Vancouver City Guide
Vibrant and dynamic Vancouver is a modern metropolis with a youthful spirit and a friendly, multicultural population. The city, nestled between the ocean and the mountains, has just as many beaches, hiking trails and parks as skyscrapers and modern amenities. With hip neighbourhoods, fantastic cuisine and varied cultural entertainment, Vancouver is a destination that's fun to visit all year round.
Vancouver's colourful neighbourhoods
Downtown Vancouver is a mix of commercial and residential districts. The headquarters of leading companies and banks, as well as many shopping malls and restaurants, are all situated in the central business district – an area densely built up with modern towers. This is the first stop for business travellers but if you are in town for leisure only, go where the fun is, starting with the historic quarters.
One such area is Gastown, the oldest part of Vancouver. This charming historic quarter of cobbled streets, old-time drinking fountains and Victorian buildings offers plenty of shopping and dining. Look out for the quaint steam clock, which is the most famous and photographed attraction in the area. Then check out the numerous shops, boutiques and art galleries, as well as the restaurants and bars that are open both at day- and night-time.
A slightly more interesting experience awaits you in China Town, one of the largest Chinese quarters in North America. Easily recognisable by its distinctive Victorian houses adorned with Chinese decorations, China Town boasts a great dining scene and annual entertainment in the form of festivals and celebrations. While in town take a stroll through the tranquil Dr Sun Yat Sen Park for a chance to see the exotic plants in the traditional gardens.
While China Town is perfect for dining, Yaletown is one of the most exciting places where to rent a vacation apartment and a perfect base from where to explore the city. This area has undergone a fantastic transformation from a textile-industry precinct to a hip residential neighbourhood. Today glass-and-steel towers sit next to red brick warehouses that have been converted into trendy lofts, shops and restaurants.
Sightseeing and shopping
A major shopping destination, Robson Street, boasts an array of boutiques covering the full spectrum of offers from high street to luxury brands. Confirmed Shopaholics need not look further, yet if you want a more rustic and quirky experience, head to Granville Island. Once the site of derelict factories, today Granville is a bustling shopping quarter full of stores and galleries. A lively farmer's market sells locally grown produce and handicrafts while the water park and the brewery are some of the other interesting venues on-site.
Culture, art and science come together in waterfront Vanier Park where the Bard on the Beach festival of Shakespearian theatre is held every summer. The park is also the site of three leading institutions – the Maritime Museum, the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre with its modern planetarium and the Museum of Vancouver, which is dedicated to the diverse cultures and people who shaped the city.
Another must-see waterfront attraction is Canada Place, a contemporary venue that houses Vancouver's World Trade Centre, as well as a convention centre, a cruise ship terminal and the FlyOver Canada flight simulator. The latter gives visitors the chance to “fly” over the country's most famous sights. Canada Place also hosts cultural events throughout the year, such as the National Aboriginal day celebrations, and every night the building's sail-like rooftops, known as the Sails of Light, are beautifully illuminated.
Nature in the Metropolis
Vancouver is a city that is very much in touch with its green side. Here bustling urban life fuses with tranquil outdoor recreation perfectly. The snow-capped mountains are just a short drive out of town while the city itself is dotted with beaches, parks and groves. All of this results in a fantastic choice of outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, water sports and even skiing.
Even if you have little time to explore the beaches and mountains, you should at least visit Stanley Park. Nearly 1000 acres of green fields and forests make it one of the largest urban parks in the world but the best thing about it are the fantastic views it offers of the ocean and the iconic Lions Gate Bridge. Attractions on the territory of the park include the Vancouver Aquarium, home to sharks and whales, and a well-preserved collection of historical totems created by the Inuit Indians.
Getting around Vancouver
Don't miss a chance to take a ride on the SkyTrain. The rapid transit system is not only a convenient and speedy means of transport but it's also an excellent way to see the city if you are pressed for time. Parts of the SkyTrain tracks have been built on high poles above ground level, which allows travellers to enjoy fantastic views over Vancouver – and that's sightseeing done the lazy way.