This beautiful city by the Pacific Ocean is one of the few places where you can windsurf in the afternoon and ski that evening. Vancouver does not experience the extremes in weather that most of Canada does. A rain jacket is an essential piece of kit however. It rains. A lot.
The city is a happy multicultural mosaic. There are bustling Chinese, East Indian and Italian districts, but the heart of the city beats in the 1,000-acre Stanley Park. It boasts such world-renowned features as the Lost Lagoon, Siwash Rock and the 8.8 km seawall walk. Within 30 minutes of downtown are Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour, all with night-skiing facilities.
BC Ferries ply the Georgia Strait and connect Vancouver with Vancouver Island (including Victoria, the capital of British Columbia), and the beautiful gulf islands, of which the best known are Galiano and Saltspring. A shorter hop will take you to Bowen, a beautiful little island with a general store, coffee shop, pub and lots of hiking/biking trails.
Flights to Vancouver will touch down at Vancouver International, one of the most beautiful airports, studded with First Nations' art.
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Some say Vancouver has the best Canadian weather, with warm summers and mild winters. The city rarely sees snow, rarely gets oppressively hot, but gets lots of rain. The mountains and ski resorts are so close to the city that you really can golf and ski on the same day.January is the coolest month with temperatures ranging from zero (C) to the single digits. July and August are the warmest months with temperatures reaching the low 20s. Spring and autumn temperatures are in the teens.
When to fly to Vancouver
July through August is when most visitors step off their Vancouver flights. Visitors start arriving in April and stay into the autumn. Summer in the city means film, jazz, and folk festivals, including the HSBC PowerSmart Celebration of Light fireworks competition.
Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts arrive in mid-December, and the mountain’s peak season peak is January and February.
Vancouver is particularly enjoyable in the shoulder seasons of May and June and September and October. The weather is mild and there are few crowds. Early spring and late autumn are also great times for whale watching.
Except for the ski areas, hotels in the winter are quiet and Vancouver's cultural scene is in full swing.
Getting around Vancouver
Vancouver’s public transport 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 80 miles of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods.
Vancouver insider information
- Spend one day exploring the magnificent Stanley Park. Here you’ll find lagoons, flower gardens, cedar trees and an abundance of wildlife including coyotes, trumpeter swans, beavers, brant geese and much more. Visitors can even go swimming in the park’s Third Beach and Second Beach. There’s also an impressive collection of carved totem poles.
- Go souvenir shopping in the Lonsdale Quay Market which is accessible by sea bus from Waterfront Station across the Burrard Inlet.
- Housed in a neo-classical building on Hornby Street is the Vancouver Art Gallery. With more than 200 major works by Emily Carr, the British Columbia artist and a permanent collection of almost 8,000 items the gallery is the largest in western Canada.
- On the edge of Chinatown is the tranquil Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden which is the first authentic classical Chinese garden ever built outside of China.
- Head up to the 50th floor of the Harbour Centre to the Vancouver Lookout and enjoy the stunning 360-degree views of Vancouver and the beautiful North Shore Mountains.
- The Museumof Anthropology is well worth a visit. Bill Reid's sculpture, The Raven is on show as well as totem poles from the Haida, Gitxsan, Nisga'a, Oweekeno and other First Nations, and the Koerner Ceramics Gallery.
- Don’t miss a day exploring exciting Chinatown, it’s quite an experience. Wander through the busy markets and sample some authentic Cantonese cooking or dim sum.