us this weather was very favorable, but unfortunately every year there are more and more of these heat waves around Vancouver, which accelerate the retreat of the glaciers to a very high degree.


SIM, plugs

It's a good idea to have a Canadian SIM card in advance. I recommend the Airalo e-SIM for foreign travel, which allows you to purchase your SIM while you're still at home, and once you activate it at home, it's up and running as soon as you land. (If you use my coupon code BERNAD4356, You and I get a $3 discount! ;) )


And don't forget the socket adapter either, because there are American type A sockets in Canada.



Transport in the city, Mobi city bike

The city has a very well developed public transport network.

From the airport it is very easy and quick to get to the city center. There is a direct metro/train service with a fare of 9,55 CAD (standard Zone 2 ticket + a 5 CAD airport surcharge). 

There is also good metro and bus transport within the city, but I would still recommend exploring Vancouver by bike.


Mobi city bike

You can see most of the city by bike or on foot, and you don't have to adapt to timetables this way. The city has a very well-developed network of bike paths, and there's also a city bike, Mobi (which is like the Mol Bubi in Budapest).


This is very convenient because there are plenty of docks all over the city, and if you feel like you have had enough walking, you can pick up your bike at the nearest dock - and vice versa. 

The price is also very reasonable for Vancouver, if you opt for the 24-hour pass. Then it's 19 CAD for 24 hours. And then you can use the bikes as much as you want in 24 hours, as long as you don't use them for more than 30 minutes in a row. However, you can trick the system by going to a dock within 30 minutes, docking the bike, and then renting the same / other bike again. 


Apart from walking, this is clearly the most superb and cost-effective way to explore Vancouver. 

And by the way, the bikes are well maintained, geared and easy to pedal. 

However, if you don't buy the 24-hour ticket, it's quite expensive, because it costs 25 cents for 1 minute rental, so half an hour of cycling is 7,5 CAD + 1 CAD base fee → So it's clearly worth buying the day ticket if you plan to ride at least 1 and a quarter hours. 


You need internet to register, but after that the rentals are working without internet connection. The registration was a bit of a hassle for us, we only managed it after trying like five times because the system kept freezing, but after the initial difficulties everything went smoothly. 


Roses

It's not worth driving in the city, because parking is difficult and expensive, and there are no car roads on the most beautiful places!


Vancouver city break: top sights


Stanley Park

Stanley Park is the perfect place to get away from the city’s noise. It is easily and quickly accessible. Great for cycling, skating, hiking or picnicking.

Stanley Park

At just over 400 hectares, Stanley Park is even bigger than New York's Central Park. And the Seawall promenade offers spectacular views of downtown Vancouver and its skyscrapers.


Vancouver on bikes


Seawall Promenade - Harbour

The Harbourside Promenade is also a great place to walk and cycle.

Vancouver harbour

 It's always buzzing with life, many people are taking blankets to the grassy areas and hanging out under the shade of the trees. What is special about this stretch is that the seaplane tours depart from these coastal harbors and docks. The take-offs and landings of the little machines are noisy, but also very spectacular and unique. There aren’t many big cities with so many seaplanes in constant motion.


hydroplane


Granville Island Public Market

This market is the main attraction on the tiny little Granville Island. This is an indoor market full of vegetables, fruit, sweets, handicrafts, fish and meat stalls, florists,... There really is a huge variety of foods here.


market

I had a bit of a Turkish bazaar feeling with all the vendors, except that there's no shouting and no haggling. I compared it to a bazaar mostly because of its size, variety and labyrinthine nature of the market.


bakery


Gastown Steam Clock

The steam-powered clock is a real curiosity, found in only a few places in the world. Although the steam clock in Gastown, Vancouver looks like an antique treasure, it's not so antique: it was built in 1977 and its primary purpose was to cover the freestanding steam grate, preventing homeless people from sleeping rough in the middle of the street.


Gastown, Steam Clock

Since then, it has become one of Vancouver's main tourist attractions.


Sunset Beach Park

Sunset Beach Park is a bustling, beachside destination on Vancouver's west side. Lots of people come here in the late afternoon - evening hours, not just to watch the sunset, but to go to the beach, play beach volleyball, walk the dog, or just socialize.


Vancouver, Sunset Beach Park

Vancouver, Sunset Beach Park


Vanier Park

Vanier Park is the area across the bay from Sunset Beach Park. It's also within easy biking distance of downtown, and there are a couple of Mobi bike docking stations nearby.


Lifeguards, Vanier Park

The area is not just for recreation and chilling, because during our couple of hour visit we saw a lifeguard training course and stumbled upon a military strength challenge... :) 

soldier training, Vanier Park

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park sits on a high elevation, so high that it is actually the highest point in Vancouver. It offers a magnificent view of downtown and the surrounding snow-capped peaks beyond. 


Even though the city is built on relatively flat terrain, the area is full of beautiful mountains, with snow-capped (even in the hottest summer weather) peaks.


Downtown Vancouver and its main attractions can be covered comfortably in 2 days. Overall, I think it's a super city and I really like that they put a lot of effort into maintaining the green spaces, parks and bike paths. Even though it's a big city, I think they've managed to find a happy medium between the hustle & bustle and nature. Based on my short visit, I fully agree that it is among winners of the list of most liveable cities.


Vancouver people statues

If one has more time, it's worth renting a car and exploring the surroundings of Vancouver. 


The best adventure from Vancouver is to explore Vancouver Island in a couple of days, but if you only have 1-2 days, there are also beautiful landscapes and hikes within 1-2 hours drive, north of Vancouver. 


The perfect itinerary for Vancouver Island and north of Vancouver is gonna be my next blog post. 


I am also preparing a third post about the National Parks of the Rocky Mountains around Banff and Jasper.




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