Visiting Vancouver in one day was the best start we could have to what has been the best trip of our life so far. Vancouver is one of the top cities in western Canada, and with its eclectic blend of urbanity and natural beauty, it’s not hard to see why.
We took a 15-day Canadian Rockies road trip, but first, we spent one perfect day in Vancouver, British Columbia. There are so many things to do here, so deciding how to spend 24 hours in this city is no easy feat.
In this guide, I’ll share some ideas for what to do for 1 day in Vancouver. Whether you choose to stay downtown or want to check out the natural surroundings, there is something for you.
And if you have more time, don’t miss out our post with the 25 best things to do in Vancouver.
Vancouver in one day – morning itinerary
Have breakfast at The Templeton, the best way to start your day in Vancouver
We started our perfect day in Vancouver with a hearty breakfast at The Templeton, and I highly recommend it. This popular diner is close to several main attractions in the city center, so it’s the best place to fuel up for a big day.
The restaurant has an extensive breakfast and lunch menu with vegetarian options. Some of the highlights include the Farmers Breakfast and the Big Ass Breakfast, but everything is delicious, and the portions are enough for two or more people! It’s a popular hangout spot thanks to its classic 1950s style, complete with jukeboxes and huge milkshakes.
The Templeton is known for friendly service, good food, and a pleasant atmosphere, which we can attest to. Plus, it’s open daily, so you’ll be able to visit no matter when you plan your Vancouver 1-day itinerary.
Walk through Stanley Park
After a delicious brunch, enjoy a stroll around Stanley Park. Walking through this huge urban park will take a couple of hours, but you could also rent a bicycle to get around.
Follow the Seawall Path, which does a 5.5-mile loop around the park. You’ll pass by some interesting sites, including the Girl in a Wetsuit statue and Prospect Point, which provides awesome views of the lighthouse and harbor.
Continue to Siwash Rock, then check out Second Beach. This dog-friendly beach has beach volleyball, a heated pool, and if you’re lucky, a chance to see some wild orcas. English Bay (First Beach) is a 15-minute walk south and offers a family-friendly atmosphere and kayak rentals.
Finally, the First Nations totem poles are a must-see in Vancouver in one day. These colorful monuments reflect the history and culture of the indigenous Salish people, who have lived on the land for hundreds of years.
Take a panorama tour by seaplane
After walking through Stanley Park, get a totally different perspective of the city. This seaplane tour departs from a marina next to the park and does a 20-minute loop over Vancouver.
Marvel at the giant splash of the plane as you take off from the harbor. You’ll get a breathtaking view of the city, including the unmistakable Canada Place, as well as the North Shore Mountains. If you’re wondering how to spend a day in Vancouver, this is it!
Have lunch at Granville Island Brewing
Next, head to Granville Island, which has a more laid-back vibe. It’s the perfect place to visit if you’re in Vancouver for one day without a car since you can take the footbridge or a ferry.
Granville Island is full of bars, restaurants, and specialty shops. I recommend stopping by the Granville Island Public Market, a shopping haven full of craft stalls, fresh produce, and any souvenir imaginable.
When you get hungry, grab a table at Granville Island Brewing Co. for some munchies and a beer or two. They also serve beer flights so you can sample 3, 6 or 10 different brews.
24 hours in Vancouver, Canada – afternoon itinerary
Take a waterfront sightseeing cruise
While you’re already in Granville, hop on a zodiac boat for a sightseeing tour. This 1.5-hour waterfront cruise is one of the best one-day tours in Vancouver, BC, and sails along the English Bay and North Shore.
Take in the beautiful views of the Vancouver cityscape and see Coal Harbour, False Creek, and other iconic sights. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and dolphins near the coast!
Visit Chinatown, a must-see in Vancouver in one day
Back on the mainland, a visit to Chinatown is something you must add to your Vancouver one-day itinerary. The city has a large Asian population, so its Chinatown is a bustling place of different cultures and cuisines.
One of the first things you’ll see is the Millennium Gate. Flanked by a stone lion on either side, the gate is three stories high and has a colorful terra cotta roof.
As you walk through the neighborhood, you’ll pass by various restaurants and shops, several with vintage neon signs. Stop in for a snack or trinket, then check out the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. There is an entrance fee but it’s worth it because the grounds are filled with peaceful koi ponds, plants and shrubs, and a pagoda.
See the sunset from Vancouver Lookout
Not far from Chinatown is the Vancouver Lookout, a 553-foot-tall observatory. Take a 40-second ride to the top in a glass elevator, then look out over the city and enjoy 360º views.
From up there, you’ll be able to see Metro Vancouver, the beautiful North Shore Mountains, and on clear days even Vancouver Island just off the Pacific Coast. Plan your 1-day Vancouver itinerary so you get to the lookout just in time to see the sunset, then, climb back down and enjoy some evening fun in Gastown.
And don’t forget to visit the Gastown’s iconic Steam Clock. It’s just a 2-minute walk from the Lookout.
End your day in Vancouver, BC – evening itinerary
Have dinner at Guilt & Co., what to do in Vancouver in 1 day
You’ve had a perfect day in Vancouver, but it’s not over yet! After visiting the lookout, head to Guilt & Co. for dinner, cocktails, and live music. It’s in the Gastown neighborhood, so you’ll be in the ideal spot to wrap up your night.
Enjoy the nightlife in Gastown
Gastown is a lively area of alternative shops, cafes, and clubs, so it’s a ton of fun at night. Go bar-hopping and stop by the Royal Dinette to get a drink from the award-winning best bartender in the world, Kaitlyn Stewart.
The town’s cobblestone streets and jazz influence add to its appeal, and the neighborhood overlaps with Chinatown, so it’s always an active place. You can browse the shops, mingle with the locals, or listen to a live band. Whatever you do, if you’re only in Vancouver for a day, Gastown is a must-see.
End your perfect day in Vancouver at Fairmont Hotel
By the end of the night, you need somewhere to lay your head. If you’re looking for the best luxury hotels in town, I recommend the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, which is conveniently located in the city center. Plus, it’s just five minutes from the SkyTrain, so you can easily get out of Vancouver without a car.
If you’re traveling on a budget, the Blue Horizon Hotel is also a great alternative and is not far from there.
Alternative things to do in Vancouver for a day
If you can only spend one day in Vancouver but prefer to enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings, we have a few ideas.
Above, you have seen what to do in Vancouver in a day to see the most important landmarks in the metro area. However, as you’ll learn in our guide on the best things to do in Vancouver, there are other tours and activities that can help our more outdoorsy readers create the perfect one day Vancouver itinerary.
Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip was whale-watching in Vancouver, so I must recommend it.
The tour we took lasted 5 hours and started in Granville Island at 8:30 am, making it the perfect alternative for the morning itinerary. If you’re looking for a different thing to do in one day in Vancouver, BC, or have some extra time before catching your flight, I can’t recommend this enough.
The surrounding waters of Vancouver are full of orcas and humpback whales, and you’ll probably see sea lions and bald eagles, too. The best thing is that if you’re not lucky and don’t see any whales, you can take another tour for free. However, you will need more than one day in Vancouver (or another upcoming trip) to take another tour.
For an adrenaline-filled afternoon, check out the Capilano suspension bridge. You can book this self-guided tour and spend a couple of hours taking in the gorgeous view.
The 450-foot-long hanging bridge is one of the city’s most exciting attractions, so it makes for a perfect day in Vancouver if you love extreme adventures. Suspended 230 feet above the ground, the bridge is the only way to get an above-canopy perspective of the forest.
You may also want to check out the Story Centre, an educational exhibition where you can learn about the First Nations people at Kai’palano and their traditional totem poles.
If you love snow sports and have one winter day in Vancouver, consider a visit to Grouse Mountain.
Located in the North Shore Mountains of the Pacific Range, Grouse Mountain is just a 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver and is the best winter destination for ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding.
During the warmer months it’s also quite popular with mountain bikers and hikers. There is also a popular hiking trail, the Grouse Grind, known as “Mother Nature’s Staircase.” The two-mile trek rises 2,800 feet in elevation, so it’s quite the hike.
Of course, you could also take the Super Skyride cable car to the top of the mountain. A two-way ticket is included with general admission to Grouse Mountain (it also includes a shuttle from/to downtown Vancouver from mid-May to September). However, if you visit in summer, I would opt for this combo tour that also takes you to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
For outdoor enthusiasts and snow sports lovers, Grouse Mountain is the ideal way to spend a day in Vancouver.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is perfect if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown (it’s a one-hour drive from the city center).
Open year-round, the gondola ascends over Howe Sound and the coastal forests of British Columbia. Not only are the views amazing, but there are several outdoor activities at the summit, so you can enjoy a perfect day in Vancouver’s natural beauty.
You’ll catch the gondola from Shannon Falls Provincial Park, named for British Columbia’s third-tallest waterfall, at nearly 2,000 feet. The gondola takes you up to the Summit Lodge 9,000 feet above sea level, where you can find the 330-foot-long Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge that grants you panoramic views over the forest.
To make the most out of your day in Vancouver, you can take this tour, which not only includes the shuttle there, but also a guided tour around the most popular downtown attractions, such as Gastown, Chinatown, Stanley Park, and Granville Island.
Now you should have plenty of ideas for your next 24 hours in Vancouver! This city has so much to offer, so if you can spend more time here, be sure to take advantage of your visit.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll be happy to help. Safe travels!