What to Do in Vancouver - A Solo Female Traveler’s Guide
A Solo Female Traveler's Guide to Vancouver, Canada
What to Do in Vancouver as a Female Solo Traveler in Summer
In Canada, I have encountered a friendly rivalry between the west and the east coast. While Toronto is still on my very long bucket list, I have a great deal to say about the shining west coast city, Vancouver. In fact, it might be my favorite place in the entire world. Having family in the most beautiful city on earth, I have been traveling to it every couple years ever since I was a child. For that reason, I also lived there for a few months working in a bar collecting tips about what to do in Vancouver by yourself. This chameleon city can change its style wherever you go. If you are lucky enough to get there during the "not-that-rainy-season", you should continue reading!
Looking for California beach dreams? In Vancouver, the summer is spent on the beach with a cold beer in your hand. Missing the city vibes of New York? Take a stroll through the financial district of Vancouver, or even Yale Town. You might even think this kind of „clean“ city vibe is even better! A lot of movies that taking place in New York are often shot in Vancouver because it resembles the skyline so much…but Canada is so much cheaper. If you want to go hiking in the Rocky Mountains, why don’t you just take a 20 minute-car ride out of Vancouver and find yourself in British Columbia's rough nature? Yeah, that’s right. 20 minutes. Do I have to explain any further why Vancouver has literally everything?
It’s safe to say that I love this place. Which is why I am here to tell you why and give you tips on what to do in Vancouver if you get to travel there by yourself.
What to do in Vancouver as a Solo Traveler:
1. Ride a bike through Stanley Park
Vancouver’s Stanley Park is the biggest city park in Canada and provides a home for over 500 animal species. Taking a stroll through Stanley Park is, therefore, better done by bike. As we have learned in art class in elementary school, green is good, ecological and environmentally friendly. Well, if that is true you will have all the goodness you can get at Stanley Park. The green spot of the peninsula shaped city is surrounded by water and gives you the best of both worlds if you stick to the seawall. From the peak you will have a great view to the lion’s gate bridge that connects the center of Vancouver with its Northern Part. If you are coming from English Bay you can cross Stanley Park to get a fresh air refill to get back to the harbor side of the city.
2. Get your tan on at English Bay
English Bay is situated in the gay quarter of the city. In Vancouver every district has their own flag, and West End’s flag is making you feel welcome with its rainbow colors. The city is VERY open-minded when it comes to the LGBTQ-community, which does not mean that you will feel unwanted at the West End as a straight person. The vibe of tolerance and inclusion is one of the many reasons, why I’d want to live there. The beach in West End is very popular during summer. Therefore you will see people playing volleyball at the beach, getting a burger at the beach cactus club, and bringing music boxes everywhere. If you want a secluded, lonely beach, this might not be for you, but if you want to meet crowds of every kind, this is the place.
3. Get lunch on Granville Island
Granville Island is a food market with an artsy atmosphere. Small-scale artists sell their art here for prices that I would not want to pay (sorry!). They are great to look at, though. The food market creates the center of this virtually swimming island. With lots of wooden elements, the whole place has a very old-school-feel to it. Even though quite touristy, Granville Island is still a great spot to get some lunch and sit outside to enjoy the sun. However, beware of the seagulls, they steal food!
If you are looking for traditional souvenirs you will definitely find some here. Tourists are especially attracted by the native American art. Sadly, not a lot of their culture is preserved.
4. Take the Aquabus back to West End over False Creek
After you have stuffed your face with delicacies on Granville Island, instead of walking back to the main island, why don’t you take a water taxi? They cost around three dollars and will give you great views over the creek.
5. Cross the Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver’s most visited attractions: Go there early in the morning to avoid the crowds. You will be rewarded with green trees, a little adrenalin rush (a big one if you are afraid of heights) and ice cold water. Dip your feet into the fresh sparkling creek as soon as you get down there. It is running about 10 inches high, which makes it perfect for a small cool down. There is also a waterfall where you can jump into a small pond, but that is probably illegal (so what? Everybody does it). So bring your swimsuit and a towel. If you don’t want to rent a car you can get a lift from downtown with the free shuttle.
6. Hike up Grouse Mountain
On the North Side of the city, you will see Grouse Mountain ranking up the sky. It is a very popular spot for views over the Vancouver Skyline. You can go up on a funicular, but you can also hike your way up to one of the best views. If you want to make sure that you will see something, pick a clear day with only a few to no clouds. A lot of Vancouver residents challenge themselves every week to hike the Grouse Grind in record times. You can apply to become part of the statistics at the ticket office at the bottom of the mountain. Beware, if you are not in shape at all, stay away from this hike, because it is a leg burner. You will need in between 1.5 - 2 hours and it is very steep. I was quite in shape and used to feel like I had asthma, but of course, I was also kind of competitive with myself. On hot days they put up water mist tents that welcome you to the top. Don’t forget to say hi to the grizzly bears on the top.
7. Go shopping on Robson Street
Robson Street is the heart of Downtown Vancouver and it will provide you with any store you could wish for. As a European, I always flip at the sight of the huge Victoria’s Secret store. But that is totally subjective of course. Start at the intersection of Granville and Robson Street. Happy Shopping.
8. Take pictures in Gastown
Gastown is Vancouver’s historic district in the center of Vancouver. In 1866 Gastown gained city rights and quickly developed into today’s City of Vancouver. Most of the buildings from this time were unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1886.
If you take a right coming out of the main railway station and continue walking you will end up in Gastown. Its most famous attraction if the steam clocks at the biggest intersection. Gastown is adjacent to the Downtown Eastside. You wanna stay away from that district at night by yourself.
Gastown is not only pretty and historic, it’s also great for a night out. With its old-school pubs and bars, such as the Steamworks, it is perfect for a more laid back, alternative night.
9. Get Ice cream in Yale town at the Baggio Gelateria, rent a bike and go around the seawall
Yaletown is Vancouver’s fancy district. Here you can get liqueured up in glamorous bars and walk through glass tower residences. Only a few steps away from Yaletown center, but directly at the seawall is a small ice cream place that I have come to love. Usually, I would get a cup and take a long walk along the seawall.
10. Get naked at Wreck Beach
If you feel comfortable enough, you can get naked at Wreck Beach. This more secluded beach close to UBC is a little hard to reach, which is why one should do some research before taking the trip. Bye Bye tan lines.
11. Take a stroll through UBC
Not gonna lie, the University of British Columbia has one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen! Located quite high above sea level, the ocean can be seen from all corners of the campus! Grab a coffee in one of the many coffee shops and simply enjoy the view…and imagine yourself living the student life on this amazing campus!
12. Rent a car and go to Whistler and Garibaldi Lake
This is a hot tip. In summer Whistler does not get as crazy as in the winter months (as it is a skiing hotspot) but does not lose any of its beauty. My top recommendation, though, is to hike up to Garibaldi, a glacier lake. The pictures will speak for themselves. How to get there? Check this out!
13. Walk around Canada Place
As soon as you get back to the city, you do not want to miss Canada Place at Vancouver’s harbor. The building is host to conventions and congresses. The architecture resembles big white ship sails and you can take a walk between the large building and the seaside, watching the ships roll in and out.
14. Take the Ferry to Vancouver Island + Victoria
From Tsawwassen you can take the ferry over to Swartz Bay where a bus will take you right into Victoria city centre. You can make a day trip from Vancouver out of it, but you can also rent a car and explore the beautiful nature of Vancouver Island. Who knows? Maybe you get lucky on your way over and spot some orcas on the ferry. Here are the exact instructions on how to get there. This BC Ferry schedule might help you plan your trip.
Stay away from these areas:
Especially at night you should not walk through East Hastings by yourself. Even though Vancouver is generally really safe, East Hastings is kind of a problematic district. Muggers are not uncommon. On Granville Street, even though located right in the city centre, one might get bothered by homeless and crazy people talking to strangers. I have never had a serious issue on the street, but it should definitely be mentioned. It is quite lively during weekend nights, however, during the week it can get a little spooky.
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We are a team of four feminist travelers coming together from different parts of the world to share with you what we have learned from traveling, living, loving, and exploring all over the world. Join us and tell your story about female solo travel, relationships, mental health, city guides, or whatever else comes to your mind.