Turning a Layover in Vancouver Into an Adventure

You’re stuck in the airport with a few hours to spare before your next flight. Everyone knows how boring a long layover can be. However, there are a few ways to turn a layover in Vancouver into a fun time. If you only have 3 hours before your flight, the YVR airport has some entertainment for you. If you have 4 hours to spare, I recommend checking out some good restaurants and desserts near the Canada line. Outside of that, let’s assume you’re in Vancouver for just long enough that you want to get out of the airport. So, anywhere between 6-12-hours. But where should you go? And how can you get there efficiently? Let’s answer some of those questions for you and show you how to make a layover in Vancouver into a great part of your trip.

For the sake of making the article simple (and a little more difficult), let’s assume you have to catch an international flight. So, we are going to want to be back at the YVR airport 2 hours before you leave.

The Best Things to Do at YVR Airport

YVR airport is known as one of the nicer airports in the world. It took home the Skytrax Best North American Airport from 2010-2018. On top of this, it was ranked #14 in the 2018 global airport rankings. If you have a 2-4-hour timeframe to spend before your flight there are some things you can do in the YVR Airport.

There isn’t really too much to do without going far. The food at the airport also isn’t anything too special. One of the reasons I recommend McArthur Glen is for Japadog, which is a Japanese take on hot dogs. It is a well-received chain restaurant in Vancouver, and probably one of the best places to eat nearby. If you’ve got 4 hours to spare and want to try a good food in Vancouver, read on as I will show you good restaurants and desserts near the Canada line.

Things to do During a Layover in Vancouver

There are many well-known attractions in Vancouver. From iconic parks to its vibrant coastal city, and it’s vast mountains. Vancouver is an ideal place to have a layover because it is easy to access most of the city attractions in a day. Vancouver’s airport is great for public transit. The main public Transit system, the Canada line, will help us get around. It runs through the heart of the city before getting you to the north section of downtown. As a result, we are going to focus on places around the main transportation line to keep things simple.

Yvr Airport

Get on the Canada Line at YVR Airport and get ready for an Adventure!

Where to Eat Along the Canada Line

Many people speak highly about a layover in Vancouver because of the diverse food the city has to offer. Below, I have linked good restaurants and desserts near the Canada line.  It will take no more than an hour to get to most of these restaurants and the Canada line will bring you right back to the YVR airport. You can pay for the Canada line fee or any Translink fee in Vancouver by tapping your Visa or Mastercard (assuming you have tap on your card) at the card reader. With great authentic Mexican, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and so much more nearby, you’re bound to find a great meal. Let’s take a look at some of the better restaurants around town that will help you get a (literal) taste of Vancouver.

Good Restaurants and Desserts Near the Canada Line

Dimsum – Dinesty Dumpling (3779 Sexsmith Road)

Ice Cream – Rain or Shine (3382 Cambie St)

Breakfast – Breakfast Table (1481 W Broadway)

Thai food – Bob Likes Thai Food (1521 W Broadway)

Ramen – Hokkaido Ramen (558 W Broadway)

Tacos – Las Taqueria (2521 Main St, Vancouver)

Vegetarian – Nuba (207 W Hastings St)

Steak – Gotham Steak house (615 Seymour St)

Burgers – Bin4 (2996 Granville St)

Fast Foods, Pubs – Anywhere along Granville Street downtown

Good Restaurants and Desserts Near the Canada Line

Dinesty Dumpling is delicious

How to Spend a 6-10-hour layover in Vancouver

A shorter layover is a bit easier to deal with. You don’t feel you are “stranded” in the YVR airport, and you can to explore the city a bit. This is great because there are a lot of things you can do in this time frame during a layover in Vancouver. Maybe one of the food places listed pique’s your interest. Or maybe, was there an attraction you wanted to see? Either way, I have created a little sample itinerary for you that is sure to be fun. Start your trip by working your way to either the domestic or international terminal. The Canada line is your main mode of transportation and is located at either terminal. It comes every few minutes so it will not take long to catch. We want the one titled “Waterfront” heading northbound.

VanDusen Garden

Our first stop is at King Ed Station on Cambie Street. Here we are visiting two scenic parks. Queen Elizabeth Park and The VanDusen Botanical Garden. These two locations are two of the nicest green spaces in town. VanDusen offers a bunch of beautiful flowers and is a world-famous Christmas light show during the winter. It is the location for an extremely rare flower that smells like rotting flesh. Don’t worry though, the flower blooms very rarely and more than likely won’t be around when you visit. If you are a fan of nature, you have to stop by the VanDusen Garden.

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park is right across the street from the station and is free to the public. It is one of the highest points in the city and has a great restaurant near the top. At the park, you can play pitch and putt, disc golf, walk through the beautiful rose garden, and spot wildlife such as geese and squirrels. At the top of the park is a beautiful botanical garden that is a joy to walk through. However, the garden is not free to enter.

To get to both of these locations you have to take the Canada line from the airport going to Waterfront station. Get off at King Ed Station and walk south. Nearby to both of these locations is Main street. If you end up choosing either of these places I recommend checking out Main Street for a restaurant. Such as The Main, East is East or Meet on Main. Whatever your choice is, you’re bound to find good food there.

Granville Island

If parks aren’t your thing and you want to see a main tourist attraction, I recommend Granville Island. It is just before downtown and is a fun way to spend a few hours. It is a great place to people watch and there is a marketplace with delicious food. There are also tourist stores and specialty boutiques. My favorite is the toy store that has been there forever. It is fun to just wander through the location. There are some benches around Granville Island that overlook the False Creek as well. Granville Island Brewery is a popular brewery in town and they are located here. If you’re feeling like a drink, perhaps a tour of the brewery would be a good idea.

To get here take the Canada line to Olympic Village Station. Grab the #84 “UBC” bus for 3 stops. Then it is a short 5-minute walk to Granville Island. It is very simple and accessible from the airport.

Where to Eat During a Short Layover in Vancouver

For this itinerary, I did not set a location to eat. However, I would recommend getting off at the Broadway-city hall stop if you are hungry (unless you are eating downtown). Broadway is a busy street in Vancouver and that station is at the heart of it. On Broadway you will find a large selection of things to eat. Such as sushi, burgers, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Malay, Thai, Greek, and everything in between. This is the ideal spot to find good restaurants and Desserts near the Canada line.


Granville Island Public Market

Don’t Miss Granville Island

Beating a longer layover in Vancouver

A longer layover can be tough. Being on the cusp where it’s too short to call it an official day, yet way too long to spend in the airport is the worst. You’re lucky in a way though, because now we have more adventurous options. So much so that we have more than enough options to make even a 10+ hour layover seem quick. I’d recommend starting out with some food. It is easier to fly when you have already digested your food. Plus, you just got off a flight, you’re probably hungry. If it’s early in the morning, you’re probably out of luck. Vancouver isn’t known for being a late-night town. During the day, however, you will have plenty at your fingertips.

A Potential Itinerary for a 10-hour layover

Start your trip by working your way to either the domestic or international terminal. The Canada line is your main mode of transportation and is located at either terminal. Our first stop is for some tasty Dim Sum at Dinesty Dumpling house (one of the best dim sum locations in Vancouver). If you aren’t hungry, simply skip the first location as it will save you time. There are plenty of good restaurants in downtown Vancouver.

Grabbing a Bite at Dinesty

In order to get here, we are going to take the Canada line from the airport going towards Waterfront Station. It’s a short ride, as we will get off in 3 stops at the Richmond Brighouse station. Head towards Lansdowne station and go for a short walk. In total, the trip will take 40 minutes. It should take about 50 minutes to get in and out. Just like that, an hour and a half down.

Going to Explore Stanley Park

Stanley Park is one of the main attractions in Vancouver. It has plenty of activities to do. Such as a great seawall for biking, a beach, various lookout points, the aquarium, and various cultural landmarks. Normally I’d recommend that people on a layover in Vancouver go to Queen Elizabeth Park. However, with all the time you have to spend in Vancouver, you can spare some time at Stanley Park. I’d allocate 2 hours here. It will take about an hour to get here from the YVR airport. Here are the instructions, simply walk back towards the Canada line, and catch Waterfront all the way until the end. You will then catch the #19 bus titled “Stanley Park”. After transit and your time in the park, we are 4 and a half hours down.

Visiting Iconic Canada Place and Vancouver Convention Centre

When you’re done with Stanley Park, the next best place to go to is Canada Place. Take the #19 “Metrotown Station” back to West Pender and Granville. From there it is a short walk to both Canada Place and the Convention Centre. You can usually walk through and around the convention centre, as long as nothing is going on. Around Canada Place are scenic views of the Vancouver Harbour. It will take about 30 minutes to get here from Stanley Park, and you should allow 30 minutes of viewing and photo time. We have now spent 5 and a half hours of your layover in Vancouver.

Exploring Gastown And Chinatown

After Canada Place and the Convention Centre, we’re going to explore some iconic Vancouver neighbourhoods.  It is a short 10-minute walk to Gastown from Canada Place. Chinatown and the Garden is a short 5-minute walk south of the Garden. Gastown is more of a tourist and office area, with an upscale hipster feeling. There are plenty of nice restaurants and art stores here. On top of those stores, Gastown is a good place to find Vancouver souvenirs.

Chinatown is another nice neighbourhood in downtown. If you go to Chinatown, you will come across a large number of homeless people, especially on East Hastings. So just bear that mind. There are some great restaurants in Chinatown, and it is one of my favorite places for people watching. One of the main attractions in Chinatown is Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It is quite a garden in downtown and definitely worth a visit if in the area.  Let’s just say you spend an hour enjoying these 2 neighbourhoods. And, you find a nice spot for a 30-minute snack. You have now spent 7 hours of your layover in Vancouver, time to head back to the airport.

The Vancouver Convention Center is beautiful even in the rain.

Getting Back to YVR Airport from Downtown

Personally, I like to be at the airport for an international flight 2 hour before takeoff. If you feel you want a bit more time, simply shave some time off the activities. Or, you could skip the dim sum place in Richmond and find one in Downtown. Getting back to the airport from downtown Vancouver is very simple and requires getting on one Canada Line train. If you are in or around the area of Chinatown/Gastown, simply make your way to Waterfront station. This is the same station to probably got off at to start your trip. Find the train going south to YVR airport (not Richmond Brighouse!). Simply ride the train to the end location and you’ll be back at the airport having enjoyed a small hint of what makes Vancouver awesome.