Vancouver Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Canada > Vancouver > History  Map

Vancouver is the city that has it all - natural beauty and cosmopolitan flair. Many regard it as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Set between the Pacific ocean and the coastal mountains, a harmonious blend of nature and urban living gives the city its unique character. Gardens, parks, and beaches are as important and common here as heritage buildings, restaurants, and theatres.

While maintaining the laid-back attitude of North America's West Coast, Vancouver has managed to build a unique international spirit. As the third largest city in Canada, it shares an ethnic diversity and distinct multicultural flavour with the rest of the country. It's young, lively, and the jumping-off point for many spectacular outdoor activities. Vancouverites can leave their downtown office, and within an hour, be skiing on Grouse Mountain or sailing through English Bay.

The city has vitality and style. Nowhere is this more evident than in the downtown core. Its first distinct feature is Stanley Park, located on the west end of Georgia Street. This incredible 1000-acre park includes an 11km Seawall promenade, old-growth forests, hiking trails, and the wonderful Vancouver Aquarium. From the harbour, you can see Canada Place, a "five sail" complex with a convention centre, the CN Imax Theatre, five-star hotel, restaurants, shops and cruise ship terminal.

Because the city, especially the downtown core, is in a constant state of development and restoration, there is always new, vibrant, and interesting architecture popping up into the picturesque skyline. One building of architectural distinction is Science World, one of the most unmistakable structures in the city. It was built when the city hosted the 1986 World Expo. Shaped like a giant silver golf ball that sparkles come nightfall, it hosts a wide range of rotating educational exhibits and conventions. Another building designed for Expo 86, the Plaza of Nations, continues to be a centre for many community events. For arts and culture, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Canadian Craft Museum provide fine exhibitions and permanent collections.

Other unique buildings include those that are the favourites of avid sports fans, such as the giant B.C. Place and the new General Motors Place, stadiums for watching the city's professional hockey, football and basketball teams. And located nearly directly across the street from B.C. Place, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Vancouver Playhouse are part of the city's entertainment district.

Downtown is the city's largest shopping district. One of its main arteries is Robson Street, a highlight for both locals and visitors. It's a busy and diverse area, brimming with fashion boutiques, coffee bars and trendy cafes. Nearby, Pacific Centre and Royal Centre house the city's convenient underground shopping complexes.

Crossing Robson is Granville, a street that offers a variety of independent fashion stores and entertainment venues. Shops like John Fluevog Shoes and True Value Vintage are here, as well as the city's "Theatre Row," where a profusion of concert, theatre and movie choices can be found. The Orpheum Theatre and recently re-opened Commodore Ballroom are also on Granville, and are fantastic places to catch performances of live theatre and music. Overall, the downtown area has restaurants to satisfy every palette, hip, urban nightclubs providing the latest rhythms, and a dizzying number of bars offering live entertainment. It all adds to the city's metropolitan pace and wonderful allure.

Getting around Vancouver takes some practice. For newcomers to the city, the best landmark to refer to is the mountains to the north. Since the Burrard Inlet and False Creek waterways divide the city into intricate pieces, several spans have been constructed to connect the districts, including the Granville, Cambie and Burrard Street Bridges. Most of the streets are laid out in a grid, so driving around is fairly straightforward. The B.C. Transit system is conveniently designed, providing comfortable and simple traveling throughout the city. Forget the car and buses though, if you want to tackle the downtown area, because walking is the most pleasant and convenient way to get around. To gain a real perspective of the city's amazing beauty, visit The Lookout! at the Harbour Centre Tower for a 360-degree view of the cityscape.

Vancouver currently has 23 communities, each with its own set of unique characteristics well worth exploring. Many of the popular neighbourhoods are a testament to the rejuvenation projects that have been completed over the past couple of decades.

This is Vancouver's first community and a unique heritage zone. One block from Canada Place, you'll pass under an iron gate that says "Welcome to Historic Gastown." Red cobblestone streets, Victorian street lamps, and intriguing architecture give Gastown its old-world atmosphere. Today, the area's many boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops, such as Hill's Native Art, Three Centuries Shop, Salmagundi West, and the Jewel of India Restaurant, combine with its historic character to make it a special attraction. The Steam Clock at Cambie and Water streets goes off every 15 minutes and adds to the area's quirky cachet. Gastown is a part of the main artery of Vancouver 's night scene and has several pubs, bars and nightclubs, such as Sonar, the Purple Onion Cabaret and the Irish Heather Bistro, which cater to a wide array of predilections.

Along the shores of False Creek and adjacent to Gastown is another historical zone. Vancouver's Chinatown is one of the largest in North America, second only to San Francisco's. The area's distinct and vibrant character, specialty shops, and world-class dining, combined with its distinct heritage buildings, attract visitors and residents. Here, you can go for Dim Sum, pick up some bok choy and ginseng, shop for special household items, and sample a myriad of authentic Asian delicacies. The bustle here goes on day and night, from the summer's open-air Chinatown Night Market, to packed restaurants such as Hon's Won Ton House or Pink Pearl Chinese Seafood Restaurant, which feature some of the finest examples of Chinese cuisine anywhere. Look around and see if you can spot one of the world's narrowest buildings.

Not long ago, Yaletown was just a collection of abandoned warehouses. Today, it is one of the city's trendiest communities, dotted with posh condominiums and converted historic warehouses. This area is the centre of eclectic high fashion and functional art, as well as an oasis of funky restaurants, pubs, and cafes. One popular establishment worth a visit is the Yaletown Brewing Co., and unique boutiques like Atomic Model and BoNaparte Designs are also rewarding to check out. Part of the area's popularity is its buzzing, ultra-cool nightlife, and the exclusive Bar None is the place to be seen.

Granville Island
A former industrial site, marvelous Granville Island has become one of the city's biggest tourist attractions. Located under the Granville Street Bridge, the island is a hub of shopping, artistic, and maritime activity. Live theatre, pubs, and artists' workshops converge comfortably in this colourful district. The Granville Island Public Market has one-stop food shopping, where you can select fresh produce as you stop to listen to talented buskers performing. Visit wonderful places like La Baguette et L'Echalote, the Net Loft, and the Kids Only Market for fun and wonder. Numerous festivals use the island as their city headquarters, including the Vancouver International Writer's Festival, annual Vancouver International Comedy Festival, Du Maurier International Jazz Festival Vancouver, and the Bluegrass Festival.

Located minutes south of downtown, Kitsilano is known for its youthful, active population, many beaches, and magnificent mountain views. It's easy to see why its popularity has grown over the years. The area, once the country's major hippie-haven, is incredibly health-conscious, so joggers, bikers, and rollerbladers are a natural part of the backdrop. The community has a diverse profusion of eateries, bookstores, theatres, bars, open-air grocers and boutiques. Here, you'll find gems like the Naam, Sophie's Cosmic Cafe, Kidsbooks the Hollywood Theatre, and the Side Door Cabaret.

Since Kitsilano has the monopoly on waterfront parks, the opportunity for outdoor swimming, tennis, beach volleyball and windsurfing draws people from all over the city. The popular Vanier Park accommodates the annual Vancouver International Children's Festival in May, as well as the summer's open-air Shakespearean Bard on the Beach productions. You'll also find the Vancouver Maritime Museum and Vancouver Museum here.

Point Grey
Just to the west of Kitsilano is Point Grey, another popular residential area. One of the wealthiest regions of the city, it boasts an array of large, stately homes, fantastic estates, and one of Vancouver's oldest parks. The area's beaches stretch from Jericho Beach to Spanish Banks, offering haunts to swim, sail and walk in. The natural areas and seaside bike routes have made Point Grey a favourite retreat for many Vancouverites. It also has a cluster of great antique and collectible shops, and is home to the annual Vancouver Folk Festival.

West Point Grey Park provides one of the city's most dramatics viewpoints, with the University of British Columbia (UBC) just south of it. UBC has a spectacular campus, featuring several of the city's best museums and attractions, including the Museum of Anthropology and the Nitobe Memorial Gardens.

East Vancouver
Vancouver's east side has always been known for its multitude of great ethnic neighbourhoods and unconventional shopping and entertainment choices. Indeed, it's reputation is well-earned: there are many distinctive places to shop at, eat in and explore. Once dubbed Little Italy, the area on Commercial Drive, between Broadway and Venables, is often considered the city's hub for artists and modern counter-culture. The Drive is a popular area for all kinds of shopping, bakeries, diverse restaurants and coffee houses. Shops and cafes like Juicy Lucy's, Uprising Breads, Arriva, and Continental Coffee help piece together this diverse community. In addition, from May to October, the East Van Farmer's Market brings in a cornucopia of fresh produce and exotic specialties grown by local farmers. You can also wander through the pockets of eclectic galleries and second-hand shops, such as Cosmopolis and Attic Treasures.

The Vancouver East Cultural Centre(the Cultch) serves as a venue and exhibition space for a wide range of local and international performing and fine arts. Additionally, the Britannia Community Centre and Pacific National Exhibit (PNE) serve as focal points for local events and celebrations. The PNE, built in 1910, holds an international fair each summer with agricultural, educational and cultural events, as well as a massive amusement park for the whole family.

Another delightful area to shop and dine in is Little India, located after East 47th and along Main Street. The Punjabi Market has many well-known jewellery and fabric shops that are fun to explore. This is also where flavourful Indian foods and spices are readily available, and where many people stop to pick up a tempting box of authentic sweets. Some of the stores and restaurants here include Guru Bazaar, All India Foods, and Bombay Sweets. This area is not as well known as some of the city's other neighbourhoods, but you'll find the discovery is just as enjoyable

The Suburbs

West Vancouver
This suburb area northwest of downtown is one of the more prosperous communities in Canada. Settled on the slopes of the North Shore mountains, it's a town of capacious homes and spectacular sea and city views. If you're looking for a great place to shop, the large Park Royal Centre is the country's first shopping mall. The area also offers great places to hike and a bewildering number of great photo opportunities. And if you're spending the entire day in the area, visit the West Vancouver Memorial Library and be sure to walk through Lighthouse Park. It's a beautiful 80-acre old growth forest, and lucky visitors might get a chance to watch seals lounging on the rocks near Howe Sound.

North Vancouver
Just next to West Vancouver lies North Vancouver. It is a lovely, green and bustling city, as well as a maritime centre. The lower Lonsdale area has charming heritage buildings and many antique and specialty shops, while the Lonsdale Quay Market is a thriving waterfront treat. North Vancouver is the gateway for several of the area's finest ecological sites. Tourists will revel at the beauty of Lynn Canyon Park, the elevated thrill of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the awesome splendor of the Fraser Valley. The year-round fun of Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain are also nearby.

Sandwiched between the Fraser River's North Arm and Burrard Inlet is the city of Burnaby. Once considered a sleepy suburban zone, it has now become a dynamic municipality and thriving commercial area. This is evident by the construction of the colossal Metrotown Centre, which draws shoppers from all over the region. The city is also home to Simon Fraser University, a wonderful example of local architect Arthur Erickson's innovative design, set atop Burnaby Mountain. One of Canada's most popular universities, this school attracts students from all over the world.

The rapidly expanding city of Richmond takes its shape from the Fraser River. Surrounded by the river's North and South arms, the city is protected from flooding by high, man-made dikes. The dikes make up the perimeter of this flat urban area and are ideal for walking or cycling. While in the city, enjoy the historic fishing village of Steveston, and the giant, vibrant Asian shopping centres like Yaohan and Parker Place.

New Westminster
New Westminster is the oldest city on Canada's West Coast. Located in the centre of the Lower Mainland along the north banks of the Fraser River, it offers spectacular views from all vantage points. Spend time exploring the Westminster Quay Public Market, and to get a taste of the area's rich history, visit the Irving House Historic Centre.

These are just a handful of the diverse shopping areas, communities, and neighbourhoods that are here to discover and explore. They provide insight into the wonderful cultural, urban and outdoor experiences that Vancouver has to offer.

Weekend trips

One of the top destinations in the country, the quaint historical city of Victoria is a popular weekend and day trip from Vancouver. Located on the West Coast's large Vancouver Island, this picturesque capital city is a 90-minute ferry ride from Vancouver. The trip itself offers a good look at the coast's natural beauty and if you're lucky, some Orca whales as well. In this city that rests on a Pacific Ocean harbour, you'll tread cobblestone streets, watch hanging baskets of colourful blooms sway, and listen to the clip-clop of horsedrawn carriages. Much of this small city's residents are anglophiles -- visitors can sip afternoon tea and bask in the glory of olde Brittannia after spending the day enjoying the city's shopping, galleries, parks, museums, and restaurants.

Among the most popular attractions are the Royal London Wax Museum, Empress Hotel, Miniature World, Crystal and Butchart Gardens, a replica of Anne Hathaway's thatch roof cottage, and Craigdarroch Castle. For those with a taste for the alternative, there's a strong skate and arts subculture here that despite attempts by the city's conservatives to quell it, thrives in little shops, great cafes and unusual book and record stores.