Vancouver Airport Layover Sightseeing

vancouver airport layover sightseeing

Vancouver International Airport was seamlessly connected to the city center in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. Given that, those with a layover in Vancouver of over four hours may want to board the Canada Line and zip into the downtown in a mere 26 minutes! Once downtown, the city is yours to discover. Whether you wander over to the ocean front to check out the classic Granville Island and all its local brews, or whether you decide to check out some of the regions natural beauty in Stanley Park or on Grouse Mountain, you’re sure to fall in love with Vancouver on a quick layover. Check out our guide below for information on what to do and how to do it!

Airport Overview

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) does also happen to be one of the best airports in Canada. Should you find yourself with a layover at YVR of less than five hours, you might be wise to stick around the terminals and explore all they have to offer. A highlight here is certainly the variety of local art, and the strong display of local aboriginal culture. The two aquariums also prove to be fairly entertaining as well! Add on access to pay-per-use lounges with showers and nap rooms and you’ll find yourself happily entertained for the duration of your layover. For more information on the airport itself, check out our Vancouver Airport Guide.

Sightseeing Options

Below are a few essential sights.

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

vancouver gas town

If sightseeing is your primary focus on your layover in Vancouver, the Big Bus tour of Vancouver might make your layover easiest. It is possible to take the Canada Line directly to the Waterfront Station, where you can pick up the tour at one of its stops. Notable sights along the way include Stanley Park, Granville Island, Canada Place, Second Beach, Gas Town, the Stadium and China Town. An audio guide is provided to passengers in a number of languages.

Time Required: The entire tour, without getting off once, takes roughly 90 minutes. Additional time should be added for stops you wish to take, and sights you wish to enter or explore. Passes can be purchased for 24 hours, with an option to buy a two-day package as well.

How to Get There: While you can pick up the tour at anyone of the designated stops, it is easiest to catch it at the Waterfront Station on the Canada Line, which connects to YVR.

Granville Island

vancouver granville island

This former industrial manufacturing area has been converted into one of Vancouver’s hottest places for entertainment, shopping, dining – and beer! These vibrant streets are filled with culinary and artistic creativity that is sure to delight all preferences and desires. Highlights of a tour certainly include wandering through the Public Market, where you will find a stunning variety of homemade products, speciality foods and of course – local produce. Art galleries and studios are also plentiful here, and exist alongside a vibrant community of formal and street performers. Repeatedly visited by locals and foreigners alike, a visit here is sure to be the first of many…

Time Required: Granville Island is best explored with a minimum of two hours. This allows for enough time to wander the streets, poke into shops and sip a few local brews over a fantastic meal. Don’t forget to account for transport time as well!

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

Stanley Park

vancouver stanley park

A stroll through Canada’s largest urban park may just be the perfect antidote to a string of long flights. A series of trails bisect the park, leading you along the seaboard and through the rainforest, all the while providing stunning views of the mountains and oceans beyond. Whether you explore this 400-hectare park by walking, running, bicycling or lounging you’re sure to get that fix of exercise and fresh air that is craved in-flight. A number of restaurants are available through the park, as are activities such as miniature train rides, horse-drawn carriage rides and a water park. And of course as you explore, be sure to keep an eye out for the Stanley Park's many famous landmarks, including totem poles, the Jubilee Fountain, the Hollow Tree and Siwash Rock.

Time Required: Exploring the entire park would take days – but an hour ought to be sufficient for a preliminary leg stretch. Budget more time if you hope to include activities or a meal – and don’t forget to account for transfer time to and from the airport as well.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

Transportation

Thanks to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, YVR is seamlessly connected to the city center by public transport. Private transport options are also available.

Public transit options include:

  • Rapid Transit Canada Line (YVR-Airport Station, between T1 and T2): A convenient rapid transit rail link that connects the airport with downtown Vancouver in 26 minutes, and Richmond in 18 minutes. Stations connect onwards with the rest of the city’s transit system. For current schedules and rates: Canada Line Website
  • Scheduled Buses (International Terminal – Arrivals Level 2): Pacific Coach connects travellers with buses going to Whistler, Victoria, Vancouver Island and Washington State, USA. For current schedules and rates: BC Transit Information

Private transit options include:

  • Taxis (Level 2, Domestic and International Arrivals): Licensed taxis await passengers outside both Arrivals halls.
  • Sedans and Limousines: Aerocar provides luxury vehicle transfers to and from YVR.
  • Car Rentals (Parkade Ground Floor): Car rentals can be organized steps away from the airport by a number of companies.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Now that you are motivated and excited for your mini layover vacation, just make sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.

  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is your next flight’s check-in time? Make sure you double check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
  • What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for long security wait-times, so be sure to do a bit of research in advance and factor that into your overall time-budget.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, be sure to confirm whether your luggage is checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Visit our Vancouver Airport Guide for storage information.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly:

2017 airport survey