Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. While clicking these links won't cost you anything, they will help me to keep this site up and running! Check out the full disclosure policy for more details. Thank you so much!
The reality is that, like many of my 48 hours in posts, 48 hours in this city is not enough. In fact 4 years ago I spent two weeks in Vancouver visiting a friend and it still wasn’t enough. However I took my partner for a whirlwind weekend in Vancouver because he lives in Portland but had never been to Canada before, and this is the 2 days in Vancouver itinerary I put together for a first-timer in the beautiful BC city.
Vancouver itinerary: Day 1
Breakfast as fresh as it gets from Granville Island
I don’t know if it’s the hustle and bustle of markets that I love so much, or the smell of fresh food, or being so close to the water but Granville Island was my favourite spot the first time I was in Vancouver and it was the first place I took Taylor (my partner) to when we arrived.
Every food option you could possibly want is here. Plus fresh fruit, veg, meat, fish, ice cream, cheese (I could go on). I love the location of Granville Island, entering the Island underneath Granville Bridge, surrounded by water with the highrise buildings of downtown on the other side. Head to the Public Market and grab whatever takes your fancy, then eat it out on the pier but watch out for seagulls! My favourites are Chau Veggie Express, Siegel’s Bagels and Terra Breads.
Definitely don’t miss Granville Island food markets and food halls on your weekend in Vancouver.
Take in the sights and sounds of Downtown
Either take one of the water taxis from Granville Island across False Creek, or take transport part of the way downtown. I like to get off and explore Robson Street for some cool cafes and walk North towards the waterfront through all the highrises; here’s a fun fact about Vancouver: a lot of movies are filmed here in place of US cities - it’s interesting what scenes you might spot! Grab a donut from Cartem’s Donuts on W Pender - they are incredible!
If you’re into bookstores definitely head to MacLeod’s Books, almost opposite Cartem Donuts and get yourself lost in the higgled piggledy bookstacks.
Some of my other favourite sights downtown:
Christ Church Cathedral: this old stone church is really interesting in stark contrast to the modern glass skyscrapers around it.
Vancouver Public Library: this unusual circular building is free to go in and look around.
Marine Building: on the waterfront makes a great photo op with its art deco style.
Robson Square and Vancouver Art Gallery: there are often outdoor exhibitions in the square at certain times of the year and the Gallery is really worth a visit too if you have time.
Once you reach the waterfront, enjoy the views and explore the landscape. You can often see seaplanes taking off and on clear days you can see the moutains.
Chinatown and Gastown
Two iconic parts of the city that you must see on your 2 days in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver is such a diverse city and if you spend longer there, you will see that certain nationalities dominate certain neighbourhoods with their eclectic mix of restaurants, clothing and crafts. Chinatown is full of colourful buildings and authentic food so take your pick for a lunchtime snack.
Gastown is one of my favourites because it’s such a stark contrast to the modern glass highrise buildings downtown. Gastown is full of brick buildings, converted industrial areas and cobble streets. Explore the many shops, bars, restaurants and breweries in this area and don’t miss the Gastown Steam Clock!
We came back here in the evening and went to Postmark Brewing who have a great mix of craft beers and awesome burgers for brunch, lunch or dinner or tapas. We also went to Alibi Rooms which has a similar atmosphere for industrial and comfortable with it’s locally sourced food and over 50 taps with local and imported beers.
Main Street and Commercial Drive
Two great areas of the city away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. If you’re looking for breweries, great burritos and cool street art then head over to Main Street.
If you’re into vintage, antiques and local businesses, walk through Strathcona (which has lots of pretty colourful houses) and start at the Vancouver Flea Market down by the railway. This is a treasure trove of everything from locals selling their old junk to one of a kind pieces of art, jewellery, keepsakes and homewares. We wandered around here for over an hour!
TIP: check online for opening times as they change regularly.
Then if you’re looking for vintage clothing and wares, Commercial Drive has an eclectic mix of shops to get lost in until dinner time! If you’d like to hang around Commercial Drive for dinner, Drive Thai is a great Thai restaurant. Or head back over to one of the breweries or local eateries you discovered on Main or in Gastown.
Vancouver itinerary: Day 2
Breakfast at Yolks
You can’t spend 48 hours in Vancouver without getting breakfast or brunch in the city! Yolks is just off Cambie Street and it was our fave breakfast EVER! If you’re staying on the East side of the city, I’d totally head here for breakfast on your way in. But arrive early or make reservations, it gets busy on the weekend!
Did you really think I’d miss this iconic place off the itinerary?! Straight after breakfast head over to Stanley Park, if you’re driving, I’d recommend driving around the whole island and stopping at the various car parks and view points. Or you can hire a bike and cycle around. My first time to Vancouver I cycled around because I had more time and it was so much fun, the cycle route is so scenic and if you are there longer, I’d recommend taking a picnic and finding a good spot for sunset.
My must-see spots in Stanley Park:
The Totem Poles
Vancouver Seawall - with views looking back over downtown
Prospect Point lookout over Lions Gate Bridge
Siwash Rock (for all you photographers out there)
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
One of the great things about Vancouver is how nearby you are to nature. You have beaches, mountains, forests, ocean and waterfalls all a short drive away so you can easily visit places like this on a 2 day trip to Vancouver. On my first visit I went to Capilano Suspension Bridge which is beautiful but very popular and very busy. This time we opted to head to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and Park.
The bridge is just as awesome and the surroundings are just as lush as Capilano and the perk is that it’s free too, unlike Capilano! If you have the means to drive a little out of the city to Lynn Canyon or Capilano I would totally recommend it. Both Capilano and Lynn Canyon are a short drive away across Lions Gate Bridge out of Stanley Park.
At Lynn’s Canyon follow the hiking trail across the bridge and through the wooded area, it’s very short and easily accessible terrain.
Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver
We discovered this gem by accident after driving around North Shore, Grouse Mountain and West Vancouver. There is a small park on the tip of West Vancouver with a cute lighthouse looking out to the Inlet and Bowen Island. We parked up and had a nice refreshing hike through the woods to the rocky viewpoint of the lighthouse below.
Although we were short on time this was a great way to get out of the city and see more of what Vancouver has to offer in the surrounding area.
Obviously having spent two weeks in Vancouver a few years ago, there is so much more to do in this city than what I’ve just mentioned for 48 hours in Vancouver. So here are a few of my other favourites which you could include if you’re in the city for longer.
Museum of Vancouver and Kitsilano Beach Park
Museum of Anthropology, particularly for its focus on the works and culture of First Nation People
The rest of UBC campus area including the UBC Botanical Gardens
Grouse Mountain, take the gondola up the mountain and even go skiing if it’s winter!
English Bay Beach and Sunset Beach park
Granville St & W 6th Ave Street art
The Diamond - for cocktails overlooking the heart of Gastown
Space Lab - cool antiques store in Chinatown with great coffee too
If you’re heading to Vancouver for a weekend, whether you’re in Vancouver for 48 hours or 2 weeks, if you go to any of these places let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
Pin this to save it for later and help you plan your future trip!
Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
Car Rental: I love the customer service I've always gotten and the variety of options with Rental Cars. But for short notice rentals, I've been using Expedia for the last year, they always seem to have great one-day rates or last-minute rates from the main rental companies.
Accommodation: I prefer the flexibility of booking accommodation with Booking.com so I can cancel or change my reservation without a fee or only pay on arrival for most properties. For longer or more unique stays I prefer AirBnB because you can get the long stay discount, you can also find more unique properties and book experiences with talented locals and businesses. For my budget trips, I always stay in hostels and book through Hostelworld because they have great guarantees if anything does go wrong. If you arrive and your booking is not at the property, they refund the full deposit AND give you $50 extra credit.
Tours and organised trips Although I don’t use tours that often, I do like to book local experiences or day trips once I reach my destination. For that I use GetYourGuide because it has the biggest selection and variety of tour and experience options.
Travel Insurance: I currently use SafetyWing Nomad Insurance. Which allows me to pay a rolling monthly fee to cover my long term travels.
My camera gear and equipment: I use a Canon 77D with an 18-135mm lens or a 50mm lens. And a DJI Mavic Mini Drone. For all my gear including laptops, tripods and more camera accessories read my travel photography gear guide.