Vancouver

Destination Location

Vancouver

Overview

Explore, shop, ski, surf – you can do it all in Vancouver, one of Canada’s largest urban centres and home to attractions perfect for vacationers and business travellers alike.

Known for its picturesque mountain-capped skylines and inner-city beaches, Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the top cities to live in Canada and, for that matter, the world. It boasts a unique mix of big city attractions, world-class shopping (including exclusive boutiques and more than 470 stores at Metropolis at Metrotown) and vast cultural diversity few cities can match.

Vancouver is a mecca for the tasteful tourist who enjoys delicious, multicultural cuisine and unique cultural experiences. Sample the fare at Vancouver’s fusion-influenced restaurants, home to some of Canada’s top chefs, and take in the unique sights and sounds of historical Gastown and Chinatown. For a night out on the town, head over to Vancouver’s trendy West End or stroll down Denman Street for a great selection of evening entertainment options.

There’s also plenty of good family fun in Vancouver. Kids of all ages will love the many wonders at Science World and CN IMAX as well as the thrill of walking among sea life at Vancouver Aquarium.

To get around, you’ll love this city’s best-in-class transit system that’ll get you to and from attractions with ease. With many pedestrian- and bike-friendly pathways, you can also find plenty of ways to stay active and navigate the city by foot.

The year-round mild weather makes Vancouver an ideal place for any outdoor activity. Stroll along the beaches, follow the seawall to the world-famous Stanley Park or take the boardwalk to Granville Island Public Market where you’ll find delicious fare and unique gifts from local vendors.

Golf enthusiasts should check out at least a couple of the many golf courses sprinkled throughout the Lower Mainland. With scenic fairways set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and rugged West Coast Mountains, there are plenty of stunning views even non-golfers will enjoy.

If you’re after mountains and adventure, take a winter trip to Whistler Mountain. As one of Canada’s premiere ski destinations, Whistler features the greatest vertical-rise skiing in North America and the famed Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Or, if you’re looking to put your feet up for a relaxing day of pampering in the lap of luxury, you’ll love the serene spas located right in the heart of Whistler Village.

Top off your trip with a view of the city from Canada’s highest suspension bridge, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, or from a gondola atop Grouse Mountain.

Whether you spend an entire week or just the weekend, you’ll find plenty of great ways to explore and relax in Vancouver.

Vancouver is a fantastic destination for:

  • outdoor adventure
  • culture and history
  • shopping and dining

Airport served by: YVR

Destination basics

Located on Canada’s West Coast, Vancouver has some of the most moderate weather in Canada. The average annual temperature here is a mild 10 C. While it does occasionally fall below 0 C in the winter, the cold weather rarely lasts for long.

It’s no surprise that Vancouver is well known as a destination where a raincoat and umbrella are essential year-round. After all, there are on average 166 days of rain per year (with the majority of rain falling between November and March). But don’t let the rain turn you away. Vancouver also has a yearly average of nearly 300 days of sunshine!

Keep in mind that temperatures can vary between five and 10 degrees Celsius depending on where you are in the city in relation to the mountains and ocean. So, make sure you pack a light jacket or sweater and enjoy your stay.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Vancouver

Vancouver is the city that has it all: natural beauty and cosmopolitan flair. Set between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountains, it has a harmonious blend of nature and urban living. Gardens, parks, and beaches are as 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 an international spirit. As the third largest city in Canada, it shares an ethnic diversity and multicultural flavor with the rest of the country. It's young, lively, and the jumping-off point for many spectacular outdoor activities.

Downtown
Vancouver 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 1000-acre park includes an 11 kilometre Seawall promenade, old-growth forests, hiking trails, and the Vancouver Aquarium.

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 brimming with fashion boutiques, coffee bars and trendy cafes.

Crossing Robson is Granville, a street that offers 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 concert, theatre and movie choices can be found. The Orpheum Theatre and the Commodore Ballroom are also on Granville, and are fantastic places to catch performances of live theatre and music. Overall, the area has restaurants to satisfy every palette, urban nightclubs, and a dizzying number of bars offering live entertainment.

Gastown
This is Vancouver's first community and a heritage zone. Red cobblestone streets, Victorian street lamps, and heritage architecture give the area its old-world atmosphere. Today, boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops, such as Hill's Native Art, Three Centuries Shop, and Salmagundi West, 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.

Chinatown
Vancouver's Chinatown is one of the largest in North America, and is second only to San Francisco's. The area's specialty shops, superb dining, and heritage buildings attract millions of visitors. The bustle here goes on day and night, from the summer's open-air Chinatown Night Market, to packed restaurants such as Hon's Wun-Tun House or Floata Seafood Restaurant.

Yaletown
Not long ago, Yaletown was just a collection of abandoned warehouses. Today, it is one of the city's trendiest areas, dotted with posh condominiums and converted historic warehouses. One popular establishment is the Yaletown Brewing Co., and unique boutiques like Atomic Model and BoNaparte Designs are also worth checking out. Part of the area's popularity is its ultra-cool nightlife, and the exclusive Bar None is one hot spot.

Granville Island
A former industrial site, Granville Island has become one of the city's biggest and best attractions. Live theatre, pubs, and artist workshops converge here. The public market has one-stop food shopping, where you can select fresh produce and treats. Edie's Hats, and the colourful Kids Only Market are favourites. Numerous festivals use the island as their headquarters, including the Vancouver International Writer's Festival, annual Vancouver International Comedy Festival.

Kitsilano
Located minutes south of downtown, Kitsilano is known for its active population, beaches and mountain views. The community has a profusion of eateries, bookstores, theatres, bars, open-air grocers and boutiques. Here, you'll find gems like the Naam, Sophie's Cosmic Cafe and Kidsbooks. 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.

Point Grey
Just to the west of Kitsilano is Point Grey, another residential area. One of the wealthiest regions of the city, it boasts stately homes, miles of waterfront, 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. It also has a cluster of antique and collectible shops, and is home to the annual Vancouver Folk Festival.

West Point Grey Park provides one of the city's most dramatic viewpoints, with the University of British Columbia (UBC) just south of it. UBC has an expansive 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 ethnic neighbourhoods and unconventional shopping and entertainment. Once dubbed Little Italy, the area on Commercial Drive, between Broadway and Venables, is often considered the city's hub for artists and counter-culture. Shops and cafes like Pupuseria Rinconcito Salvadoreno and La Casa Gelato help piece together this diverse community. You can also wander through the pockets of eclectic galleries and second-hand shops, such as Cosmopolis and Attic Treasures. 

West Vancouver
This suburb area northwest of downtown is one of the most prosperous communities in Canada. If you're looking for a place to shop, the large Park Royal Centre is the country's first shopping mall. Be sure to take time out to walk through Lighthouse Park. It's in an 80-acre old growth forest, and 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. The lower Lonsdale area has heritage buildings and 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 ecological sites. Tourists will revel at Lynn Canyon Park, the thrill of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the splendor of the Fraser Valley. The year-round fun of Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain are also nearby.

Vancouver offers everything from fine arts, cinema, literary readings, theatre and many spectator sports. The arts and entertainment weekly the Georgia Straight, and the Thursday and Friday editions of the Vancouver Sun and Province provide extensive listings of the city's events and venues.

Music
Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, k.d. lang, Bif Naked, 54-40 and Diana Krall. These are just some of the big-name artists who began their music careers here. They have made it so big that you rarely see them perform locally anymore. When they do, you will find them at large venues like B.C. Place, General Motors Place, the Vogue, Orpheum Theatre or Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Vancouver's music scene is diverse. The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia and the Orpheum Theatre, home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, are great venues for classical music performances. For jazz, blues and fusion, the best bets are the Cellar Restaurant & Jazz Club the Roxy, Blue Note Jazz Bistro, Starfish Room and the Yale.

For punk, indie and other aural alternatives, smaller venues like the Commodore Ballroom are probably your best bets to catch local and international talent in intimate settings. Of course, nothing's more intimate than an in-store performance at Red Cat Records.

For electronica, house and slyly spinning DJs, the Sugar Refinery is one of the places to go.

Cinemas
Several first-run movie theatres are within a few blocks of each other downtown. Across the bridge, the newer Fifth Avenue Cinemas show popular art and alternative films to grateful West Side crowds. For independent, art, foreign and experimental films, check out the diverse listings at the Ridge, and the Pacific Cinematheque.

Vancouver also has two large-screen theatres: the Alcan Omnimax Theatre at Science World and the CN IMAX at Canada Place.

Mega-screen movie theatres have been popping up over the last few years, and there are more than a few in and around the city.

Theatres
From classic Broadway hits to innovative productions, rich and varied theatrical activity has always been a part of the city's entertainment scene. The 2,929-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre is the city's largest. It's perfect for seeing touring musicals, international opera and modern dance. Next door to the QE is the more intimate Vancouver Playhouse, a 668-seat auditorium that stages plays, concerts, chamber music and modern dance.

Other theatre and concert venues include the Arts Club Theatre, the refurbished Stanley Theatre, Orpheum, Firehall Arts Centre, Presentation House Gallery and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

Comedy
For seriously funny stuff, try Yuk Yuk's. It has theatre-style seating, a full-dinner menu and stand-up comics from the city and around the world. The Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island is another venue for interactive fun. It's home to the Theatre Sports “improv" group.

Sports
Vancouver offers a medley of sports events. From September to May, the NHL's Vancouver Canucks plays the coolest game on earth in General Motors Place.

June kicks off the pre-season games of the Canadian Football League. You can catch the B.C. Lions in action from July to late October at B.C. Place.

Festivals
Some acclaimed international festivals that provide year-round fun and entertainment include the Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancouver Fringe Festival, Vancouver International Children's Festival, International Jazz Festival, Comedy Festival, Folk Music Festival, and New Music Festival. They occur all over the city and offer locals and visitors a chance to mingle.

Whether diners crave glamorous, elegant, warm or unadorned, Vancouver offers thousands of choices for memorable cuisine. Many of the city's establishments are internationally renowned and combine superb cuisine with extraordinary atmosphere.

Food-loving urbanites flock to bistros, dining rooms and cafes that range from home-style grub in perpetually busy diners to gourmet masterpieces in refined restaurants. Visitors can savour exotic Malaysian fare at lunch and Russian by nightfall, or choose from dozens of other ethnic cuisines. There are so many good restaurants in this city that it is difficult to narrow any list down to a few, but here are some noteworthy highlights.

Downtown
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is a local favourite and a great place to go for beer and fresh smoked oysters. Other downtown highlights include Diva at the Met and CinCin Ristorante.

West End
This beachside neighbourhood is known as one of the largest gay and lesbian communities in the country. The dining selection here is superb: busy Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna has traditional Hellenic treats. 

Yaletown
This is a good place to start your exploration of the city's culinary creativity. Many of the city's hottest eateries brighten this film and fashion centre. The Italian romance of the Lupo Restaurant and La Terrazza will soften even the most Scrooge-like of connoisseurs. If you prefer your meals more laid-back and inexpensive, the Yaletown Brewing Co. is a trendy hangout with good food, eager-to-be-seen crowds, and in some cases, pouty and aloof wait-staff. 

Gastown
This charming historic area has an eclectic selection of eateries. The Irish Heather is a relative newcomer to the area, and packs them in almost every night.

Chinatown
From Dim Sum to fine dining, Vancouver's Chinatown offers Asian delicacies and treats. Some of the most popular venues include the busy and noisy Pink Pearl Seafood Restaurant and the Floata Seafood Restaurant, for authentic Hong Kong-style creations hot and fresh from the wok. Hon's Wun-Tun House is a good choice as well.

Granville Island
This once-industrial island was transformed in the 1970s into what it is today: a city oasis with a famous public market, heavenly bakeries and cafes and fresh-food restaurants. Seafood lovers will revel in Bridges' three-level restaurant, wine bar and bistro. Other choices include the Creek Restaurant and the Arts Club Backstage Lounge.

Kitsilano
This casual and health-conscious neighbourhood has some of the top restaurants in town. Weekend line-ups shouldn't daunt you from trying out the kitschy, faux-greasy spoon humour of Sophie's Cosmic Cafe, whose breakfasts are rumoured to be the best in town. The Naam is a landmark, open 24 hours and offering a selection of organic and vegan health food. Other critic's darlings: Pastis' French cuisine taken to new heights; and the raved-about Vij's Indian fusion creations. 

Point Grey
This somewhat sleepy and upscale section of the city offers many dining choices.. Try the Celtic hospitality of Dentry's Irish Grill for a good time and meal. If you want something more intimate, the Brock House Restaurant provides an elegant setting for special dinners, and Cafe Madeleine has live music, readings and artwork. True Confections is the place to go afterwards for rich desserts.

East Vancouver
There is plenty to sample all over vibrant East Vancouver, from Main Street's Little India to Victoria Drive's Portuguese neighbourhood to Commercial Drive's Little Italy. Try the savoury Indian fare at Nirvana and All India Sweets, both on Main Street. Farther east on Commercial Drive, there is so much to choose from that it may take a week of dining just to get an idea of its offerings. Places like Federico's Ristorante & Supper Club offer traditional Italian meals, while newer places like the Cuba-inspired Havana and the literary Bukowski's offer hip alternatives with live entertainment. Fet's has a 1950s diner feel, while Cafe Deux Soleils serves creative vegetarian meals. Further west on Main Street, young and artistic hangouts like the Locus and the Grind & Gallery Coffee Bar are changing the shape of city dining.

South Vancouver
Restaurants are fewer and farther between in this suburban uptown area, but there are gems worth the quick drive from downtown. The elegant Seasons in the Park in Queen Elizabeth Park offers fine dining.

Vancouver

Province: British Columbia

Country: Canada

Vancouver By The Numbers
Population:631,000 (city); 2,463,400 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 46 meters / 151 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 112 centimeters / 44 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 5 centimeters / 2 inches
Average January Temperature: 4°C / 39°F 
Average July Temperature: 17°C / 63°F

Quick Facts

Electricity: 120 volts, 60 Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-8; Pacific Standard Time (PST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 604; 778; 236

Did You Know?

The environmental group Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver. 

Vancouver has the mildest climate for a Canadian city. 

Orientation

Vancouver glows on the southeastern edge of British Columbia on Canada's west coast. The Coast Mountains frontier its northern and eastern margins, while Vancouver Island buoys to the west across the Strait of Georgia. The city is about 970 kilometers (603 miles) from Calgary, AB and just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the United States border.

This young city was once a wild, densely forested and mountainous coastal area inhabited only by First Nations people and wildlife. Many events have combined to transform the once wild setting into the thriving cultural and business center it is today. Yet the city retains its natural beauty, now set around a diverse urban core. And to think it all began with a couple of explorers who recognized the bountiful resources and spectacular potential of the area.

When British explorer Captain James Cook first arrived here in 1778, the natives in Nootka Sound mistook the captain and his raggedy crew for a boatful of strange, transformed salmon. It's no wonder, really; the First Nations had lived undisturbed for thousands of years. The region's temperate climate, coastal location and excellent food supply made it an ideal place for natives to subsist comfortably for most of the year. Many, including the Musqueam, Kwantlen and Squamish lived and thrived along the shorelines of Burrard Inlet. But then the white European settlers came and claimed the land as their own, altering years of relatively peaceful living.

The city's transformation began with explorers seeking the Northwest Passage, a sea route through northern America. In 1791, Spanish explorer Jose Maria Narvaez came through the waters but decided not to go ashore. In June of the following year, two more explorers showed up. England's Captain George Vancouver led his ship, the sloop H.M.S. Discovery, into Burrard Inlet and later went on to chart the area's waters. He exchanged information with Spanish explorer Dionisio Alcala Galiano, who showed Captain Vancouver maps he had already made of the area.

Though the British controlled the area, it wasn't until 1808 that they sent Simon Fraser to set up trading posts in the region. The fur trade, which was followed by gold rush mania, would forever alter the region.

Settlers thrived on fish, lumber, fur and farming. In 1858, gold was discovered on the Fraser River and, within weeks, nearly 30,000 Americans had flocked to the area in search of bounty. Fearing a takeover by the Americans, the British declared the mainland a British colony, thereby keeping the prosperity under its control. In 1859, New Westminster (once called Sapperton because British sappers were stationed there) was incorporated and declared the capital of the province.

Meanwhile, a talkative gentleman named John Deighton pulled his canoe into Burrard Inlet and decided to capitalize on the area's industry. The village he founded was eventually named Gastown after him, the name derived from his loquacious nickname: "Gassy Jack." Deighton opened up a successful saloon, serving hundreds of thirsty mill workers and prospectors in the budding town. Gastown began to fill up with small shops and services. Deighton was more than just a notorious saloon owner, though. Some historians say he was the founding father of Vancouver because he had faith in its potential before anyone else did.

As the population grew, people moved outward to settle in areas now known as Burnaby and Delta. The first newspaper went to the presses in 1861, and the first hospital was built the following year. In 1865, the first telegraph lines reached here, and the first message to travel along its wires announced the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Other urban staples appeared including a rudimentary postal system and a stagecoach line for transportation. Extensive logging soon cleared the area.

Canada was confederated in 1867, and the sweeping effects of this change were felt almost immediately in Vancouver. One of the pivotal moments in the history of the city was the extension of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1884. The railroad now reached clear across the country and brought thousands of people to the area to do business and settle. Rapid development began, and the population grew from 400 to 13,000 in four years.

In 1886, the city of Vancouver—population 1,000—was officially incorporated. Two months later, the Great Fire of 1886, driven by strong winds, destroyed virtually the entire downtown area in just 20 minutes. That same day, after the smoke had cleared, with just half-a-dozen buildings left standing, the citizens of Vancouver began to rebuild. Buildings erected that year still stand today. One of the most significant changes brought by the fire was the transformation of the town's military reserve into the now famous Stanley Park, the city's oasis. The opening of the Panama Canal, which facilitated travel, imports and exports to and from Europe, spurred growth of the city's port, located in one of the world's finest natural, year-round harbors.

By 1928, the Lower Mainland's population had reached more than 150,000. Many memorable mayors governed the growing city; these included Gerry McGreer. McGreer was an enthusiastic politician who came into office in the 1930s with election guns blazing. He promised to eradicate gambling, white slavery, corruption and other issues important to the city's wealthy residents. He promised the impossible, but he did succeed in building the Art Deco Vancouver City Hall in 1936.

Like everywhere else, the Great Depression took a toll on the city. Some growth, however, did occur in the 1930s, including the creation of the Vancouver Art Gallery and opening of a steel plant in Burnaby.

World War Two pulled the city out of its economic lull: shipyards, factories, parts exporting and real estate boomed. Human rights also got a positive injection when East Indian and Chinese-Canadian citizens finally got the provincial vote in 1947. Japanese-Canadians and First Nations people, however, had to wait until 1949 for the same right.

The 1950s was an era of rapid growth and prosperity, including the extensive development of suburban Vancouver. The population rose to 800,000 by 1961. The 1960s saw many additions to the city's physical and cultural portfolio: the B.C. Lion's won the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup, the Vancouver Canucks debuted in the National Hockey League, and Simon Fraser University, the Second Narrows Bridge, 401 Freeway, and the world-class Whistler Ski Resort were built.

This young cosmopolitan city has a brief but exciting history. Many weird and wonderful events have shaped its urban personality, from the local raiding of the biggest LSD factory in the world to our newfound reputation as "Hollywood North." The city has become the third largest in the country, with an international reputation as one of the best places in the world to live and visit.

With its mountainous skyline, inner-city beaches, eclectic city culture and vibrant downtown core, Vancouver is unique in more ways than one. This is a place where you can enjoy the best of both worlds – an urban escape and a mountain retreat.

Head downtown for incredible Asian and European cuisine as well as the city’s hip nightlife scene. And don’t forget to check out the unique shops and high-end boutiques (think Louis Vuitton and Hermès) for incredible shopping (and window shopping).

Next, head to nearby Jericho Beach for sun, sand, beach volleyball and gorgeous views of both the mountains and Vancouver cityscape. This city has a wealth of great beaches, but this one is definitely one of the most unique in Canada.

From whale-watching tours on the Pacific Ocean (see pods of orcas up close!), to skiing, to golf, museums, fabulous restaurants, big city entertainment and more, you can see why Vancouver is frequently ranked as one of the top cities to live in the world. In fact, it’s this contrast of fast-paced city life with natural beauty that keeps Canadians and visitors from abroad coming back time and time again.

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