Is the biggest city – and the brightest light – in British Columbia, and the larger Pacific Northwest region of North America. Diverse and multicultural, you’re more likely than not to bump into someone whose first language isn’t English, giving the city a global feel, despite its remote Canadian location. Bounded by water, forests and mountains, it’s a haven for the outward bound and the fresh-faced.
The chunky spit of land that abuts Burrard Inlet and Stanley Park is the retail centre of downtown Vancouver. It’s here that you’ll find the city’s most concentrated collection of malls, with Pacific Centre Mall (701 West Georgia Street), Harbour Centre (555 West Hastings Street) and The Bay (674 Granville Street) all within easy walking distance of one another. Robson Street in the heart of Downtown is also a little slice of retail heaven, but for an alternative take on Vancouver’s shopping scene head to South Granville – a quirky neighbourhood bursting with independent boutiques, home stores and contemporary art galleries.
Food & Drink
Leaps and strides in gastronomic inventiveness means that some gourmets now rate Vancouver’s food scene as surpassing even Toronto’s. The emphasis here is on fresh, and local foodies point with pride to the weekly summer farmers markets at the West End (1100 Comox Street), Kitsilano (2690 Larch Street) and East Vancouver (John Hendry Park), as well as famous charcuterie Oyama Sausage Company (1689 Johnston Street). Top eateries include multi-award-winning Italian restaurant Cioppino’s (1133 and 1129 Hamilton Street), the trendy fish-focused Glowbal Grill (1079 Mainland Street) and the fabulous but frantic budget mosh pit that is Jethro’s Fine Grub (3420 Dunbar Street).
Polar Bear Swim
This eccentric tradition began on New Year’s Day 1920, when 10 hardened swimmers braved the freezing waters of English Bay. Nowadays, nearly 1,500 people take part, but it seems to be the spectators who have the most fun.
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival
Bringing colour and spice to the Canadian winter, this popular annual festival is at the cutting edge of the modern arts scene. It features play readings, cabaret, music, and a host of theatrical performances by local groups.
Vancouver Sun Run
It sometimes seems like the whole of Vancouver turns up to take part in this annual run, which is generally held on the third Sunday in April. It starts at Georgia Street and continues for 10km around Downtown.
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Running for three months over the summertime, this annual festival has proved a sell-out success. Performances take place in Vanier Park off Whyte Avenue, and booking tickets in advance is essential.
Celebration of Light
This is the biggest international fireworks competition in the world, and for spectators it’s a true visual extravaganza. Find a high point before the pyrotechnics kick off at 10pm, and you’ll be treated to a stunning view of one of the greatest light shows on Earth.
Vancouver might be relatively new to the luxury market, but the city has been making up for lost time recently with an explosion of four- and five-star hotels. The Renaissance-style Fairmont (900 West Georgia Street) is one of the oldest and most iconic options, but the newer and shinier Fairmont Pacific Rim (1038 Canada Place) perhaps better represents the future of luxury hotels in Vancouver. Cheaper and almost as spectacular is the Empire Landmark Hotel (1400 Robson Street), a towering structure in the heart of Downtown. Homely Budget Inn Patricia Hotel (403 East Hastings Street) is a good option for visitors looking to save the pennies.