Skier at the top of Grouse Mountain looking over Vancouver
Vancouver is world-famous for its natural beauty, outdoor lifestyle, food scene, shopping and all the incredible activities you can do in and around the city. A lot of people say that the summer is the best time to visit this beautiful city in British Columbia, and although these months are wonderful, the winter is equally brilliant.
Vancouver’s mild climate means you can explore all of its attractions year round, and with fewer crowds during the winter months, it’s a great time of the year to visit.
Here we look at Vancouver in winter and reveal all the amazing things you can see and do in and around the city during this time of the year.
The best things to do in winter in Vancouver
•Experience Vancouver’s food scene
•Ski & snowboard in Vancouver
•Explore the mountains around Vancouver
•Enjoy the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
•The winter festivals in Vancouver
•Enjoy Vancouver’s indoor attractions
Experience Vancouver’s food scene
Vancouver prides itself on the quality and variety of its cuisine, and with good reason. From the freshness of home-grown tomatoes and carrots to delighting in a shared pan of B.C. prawn ramen, the people of Vancouver know good food when they taste it.
No matter what time of the year you visit, you just have to eat at one of Vancouver’s top-class restaurants and there are plenty to choose from! The stars are shining brightly over Vancouver as the city’s first MICHELIN guide launched this autumn, with eight restaurants receiving a coveted MICHELIN star, and 12 receiving Bib Gourmands, which are awarded for good quality and good value cooking. There are another 40 restaurants that have been ‘Recommended’ by the MICHELIN Guide website.
Geena, one of the bloggers behind Beyond The Bucketlist, talks about why Vancouver’s food scene is one of the best in the world:
“I’m obsessed with Vancouver. The city is beautiful, ethnically diverse, bicyclist (& vanlife) friendly, and temptingly close to wild destinations like the Sea to Sky Highway in Whistler and Vancouver Island. But the real draw is the food. 40% of Vancouver’s population is immigrants which is probably (definitely) the reason for its killer food scene.”
The restaurants in Vancouver that received a MICHELIN star:
ALSO READ: A foodie’s guide to Vancouver
Ski & snowboard in Vancouver
One of the most popular things to do in winter in Vancouver is to go skiing and snowboarding.
Although the city itself boasts a mild climate, you can head to the nearby North Shore Mountains, around a 30-minute drive away, and ski at the likes of Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain or Cypress Mountain. All three of these ski resorts offer world-class ski and snowboarding conditions and they each have plenty of ski runs that you can enjoy.
Another ski resort that you can enjoy from Vancouver, albeit just under a 2-hour drive away, is the iconic Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. With all of these famous ski resorts within reach, Vancouver is the perfect base for a skiing holiday.
Josy, who has her own lifestyle blog called A Walk and A Lark, is a Londoner who moved to Vancouver, and she says she loved her time skiing on Grouse Mountain: “Skiing on Grouse Mountain is a fantastic option if you live in Vancouver and want to reach a ski-hill with very little effort. It is incredibly easy to get up to the Mountain on public transit and on clear days you’ll be treated to fantastic views of Vancouver and the Burrard Inlet.”
Explore the mountains around Vancouver
If you are staying in Vancouver but skiing and snowboarding aren’t activities you’d like to try, there are plenty of other ways you can explore the mountains around the city.
You can take the Skyride up Grouse Mountain, North America’s largest aerial tramway system, and enjoy some spectacular views of Vancouver, the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf Islands. If you are a photographer, you will be able to get some fantastic shots of the mountainous scenery.
Other activities you can enjoy on the mountain include ice skating, snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing, and tobogganing, to name just a few.
ALSO READ: 48 hours in Vancouver
Enjoy the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
The famous Capilano Suspension Bridge is a must-visit no matter what time of the year you are in Vancouver, but in the winter during the build-up to Christmas, you will get to see the suspension bridge lit end-to-end with a changing multi-colour display.
The Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park don’t just light up the bridge- they illuminate the river below and the rainforest around the bridge is also lit up from treetop to forest floor. You can walk through the forest and the ‘Arc de Lumina’ light tunnel, which wraps along a portion of the Cliffwalk.
The winter festivals in Vancouver
Vancouver really does come alive in the winter months, with beautiful Christmas lights all over the city and plenty of great events taking place.
Here are some of the most popular winter festivals you can enjoy.
Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden
The Festival of Lights is a must-visit as the VanDusen Botanical Garden’s 15 acres are lit up with more than one million lights. You can walk through the gardens and see themed areas and unique light features whilst enjoying music and some tasty treats.
Vancouver Christmas Market
If you are heading to the city over the festive period, then you have to head to the Vancouver Christmas Market. The German-inspired Market is one of the largest traditional Christmas Markets in North America and here you can try German and European food, shop for hand-crafted gifts in the Kaufmannsgasse (Merchant Alley) or grab a drink at the Christmas Pyramid.
Denise Wegener, President of the Vancouver Christmas Market, told us why the festival is a great place for foodies to visit:
“Each year, we know that more and more foodies attend the Vancouver Christmas Market to try new delicacies from across Europe.
This year, we offer delicious and flavourful European holiday favourites like Austrian Gulasch, Dutch Poffertjes, Swiss Cheese Raclette and German Schnitzel and obviously the traditional Bratwurst. The Market also offers many options for those that follow Gluten-free, Vegetarian or Vegan diets.”
VMF Winter Arts
The VMF Winter Arts festival, which takes place in February, is a free event to attend and it turns downtown Vancouver into an open-air gallery and celebration of art, lights and entertainment.
There will be music, tours, talks, dance parties, and food and drink that will celebrate Vancouver and its diverse communities.
PNE Winter Fair
At the PNE Winter Fair, you can enjoy a Christmas market and try your hand at ice skating at their indoor skate rink. There are also holiday theatre shows, a walk-through light display, and live concerts every night of the fair.
ALSO READ: A guide to Vancouver’s neighbourhoods
Enjoy Vancouver’s indoor attractions
Whilst Vancouver is a great city to visit if you love the outdoors, there are lots of indoor attractions which you can visit.
Explore the museums
Vancouver is a hub for museums and art galleries, and we’d recommend dedicating a day to exploring these iconic attractions. Here are just some of the museums and galleries we’d recommend visiting:
•Vancouver Art Gallery – one of North America’s most famous art galleries, here you can see photographs by masters such as Ansel Adams and Emily Carr as well as see a large collection of British historical paintings and works from famous Canadian painters.
•Science World – with exhibitions ranging from the human body and plants to displays dedicated to dinosaurs and art displays, you certainly won’t be bored.
•Museum of Vancouver – if you want to learn about Vancouver’s past, a visit to this museum is a must as you’ll be taken on a journey and can experience the city as it was in 1900 up until the present day.
Catch a Canucks game
The Vancouver Canucks are a famous ice hockey team and with the regular NHL season running from early October to early April, you can catch a game during a visit to Vancouver in the winter.
You don’t need to know anything about hockey to have fun at a Canucks game as the sights and sounds (and tastes and smells of the concession food) are entertaining for new fans and diehard Canucks devotees alike.
ALSO READ: The sports lover’s guide to Vancouver
This guide just gives you a flavour of what you can do during a winter holiday in Vancouver, as well as some of the attractions you can visit and the activities available. Whether you are looking for flights, car hire, or a complete city break including flights and accommodation, our travel experts can help you book your dream winter holiday.