How to Spend One Day in Vancouver, BC: Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

Links in this article may earn us a little money if you book/ order stuff. More here.

Only Have One Day in Vancouver? Here’s How You Might Plan It!

If you’ve only got one day in Vancouver, BC – this is the guide for you. Whether you’re staying overnight or you’re on a day trip to Vancouver (perhaps a layover or from Victoria or Seattle), there’s plenty to do, eat, see, and drink to keep you busy!

24 hours in Vancouver is definitely not enough time to absorb all the Canadian sights this incredible city offers. That said, you can cover quite a bit of ground if you plan it right. That’s where we come in!

We spent a few weeks in Vancouver while on our West Coast trip and really fell in love with the city. Eric had been to Vancouver before – but it was Lisa’s first time! We also had both family and local friends tell us about attractions and local things to check out while exploring.

So, this guide covers exactly that: places to visit for a whole day in Vancouver. From breakfast options to evening activities, this itinerary covers what to do in Vancouver for a day!

Vancouver, BC Tours

Being a popular destination, there are plenty of amazing tours to help you discover the city from all different angles. From bike tours to foodie tours – and tours that take to the sky in a seaplane – check out these Vancouver tour options for yourself!

Breakfast at OEB Breakfast Co.

Navigation Address: 1137 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2Y3

metal and glass shop front for breakfast place with umbrellas and sidewalk in front.
It’s easy to find OEB at the Yaletown location!

To start off your 1 day in Vancouver right, you’ll need a solid breakfast. For this, we loved our breakfast at OEB Breakfast Co. Located close to Yaletown – looking over the boats and water of False Creek – OEB is a popular name around the city. 

They get pretty busy on weekends (with an extensive waitlist) so we went right at 8:00 am on a weekday and walked right in to get a table. 

The staff were super friendly and the place was very welcoming – travellers, business people, families, everyone was there! 

breakfast foods on blue plate with coffee mug and another plate behind on table.
OEB Breakfast is definitely a great option.

They serve drip coffee in really big mugs – so if you’re a coffee fan it’s a pretty good size. For food, Lisa ordered Eggs Florentine and Eric had the classic breakfast which comes with eggs and meat. 

Their potatoes (which are like wedges) are cooked in duck fat which is really tasty. That said, you can order the potatoes as a vegan version. 

Overall, everything was really good! Notably, the service was very efficient – you can tell that they’ve got their act together. Probably necessary when you’re so busy.

If you know you want to go, you can try to get a reservation or waitlist spot in advance. Otherwise, go early enough to walk in as we did.

Depending on where you are staying, there are other places for breakfast. We also really like Greenhorn Cafe tucked away in a quiet area in the West End. The Templeton is a more retro-chic diner between downtown and Yaletown, while Cafe Medina is an upscale-chic brunch place right in the centre of Downtown Vancouver.

Getting Around Vancouver, BC

Vancouver has a number of different areas. As a day visitor, you’ll only really need Downtown, West End, and the surrounding areas/neighbourhoods around False Creek, etc. to visit sights and attractions.

The city centre is quite walkable in parts and a touch more hilly in parts. Any areas close to the shoreline are flatter. The whole of downtown has the Seawall Path which you can use to explore on a bike or on foot.

Public transport is through Translink which operates buses, the SkyTrain (the “T”), and the SeaBus. There are bike sharing stations (Mobi) across the city and many bike-dedicated street paths. 

The water also has little ferries (think like water taxis) by False Creek Ferries and the more colourful “Aquabus” which can buzz you around False Creek (e.g. to Granville Island) for a reasonable fare.

Morning Activities: Self-Guided or Bike Tour

Now that you’re fueled up, it’s time to explore the city a little bit. There is just so much to do and see in Vancouver – you’ll never see it all in a day. However, with a bit of planning (and this Vancouver one day guide), you’ll cross quite a bit off your list.

So, to tackle the morning, you could do two things: do a self-guided tour or do a bike tour. Both are good options and work for different travellers. Let’s start with a bike tour and why it’s a great option. 

Vancouver Bike Tour

Navigation Address: 648 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6C 2G2

woman wearing helmet standing beside bike with vancouver city buildings and water in background.
Lisa enjoying the tour – with Downtown Vancouver behind!

A really fun and efficient way to see some sights and learn a lot about the city is to explore it on a bike tour. Vancouver is a city that is very bike-friendly so even those who hesitate to bike in big cities can be much more at ease. 

This is actually what we did to explore Vancouver when we were short on time one day. We did this 5-hour bike tour with Cycle City. It was the closest we could find to a Vancouver one day tour and it was absolutely worth it.

The tour started off in the heart of downtown, then headed for Stanley Park along the famous Seawall path (with lots of stops along the way). At one point, we were led into the Park down what felt like a secret forest path to Beaver Lake and it was very tranquil.

man wearing helmet and backpack walking bike through forest trail.
Eric walking the wooded path to Beaver Lake… it was so cool!

We then headed for English Bay, took the water taxi (with bikes!) to Granville Island for lunch, and biked all around False Creek before seeing Gastown, Chinatown, and more. 

Our guide, Greg, was passionate, kept us engaged and safe, and even provided recommendations for dinner and drinks after the tour! If you want to see everything we did on this tour, you can read our Vancouver bike tour review post.

In any case, if you do this tour, you’ll be busy until well after lunch. At this point, you’d likely need a break so skip down to our “afternoon break” section to continue this day’s itinerary.

Also, a friendly disclosure: This is not sponsored- we paid for this tour with our own money and have no connection to the bike shop. Unsurprisingly, this well-rated tour delivered.

Self-Guided Tour

If you don’t opt for a bike tour, you’ll be on foot (or bus) and a bit more limited in what you can see in the morning. Luckily, you can still experience lots if you plan out your one day in Vancouver on foot well.

antique steam clock on street corner with people standing around it in vancouver gastown.
The famous Gastown Steamclock getting ready to blow.

Depending on where you got breakfast/where you are staying, we’d recommend exploring downtown Vancouver and the areas closer to False Creek (like Gastown, Chinatown, Granville Island, etc.) in the morning. Here are a few ideas:

  • Gastown is the oldest, more historic area of Vancouver and is home to many boutique shops, places to eat, and the famous Gastown Steam Clock.
  • You could explore False Creek (and the different stops) using the Aquabus. For example, you might check out Science World if you are travelling with kids.
  • Chinatown features city history, eateries, and one of the city’s top attractions  – Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
  • The heart of downtown has everything from shopping to food, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, among other things to see.

Whatever you end up seeing/doing, stay to this side of downtown before heading elsewhere in the afternoon (like West End or Stanley Park) to avoid backtracking.

Lunch at Breka Bakery and Cafe or Granville Island

It’s now lunchtime and you’ve got plenty of options. If you hopped on the bike tour mentioned above that takes you for lunch at Granville Island, you’ll have lunch covered so skip down to the late afternoon break section for the next step.

If you just wandered around the Downtown/False Creek end of the city, you could still have lunch at Granville Island. Otherwise, Breka Cafe is a top choice that also works with this one-day in Vancouver itinerary!

Granville Island Public Market

Navigation Address: Public Market, 1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9

Assuming you started around this end of the city, you can hop on a False Creek Ferry and get taken over to the island in no time at all for lunch.

large open air market with many food vendors and people sitting eating.
Lots of food options in Granville Public Market!

Granville Island is one of the top places to visit in all of Vancouver because of its food and drink options, art galleries, shops, performance venues, and much more.

In terms of lunch, there are plenty of options in the Public Market to suit all tastes and cuisines. We had some baked goods – a sausage roll – and a pasta salad which was really good from a small vendor. You can find seafood, Italian, sandwiches/delis, and more.

Breka Bakery and Cafe

Navigation Address: 812 Bute St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1Y4

Another amazing stop for lunch is Breka Bakery and Cafe. This is a local chain that we fell in love with during our stay (we had breakfast and lunch there a few times). Fun Fact: All seven locations are open 24/7 so… you can always go to Breka!

inside of bakery with large glass case of baked goods and bread on shelves on wall behind.
Breka – the glass case can be wonderful and deliciously overwhelming!

The good news is that there are multiple locations around the city so you’re never too far from Breka’s delicious baked goods and coffee!

When we visited the Bute Street Location for lunch, it was super busy but the line moved pretty efficiently. We had sandwiches – Eric had the Reuben sandwich which gets grilled and Lisa had the egg salad sandwich. Both were really good – and we got coffees as well because why not? 

reuben sandwich on white plate with coffee mug beside on wooden table.
A delicious sandwich and coffee!

We sat outside on the patio overlooking the hustle and bustle of Robson Street nearby. We were also super tempted to get a sweet baked good, but it didn’t happen on this lunch stop (we had some another time and they were tasty)! 

Overall, Breka seems to be a welcoming mix of locals and travellers so we’d recommend it. You can also get your order for takeaway if you want to sit elsewhere.

Afternoon Activity: Explore Stanley Park

Navigation Location: Just North of West End/Downtown

If you didn’t go on the bike tour and have already visited parts of Stanley Park, the afternoon after lunch is now your time to go and explore. 

asphalt pathway snaking along waterfront with green trees on the left.
The famous Seawall Path makes biking safe and scenic.

The famous city park needs little introduction. Comprised of 400 hectares (almost 1000 acres!), this green oasis is the city’s oldest (founded in 1888) and biggest park. It’s a defining feature of Vancouver with lots to see and do.

It’s important to remember that Vancouver is situated on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). We’re grateful to be able to visit and share our experiences.

Of course, a notable feature is the seawall pathway which runs around the entire perimeter of the park. Walking or biking, you can explore the wall at your own pace – and choose to enter the park to check out anything that might interest you – be it a pathway, a statue, or a totem pole. 

colourful totem poles standing on green grass with forest behind.
The totem poles in Stanley Park – stop and learn everything about them.

Speaking of which, Stanley Park has a bunch of other features/spots to check out. These includes:

  • Seeing the Totem Poles and learning about their history.
  • Wandering around the Lost Lagoon to spot turtles and other wildlife.
  • Hiking up to Prospect Point Lookout for an iconic shot of the Lions Gate Bridge.
  • Hanging out at Second and/or Third Beach.
  • The Vancouver Aquarium – Canada’s largest – is good for visiting with kids.
  • Simply wander the wooded interior paths towards Beaver Lake and out again.
quiet lake with geese swimming and tall pine trees behind with blue sky above.
Beaver Lake in the Park’s interior.

There’s much to discover in the Park so you’ll easily fill up an afternoon. Just be sure to take breaks and a water bottle with you if you plan on a longer outing – especially in the summer. 

There’s also a brewery nearby… but we’ll get to that in a second!

Late Afternoon Break in West End

Regardless of whether you completed the bike tour mentioned above or if you’re just exiting Stanley Park on your own itinerary, it’s probably time for a bit of a break. 

For this, we’d say stay in the neighbourhood called West End. Here you’ll find a number of places where you can grab a drink (alcoholic or non) or a quick bite to eat.

Stanley Park Brewing Restaurant & Brewpub

Navigation Address: 8901 Stanley Park Dr, Vancouver, BC V6G 3E2

large grey brewery building with sidewalk in front and trees around.
You can’t miss the Brewery!

If you are looking for something a bit stronger, you can head to Stanley Park Brewing

Located between West End (Denman Street) and the heart of Stanley Park (close-ish to Lost Lagoon), this brewery is nestled in the green trees of the park’s edge. 

There are tennis courts right beside and the shoreline is walkable – meaning it’s a lively, active, and green area. 

They have both indoor seating and a large outdoor patio (and beer garden area) so you can choose where you want to sit. If it’s busy, you might want to put your name down with the host staff to ensure you get a spot!

As for beers, everything we had was great. Eric had the Amber ale and Lisa had the Sunsetter peach wheat ale which we both really enjoyed.

four small sampler beer in wooden paddle on table with water glass behind.
Our sampler flight – every beer we tried was pretty good!

We actually went back again at another point in our trip and had the sampler flight. We’d recommend that since they have so many options!

Overall, the staff were friendly and knowledgeable about their beer so give them a go if you’re looking for a rest amongst the greenery.

Delany’s Coffee

Navigation Address: 1105 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2M7

If you’re looking for a coffee and a place to sit, you could head to Delany’s Coffee. Located right on Denman Street, this is a good local coffee shop with a welcoming and inclusive vibe – and really good coffee.

large brownie sitting on paper bag with grey coffee cup sitting behind on grey metal table.
Try the brownie at Delany’s – it’s really good!

Inside there is lots of seating, but in the warmer months they also have a few tables and chairs out front along the sidewalk. We stopped through for a flat white and a brownie – both were very good.

Depending on the time of day that you visit, it can get pretty busy. Just something to keep in mind!

Optional (Sunset) Sit at English Bay

Navigation Location: Beach Ave, Vancouver, BC V6C 3C1; close to Denman Street

Because you’re already located in the West End if you go for coffee or to the brewery mentioned above, a natural next step would be to go have a sit at English Bay Beach.

rocky shoreline with beach and tall city buildings in background with blue sky above.
English Bay Beach in all its glory.

Depending on the time of year, you might be able to catch the sunset either before or after dinner which is located close by to this area.

English Bay Beach is a very popular hangout both for locals and tourists alike. On sunny days you’ll see people swimming, sunbathing, and just sitting on the benches enjoying the sea air. It’s also connected to the seawall so it’s easy to get to if you’re walking or biking around the city.

Behind the beach closer to where the city begins in Morton Park you’ll find an interesting sculpture called A-maze-ing Laughter.

It is a popular bronze sculpture depicting an artist in many different positions laughing. It’s a popular photo spot in Vancouver so check it out if you’re in the area.

sunset sky with many colours over water with people standing on beach in front.
This was a few years ago – such a beautiful English Bay sunset!

Many years ago when Eric first visited Vancouver with his dad, they caught the most beautiful sunset at English Bay (see above). So definitely try and get in – at the very least – a sit on one of the many benches to take in the views.

Dinner at the Sylvia’s Restaurant & Lounge or Sushi at Mugen

It is now dinner time on this itinerary, and there are loads of places you can go all over Vancouver. For this dinner, we offer two great options: Sylvia’s Restaurant or Sushi Mugen.

Sylvia’s Restaurant & Lounge

Navigation Address: 1154 Gilford St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2P6

Dinner at Sylvia’s Restaurant is a classic Vancouver stop. This Historic Hotel has a restaurant on one of the lower floors with large glass windows that allow you to see out over English Bay.

large brick hotel covered in green ivy with canada flag on top and trees around.
You can’t miss the historic Sylvia Hotel!

We’d heard about Sylvia’s but actually went because our tour guide on the bike tour, Greg, recommended it as one of his go-to dinner spots. If a local says it’s good, you have to try it!

We ended up making a reservation and this was a very good idea because the restaurant was quite busy. We ended up having fish and chips and a mushroom risotto – both of which were really good.

dinner plate of risotto on wooden table with wine glass and pint glass and another dinner plate behind.
A little risotto and fish and chips, please!

Lisa got a glass of wine to go with her dinner while Eric opted for a pint of beer from a local brewery (mentioned below).

Overall, the service was great and the atmosphere was social – but not stuffy. There were tourists staying for a drink, families enjoying a meal, and couples having a nice dinner out.

Sushi Mugen

Navigation Address: 903 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1B9

Another classic food option in Vancouver is sushi. There are many, many sushi places all around the city and some are definitely better than others. Located on Davie Street closer to downtown, Sushi Mugen had really good sushi.

The place is known for its presentation and the platters definitely did not disappoint. We had a mix of sashimi and specialty rolls as well as their unlimited green tea – everything was honestly amazing.

fancy sushi roll on white platter on wooden table with chopsticks and candle around.
The presentation at Sushi Mugen is top-notch!

Half the fun of being there was watching to see what other people got because there were some very elaborate platters and presentations coming out of the kitchen. You have to hand it to the chefs.

Sushi Mugen might be a good option if you are staying closer to the centre of downtown, however, it’s pretty easy to get to because it’s right on Davie with public transportation close by (walking is definitely also an option).

If you want something else for dinner in another part of the city, check out Cardero’s for seafood closer to Coal Harbour, pizza slices at Straight Outta Brooklyn NYC Pizzeria (on Robson) or tasty Vietnamese at Pho Khanh Express (no website, just trust us) at Beatty & Smithe.

Evening Activities/Ideas

It’s now evening in Vancouver, and if you still have some energy left, you can make the most of what the city has to offer at night.

What you do in the evening greatly depends on where you are staying in the city. That said, you can find places to have a drink or even a few nice activities scattered all around parts of downtown and the surrounding neighbourhoods (like in Olympic Village).

So, for this itinerary, we’re going to provide three options for things to do in Vancouver at night. You can decide on what works best for you based on what you’re interested in doing and where you are staying that evening.

The options are: Go for Drinks, Join a Ghost Tour, Enjoy a Performance, or Attend a Sports Game.

Go For Drinks 

There’s absolutely no shortage of places to go for evening drinks in Vancouver. Again, where you go for drinks greatly depends on where you are staying and how far you want to venture from that area.

If you’re close to Gastown you might want to check out Alibi Room or Local Gastown (to name just a few of many).

large brewery building with water tower and red trucks in front.
Red Truck is kind of on its own – but worth the stop!

If you are just south of False Creek, there are lots of breweries and other places to go. We liked Red Truck Beer Company. Some classic stops would also be Tap & Barrel Olympic Village or Craft Beer Market Falls Creek which has dozens and dozens of beers on tap. 

If you’re close to Yaletown then you should just check out what you can find in Yaletown. That said, Bartholomew is one of the top places in the city for wine and cocktails (if you’re not into beer).

Join a Ghost Tour

If you want to learn a little bit more about the city, and you haven’t yet done enough walking, you might want to go on a ghost tour. Vancouver has a rich history and you can learn all about it on a guided wander through Gastown. 

Check Out This Gastown Walking Ghost Tour

This old section of the city has many historic landmarks with a dark past. So, it makes sense that a creepy tour based on true events and a guide in costume would make for a great evening!

Attend a Sports Game

If you’re looking for a little bit of excitement and you’re travelling to Vancouver in the right Sports season, you might be able to catch a game.

The two venues where most of Vancouver’s local teams play are conveniently right beside one another nestled between downtown and False Creek.

BC Place is a large stadium that is home to both the BC Lions (a Canadian football team) and the Vancouver Whitecaps, part of the North American soccer league known as MLS.

Across the street, you’ll find Rogers Arena which is home to the Vancouver Canucks – the local ice hockey team. Unlike in Toronto, there is no baseball or basketball team – but you get some pretty good options with soccer, football, and hockey.

Enjoy a Performance

Last, but certainly not least Vancouver is a metropolitan city that also has a very strong Arts community.

So if you are in town and want to engage in a bit of art and culture, you might look to one of their great venues for some theatre, music, comedy, or otherwise.

Very close to the heart of downtown, you’ll find two of the most popular venues: The Orpheum (usually music) and The Queen Elizabeth Theatre (mostly theatre/performances).

You can learn more about the different venues and the upcoming performances on the website of the Vancouver Civic Theatres.

Because Vancouver is a big centre on the west coast, it’s usually a hot spot for both small and big musical acts travelling up or down from the United States (Seattle, Portland, etc.)

Related Articles

If you’re travelling to Canada and looking for more helpful posts, check out these West Coast Canada guides:

And there you have it – a complete guide on how to spend one day in Vancouver! We kind of gave two itineraries that were intertwined – but there are so many other ways you can spend your day. Just focus on the Vancouver attractions you’re interested in and you can’t go wrong!

As always, Happy Vancouver Waddlin’,
– L&E

Booking Your Trip Soon? This Is How We Do It:
  • Compare flights on Skyscanner
  • Check for Hotel Deals or Book A Hostel
  • Get A Rental Car (depending on the destination)
  • Research plug types and possibly get a travel adapter
  • Go over our packing list
  • Pin it for later!