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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:
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.