Some General Observations about Vancouver:
Vancouver is quite different from virtually any other city in North America. Despite, the fact it is a large modern Cosmopolitan city, it seems to have a relaxed small-town, close to nature feel about about it. There is little comparison with other large Canadian cities such as Toronto or Montreal, which are more akin to the large eastern US centers like New York and Chicago. In Vancouver, you are never more than 30 minutes away from Wilderness. This has proved fatal on occasion, especially to hikers or skiers who have been lulled into complacency by the proximity of the city, and failed to take appropriate precautions. It is often said that Vancouver is the only city in the world where it is possible to Ski , Sail, and Golf on the same day. I've never tried it, I don't have that sort of energy. Vancouver resisted the trend of virtually every other North American city in the 50's & 60's to bisect downtown with freeways (motorways). While this has created some traffic problems, it has also made Vancouver one of the most liveable cities in North America. Urban planners from other large North American cities have been flocking here to see how we did it. The downtown area has liveable neighbourhoods with only a couple of sleazy areas, the waterfront is attractive, and beaches & trendy marina areas are accessible right in the downtown core. A large proportion of people live in the downtown core, and this trend is accelerating. This means Vancouver bucks the model of most North American cities, which empty out to the suburbs every night. Not that Vancouver does not have its share of suburbia, its just that the downtown core is lived in 24 hours a day, not just 9 to 5. Many European visitors will find the architecture of the city rather boring. Vancouver, like all large North American cities is a conglomerate of high rise cubic office towers, although urban planners have kept the heights down. (the tallest building in Vancouver is only
61 stories. There are some notable exceptions such as the Marine Building at the north foot of Burrard Street, once the tallest structure in the British Empire. The courthouse at Howe & Robson, and the library at Georgia & Hamilton are also variations from the norm.
Vancouver offers a wide range of attractions catering to all tastes & energy levels. Those with only a day to spare would be advised to take a tour (see link to page of companies below). If you have 2 or 3 days, I would highly recommend renting a car, if you have longer, it is possible to get around using public transport, but I still recommend renting a car for at least a couple of days.
http://www.vancouverattractions.com is a web site devoted to specific tourist attractions. You might want to check it out after visiting the categories below. They have printable on-line coupons to some attractions.