I have spent a lot of time in Vancouver over the past three years while we set up our Canadian Jungle Scout offices. That means I have had lots of time to explore and experience all that Vancouver has to offer. I really love Vancouver because of it's health and wellness culture. You can do yoga anywhere, bike everywhere and on every corner there's a new juice to try or salad to eat. Also with it's massive Asian population there is a diverse selection of quality restaurants to try.
Here is my short list of all the best spots in Vancouver, Canada!
Things to Know Before you Go.
Transit: There is NO Uber... I know this absolutely BLOWS. However, there are numbers to call for taxis and you can schedule them if you have an early flight. Otherwise, they are pretty plentiful around the city if you need to flag one down. Another good option is Car2go. We use Car2go and Evo in the city if we need to drive, but most of the time we bike. There is also a small Metro too and although it's nice it doesn't get you everywhere. You can get to the city by metro from the airport, or you can get a taxi. By train it's about 40 mins to the city, by taxi about 20. You can pay with credit cards in taxis and most have free wifi you can connect to while inside the car, which ALMOST makes up for the lack of Uber.
You DO tip in Canada; 15-20% is normal.
Great bike culture! You can get day passes from Mobi and use and drop these off throughout the city. There is an app that will tell you if there are bikes/slots available.
Sushi/Seafood in the city is awesome! And really most Asian food establishments are awesome. There are so many Chinese and Asian immigrants in general and the food scene really reflects it.
The Olympics were not in Vancouver, they were in Whistler. Which is about 1.5-hour drive north and one of the prettiest drives I have ever been on. If you have the chance I really recommend it- the mountains are breathtaking.
It's rainy. Really rainy. SUPER rainy. But the plus side is it never really snows, and in the summer it's sunny most days- but the other 10 months of the year it's probably going to be raining.
Hot tip: Vancouver Island is not an island in Vancouver. It is a 2-hour ferry ride from the city, so you can't exactly pop over for lunch. The island in Vancouver is called Granville and it's a fun spot to walk, go to the Granville market or one of the restaurants there.
Plan a beach day!! There are beautiful beaches! Head over to Kits for some volleyball (pending warm weather and no rain) but go all year round for the gorgeous views.
Top things to do in the city are to drink beer, eat Asian food, drink great coffee, bike through the city on the seawall, go on hikes just outside the city (Grouse is the closest hike spot), check out the beaches, pick up some artisanal foods at the Granville market, do yoga at one of the 1000 yoga studios (Semperviva and YYoga are my faves!), bike through Stanley Park, and if you are so inclined the Canucks play right downtown.
Mount Pleasant — Away from downtown but still quite a few great spots. Calm, walking distance to LOADS of breweries and if you stay near Cambie Street or south near 2nd you will find tons of restaurants, grocery stores etc within walking distance. You can get loads of places with the bike sharing company called Mobi or renting your own. As well as the Metro has a few close stops in this neighborhood.
False Creek/ Olympic Village — The southern part of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood close to tons of stuff. Small little village with grocery stores, coffee shops, quick bites etc. You can get loads of places with the bike sharing company called Mobi or renting your own. As well as the Metro has 2 close stops in this neighborhood.
Yaletown — Loads of great restaurants, easy transportation with the metro. This is my pick of the town. Close to awesome restaurants, shopping, coffee, yoga studios it has it all. There are 2 streets with the majority of restaurants on them so if you stay close to those you won’t go hungry. More lively than False Creek/Olympic Village and Mount Pleasant.
Kits — Super cool part of town and is definitely hippie central. Coffee, tea, farm to table restaurants, yoga studios, beaches, awesome to walk around. A bit far from the city and our office so we have never stayed in this spot but we have people who live over here on our team and they love it. Metro does not make it this far and the Mobi Bikes don’t stretch the entire distance of the town either. The OG Lululemon is in this neighborhood.
Elysian Coffee Roasters— A few around the city and they have wonderful amaretti cookies, nitro brew and lovely espresso. No pour overs only drip made throughout the day. Avo toast, jam and a few other small snacks before 2pm. Oh no wifi so not the place to work and caffeinate. Yaletown, Downtown, Mount Pleasant, Kits.
33 Acres — This spot could be on this list a few times. Love this spot for eating, caffeinating, and boozing. Small plates for brunch/lunch, bites for beer, food trucks occasionally parked outside and you can eat your food inside (just be sure to get a beer). Coffee is lovely and their brunch is killer. Gets packed early and has wifi. Mount Pleasant.
Aperture Coffee Bar — Lovely little hangout with coffee, cookies, handmade things and a nice homey vibe. They have wifi so you can work here too. Mount Pleasant.
Milano — Wonderful espresso! It's located on Vancouver Island. They have wifi and it's a great place to get work done. There are some booths, some tables and a bit of outdoor seating too. It's across the street from a park so you can grab coffee and drink it while laying in the park. Oh and fresh squeezed OJ which is awesome!
JJ Bean — Best chain coffee in the city, loads better than Starbucks but almost as common. Their lunches are pretty awesome too, and come with hot sauce and a salad, 2 big perks in my mind.
49th Parallel — Cute spot to grab coffee or tea, super popular among locals. Oh and the DONUTS! Mount Pleasant and Kits Beach locations.
Olive + Ruby — Cute spot with acai bowls and coffee. Kits Beach.
Small Victory Bakery — Good coffee but an excellent bakery! Go here for an afternoon pick me up and sweet or just for the baked goods themselves. Killer.
Coo Coo Coffee — Great spot for a morning coffee and a quick breakfast sandwich! They have bullet coffee also, if you are into that kind of thing. Beware, its powerful!
Keep Me Healthy!
Vancouver is home to many healthy eating spots and these are my top favorites!
Glory Juice — Lovely juices, smoothies and acai bowls! Pretty decor, they have wifi and I have been known to get breakfast smoothie, work and cap it off with a acai bowl for lunch. Pay at the counter.
Tractor — Awesome quick stop. Stews, sandwiches, salads or a combo of the 3! Great spot for a quick healthy meal. Pay at the counter.
Nuba — Yummy, fresh, Lebanese food with a few locations around the city. Mount Pleasant, Gastown, Yaletown and Kits. Wait staff and all locations are a tad different.
The Naam — 24/7 restaurant in Kits with a huge menu and generous sized meals. Super popular and super yummy.
Juice Spots — The Juice Truck (has smoothies too), Glory Juice (mentioned above), Radicle Juice (Mount Pleasant), Krokadile Pear (Yaletown), Whole Foods (smoothies and juices at their bar towards the back produce area), Living Produce Aisle (yaletown) and my favorite smoothies in the city.
These below are all walking distance so you can do a brewery crawl if you want, all of the following are located in Mount Pleasant.
33 Acres — Small with bites and the occasional food trucks (my personal fave)
R&B — Small with bites and pizza!
Brassneck — A small place with bites and a food truck occasionally on the weekends
Faculty — Small with bites
Main Street — Larger but with a small vibe. Also has bites like pretzels, hummus etc.
Big Rock — Larger size, tastings, tours, live music from time to time.
This is an area where Vancouver is lacking. They have loads of amazing restaurants, off the chart beers and breweries but their wine scene leaves room for improvement. Here are a few of my fave places to taste or grab a glass of wine and enjoy some convo.
Reflections Garden Terrace at Hotel Georgia — maybe not the best selection however the ambiance is killer
Cityside Winery — They make their own wines here which is cool but they are not super great. I stick to their global wines and get their tapas plates. Super yummy tapas platters.
Brix & Mortar — a bit on the fancier scale, but really nice!
Espana Restaurant— One of my top favourite spots because I am in love with Spanish wines and this place has an extensive list.
Salt Tasting Room — haven't been here yet however its on my list of must sees.
The Wine Bar — Yaletown, always packed and close to the marina for a nice view
Provence Marinaside-- This place has big selection wines by the glass which is always a plus in my opinion, and it also has a restaurant with a beautiful view and great ambiance.
Savio Volpe — Hands down my number one favourite restaurant in Vancouver. Handmade pastas, beautiful wines, excellent wait staff, I walk out happy each time I go. The one thing I get each time is the Kale Lemon Salad. I could eat this dish every day of my life. I always pair it whatever pasta the waiter recommends I am a happy camper. My only gripe with this place is that it's so popular so it's always packed and, they don’t have much noise absorption with the decor, so it can get quite loud.
Vij-- Really cool Indian with an awesome rooftop bar/lighter menu. Go here for a great night outdoors. They have blankets... Lamb lollipops.
Fable — Epic farm to table restaurant with the sharing mentality. You cannot go wrong here so order lots and share with everyone at the table. Try it all!
The Greek by Anatoli — This is some next-level greek food. I guess I like sharing styles because this is another share-type. Lamb lollipops, tirosalata and the grilled octopus are all my choices but everything looked great. They even have a live DJ which makes it so fun! Outdoor seating is nice with benches and blankets.
Miku — Awesome sushi on the water, great view, high end vibe, with Aburi style sushi to expand your palate. Aburi is a style of torching the sushi and is made in a rectangle shape instead of rolls or nigiri oval style. This is a place to take someone you're looking to impress. The Chef’s menu gives you a great tasting and don’t forget to end with the Green Tea Opera dessert. Probably the most high-end restaurant on the list from a dress code perspective.
House Special — This Vietnamese place is not on the radar yet but it will be. Casual restaurant but in the Yaletown district where the style is higher than say, Mount Pleasant. It's tapas style Vietnamese. Try the fry bread, shaken beef and mango salad. Not super busy likely because it’s at the end of the Yaletown restaurant row but it is worth it!
Juniper — Hand crafted cocktails with a rotating seasonal menu. Pacific Northwest cuisine over in Chinatown and worth the effort to get over there.
Salmon n’ Bannock — More casual style but awesome Pacific Northwest food. Small place so call for reservations if you can. Salmon rules the menu so be sure to get some of it but don’t miss the game sausage. WOW.
Peaceful Restaurant-- I like this super casual Chinese restaurant in Mount Pleasant. I recommend the noodles as they make them in house and are hand pulled. Their Dim Sum is great too and they have a pretty long list of options. My favourite item on the menu is the Hot and Tangy dumplings. I also recommend the noodles, general tsos chicken and cumin and beef flatbread.
Nomad-- handmade dishes cool industrial atmosphere cozy seating fun cocktails and a decent wine list.
Brunch So Hard
Cafe Medina — Moroccan themed brunch spot that hits legit every list of "best of’s" in Vancouver. You will wait for it though unless you get there early or sit at the bar (likely only for 1).
33 Acres — Oh look who's back on the list. Their brunch is Off. The. Charts. GOOD. The avocado smash is all I ever get and their biscuits are to die for. I hear their waffles are so fluffy and light but I can’t ever part with the avocado smash. Pair it with some beer and you have yourself a fun morning.
Chambar — High End brunch, take someone you want to impress here or just celebrate a Saturday.
Kahve — Kits Beach. I haven’t been there yet but its on my radar for sure.
Olive + Ruby — Acai Bowls, avocado and black bean on toast (Spanglish), coffee and what a beautiful space. Greens and whites with natural woods all day long. Sign me up. Order at the counter and food is brought to you. Located in Kits.
WeWork in downtown just opened up and I’m sure its great. Various coffee shops throughout the city are good for it too. Depending on your neighbourhood. JJ Bean is a safe bet throughout the city though.
All in all, Vancouver is a great city with a lot of offer and I love that I get to spend so much time here.
Have you been to Vancity? What's on your list? Leave a comment below or comment on my Instagram @lizmercer_ I would love to hear your tips!