Visiting Vancouver in Winter? Or just curious what there is to see, do and eat from an Aussie’s perspective? Check out the rundown on our recent holiday!
We travelled to Canada for a month in December and enjoyed our very first White Christmas! Canada is an absolutely beautiful country and we loved every minute of it despite the fact we were visiting during their brutally cold winter! Like any enthusiastic world travellers, we spent a great deal of time researching the cities we were visiting before we left home. One common thing we found was that that a lot of the resources and guides didn’t exactly specialise in Winter travel.
So, here’s our answer to that! An Aussie’s guide to surviving & enjoying Canada in Winter. We’re kicking off this 7-part series in the very first city we visited – Vancouver!
The Vancouver lowdown:
We travelled to Vancouver from Brisbane via LA, and all up it was a total of 24 hours travel time door to door. And boy were we glad to get to our hotel that night! That would have to be one of the worst parts of travelling as an Aussie. It takes us just so long to get to most countries!
We were in Vancouver for 2 days, which I felt was enough time to check out everything in Winter! Vancouver was probably the warmest place we visited on our trip but even without the snow you can get brutal winds that make it impossible to want to go out for very long.
We spent most of the first day walking around the city, getting our bearings and shopping for appropriate snow gear for the month to come! We spent a bit of time in CF Pacific Centre (shopping mall) and we made our first visit to Hudson’s Bay (which is like Macy’s for Americans or David Jones for Aussies!). Then we strolled back to our hotel along Granville Street, which was filled with shops, restaurants and bars.
I have to be entirely honest here and say that part of Granville Street (between Robson St and Smithe St) felt a little dodgy. We were walking back towards our hotel from the shops and found there were lots of homeless lining the streets and rubbish was everywhere. Every city has their problems, but I would just keep this in mind if you are walking down Granville.
There is another part of the city that is quite well known for its huge homeless community and for being extremely unsafe – East Hastings. We simply drove past this street (not poverty gawking, it just was right next to Chinatown) and it was such a confronting sight to see with so many people in hopeless situations. We were warned never to walk down that street as it’s extremely dangerous, so be sure to avoid it in your travels too.
Aside from these two areas, we found Vancouver to be safe and clean.
On our second day we took a tour to Capilano Suspension Bridge and around the main points of interest within the city, including Stanley Park and Granville Island. For $100 we had a half day tour and got to spend plenty of time seeing the sites. I don’t know about you guys but sometimes figuring out how to get everywhere you want to in a foreign city is just all too hard so getting someone else to do it for you is for the best! Plus, it was around 2C/35F so we weren’t interested in walking around too much!
Capilano Suspension Bridge was by far the highlight of Vancouver for us. We got there close to dusk, so got to see it both in daylight and all lit up at night. The bridge stretches 137m (450f) across and 70m (230f) above the Capilano river. Although I’m not a huge fan of heights, crossing it was not too stressful! And it was just such an unreal experience I had to give it a go, albeit very slowly! Adam, on the other hand, is never phased by heights and practically wanted to sprint across it!
There is also a cliff walk and a treetops adventure included in your ticket and all offered different perspectives of this gorgeous park. We were quite fortunate to be there at Christmas time as there were quite a few holiday themed things going on too, including a band playing Christmas carols. But I suspect there is always something to be seen year-round!
Oh, and just a quick note for Aussie readers – yes, it’s the same Capilano as our honey. The man who started Capilano Honey met his wife while stationed in Canada as a RAAF flying instructor in WW2 and proposed to her on the Capilano Bridge! A fun fact you can now pull out!
Another highlight of our trip to Vancouver was Granville Island and I’d highly recommend making sure you pop it on your list to visit. Be sure to check out the “Giants” artwork a.k.a a spray-paint mural on six concrete silos. I’d actually seen photos on this before and had no idea it was in Vancouver, so I was thrilled I got to see it close-up!
The marketplace inside Granville Island had everything you would expect, and the food was absolutely delicious! I only wish we had more time to eat our way through a few more stalls. Give yourself at least an hour here – you’ll need it.
We really did enjoy our short stay in Vancouver. I’d love the chance to come back and visit in Summer, but I don’t feel like we missed out on too much as we did with other cities (more on that in later parts!).
Eats, Sleeps and Deets:
How we got there:
We flew Brisbane – LA with Virgin and LA – Vancouver with Westjet.
Where we stayed:
Holiday Inn Vancouver Downtown – Cheap and cheerful and close to everything we needed.
What we saw:
- Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Canada Place
- Robson Street
- Stanley Park
- Granville Island
- CF Pacific Centre (Shopping Mall)
Where we ate:
Joe’s Grill – We ate here for breakfast every morning and loved every bite! We don’t really do good old-fashioned diner food at a reasonable price back home in Australia, so it was great to find this just around the corner from our hotel! Breakfast set us back about $30 each morning for 2 of us (including tip).
White Spot – You’ll have to forgive two tired travellers for not wanting to stray too far from the hotel on the first night we arrived. We did, after all, have almost 24 hours in transit! We found White Spot just around the corner from our hotel and had the most delicious chicken fingers and chicken stir-fry!
Granville Island – We visited Granville island around dinner time and they had a market hall full of delicious options. We had a stir-fry (can you see what my go-to meal is when we travel) and indulged in a few donuts. Everything looked fresh and delicious – and a perfect option if you aren’t quite sure what you want to eat!
Visiting Vancouver at Christmas?
Check out the lights at St Paul’s Hospital. The light display features over 10km of lights and 100,000 bulbs!
That’s all for our guide to Vancouver! Stay tuned for part 2 of the Aussie’s guide to visiting Canada in Winter – Whistler Edition!
Do you have a must visit recommendation for Vancouver? Or just a question? Pop a comment below! We love hearing from you!