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First First stop of our trip: Vancouver, Canada.
Who would have expected 28°C, beach volley fields and bears encounters half an hour from the city centre?
Here are our favourite sights and activities in British Columbia’s capital city. Check them out!
Having fun upside down in Vancouver!
HIKE THE BCMC TRAIL (Grouse Mountain)
At 18 years old I have been to Vancouver and one of my best memories was hiking the Grouse Grind, so much fun and outdoors! More than 10 years after, here I am at the base of Grouse Mountain again. Unfortunately, they inform us that the Grind is closed for maintenance. They suggest we hike the BCMC Trail which is slightly longer and as challenging as the Grind. Deal done!
Top of BCMC Trail on Grouse Mountain and its stunning views, Vancouver (Canada)
After 1.5 / 2 hours up a steep pine forest trail (3 km long and 850 mt in elevation), a beautiful vista starts to open up over the amazing panorama below, including part of the city on a clear day. Plus, there is lots happening on the mountain. Apart from restaurants and paid activities such as zipline and chairlifts, there are many free demonstrations. We really enjoyed listening to rangers talking about native birds such as the majestic eagle and the funny condor. We sat down with an icecream enjoying a lumberjack show and we saw our first bears, Grinder and Coola, which are rescued orphans and have been brought up in this wilderness sanctuary.
YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY! HERE ARE OUR TIPS TO HAVE A SAFE ENCOUNTER
HOW TO REACH IT - Take the Seabus across to North Vancouver and transfer at Lonsdale Quay onto bus #236 to Grouse Mountain. This bus will take you directly to the base of Grouse Mountain where the trail starts.
TIP - Make sure you check out the Lower Lonsdale, the historic waterfront neighbor of Vancouver with its vibrant atmosphere.
CRAVING FOR SOME HIKING ADVENTURES? CHECK OUT OUR FAVOURITE HIKES IN CANADA HERE:
BANFF & LAKE LOUISE
One of the rescued bears (Grinder and Coola) on Grouse Mountain, having a refreshing dip
BIKE STANLEY PARK
Another fond memory of Vancouver was rollerskating around Stanley Park, but little I remember about the park. It is the largest park of the city and you can spend hours wandering along long trails.
We strongly recommend to rent a bike to make the most of your day in the park and bring a swimsuit with you in Summer. There are long big logs along most beaches you can lean onto – perfect to take a break, enjoy a picnic lunch and wonder at the beautiful views of mountains, forests and sea.
WHERE TO GET RENTAL BIKES – We got good bikes at Jo-e Cycles at a reasonable price (USD22 per bike for the whole day). Make sure you get the helmet and you return the bike at the agreed time so not to be charged extra.
TIP – Make your bike rental worth it, extending your visit to Coal Harbour, riding from Stanley Park all along the harbor until Canada Place. From here you can afford great views out to Stanley Park.
VISIT MORE OF CANADA - GO VOLUNTEERING IN THE YUKON
CHECK OUT OUR VOLUNTEERING EXPERIENCE WITH THE FIRST NATONS HERE
Beach life in Vancouver's biggest city park, Stanley Park
PLAY VOLLEYBALL ON KITSILANO BEACH
Down memory lane, I will always remember the fireworks on “Kits”, how Kitsilano Beach is known locally – good vibes, good laughs and good friends!
Coming back on a super hot sunny weekend day, I was taken aback by the numbers of young people playing beachvolley on the beach – again I couldn’t help to soak up the great vibe of this neighbourhood (which inspired the birth of Lululemon yoga brand =). Join in the excitement of the volleyball tournaments!
TIP – Swimming in the cold ocean waters is not for everybody so it’s worth checking out the famous Kitsilano Pool, an outdoor saltwater public pool right by the beach.
SUMMER - TIME FOR CAMPING IN CANADA! OUR BEST TIPS HERE
First Nation poles at Stanley Park, Vancouver (Canada)
EXPLORE THE FARMER MARKET AT GRANVILLE ISLAND
There is something special about how our brain works – why would it retain some memories and not others? Certainly my brain retains lots of small flashbulb memories, “clear episodic memories of unique and highly emotional events”. Granville Island was a mix of very fun moments in my head and I understood why when I was standing at the edge of its kids’ water park (which I clearly remembered).
Not only that! There are so many art galleries, cafes and markets with their vibrant atmosphere. Chek out the Farmer Market with its packed stands of fresh fruits and veggies, to die for! Prepare to stay longer!
Cool city art close to Granville Market in Vancouver
TAKE A WALK IN DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE - THE OCCUPIED NEIGHBOURHOOD
Funny enough, my brain completely erased this neighborhood from my memory. The chatty lady at the visitor centre highly discouraged us from visiting Hastings Street and part of Main Street as this area is well known for its drug addicts and homeless and is potentially dangerous for tourists.
However, when we travel, we tend to experience the most of every place, both its bright and its not so positive aspects. This means exploring some areas which are considered unsafe and not glamorous. And we can assure you that you will not remember Downtown Eastside for its beauty.
Though, you will know more about Vancouver and about its history, its modern problems, its struggles – the visit to Downtown Eastside really shocked me, but travelling is also made of this and more people and visitors should be exposed to a less blinkered approach to tourism.
READ MORE HERE ABOUT OUR SAFETY TIPS WHEN TRAVELLING
TIP – Visit ONLY during the day and do not enter in any buildings. If you walk casually along the walkway, without engaging in any conversation or showing off your valuables, you should be alright. We saw some police going around, however, be extra cautious.
Vancouver's skyscrapers and its hidden neighbourhoods
EATING OUT AT CHINATOWN
I met most of my present Asian friends during my study-abroad time in Vancouver and there is no coincidence: more than 45%of its population is Chinese or from other Asian countries!
And there is no wonder I had the best Asian food (outside Asia) in Vancouver. The city’s Chinatown is North America’s third largest after New York and San Francisco – while during the day is nothing too shiny, at night it turns into this glittering line-up of colourful signs inviting visitors to dine on inexpensive yummy menus.
LOOKING FOR YUMMY FOOD AT INEXPENSIVE PRICE?
CHECK OUT OUR TIPS TO EAT HEALTHY AND CHEAP HERE
Panoramic views of Vancouver amongst Canadian pine forests
Public transport in Vancouver works really well, so jump on a busy bus, the iconic seabus, or the fast skytrain rather than driving in crazy four-lane traffic at peak times. Check out timetables and rates here: Translink.ca
Better if you rent a bike – you can visit the city centre, Stanley Park, and Kitsilano Beach in one day by bike.
TIP - To find your way around the city we have used Maps.me, an offline map which gives you both driving and walking directions
Exploring Vancouver by bike - a blast!