Vancouver is Canada’s third largest city and the only major city that’s surrounded by ocean, mountains, sand and farmland. It’s unique landscape makes it appealing to travelers with varying interests; whether you’re into hiking, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, shopping or swimming, Vancouver has something that will keep everyone entertained. The cultures that embody Vancouver are as diverse as its landscape and can be seen in the many different businesses and neighborhoods around the city.
Downtown Vancouver is home to the Business, Shopping and Nightlife Districts. Although a major city, Vancouver is spread over a relatively small area, which makes getting around the city a breeze. Downtown you can find Robson Street, Vancouver’s most famous shopping district. Just off of Robson, you will find high-end boutiques, luxurious hotels and divine restaurants.
Head North of Robson Street and you will find yourself heavily immersed in Vancouver’s Business and Financial District. Tall skyscrapers tower the streets and locals dressed in power suits charge down the sidewalks. Mixed amongst the concrete and glass you will find many cafés and perfect spots to stop and have lunch at. Canada Place is on the edge of the Business District, perched on the water and looks out over the water onto North and West Vancouver. Canada Place is home to many conventions and events that attract visitors from far and wide. Nestled at the back of Canada Place is the IMAX Theatre, where the movie list is constantly changing. Canada Place is also the anchor point to many cruise ships and during the summer it’s a busy hub as the ships come and go.
The West End
West of Robson Street is Vancouver’s West End. The West End is a colorful neighborhood that’s rich in diversity and full of delightful cafés, restaurants and shops. The pink bus stops and Gay Pride flags give this neighborhood charm and a warm welcome to all visitors that stroll through. Davie Street is home to the West End’s busy shopping and lively nightlife district. Stroll all the way down Davie Street and you will find yourself face-to-face with the ocean. English Bay is popular amongst locals for it’s great view, perfect picnic backdrop and sensational sunsets. Stanley Park, Vancouver’s own rainforest surrounded by city, is a short walk, bike or bus ride from the West End. The Seawall runs around the city and provides an easy path to get from English Bay to Stanley Park.
Gastown is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Vancouver’s Business District and is the oldest neighborhood in the city. During the summer, when Vancouver’s tourism is at its peak, Gastown is buzzing with visitors. There are plenty of art galleries, shops, restaurants and interesting historical facts that draw tourists to this area of town. In the heart of Gastown there is a tribute to Gassy Jack, Vancouver’s first settler, and it draws visitors to stand around and gaze at his statue. Gastown is famous for its vocal Gastown Steam Clock and it’s not uncommon to see a crowd huddled around the musical timepiece on any given day of the year. Wander down the red cobbled streets, fitted with trendy boutiques and art shops, and admire some of Vancouver’s oldest architecture and Victorian street lamps.
A short walk away from Gastown, and you will find yourself being welcomed by the Vancouver Chinatown Millennium Gate upon entering Chinatown. Vancouver’s Chinatown is the second largest in North America, second only to San Francisco’s. Rich with culture and many different shops, you will feel as though you have traveled outside of Canada while you wander the foreign streets. While in Chinatown, make sure to stop in at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and The Chinese Cultural Centre. Traditional Chinese culture has been transported into Vancouver via these attractions. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is ripe with customary Chinese architecture and botany. Chinatown is a great spot to grab some dim sum and pick up a souvenir to take back home.
Southeast of Robson Street is Yaletown, one of Vancouver’s newest and trendiest neighborhoods. Known historically for being the city’s warehouse district, it took a turn for change during Expo ’86 and has since become a place filled with unique shops, new condos and luxurious restaurants. Perched on the edges of the Seawall, Vancouver’s Nightlife District on Granville Street and Robson Street, Yaletown is a central hub to many of Vancouver’s neighborhoods. Yaletown is a great place to spend the afternoon shopping and dining on one of the many patios that are scattered in the area.
Across from Yaletown is False Creek, which is a quiet residential area along the water and it’s also home of the Olympic Village and Science World. Twelve blocks up from the water and you will find yourself on Broadway Street, which is a bustling street that stretches from East Vancouver to Kitsilano. There are many buses that go along Broadway, which makes it an ideal route to get from one side of the city to another.
South Granville is smack in the middle of False Creek and Kitsilano. Granville Street extends itself from Downtown all the way out to Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver. South Granville has many great stores, restaurants, antique shops and art galleries. Take a wander down to Granville Island and you will be at one of Vancouver’s best attraction’s that stirs both locals and visitors together. Public transportation makes it a breeze to quickly get from Downtown Vancouver to South Granville or Granville Island.
Just past the South Granville area you will find yourself in Kitsilano. “Kits”, as locals refer to it, is home to Vancouver’s most popular beaches and depending on how secluded you want to be, there’s a beach to suit whatever your preference may be. Kits Beach is usually packed with both young and old people that spend the day playing volleyball, swimming, sun tanning and picnicking. Further into Kitsilano there are some less busy beaches; Jericho and Spanish Banks are fantastic spots where you won’t feel overwhelmed by crowds. Wreck Beach is well known amongst liberal sunbathers and clothing is optional at this beach. With two main shopping streets, West Broadway and 4th Avenue, you will spoiled for choice when it comes to stores, restaurants and spas. 4th Avenue is just a short walk from the beach, which makes it both convenient and easy to access.
North Vancouver & West Vancouver
Locals usually give directions that indicate North, South, West and East and an easy way to figure out where North is, is to look for the mountains. North of Downtown Vancouver is North Vancouver and West Vancouver, or as locals call them, “North Van” and “West Van”. North and West Van are both lovely residential and commercial areas. Taking a trip up the mountain to go hiking or skiing is a breeze when you’re on this side of town. Cypress Mountain and Grouse Mountain are a short drive away, and a very scenic one at that. Some of the best hikes and biking trails are in North Vancouver. Capilano Suspension Bridge and Lynn Canyon are both popular choices amongst locals and tourists when they want to get their heart rate up and enjoy some fresh air. Lonsdale Quay is like North Van’s Granville Island. It’s a busy market filled with many different counters that range from fresh fish, creamy cheeses and tasty baked treats. If you’re going to Whistler, you can take the Sea-to-Sky Highway from West Vancouver up to Whistler.
East Vancouver is one of the city’s older neighborhoods that is quickly gaining popularity amongst young families and attracting all types of crowds with their hip stores and diverse variation of restaurants and bars. Commercial Street is always hopping with people because there’s something for everyone there. Vancouver’s own “Little Italy” is on Commercial and there are plenty of stores and cafés to get a fix for something your Italian Mamma would make you. The PNE has been around in East Van for years and still has its original roller coaster. There are a number of new and old rides that create an exhilarating afternoon for kids, or the kid in you.