The city by the Pacific Ocean is framed by snow-capped mountains and shimmering seas. Vancouver's climate (milder than the rest of Canada's), natural wonders, friendly multicultural vibe, gastronomy and shopping mark it out as a must-visit city. Once travellers arrive on their flights to Vancouver, they may just decide to spend the rest of their lives there. Vancouver is a regular in the list of most livable cities.
A multicultural mosaic, there are busy Chinese, East Indian and Italian districts. The heart of the city beats most strongly in the 400-hectare Stanley Park. It contains such world-famous features as Siwash Rock, the Lost Lagoon and the 8.8km seawall walk. Within a 30-minute drive of downtown Vancouver are Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour, all with night-skiing facilities.
BC Ferries sails the Georgia Strait connecting Vancouver with Vancouver Island (and, of course, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia), and the gulf islands - Galiano and Saltspring are the best known. Within closer reach is Bowen - just a 20-minute ferry trip from Horseshoe Bay - an enchanting little island where the rain forest meets the ocean.
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Vancouver has a maritime climate. The winters are fairly mild with little snow. Given its location on the Pacific Coast, it's no surprise that Vancouver gets a lot of rain. Travellers taking trips to Vancouver in the winter months should pack a rain jacket - or two. The summer months are glorious with lots and lots of sunshine. Average temperatures are in the low 20s Celsius (70s Fahrenheit). Early Fall weather can be beautiful too.
When to fly to Vancouver
July through August is when most visitors take vacations to Vancouver. Apart from the weather, there is a packed calendar of events including the Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, and Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and the HSBC Celebration of Light fireworks competition. Skiers and snowboarders start to arrive in mid-December, and the mountains' peak season peak is January/February.
May and June and September and October are great times to visit Vancouver. The summer crowds are starting to melt away and the weather is generally good. Early spring and late autumn are great times to go whale watching.
Late fall is very rainy. If you don't mind getting wet you may be able to get discounts on travel and accommodations. Winter, especially the months of January and February, can be cold and snowy.
Getting around Vancouver
Vancouver’s public transportation system, TransLink, consists of an efficient and reliable network of electric trolley buses, SeaBus passenger ferries, buses, the SkyTrain elevated light-rail and West Coast Express trains. Save some money by buying a FareSaver book of ten tickets, which you can find at newsagents. You can also get a day pass for unlimited travel on buses, SkyTrains and SeaBuses. Don’t rent a car and save yourself the hassle of dealing with congested traffic. You can hail a taxi on the street if you need one, or you can pedal yourself around the city one of the 16 cycling routes covering 129km of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods.
Vancouver insider information
- Stanley Park is magnificent, filled with lagoons, gardens, beaches (Third Beach and Second Beach) and cedar trees. Wildlife such as beavers, coyotes, trumpeter swans and brent geese call the park home too. It's very close to the downtown core.
- Taking the Sea Bus from Waterfront Station to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver is a treat. The Lonsdale Quay Market sells lots of tempting souvenirs including melt-in-the-mouth fudge.
- The Vancouver Art Gallery is on Hornby Street. There are more than 200 major works by Emily Carr, the noted British Columbia artist. The gallery is the largest in Western Canada.
- Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, on the edge of Chinatown (Canada's largest Chinatown), is the first authentic classical Chinese garden built outside China.
- Wreck Beach is Vancouver's only clothing-optional beach. Lying between Locarno Beach and University of British Columbia lands, it is an 8km stretch of wilderness in the city. A voluntary organisation ensures it remains pristine.