80 hotels in this place
It's not hard to argue that Vancouver occupies a pretty enviable spot in the world. Blessed with miles of coastline, lush vegetation and crowned by the North Shore Mountains, it's hard to be there and not stop at some point and be amazed by what you see. But scratch beneath that setting and you find a cosmopolitan city of many faces. It's a bit of old and a lot of new, a stopping place for immigrants that have infused the city's neighbourhoods, festivals and food. On one hand, it's the third largest metropolitan area in Canada, the second biggest destination for visitors to the country and the economic center of British Columbia. A modern city of glass towers with a variety of festivals, cultures and attractions, it has also been host to world events like the 1986 World Exposition and the 2010 Winter Olympics. To others, it's Vansterdam, the laid-back socially progressive city with the laissez-faire attitude to marijuana. With its Asian heritage and relative proximity to China and Japan, some see it as the gateway to Asia. And with all that nature minutes from your door, Vancouver is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It's one of those rare places you could ski in the mountains, hit the beach and play a round of golf all in the same day. All of this makes it easy to be a local. Walk the Seawall. Spend a day in one of the parks. Indulge in food and treats from around the world at a neighbourhood restaurant. Or just grab a spot at the beach or on a patio and watch it all go by -- Vancouver is, after all, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Vancouver
While Vancouver is still a young city, it has a variety of attractions and points of interest for the visitor. Many of the city's landmarks and historical buildings can be found downtown. Canada Place, with its distinctive sails, the Vancouver Convention Centre located just beside it, the intricate Art Deco styling of the Marine Building and the old luxury railway hotel of the Hotel Vancouver are in the central business district. Stanley Park (the city's most popular attraction), along with its neighbouring Coal Harbour walkway and the Vancouver Aquarium are in the West End and Gastown, the original town site of Vancouver, has a number of restored buildings and its steam clock is a popular spot to visit. Modern architecture worth visiting also includes Shangri-La, currently the tallest building in the city, and the Sheraton Wall Centre. Another popular city landmark, the bustling markets and shops of Granville Island, is just to the south of downtown in South Granville.
If you're looking to learn a little about the people of the Northwest Coast and some of its history, one good spot is the impressive Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, which houses several thousand objects from BC's First Nations. The museum is also home to significant collections of archaeological objects and ethnographic materials from other parts of the world. The Vancouver Art Gallery, located downtown combines local with international through a variety of exhibitions and a permanent collection that focuses on renowned British Columbia artist, Emily Carr. The Vancouver Public Library, located downtown at Homer and Robson Sts, is modelled after the Roman Colosseum, and houses the city's largest library. Another downtown sight is the small Contemporary Art Gallery on Nelson Street, which features modern art. Also located nearby, on the east side of False Creek is the shiny geodesic dome of the Telus World of Science (commonly known as Science World), which has a number of exhibits, shows and galleries aimed at making science fun for kids. Another great spot to check out is the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum located at Gate A of BC Place Stadium. The BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum preserves and honours BC's Sport heritage by recognizing extraordinary achievement in sport through using their collection and stories to inspire all people to pursue their dreams. There are also some smaller sights in Kitsilano, including the Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver, and H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.
The city has a wealth of parks and gardens scattered throughout. The most famous is Stanley Park at the tip of the downtown peninsula. Its miles of trails for walking and cycling, beaches, magnificent views and the attractions (including totem poles) within the park gives it something for everyone. The most popular trail is the Seawall, a paved trail that runs around the perimeter of Stanley Park and now joins with the seawalls in Coal Harbour and Kitsilano, totaling 22 km in length. The Vancouver Aquarium is located within Stanley Park. Other notable parks and gardens include VanDusen Botanical Garden in South Vancouver and Queen Elizabeth Park near South Main, the Nitobe Memorial Garden (commonly known as the Nitobe Japanese Garden) and UBC Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown downtown.
Admission to Vancouver's various attractions can range from $10 to up to $30 per person. There are a variety of attractions passes available that help visitors save on retail admissions such as the See Vancouver Smartvisit Card and the Vancouver Five in One Card.
Finally, a trip to Vancouver wouldn't be complete without a glimpse of the skyline and the Coastal mountains rising above the city (clouds permitting, of course!). Popular spots to view it include Stanley Park and the Harbour Centre downtown, Spanish Banks and Jericho Beaches in Point Grey and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Other interesting views can be seen from City Hall at 12th and Cambie, Queen Elizabeth Park and East Van's CRAB Park.
Depending on who you talk to, or perhaps, when, Vancouver's climate is either much maligned or envied. Late fall and winter are typically damp with clouds smothering the sky like a wet grey blanket (there's a reason Vancouver is sometimes referred to as the "Wet Coast"). But there are benefits to all that rain: it's usually not snowing (unlike most of the rest of Canada) and it leads to a gorgeous display of colour with the start of spring in early March. And that's where Vancouver really shines -- the spring and summer. Springs can still be wet, but it gets warmer and the shrubs, blossom trees and flowers put on a pretty show. Summer days are long and usually sunny with little humidity.
Daytime highs from mid-June to early-Sept are mostly comfortable in the low to mid-20s (70-80 F). Overnight temperatures are usually in the teens (55-70 F). Spring and fall are cooler and wetter, so a packing a mix of cool and warm weather clothing is recommended. If visiting Vancouver between Nov and March, be prepared for wet weather and cool temperatures. Daytime highs are typically around 5-8 C (40-50 F) while overnight lows will get close to zero (32 F) and sometimes colder. Dec and Jan are the coldest months, with the most rain and a chance of snow. While Vancouver's winters are not as harsh as those in other major Canadian cities, the city does get a few days of snow in the winter months every year.
If you want to orient yourself in the city, there are a variety of tours -- bus, walking, hop-on, hop-off -- based out of the City Centre that will regale you with Vancouver lore while taking you to many of the main attractions.
Vancouverites love the outdoors and one of the most popular things to do is to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade the Seawall. It starts at Canada Place downtown, wraps around Stanley Park and follows the shoreline of False Creek through Yaletown, Science World and Granville Island to Kits Beach in Kitsilano. The most popular sections are around Stanley Park and along the north shore of False Creek. Bike and rollerblade rentals are available from a few shops near the corner of Denman & West Georgia if you prefer wheeled transportation over walking. If the weather's nice, go out to Granville Island, rent a speedboat and take a boat ride on the waters around Stanley Park and Coal Harbour. Golf courses are also abundant in the city, along with more cost-conscious pitch-and-putt courses.
If you'd rather lie in the sun than play in the sun, Vancouver has a number of beaches. While certainly not glamourous and lacking waves, there's sand, water and lots of people on sunny summer days. Kitsilano has a string of beaches, the most well known being Kitsilano Beach, Jericho and Spanish Banks. Kits Beach is the most popular and has beach volleyball, Spanish Banks is a bit quieter and popular with skimboarders. There are a few beaches on the south and west sides of downtown, with English Bay Beach (near Denman & Beach) being the largest and most popular. Finally, no discussion of Vancouver beaches would be complete without mention of Wreck Beach at the tip of Point Grey in UBC. As much rock as it is sand, it holds a place in the Vancouver identity and is the only city beach where you can bare it all.
For many, Vancouver is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding. While there are no ski hills within the city itself, there are three "local" hills (Cypress, Grouse Mountain and Seymour) across the harbour on the North Shore. And of course, Vancouver is the gateway to Whistler, the biggest and one of the most highly rated snow destinations in North America.
When you tire of doing stuff outdoors, or prefer that someone else do the hard work, you can always grab a seat and take in the local sports teams.
The biggest draw in town is hockey (the variety played on ice, not a field) and the local professional team is the Vancouver Canucks. The team plays at Rogers Arena in the City Centre and the season lasts from October to April (and possibly longer when they make the play-offs). Tickets are pricey and the concessions are even worse, but it's a good game to watch live. The local junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, offer a cheaper but no less exciting experience. They play out of Pacific Coliseum in East Van.
The BC Lions, the city's Canadian Football League team (think American football with 12 players a side, three downs, a slightly larger field, and much larger end zones) plays during the summer and fall at BC Place downtown.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the third team to bear the "Whitecaps" name, began their first season in Major League Soccer in March 2011, becoming the second MLS team in Canada. Because BC Place was closed for renovations following the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Lions played the 2010 season at Empire Field, a temporary stadium on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in East Van. The MLS Whitecaps are beginning their inaugural 2011 season at Empire Field as well. When BC Place reopens in late September 2011, both teams will move there. The Whitecaps initially planned to build a new stadium of their own near the waterfront, but local opposition has led the Whitecaps to make BC Place their long-term home.
The Terminal City Rollergirls are Vancouver's first female roller derby league and are members of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. Created in 2006, the league now has four full teams (Faster Pussycats, Bad Reputations, Public Frenemy, and Riot Girls) as well as an All-Stars team made up of the best players in the league. The players are a diverse group of women, from nurses to construction workers, graphic designers, television producers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, PhD students and aspiring rock stars. The bouts are exciting and fun (there is usually an entertaining half-time show), and you may even see some hard hits that show up on the League's Hall of Pain. If you're thinking about attending a bout and know nothing or very little about flat track roller derby, check out the 'How Derby Works' section on the TCRG website. Bouts are generally held April to September and at various arenas around Metro Vancouver, although the PNE Forum in East Van has been a popular venue.
Vancouver has a single A baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, who play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in South Vancouver.
Culture and festivals
Vancouver isn't all about the outdoors. It offers a variety of theatre, concerts and other cultural events. There are symphony and opera venues downtown and much of the city's live theatre can be found in South Granville, particularly on Granville Island with its thriving arts scene.
The city's Chinese heritage comes alive during Chinese New Year. Chinatown, in the east side of downtown, is awash in colour and has many festivities, including a parade. June sees the annual Dragon Boat Festival on False Creek.
There is no shortage of festivals around the city, with many local ones particular to a neighbourhood. The festival that draws the largest crowds is the HSBC Celebration of Light, a four night extravaganza of fireworks over English Bay in late July and early August. Countries compete with 20-30 min displays choreographed to music. The fireworks start at 10PM and are best viewed from Sunset Beach in the West End or Kits Beach/Vanier Park in Kitsilano. It is strongly recommended to take public transit and to get there a few hours early as the crowds are huge. Roads in the vicinity of English Bay are typically closed from 6PM onwards.
EAT! Vancouver - The Everything Food + Cooking Festival takes place every May. In 2014, the festival takes place May 30 - June 1, at BC Place Stadium. Celebrity chefs, popular local restaurants, wineries, food & beverage manufacturers, cookbook authors, retailers, artisans, & many others from the culinary world will come together for a 3 day public extravaganza. EAT Vancouver encompasses unique food experiences, opportunities to learn behind-the-scenes culinary magic from professional chefs, dynamic entertainment through celebrity chef cooking demonstrations & intense culinary competitions, diverse food, beverage & cooking related exhibits; & of course fantastic shopping opportunities.
Other notable festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival that runs in Sept-Oct; the Fringe Festival that presents live theatre in a variety of styles and venues; Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival that runs May - September at Vanier Park in Kitsilano; and the three day Folk Fest on the beach in Kitsilano that features a large selection of current and upcoming folk, roots and world music acts. Another notable event is Vancouver's annual Vancouver Pride Parade, for 2013 held on 4 August, which attracts over 600,000 spectators.
Where to begin? There is something for everyone in this cosmopolitan city, and the variety of cuisines and price points have been described as a foodie's delight. In particular, you will find many different kinds of Asian food available. If you fancy sushi many places offer "all you can eat" lunches for $12, which offers food of a wildly varying quality. In general, the city is up there with some of the best cities in North America when it comes to food. If you can do without alcohol, you can usually have a pretty reasonable meal for under $12, and at one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, $70 will get you a four course feast with exquisite service.
The highest density of restaurants is in Kitsilano or the West End. The central business area has many of the high end restaurants either along Robson Street or associated with the many hotels in the downtown area. East Van tends to have many authentic ethnic restaurants.
Vancouver is also famous for its dim sum restaurants. Because of the big Chinese population, the price and quality of dim sum here is among the best in the world. One of the consistently highly-ranked dim sum restaurants by local magazines is Sun Sui Wah, at 3888 Main St. Also, check out Floata in Chinatown on Keefer St, or the Kirin at Cambie and 12th; reservations recommended. There are many restaurants on Victoria around 41st Ave (or Kingsway and Knight) which offer cheap dim sum ($2.75/plate), albeit with less class and more oil. In Burnaby, try Fortune House in Metropolis Shopping Complex. The city of Richmond, with a majority of its inhabitants being of Chinese descent, will have a plethora to choose from. Restaurants are all over the place on No. 3 Rd, Westminster Hwy, Alexandra Rd, and on the many side streets just east of Richmond Centre.
For budget travellers, pick up a Georgia Straight (a free local paper available all over the place), and clip two for one coupons from the food section.
Be advised that although the vast majority of stores around Vancouver accept credit cards, small family-owned Chinese businesses and restaurants, more often than not, accept only cash.
- For coffee, there are perhaps more Starbucks per capita in Vancouver than anywhere else. On Robson and Thurlow, until recently there were two Starbucks kitty-corner to one another. Starbucks is the most dominant of the three coffee shop chains found in Vancouver. The others, Caffe Artigiano and Blenz, are found throughout downtown. JJ Bean is favoured among the locals and it's a great place to spend a few minutes to a few hours nursing a coffee and one of their ginormous muffins; there are ten locations scattered throughout the city. Bean Around the World is a popular coffee house chain with ten locations. Waves Coffee is popular with students for its 24-hour operations, and free Wi-Fi internet. For independent chains try Mario's on Dunsmuir and Howe; they have a unique feel and a slower pace than other coffee shops. Make sure not to miss Trees' cheesecakes and its roasted on-site organic coffees.
Vancouver has seen a rise of new independent coffee shops in the past three years, most of which focus on single-origin beans and a simpler approach to delicious coffee devoid of syrups and flavourings. Examples include: Matchstick., Kafka's., Revolver., and 49th Parallel..
Bubble tea (or boba tea) is also a popular drink among the Vancouver youth. There are countless tea houses throughout Vancouver, the most notable being Dragon Ball Tea House on West King Edward Ave and Oak St.
Most of the nightclubs are located in the central business district, especially along the Granville Street strip, south of Robson and along Water Street in Gastown. There are a number of good local pubs in the various quieter neighbourhoods of the city, such as along Main Street or Broadway. Closing times for most of these pub-like establishments begin at 1AM; nightclubs close between 2AM-3AM with a very small number operating after-hours. Nightclubs with music, a DJ and a dance floor usually charge an entrance fee. Be aware that many nightclubs often have long lineup queues on weekends, which are usually self-imposed regardless of whether or not the establishment is near capacity to attract business. Flexibility and willingness to go early is key should nightlife become part of your travel plans.
Note that liquor stores at the latest close by 11PM, while many are closed by 9PM, and there will exist no other legal options apart from drinking at an establishment beyond this time.
Vancouver offers a number of destinations for beer drinkers. The largest is the Granville Island Brewery on Granville Island (tours are available). Other microbreweries are housed in brewpubs, popular ones include the Yaletown Brewing Company in Yaletown and Steamworks at the entrance to Gastown. The Alibi Room, near Gastown, specializes in beers by Northwestern microbreweries as does the Cascade Room in South Main. Portland, also located in South Main, is another craft beer venue that specializes in beers by Oregon based microbreweries.
This is only a sample of things you can look for in Vancouver. Visit the separate district pages for other info.
Tip - There were two local taxes that are charged on the vast majority of goods, the 7% PST (Provincial Sales Tax) and the 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax). These have been replaced with a combined HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) of 12% since July 1, 2010. Due to a recent referendum, the tax will be returned to the PST/GST system in the near future.
- Robson Street in the City Centre is home to many touristy shops. Although not technically part of the street, the neighbouring Alberni intersection is home to a variety of high-end shops such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès.
- Pacific Centre has more than 150 shops, restaurants and services if you want to walk in an underground shopping centre. The shopping centre begins at Sears on the north end at Robson Street, and stretches all the way to Pender Street. There are many floors in the mall depending on where you are, and notable merchants include Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, Sport Chek, GAP, H&M and Apple Store; the mall is connected to the Bay (at Georgia and Granville streets), and Vancouver Centre (a small mall mainly consisting of a lotto centre, London Drugs, and a food court underneath Scotiabank).
- Gastown. Is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver but is being reborn as a fashion and modern urban design district. Historic buildings house hip restaurants, galleries, and interior design and high-fashion shops.
- Yaletown is also popular for its non-mainstream fashion boutiques and high-end salons. A few Popular Yaletown Shopping Streets are: Mainland St., Hamilton St., and Pacific Blvd.
- Granville Island is an interesting place to go if you fancy the arts. The area boasts a Public Market, an art school (Emily Carr University of Art + Design), shops, a world music instrument store, restaurants, theatres, galleries, a hotel, boat docks and more.
- Kerrisdale is the area centred around 41st, between Maple St and Blenheim St, consisting of roughly a hundred or so boutique-like shops, restaurants, and stores (chain or otherwise) in an affluent neighbourhood.
- Commercial Drive, especially the stretch between 3rd Avenue and Venables St. in East Van, is great for people-watching, produce (Santa Barbara Market), cheese (La Grotta del Formaggio), sausage (JN&Z Deli), etc.
- Main Street, south of Broadway stretching to around 30th Avenue, has a vibrant and expanding collection of independent restaurants, cafés, high-end niche clothing stores and small boutiques.
- East Hastings between Renfrew and Clark offers some of the best hidden delights in the city. There are many eclectic produce stores (Donald's Market). Sausage and salami producers here are some of the best in the city (Moccia's Italian Market).
- Chinatown around Main and Pender, and westwards down Pender from Main, is an old historic landmark with grocery and herbal medicine markets that mimic the ethnic flavors, sights and sounds of Eastern Asia. Other modern Chinatowns have sprung up around 41st Ave. and Victoria Drive, also in Richmond and Surrey.
- Punjabi Market around Main, between 41st and 49th Ave. Good, cheap Punjabi food along with some Punjabi fashion; street signs are correspondingly in Punjabi.
There are some unique shopping areas in Kitsilano and East Van. In Kits you can visit the first store of Vancouver-born and based athletic retailer, Lululemon Athletica, sporting popular yoga-inspired apparel. Gore-tex jackets are ubiquitous in Vancouver and the best place to buy them is at Mountain Equipment Co-op, Taiga Works or one of the other outdoorsy stores clustered together on the east-west main drag called Broadway (equivalent to 9th Avenue, running between 8th and 10th) between Cambie St. and Main St., just east of the Kitsilano area.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Vancouver on Wikivoyage.