Some of the features that give Vancouver its natural beauty also create barriers to movement. 

Dissecting the Greater Vancouver Area in an east-west direction are the Fraser River and Burrard Inlet.  Downtown Vancouver, the West End and Stanley Park are on a peninsula with Burrard Inlet to the north and English Bay and False Creek to the south. 

To the north and east of the Greater Vancouver Area are the Coast Mountains, which limit Vancouver’s growth to the north, and which force the metropolitan area to spread south across the Fraser River’s delta and east up the Fraser River Valley. 

It's the juxtaposition of the mountains and water that makes Vancouver so scenic and that enables you to ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon.

The physical layout of Vancouver has necessitated the creation of bridges and ferry services.  

For ease of planning a visit, the areas of most interest to tourists can be divided into several physical locales:

  • Downtown Core
    This includes the main business core,  Stanley Park , the West End, Yaletown, Chinatown, Robson Street and the cruise ship pier of Canada Place.  Luckily, the downtown core with its shopping, restaurants and nearby attractions are very walkable. 

    The Walk Vancouver website provides suggested walking itineraries with descriptions, maps and photos.

    Tired of walking?
    A popular option is to use a hop on/hop off bus tour.  The Vancouver Trolley Company has stops at most of the major tourist must-sees and for one price, you can do a loop around the city, get off at any stop, stay as long as you like, and get back on the next trolley.

    Taxis are another quick and relatively cheap way to get to a restaurant or nightspot in the evening.  For more detailed information about taxis, see the article Vancouver: Taxi and Rental Cars.

  • See the article Tour Vancouver by Public Transit and also Tour by Transit - Vancouver for information and resources on seeing popular Vancouver attractions, parks and beaches using public transit.

  • South of downtown
    You will need a car, taxi or public transit.  The Translink transit system is easy and efficient. 
    Granville Island across the Granville Street or Burrard Street bridges.  It's also accessible via False Creek Ferries, a cute little system of "mini" ferries that are a fun little adventure unto themselves. 
    HR McMillan Planetarium
    University of British Columbia (including Museum of Anthropology, Nitobe Japanese Memorial Garden, Chan Centre for Performing Arts)
    South Granville (shopping and restaurants)
    Kitsilano/ Fourth Avenue (shops, boutiques, restaurants)
    Queen Elizabeth Park
    Van Dusen Gardens

  • North Shore
    This is what the locals call the area north of Burrard Inlet.  It is, in fact, made up of three separate and distinct city/municipalities;  District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver and West Vancouver.  Here you'll find attractions such as the District of North Vancouver Regional Park's Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge with its Lynn Canyon Ecology CentreCapilano Canyon Suspension Bridge , Grouse Mountain , Lighthouse Park and Horseshoe Bay

    The North Shore can be accessed by catching the SeaBus from downtown’s Waterfront Station to North Vancouver ’s Lonsdale Quay and then connecting to a Translink bus.  Alternatively, you can access the North Shore by using Lions Gate Bridge or Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing (aka Second Narrows Bridge).

Although downtown Vancouver is walkable and although many attractions that are located further afield are accessible by public transportation, you still may want to have a car.  Whether or not a car is worth the expense and trouble of finding parking depends on how much time you have to see Vancouver and how many people there are in your travel party. 

If there are only one or two of you, transit will be more economical.  If several of you are traveling together and sharing costs, a rental car may be the most sensible option after all.

The shorter your time in Vancouver , the more you need to optimize your use of it.  If you have only a day to see Vancouver -- before or after a cruise, for example -- you may find it helpful to do a guided tour of the city or to ride one of the hop on / hop off tourist buses that do a circuit of the city’s most popular landmarks.  If you want to see both the highlights of downtown Vancouver and the North Shore highlights, consider the full day Vancouver See It All guided tour.

For suggested one, two and three day tours using public transit along with easy directions for getting to all the popular Vancouver parks and attractions visit Tour by Transit - Vancouver BC.

 

Tourism Vancouver offers a selection of city maps to assist visitors in getting around the city.