Are you wondering where to stay in Vancouver for the first time? I can help you out.
Being born and raised in Vancouver, I know the city like the back of my hand and know about every area and neighbourhood in Vancouver.
Vancouver’s geographic location contributes to why tourists and you would probably want to visit this beautiful city. Vancouver has everything from the mountains to the ocean, or an hour away until you hit the edge of the forest.
Whether you are travelling to Vancouver with family, as a couple or on a solo trip, this blog post will help you navigate the best areas and neighbourhoods on where to stay in locations throughout Vancouver without renting a car, tourist spots, nightlife, shopping, and restaurants.
Where To Stay In Vancouver For First Time
I will be breaking down the areas and neighbourhoods of where to stay and where not to stay, where the most convenient locations are, and which areas are more expensive or affordable.
1. Downtown Vancouver – For Everyone
Downtown Vancouver is the central location and by far the best area to stay in Vancouver for the first time if you are a tourist.
Downtown Vancouver’s surroundings are all restaurants, local transit, and retail stores, and it’s within walking distance of the local tourist attractions.
While Downtown Vancouver is the best area and caters to everyone, it’s also not the cheapest place to stay. However, since you are travelling here for the first time, I highly recommend staying somewhere downtown for the whole experience of Vancouver.
Best Things To Do In Downtown Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver is home to the famous Robson Street, which has many restaurants, retail stores, and other shops. It’s a highly popular tourist strip to walk down. During the winter, Robson Square opens up the Robson Square Ice Rink to the public.
Granville Street is another famous strip of downtown Vancouver, with multiple restaurants, nightlife, and retail stores. From Friday to Sunday every week, Granville Street is closed off to transit for nightlife activities.
A mall along Granville, Pacific Centre, is a small mall with a food court and retail stores if you want to go shopping indoors.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is also nearby and an excellent place to check out if you are interested in galleries or love art.
Where To Stay In Downtown Vancouver
Originating in the 1920s, the upscaled Rosewood Hotel Georgia is a luxurious hotel. Its location puts the hotel right in the middle of downtown Vancouver on the corner of Howe and West Georgia, which is the most convenient location for everybody.
While the outside looks outdated, do not let that fool you; it’s always the inside that counts, right? Luxe suites with contemporary-inspired decoration and bathrooms with amenities such as a pool, spa, gym, and more.
The St Regis Hotel is an excellent spot if you want to be in the middle of Downtown and close to transit. You are right beside the Granville Skytrain Station. In contrast, it may not have all the amenities like a pool, spa and gym.
However, there are other pluses, for example, complimentary breakfast for two, water bottles that get replenished daily, and free umbrellas for those rainy days in Vancouver.
2. Yaletown – For Couples & Young Adults
Yaletown is a trendy location that has hip restaurants and cocktail lounges. While it’s a small, dense area, you can find patio seating at almost every restaurant, making Yaletown a popular spot during the summer.
Yaletown will be an excellent location to stay in if you are travelling as a young couple, as it caters to a younger crowd.
Location for transit-wise, Yaletown Roundhouse is a stop along the Canada Line. However, suppose you are planning to explore more of Downtown.
In that case, all you have to do is hop on the Canada Line and head to Vancouver City Centre (Granville Street is only one stop), which will take you to the centre of downtown Vancouver.
Best Things To Do In Yaletown
David Lam Park
Yaletown is only a few steps from David Lam Park, which sits right on the edge of the inlet and part of the seawall.
So say you are watching and travelling for a Vancouver Canucks game at Rogers Arena or the BC Lions or Vancouver Whitecaps at B.C. Place; Yaletown would be an ideal location as it’s within walking distance.
Where To Stay In Yaletown
The J.W. Marriot Parq Vancouver Hotel is also a casino. You will have beautiful city views from your rooms, and you can expect your surroundings to be immersed in luxury. A prime location in Yaletown as you are right next to B.C. Place and transit.
⚖️ Hotel BLU
Hotel BLU may not be a well-known hotel in Vancouver; however, do not let that stop you from staying at this underrated modern hotel.
Hotel BLU’s location is just outside Yaletown, but easy enough for you to get to the centre of downtown Vancouver. It also has a small indoor pool which is always a plus.
💡 Note: Compared to most locations, Yaletown tends to be around the same price for hotels.
3. West End – For Everyone
Next up is the West End. To let you know, West Vancouver, West Side, and West End are all different locations around the city; this is West End.
While the West End has a slightly lower rate than being in the central location of Downtown, its location is the best if you are staying with family and kids. In addition, transit is relatively easy to access as many buses run along the main streets.
Best Things To Do In West End
Stanley Park on the West End is one of Vancouver’s biggest tourist attractions. It’s a beautiful 405-hectare public park where you can walk around on the Seawall or throughout the park, enjoy the greenery, watch ships and seaplanes, bike, and walk on the rocks during low tide.
The famous Nine O’clock Cannon goes off daily at 9 PM, initially used to warn fishermen of the Sunday close of fishing. Later, it was used as a time signal to the general population and ships to set their chronometers (clocks).
Other attractions in and around Stanely Park include Lost Lagoon, Stanely Park Pitch and Put, The Stanely Park Rose Garden, and Stanely Park Railway.
There are also points of interest as you walk along the seawall, such as Brockton Point Lighthouse, Girl in a Wetsuit (a statue on a rock of a girl in a wetsuit), S.S. Empress of Japan Figurehead Replica, and Siwash Rock.
Prospect Point is a beautiful lookout point located in Stanely Park. You will see West Vancouver to your left, and to your right, you will see the Lions Gate Bridge.
The Vancouver Aquarium
While Stanley Park, in its own right, is a popular attraction, it’s also home to another famous Vancouver tourist attraction, the Vancouver Aquarium.
In addition, it’s a centre for marine research, conservation and rehabilitation of marine life and an education centre for ocean literacy.
The Vancouver Aquarium is one of the best places where you want to visit Vancouver for the first time. Children of all ages will enjoy all the exhibits, animals, and interactive experiences.
Second Beach & English Bay
Continuing your way around the seawall, you will encounter a few of Vancouver’s beaches, such as Second Beach, which also has an outdoor heated pool called Second Beach Pool. And English Bay (home to the famous polar bear swim event) and Sunset Beach.
Celebration Of Lights
One of the significant events and one of the best non-touristy things to do in Vancouver, which you can see pretty much from any beach in Vancouver, is the Honda Celebration of Lights.
A massive three-day fireworks display is held throughout the last week of July. It’s a free event; however, it’s one of the busiest events held during the summer.
Davie Street is the proud home to the 2SLGBTQ+ community and the host street of the annual Vancouver Pride Parade. There is also nightlife as well as restaurants along Davie Street.
Where To Stay In West End
The Shangri-La Hotel is on top of the list as one of Vancouver’s most expensive and luxurious hotels. I think the best words to describe the Shangri-La are posh and sophisticated. Everything is top-notch quality, down to the small details.
Of course, the Shangri-La has all the amenities you can think of because it’s a high-end hotel. The hotel is located right on the corner of West Georgia Street.
It’s an easy few blocks away walk from the centre of downtown, so you do not have to rely on transit as much.
Now the Best Western Plus Sands is much further away from the centre of downtown. However, it’s a mid-range, budget-friendlier option. And it’s only a three-minute walk away from the beach.
Now it’s on Davie Street, so you are in luck transit-wise! Unfortunately, however, there is no pool and spa, but there is a fitness centre.
4. Coal Harbour – For Business Person
Coal Harbour is next on the list of neighbourhoods. Coal Harbour is the best location for you if you travel to Vancouver for the first time as a business person.
However, it’s more expensive to stay in this area because you are in a high-traffic area with many tourists.
The location puts you near Canada Place and The Vancouver Convention Centre. Looking out into the inlet, you will see the beautiful views of Cyprus, Grouse, and Seymour Mountains and a view of Stanely Park.
Coal Harbour is one of the most accessible spots for transit. It’s right beside Waterfront Skytrain Station (Expo Line), one of the main Skytrain lines used throughout the city. It’s also one of the main hubs for buses.
Best Things To Do In Coal Harbour
Vancouver Christmas Market
While Coal Harbour may be a business district, there are still tourist attractions depending on the time of year you travel to Vancouver.
For example, travelling during December, you can find the authentic German Vancouver Christmas Market. In addition, there are many small business pop-up shops, food vendors, entertainment, beer, wine, etc. There is also a carousel ride for anybody who wants to try.
Fly Over Canada is also a fantastic family-friendly simulation tourist attraction in Coal Harbour. You will sit in flight motion chairs over a massive wrap screen, and it will show you incredible authentic captured views all over Canada.
Be prepared to get wind, scents, and mist as you fly over clouds or water!
A family member got tickets for us to experience Fly Over Canada (they went before and wanted to take me), and we went together. It was a short experience but worth it if you wanted something to do as a spur-of-the-moment idea with family. Also, it’s not a crazy busy tourist attraction either.
I highly recommend checking Fly Over Canada out. I would recommend it to those visiting Vancouver for the first time and looking for something to do.
Another attraction in Coal Harbour is Seaplane Tours. Depending on which flight tours you wish to take, flights range from 20 minutes to 35 minutes. However, regardless of the duration, you will experience breathtaking panoramic views of Vancouver.
Where To Stay In Coal Harbour
There is no reason for the Fairmont Pacific Rim located in Coal Harbour is not considered one of Vancouver’s top luxury hotels. It’s also one of the best Downtown Vancouver hotels with an outdoor pool.
The hotel sits practically right on the oceanfront. But, of course, the hotel comes with virtually everything, and I feel the name Fairmont speaks for itself.
Now, if you do not have the type of money to spend at the Fairmont, you can check out the Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront. They still have the amenities, like a pool, fitness centre, restaurant and bar, and it’s family-friendly. And its location is still reasonably close to the waterfront.
5. Granville Island – For Families & Couples
Granville Island is worth visiting as it’s one of the biggest tourist spots in Vancouver. It’s an excellent area for entertainment, food, and arts.
While many people do not know that they can stay in Granville Island, it’s an option if you want to stay out of Downtown Vancouver but not far away.
Best Thing To Do In Granville Island
Kids Market & Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island is a fantastic spot for children as they have a designated market called Kids Market. Inside, you can find a kid-centric shopping mall, play area, arcade, and bistros.
For the adults, you can find the Granville Island Public Market with various stalls from food vendors, bistros, vegetable stands, deli stands, and much more.
False Creek Ferries Or Aquabus
Using the False Creek Ferries or Aquabuses is a fun and cool tourist thing to try at least once while visiting Granville Island. Depending on which stop you want to go to will indicate the fare amount you must pay and either a return or one-way trip.
Stops include the Maritime Museum, Aquatic Centre, Granville Island, David Lam Park, Yaletown, Stamps Landing, Spyglass, Plaza, and Olympic Village.
You can check the fare list here: Fare List
Where To Stay In Granville Island
The only hotel in Granville Island is the boutique Granville Island Hotel. You will have a fantastic view of the waterfront and Yaletown outside your window. This boutique hotel has on-site amenities like a pool, a dock-side restaurant, a fitness centre, and more. And, of course, free WIFI!
6. North Vancouver – For Everyone
Are you considering where to stay in Vancouver for the first time, close enough to Downtown but further out? In that case, a cheaper alternative is to stay in North Vancouver (Lower Lonsdale). North Vancouver is also a great spot to travel with your family.
You do not have to be stuck in one area of North Vancouver because North Vancouver is a different city to explore with unique things to do.
However, this part of North Vancouver is close to the waterfront and across Vancouver Harbour.
You can take the SeaBus, a small boat that travels daily from Lonsdale Quay (pronounced KEY) to Waterfront Station. It comes every 10 to 15 minutes. However, Saturdays are 10 to 30 minutes. The SeaBus only takes 12 minutes to cross the inlet, but it’s a fun, first-time experience for everyone.
Best Things To Do In North Vancouver
And speaking of Londsdale Quay, there is the Londsdale Quay market with local produce stands, bistros, shops and more. If you travel during the summer, you can experience the Shipyards Night Market.
A popular tourist attraction located in North Vancouver is The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, a 450-foot (137m) long suspension bridge that crosses the Capilano River.
This wood and rope bridge has been a tremendous experience for everybody since 1889; of course, there have been upgrades since then.
Other attractions in the park include a cliff walk, walking among the tree tops, Kia’Palano (placing of Totem Pole stories and a glimpse into the First Nations culture), Raptors Ridge (education of wildlife and conservation) and more.
During the winter, Capilano Suspension Bridge holds its annual Canyon Lights, one of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter. Immerse yourself in the beautifully lit-up canyon with hundreds of thousands of Christmas Lights on display.
Lynn Canyon Park
A smaller yet growing tourist attraction is Lynn Canyon Park. Before, it was only known to locals; however, now, you can find many tourists scoping out this small suspension bridge.
You can check out the Ecology Centre at the park entrance; donations are welcome upon entering.
If you want to go for a hike, Lynn Canyon is part of the Baden Powell Trail, and there are several other trails. After that hike, rejuvenate yourself at the Lynn Canyon Café.
There is no admission fee to enter the park; however, a parking fee is now in effect.
Where To Stay In North Vancouver
The Seaside Hotel is located in Lonsdale Quay, which puts the hotel reasonably close to the waterfront and provides easy transportation to downtown Vancouver. It’s a beautiful boutique hotel and in a perfect location.
Suppose you want to stay entirely out of the way of being near Lower Lonsdale. Over the highway, there is the Holiday Inn & Suites. Extremely affordable; however, it’s in a location where it’s not as convenient to get to and from downtown Vancouver unless you have a car.
North Vancouver is much further out and across the inlet, so there are fewer hotel options. However, it’s a much cheaper alternative if you want to stay in a budget-friendly hotel. There are also many Airbnbs and Bnbs to choose from in North Vancouver.
7. Near YVR Airport — For Everyone
Staying close to the YVR Airport is another option if you would rather stay close to the airport and venture out. There are a few hotels in the area and a few places to check out.
It’s easy to transit if you plan to travel to downtown Vancouver from Richmond. Depending on where you are in Richmond, hop on a bus that stops at the Canada Line and ride the train down to Granville or your desired stop.
Best Things To Do Around YVR Airport
McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Mall
The McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Mall is a newer mall built in 2015, and it’s an option for something closer to the airport. Walking around the outlet mall, you can see airplanes land or take off.
River Rock Casino
If you want to try your luck, River Rock Casino is nearby. The River Rock Casino Resort is also attached to the casino on the Fraser River bank.
Richmond Night Market
A fantastic event that happens throughout the summer is The Richmond Night Market. If you consider yourself a foodie, this is the place you want to be. There are countless variations of different types of food to try, entertainment, and shop vendors.
💡 Tip: If you plan on going to the night market often, I recommend buying a Zoom Pass. It’s worth the price if you are going as a couple or cheaper for five people. 60+ get in for free!
Where To Stay In Richmond – Near YVR Airport
If you want to stay right beside the Vancouver Airport, you can opt to stay at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. Knowing the Fairmont is at a higher price point, this is an option if you do not want to travel a long distance from your hotel. Or you are only staying for a few short nights.
River Rock Casino Resort is only three stops away on the Canada Line from YVR Airport. Easily accessible to get downtown by continuing on the Canada Line.
It’s a great location if you want to be away from the airport, but the option of still being able to get to the airport without a Taxi or Uber.
Where Not To Stay In Vancouver For First Time
Okay, now that you know the area where to stay in Vancouver for the first time, these are now the places where not to stay in Vancouver for the first time. However, some of the places do have tourist locations to see.
Gastown is a notorious tourist spot in Vancouver. It’s known for the whistling Steam Clock, souvenir shops, trendy food spots and a mix of different retail stores, such as furniture, shoes, and clothing.
Gastown is also unique in that it still has cobblestone streets, sidewalks, and many old brick buildings. As a result, it’s one of the top spots in Vancouver’s local tourist attractions.
While many other websites say “you should stay in Gastown,” as my suggestion from a local’s perspective, I will say Gastown is not the ideal area to stay.
While Gastown has cheaper rates, I am not saying you can not stay here. The main reason is that the location is too close to East Hastings and industrial areas. If you are a local, you know it’s not the safest place to stay overnight.
However, while it’s an excellent location for exploring, it’s not the ideal place to stay in Vancouver for the first time.
Over the years, Chinatown has changed quite a bit as most surrounding areas are becoming more modernized. However, there is still a pocket of old-school Chinatown around.
During Chinese New Year, you can experience the Chinatown Parade that runs along one of the main streets in Chinatown. And you can see the traditional Lion Dances, other performers and members of clubs that belong in Chinatown.
In all honesty, there are not many shops that are tourist-related unless you want to see what authentic Chinese medicine and herbs places look and smell like or the old-school meat shops.
Also, staying in Chinatown is not recommended either because there are no hotels located in Chinatown and close to East Hastings.
When Is The Best Month To Visit Vancouver?
May to mid-September, weather-wise, is the best time to visit. However, prices for flights and hotels will have started to increase because of the tourist season.
If you do not mind the rain and colder temperatures, October to April (excluding December because of the holiday season) would be the best time to visit. Additionally, the prices of hotels and flights will be significantly lower.
British Columbia is a temperate rainforest, meaning Vancouver gets ample rainfall (hence our nickname Raincouver). However, that is not the case throughout the entire year. For the most part, Vancouver’s temperature is moderate compared to other cities in Canada.
Where To Stay In Vancouver For First Time – FAQs
If you are wondering, is Vancouver worth visiting, or other answers, here are some frequently asked questions for where to stay in Vancouver for the first time.
Is Vancouver A Safe City For Travellers Even At Night?
If you are thinking, is Vancouver safe even at night? Generally speaking, Vancouver is more or less a safe city for travellers, even at night. However, do take precautions as you would in your hometown.
For example, stick to streets that are well-lit and avoid walking home late at night or around areas you feel unsafe.
Is It Safe To Stay In Downtown Vancouver?
Generally speaking, yes, it’s safe to stay in Downtown Vancouver. However, there are a few locations to avoid within the downtown area. But tourist locations are usually pretty safe.
As a heads up, avoid Downtown Eastside. From a tourist’s perspective and a local’s suggestion, it’s not the most notable area to be in or see, especially at night.
However, I suggest that if you are near Downtown Eastside, parts of Gastown and Chinatown flow into Downtown Eastside. Therefore, do not engage or take part in their actions.
Most of the time, if you do not engage with them, they will not engage with you because they mind their own business.
Do You Need A Car In Vancouver?
Do you need a car in Vancouver? Absolutely not! As I mentioned, Vancouver has many bus routes throughout the city, even into the tri-cities.
Getting around Vancouver without a car is easy with the Skytrain and buses running throughout the city. In addition, the central downtown core of Vancouver is within walking distance of almost everything.
You will only need a car/rent a car if you decide to travel to explore further out of Vancouver. Uber or Lyft rides are also available throughout the lower mainland.
One option for driving within Vancouver only is renting an Evo. An Evo is a rental car-sharing company. You will need a valid driver’s license and proof of driving records from the past three years to sign up.
I would suggest signing up before you arrive in Vancouver for processing time.
You will be charged for every minute you drive (I believe it’s 45 cents per minute). However, you can rent the car out for the day and take it across into, for example, Burnaby, but follow the rules and regulations if you decide to sign up.
Evo is an excellent option if you plan to stay in Vancouver for longer but do not want to rent a car. However, the only downside is you may have to walk to get to a park Evo on the street.
I like using Evo, mostly because I do not have to worry about needing to charge the vehicles at a station; oh yeah! Evo’s are electric cars, but some hybrids still circulate in the city. You only need to drive the Evo from point A to B, and that’s it; the company handles all the regular maintenance and other details.
Conclusion: Where To Stay In Vancouver For First Time
The beautiful city of Vancouver has so much to offer and should be one of your top places to visit in Canada. I hope this post helped you with information on where to stay in Vancouver for the first time.
Have a good day 🙂