VANCOUVER TRAVEL GUIDE
Surrounded by water, mountains, islands and rainforest, Vancouver is an incredibly beautiful city. Situated just north of the US border on Canada’s west coast, the city has one of the mildest climates in the country, making it a great destination to visit at anytime of the year.
For fans of the outdoors, there are endless hikes, beautiful beaches, incredible skiing and the opportunity to see whales and bears in their native habitat. Within the city, Vancouver has established a first-rate food scene and there’s excellent shopping and some impressive attractions to explore.
Cruise ships dock at Canada Place in Downtown, this is the centre of the city and it’s easy to get around on foot or by bus. To travel further afield, the newly built Sky Train connects the rest of the city. You can reach North Vancouver via the SeaBus, which leaves Waterfront approximately every 15 minutes. If you’re heading out of the city centre it can be more convenient to hire a car from one of the Downtown rental offices.
There is plenty to fill a few days here and some great hotels if you plan to stay in the city. Within Downtown are the neighbourhoods of Yaletown and Gastown. Gastown is the oldest area in Downtown Vancouver, with cobbled streets, antique stores and trendy bars and restaurants. It was named after "Gassy" Jack Deighton, a steamboat captain who opened the first saloon in Gastown in 1867. Yaletown is another good area for food and nightlife, a stylish neighbourhood with warehouse style buildings full of high-end boutiques and fashion galleries.
Located at the western end of Downtown is Stanley Park, with 1001 acres of trails, rainforest and the Sea Wall walkway surrounded by water. If you fancy getting further out of the city there are a number of hikes including Quarry Rock and the walk up to Cypress Lookout for fantastic views. Another great spot for vistas of Vancouver is the British Properties, an up-market area with some impressive houses.
Whistler, the world famous ski resort is only 45 minutes drive from Vancouver. Even closer to the city are the resorts of Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain, ideal for a days skiing or snowboarding. The ski season runs from around November to April. In the summer these mountains are the perfect destination for hikes and bike rides. Grouse is also home to a wildlife sanctuary, which offers the opportunity to see Canada’s native bears.
Whatever the time of year, Vancouver’s beaches are worth a visit. The most popular beaches are located near the UBC campus and in Kitsilano, and include Spanish Banks and Wreck Beach (a nudist beach).
A short ferry from Vancouver is Bowen Island. This small island feels a world away from the city. There are numerous guesthouses or cabins and chalets to hire, and it’s close enough to go for a day trip if you prefer not to stay over. Once on the island there are lots of trails and hikes and beautiful beaches to explore. The main village is close to the ferry terminal and includes two supermarkets, a pub and some lovely restaurants, cafes and shops.
Another great area for hiking is Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. The 190 acre park is covered with rainforest, and is home to the Point Atkinson Lighthouse, a National Historic Site. The park also contains the last remaining stand of first-growth Douglas Fir in Vancouver.
The main shopping street is Robson, which has a variety of known name brands as well as the new Nordstrom department store. In North Van is the huge Park Royal Mall, which includes the Canadian department store Simmons. And for something slightly different, there are some lovely boutiques in Gastown.
EAT AND DRINK
There are great places to eat all over the city, whether it’s an exclusive restaurant or a drive through, there is something for all budgets. In Gastown, there are an abundance of options, including Ask For Luigi, an Italian restaurant, with handmade pasta and an unusual menu that changes regularly. The Flying Pig has branches in Gastown, Yaletown and in The West End, and serves a twist on the Canadian classic Poutine – serving it with pulled pork.
There are numerous places to try Poutine across the city, and it’s well worth a taste (chips served with cheese curds and gravy). As well as The Flying Pig, The Oakwood does a delicious version, or you could head to La Belle Patate and try one of their 26 varieties of the dish!
In Downtown, Medina is a lovely brunch spot, famous for it’s Belgian Waffles, which are served with almost any variety of sauce you can imagine (and of course Maple Syrup).
For something a bit more upmarket, there is the excellent Vij’s, owned by celebrity chef Vikram Vij, considered to be one of the best Indian restaurants in the world, or The Acorn, an innovative restaurant specialising in vegan, vegetarian and raw foods.
If you head to the UBC Campus, then be sure to visit Koerner’s Pub. This bar has some great dishes on the menu including Pho Nachos. The owners also run the equally lovely Loafe Café.
ONE GRAND CANAL
This is the main waterway running through the city and is lined with buildings that were built between the 12th and 18th centuries. With its unique architecture, gondolas skimming along the water, as well as water taxis carrying tourists and locals alike, it is really quite a sight.
If you want to cruise up and/or down the Grand Canal, use the ACTV No. 1 vaparetto line.
The heritage of the city is displayed through art and story poles across Vancouver, including beautiful examples at Stanley Park. For an in depth look at the history of the city and it’s people, head to the Museum of Anthropology at the UBC Campus. This unusual building, designed by Arthur Ericson houses a collection of first nation artifacts, as well as a variety of other exhibitions.
Granville Island is a sand spit just south of Downtown, and home to the Public Market. The huge market features a variety of produce including seafood, baked goods and fresh foods. For a relaxing afternoon, watch a show at one of the many theatres followed by a meal overlooking the water. There are also two breweries, a distillery and an artisan sake maker.
In North Vancouver is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of Canada’s longest running tourist attractions. First built in 1889, the bridge suspended over a 220ft canyon, offering beautiful views, as well as a nature trail and tree top walk when you reach the other side. There is also a newly added cliff walk further along the canyon.
In Oakridge, is VanDusen Botanical Garden, covering 55 acres and featuring plants from all over the globe. There is a maze and an eco-sphere, which is home to a collection of fish, mammals and insects.
There is easily enough to fill a week in Vancouver, and if you plan to stay longer, there are amazing destinations to visit further afield. Enjoy!