Originally published July 21, 2017 | Updated March 22, 2019

The familiar sound of a whistle cuts through the crisp, coastal air as the sun’s rays cascade across Seattle, bringing the city to life for another day. With coffee in hand and adventure on the mind, Vancouver, BC beckons.

Book Now: Seattle to Vancouver Overnight via Amtrak Cascades 

Although the trip to British Columbia is an international trek, the journey is quite easy and doesn’t require a car. A four-hour Seattle to Vancouver train ride via Amtrak ®Cascades transports you to a land where majestic mountains and ancient evergreen forests stretch to the sparkling Pacific. Amidst oceanside parks and sandy beaches lies a vibrant urban center begging to be explored.

Day 1

Seattle to Vancouver by Train

Nestled in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, is the historic King Street Train Station. Like a guiding beacon to the starting point of your journey, the station’s triangular brick clock tower (which is modeled after the Campanile de San Marco in Venice, Italy) stands out from the surrounding concrete buildings.

One step inside the spacious station and you immediately sense that you’ve entered another era. Marbled rooms, columns, brass chandeliers and tile floors pay tribute to travel’s romantic past. The only thing missing is the conductor’s call of “all aboard!” as you hop on the train. Pick up one of the local treats from the onboard bistro and then settle into one of the cozy seats in the sleek, roomy passenger car of the train.

Wind your way past forests and rivers on the way to Vancouver. Credit: Amtrak Cascades
Wind your way past forests and rivers on the way to Vancouver. Credit: Amtrak Cascades

As the train chugs to life, the beautiful Northwest landscape rolls by the train car’s expansive windows. (Insider tip: Be sure to snag a seat on the left side of the train for views of the water). Breathtaking scenery emerges as the waters of Puget Sound glisten in the sunlight with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains rise in the distance. Towns, cities, forests and farms pop up around every bend as the train glides smoothly along the 110-mile trek to the Canadian border.

Grab a Bite at a Vancouver Food Truck

A short while later, the train coasts into Vancouver’s terminal, a soft “pssst” escaping from the engine announcing its arrival. From there, it’s a quick, efficient trip through customs and a 30-minute ride on the SkyTrain to Vancouver’s downtown core. The beauty of Vancouver is that the city is incredibly walkable. With a smaller footprint than Seattle, everything from historical landmarks, to trendy boutiques and phenomenal restaurants are steps away. No rental car pickup or struggle to find parking required.

Vancouver's food trucks give you a chance to sample what the locals love. Photo: Lisa
Vancouver’s food trucks give you a chance to sample what the locals love. Photo: Lisa

Craving a quick meal? The curbside kitchens (also known as food trucks) lining the streets of the city serve up plenty of options for lunchtime respite. Indulge in the melty masterpieces at Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck (topped with sundried tomato spread, roasted red peppers and avocado, the Ze Garden is sure to please). Or pick up a delightfully sweet blueberry and lemon-honey ricotta stuffed crepe at the French La Boheme Creperie.

Stroll Scenic Stanley Park

When you’re ready to soak in some much-needed vitamin-D, a five-minute bus ride will land you at the world-renowned Stanley Park. Boasting grassy meadows and miles of walking, running and biking trails, it is a green oasis in the heart of the city. Stretch your legs as you follow the uninterrupted, six-mile pathway along the Seawall.

A walk along the Stanley Park Seawall offers stunning views of the region. Credit: Destination BC
A walk along the Stanley Park Seawall offers stunning views of the region. Credit: Destination BC

Check out the nine, hand-carved totem poles near Brockton Point, stop to build a sandcastle or go for a swim on the secluded Third Beach or snap a shot of the “Hollow Tree,” a 700- to 800-year-old Western Red Cedar tree stump.

Explore the Largest Aquarium in Canada

Wander past stands of ancient Douglas fir trees and make your way to one of the five largest aquariums in North America. Containing a menagerie of more than 90,000 creatures, the Vancouver Aquarium allows you to get up close and personal with an array of wildlife from around the globe.

Hundreds of spotted jellyfish gracefully float around their tank. Credit: The Vancouver Aquarium
Hundreds of spotted jellyfish gracefully float around their tank. Credit: The Vancouver Aquarium

More jellyfish and exotic fish than you can imagine float and swim in glowing glass tanks. Head downstairs and you can expect to see a colony of frogs, birds and butterflies that call the rainforest-like room home.

Outdoors, playful Steller sea lions and otters splash and perform tricks during live shows. You can even meet these animals “in person” by joining the aquarium’s interpreters as they care for the creatures. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

Discover Vancouver’s Shopping Mecca

With a great exchange rate and unrivaled shopping districts, it is hard to say no to a little retail therapy. Skip the heavily trafficked Robson Street for the renovated brick warehouses of the hip Yaletown and the historic Gastown (don’t forget to swing by the world-famous Steam Clock).

Explore the tree-lined streets of historic Gastown. Credit: Tourism Vancouver
Explore the tree-lined streets of historic Gastown. Credit: Tourism Vancouver

Stop in at Gastown’s Obakki for sophisticated women’s wear or browse exceptional First Nation’s carvings, masks and jewelry at Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery. You can also snag trendy threads at Fine Finds or whimsical home décor and jewelry at The Cross in Yaletown.

Last, but not least, is the enticing strip of indie stores concentrated on the south end of Main Street. This is where Vancouver’s trendiest crowd comes to pick up one-of-a-kind items. We love the charming and eclectic stationary store the Regional Assembly of Text (they have a sister store in Victoria) and the GivingGifts for fair trade, eco-friendly wares.

Yaletown's unique boutiques provide an endless supply of trinkets and gifts. Credit: Tourism Vancouver / John Sinal
Yaletown’s unique boutiques provide an endless supply of trinkets and gifts. Credit: Tourism Vancouver / John Sinal

Spend a Night Out Downtown

Home to one of the largest concentrations of craft beer in Canada, it’s hard to think of a better way to cap a day of exploring in Vancouver than relaxing with a pint in a cozy pub. The intimate Alibi Room will help satiate your thirst with a selection of more than 50 taps of local and imported craft brews. Does your taste run to hand-mixed drinks? Head to the classy Diamond for creatively curated cocktails.

With an abundance of local fish, a seafood dinner in Vancouver is a must-do. Stay close by for dinner at the modern Miniami for fresh and sustainably caught fish and shellfish. Each of the restaurant’s colorful and meticulously presented sushi and sashimi dishes look like a piece of art. We won’t blame you for pulling out your phone to snap a shot for Insta.

Sip on delicious golden brews in this craft beer capital.
Sip on delicious golden brews in this craft beer capital.

If you have a taste for comfort food, Yaletown’s Flying Pig restaurant serves up a mouth-watering lineup of seasonally inspired fare. The restaurant’s open-air design brings the kitchen to your table, allowing you to watch your chef toss fresh caught seafood with steaming pappardelle noodles.

End the evening on a sweet note and duck into Bella Gelateria for creamy, handcrafted gelato. With an array of unique, delicious flavors, such as banana bread, chocolate Maldon Sea Salt, dulce de leche and Earl Grey tea, it’s hard to limit yourself to one scoop.

Sample delicious fare with your friends in Gastown. Credit: Vancouver Foodie Tours
Sample delicious fare with your friends in Gastown. Credit: Vancouver Foodie Tours

Day 2

Rise as the rays of the morning sun slowly seep through your hotel window and catch an early bus or cab over to the buzzing and artistic Granville Island. Once an industrial area filled with sawmills and factories, this lively community is now chock full of distinctive restaurants, cafes, independent shops and, of course, the Island’s crown jewel – the Public Market.

Dine at Vancouver’s Crown Jewel

Step inside the bustling hall filled with colorful stalls and aromas of just-baked bread, the sweet scent of ripening fruit and fragrant fresh flowers immediately tantalize your nose. It’s easy to taste test all day, so we highly recommend hopping on the Granville Market tour to get a lay of the land. Feast on a variety of the treats, ranging from aged cheddar to spicy chai tea. Don’t miss out on the wonderful honey-dipped donuts at Lee’s Donuts. Warm and sugary sweet, they’ll make your mouth water for more. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

The vibrant stalls of the Granville Public Market are a treat for the senses. Photo: Tourism Vancouver
The vibrant stalls of the Granville Public Market are a treat for the senses. Photo: Tourism Vancouver

When you need a breather from the crowds, stroll two blocks over to the cobbled streets of Railspur Alley for a calmer scene. A crafters’ marketplace, the block-long strip is lined with unique galleries and boutiques where you can expect to find custom letterpress stationery, hand-made sculptures, buttery leather bags and chunky wool sweaters.

Peek inside artist studios to catch sight of artisans twisting and twirling molten glass into vividly hued bowls over glowing forges. If you’re looking for souvenirs, this is the place to stock up. Drop into Daniel Materna Ceramics for a kaleidoscopic collection of plates, lamps and pottery or pop into Artisan Sake Maker to sample innovative brews.

Soak in Some Culture

Pop back over the Granville Street Bridge to experience the region’s leading art space, the Vancouver Art Gallery. If the massive columns marking the entrance don’t take your breath away, the rotating collection of historical and contemporary artwork certainly will. Be sure to check out the vivid paintings of the West Coast wilderness created by BC’s own famous artist, Emily Carr.

 

The popular Vancouver Art Gallery brims with paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos by regional, national and international artists. Photo: Creative Commons Licensed by Thomas Steinberger
The popular Vancouver Art Gallery brims with paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos by regional, national and international artists. Credit: Creative Commons Licensed by Thomas Steinberger

For a last look at the city, whisk yourself skyward with a 40-second, glass elevator ride to the observation deck of the iconic Vancouver Outlook. Just be prepared to be awe-struck by the views. One step out of the elevator and breathtaking 360-degree vistas of downtown Vancouver, Gastown, Coal Harbour and the Northshore Mountains are front and center. (Inside tip: Challenge your kiddos to search for the city’s unique landmarks with Lookout telescopes.)

Vancouver's stunning downtown skyline glitters in the sunlight. Credit: Vancouver Outlook
Vancouver’s stunning downtown skyline glitters in the sunlight. Credit: Vancouver Outlook

Clamber back on the train for the return ride to Seattle after an incredible, 48 hours in Vancouver. Pulling out of the station, you realize you have barely scratched the surface of this fair city and immediately begin building a mental map of spots to visit on your next trip north.

At a Glance

How much is the train from Seattle to Vancouver?

A Seattle to Vancouver overnight package including Amtrak ®Cascades train and a hotel stay range from $165 USD per person to $232 USD per person depending upon time of year for travel.

How long is the train ride from Seattle to Vancouver?

The train ride aboard Amtrak ®Cascades departing from King Street Station in downtown Seattle and arriving at Pacific Central Station in downtown Vancouver, BC is four hours.

What hotels should I stay at in Vancouver?

Clipper Vacations partners with highly vetted hotels in Vancouver. Check out our Seattle to Vancouver Overnight via Amtrak ®Cascades to explore hotel package deal options.

Book Your Vancouver Trip Now

Feature Photo: Amtrak Cascades