When to go
Summer is the best time to visit this upbeat city on Canada's west coast, with beaches, a great outdoor vibe and direct access to forests and mountains and the attractions of Vancouver Island just across the sound. Or try September, Vancouverites' favourite month, with fewer tourists but weather that's still warm and dry before the winter rains set in.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is the city's traditional grand railway hotel, right in the centre of town. For more contemporary style the Shangri-La Hotel is more discreetly located in a new glass tower just around the corner.
Start down by the harbour on Canada Place and follow the shoreline, past the seaplane terminal and Coal Harbour Marina (boat trips available) into Stanley Park to wander at whim and explore the forest trails, lakes and (rather rough and ready) beaches. This must be the most impressive urban park anywhere, a 400ha fragment of indigenous forest with towering red cedars and douglas fir trees.
Much of Vancouver's early colonial architecture has been replaced or eclipsed by contemporary buildings, but the low-rise Victorian brick of the Gastown quarter survives as a relic of the original centre. Rebuilt after a fire in the 1880s, it was brought back to life with restaurants, bars and cool shops in the 60s.
FlyOver Canada at the cruise ship dock sounds like a slightly naff audio-visual tourist experience, but once you are strapped into your seat it's tremendous fun.
The trendiest vintage and fashion shops are in Gastown. For international brands and Canadian specials such as Canada Goose, go to the main mall under the Nordstrom Pacific Centre.
Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House is an institution, both as a buzzing restaurant and - in summer - for its roof garden bar. Joe's highballs cost $6 during happy hour (4pm-6pm every day).
Fish and Asian cooking are superb in Vancouver, and nowhere better than at Miku, the Japanese restaurant overlooking the port; around $100 a head, including drinks.
— Telegraph Media Group