Vancouver needs more than a day, but its bite-sized neighbourhoods – easily reached by metro or bus – allow plenty of options for a day of exploration.
Just give yourself time to look up - even long-time locals are swooned by the glimpse of snow-capped mountains peeking between downtown skyscrapers.
Coffee and breakfast
Vancouver's a big coffee town. West of the centre, Commercial Drive, is the epicentre of java, but opt for arty Granville Island to start the day. Just south of downtown (and reachable by bus), Agro Café (604-669-0724; 1363 Railspur Alley) is a tucked-away place loved by locals for its heaping and hearty Organic Brekkie.
Shopping's good around the area, and a seaside promenade rimmed with houseboats circles the small island. One stop is the covered Public Market, which has stalls serving tea and artisan items, and you can take a snacking tour with Edible BC. Galleries line Cartwright Street, while backstreet Railspur Alley is named after an old train line still embedded in its sidewalk.
Walk or bus south a couple blocks into South Granville and take Bus No 84 into South Main (SoMa), the city's hippest indie shopping scene - start around the intersection of Main St and 20th Ave. Smoking Lily goes for an art-school clothing vibe, while Twigg & Hottie fancies its fashions as distinctly BC in style.
Downtown lunch and art
Head northwest into downtown, grabbing an organic burger at the neighbourhood's favourite counter-stool, jukebox-at-the-table diner Templeton, then walk a couple blocks north to see the Vancouver Art Gallery, the city's leading art space. The space hosts blockbuster shows, plus many innovative exhibits from its own 10,000 artworks - and has a great alfresco café as well. Notable is its quarterly late-night party called FUSE.
Vancouver's Chinatown is Canada's best - and thus, is North America's best. It is great on weekend nights for the night market along Keefer Street, a tight bazaar with live music, noodles and bubble tea - great for a quick, cheap meal. If you want something more sit-down and formal, Hon's Wun-Tun House is a Chinatown legend for its more than 300 menu items including dim sum, dumplings and congee rice porridge.
Gastown pub crawl
Just northwest of Chinatown, Gastown is a historic, cobblestone-street area east of downtown that is undergoing a long-awaited comeback and is now home to Vancouver's best watering holes. The landmark Steamworks Brewing Company - made from a converted warehouse - is one of the city's few brewpubs, and the only subterranean one. Smaller-scale (and hipper) is the patio seating at Six Acres, a couple blocks east at Maple Leaf Square, by the neighbourhood's first bar owner "Gassy" Jack Deighton.
The article 'Perfect day in Vancouver' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.