One of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada, Vancouver is a hub of thriving activities from a wide range of cultures. Consistently being named as one of the top five worldwide cities for liveability and quality of life (WORLD’S MOST LIVEABLE CITIES), Vancouver often plays host to major events such as the winter olympics (2010), FIFA Women’s World Cup (2015) as well as the annual TED conference making Vancouver its indefinite home after spending 30 years in California. The city takes its name from Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798), who explored the inner harbour of the Burrard Inlet in 1792 and gave various places British names.
For modern-day Vancouver it promises to inspire and provide in every direction, amongst its glass towered metropolis you can pick out breath-taking glimpses of the surrounding landscapes. As eagles whirl overhead whales and seals are often hugging the shore line, circling around the many container ships that bask in the twilight of many beautiful orange drenched sunsets that can be viewed from one of many pristine beaches right in the heart of the city.
Top Reasons to visit:
STANLEY PARK – This 1000 acre park, often voted as the world’s best. The densely forested park offers a golf course, aquarium, beaches and a 14 mile seawall, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront walkway. Needing a day or two to explore in its entirety, you can easily forget that you are on a city vacation, when adventuring through the inner trails you cannot hear any city life, it offers the perfect escape. With 24km of trails to be discovered why not just spend your vacation with some of Canada’s finest nature?
THE PEOPLE – Surprising eh?! Vancouver is honestly the friendliest city I have visited. Even if you are the slightest bit puzzled its residents will be on hand to help you find your way. Everyone for the most part is super approachable, and with luck you will be invited on at least 3 hikes within your first 24hours of being there. By the end of your stay you will be shouting up thank you to the bus drivers and saying sorry to a stand of bread that you accidentally bumped into.
THE VIEWS – Whether you are standing in the middle of Downtown, on top of Grouse Mountain or wandering around Queen Elizabeth Park you are guaranteed to have a view. A breathtaking view is never far away, you can see this magical city from so many angles you will never get bored with the sight. I’m pretty sure even the veteran locals are still to discover every view that this city has to offer.
GASTOWN/CHINATOWN – Be transported back to where it all began, Gastown is Vancouver’s old-district and offers cobbled-streets, vintage lighting and a central clock that runs off steam. Its heritage buildings have become part of some of the city’s best restaurants and bars offering plenty for all walks of life. Right on its doorstep is one Canada’s most vibrant and largest ChinaTowns marking this corner of Vancouver as a great on-foot exploration destination. China Town has all the sights and smells you could imagine, with its decorative street lamps and road signs you may feel as if you have been dragged through a portal and into the streets of a small town somewhere within a historic cultural China.
NORTHSHORE MOUNTAINS – Over looking Downtown Vancouver are two provincial parks covering three major mountains – Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain. All three other breathtaking views, endless trails and some of the best city skiing in the world. Grouse Mountain is often referred to as ‘the Peak of Vancouver’, offering the best eagle-eyed view of the glistening city that lies below, basking in all its glory. A free shuttle bus offers rides to the base of these mountains which you can then hike to the peak or take a gondola to the upper levels.
THE BEACHES – Vancouver’s public beaches and waterfront access make it among the most liveable cities in the world, boasting soft sand, thrilling mountain-and-city vistas, and lots of chances for outdoor sports and adventure. From English Bay, Jericho and Wreck Beach (Canada’s first clothing-optional beach) there are certainly no shortage of beach in this city. With nine beaches in total – eight by the ocean, one by a freshwater lake – Vancouver offers 18 km of beautiful outdoor space to sunbathe, swim, play sports, and picnic.
Top Tourist Traps:
CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE -££- If you’re ready to take on nature at a new height Capilano Suspension Bridge offers one of the world’s longest (140m) and highest (70m) suspension bridges. A very popular destination with tourists made possible by a number of free shuttle buses that take you from downtown Vancouver across the Burrard inlet and into Capilano Provincial Park. To beat the crowds you are best to catch this sight early in the morning, unless of course you want to share one of the world’s tallest suspension bridges swaying side by side with a few other hundred people. Probably one of the regions most Instagrammed locations offers other such thrills as a glass-bottomed cliffside walkway and an elevated canopy trail through the trees.
GRANVILLE ISLAND -£- Foodies rejoice! The Public Market will certainly get your senses going, the smells and colours particularly light up the indoor space, making it the perfect location to visit what ever the weather. Offering BC’s finest produce this is a perfect spot to have lunch before heading on a small AquaBus back over to Downtown. Granville Island also offers a number of galleries and locally handcrafted shops to insure you can take home a piece of the city with you. If you’re feeling adventurous, this is also the perfect spot to hire a kayak or paddle-board to explore the cities coastline with harbour seals swimming along side.
MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY -£- Situated on the University of British Colombia’s breathtaking campus, the Museum of Anthropology is often labelled as Vancouver’s best museum. With spectacular First Nations totem poles sporting fabulous carvings and rooms bursting with artifacts from cultures around the world – from Polynesian instruments to Cantonese opera costumes, this museum offers an insight into the world. Free daily tours will guide you lovingly around, answering any questions that may arise throughout your visit.
Top Restaurants & Bars:
BURGOO -££- Taking comfort food to a whole new level Burgoo has all the home comforts you could ever need. With four locations spread throughout Vancouver, you are never too far away from the perfect grilled cheese or delightfully seasoned soup. The decor and dimmed lighting via flickering candles will leave you wanting to curl up into a ball, fully relaxed with the only thing missing being an open fire.
STORMCROW TAVERN -£- This microbrewery is a geek’s dream. Offering a large array of classic board games, this fantasy sci-fi themed bar is a hit with locals, from the food to the drinks Stormcrow will fuel you up for a wildly lit night of hardcore board gaming.
JUNCTION -£- If you’re looking to dance the night away then look no further. Junction offers the best of the latest pop dance remixes as well as the biggest classic tunes to sweep over the gay scene. Situated on Davie St in Vancouver’s long running gay district, you will feel nothing but pride as you dance around with people of all sexualities. This may be the place for LGBTQ+ but as always the whole city is invited.
Best city-wide events:
HONDA CELEBRATION OF LIGHT – The annual musical fireworks competition is one of Vancouver’s largest and most well-known festivals, and is recognized as the longest running off-shore fireworks competition in the world. The multiple-day event has an estimated annual attendance of 1.4 million people. Away from the fireworks live bands perform in English Bay in the afternoons and evenings at Sunset Beach and English Beach. Each day there is a variety of bands, with a special feature performance on the main SHOREFEST Stage at English Bay leading up to the fireworks each evening.
VANCOUVER PRIDE PARADE AND FESTIVAL- Through sparkling sun or sprinkling rain, the Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival paints the city in a sea of rainbows. Vancouver’s Pride Week has plenty of events for those seeking to join the festivities, culminating in the Pride Parade on the final day of the festival. A festival where the whole city comes out and parties on the streets, celebrating each others love with full-blown admiration.
THEATRE UNDER THE STARS – Presenting two full length musicals during the summer season at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. Nestled among awe-inspiring Douglas Firs, the company is uniquely suited to Vancouver and reflects some of the city’s most collectively embraced values: exuberance, expression, nature, and youth. In the height of summer you can truely expect a beautiful choreographed play enabling you to enjoy a magical evening under the stars.
When to go & Daily costs?
December to March for skiing. Summer crowds roll in from June to September. Spring and fall for great weather and reduced hotel rates.
On average Vancouver is generally seen as a liveable city, your trip there does not have to be expensive. The daily average cost of things are fairly reasonable:
- Double room in a standard hotel: £91
- Dinner for two in neighborhood restaurant: £25 (excl drinks)
- Craft beer for two: £9
- Museum entry: £9-15
- Fine-dining meal for two: £60
- Cocktails for two: £15
- Taxi trips around the city: £3 and up
- All-day transit pass: £6