|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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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