The best place in North America to grab an all-over tan and partake in Amsterdam-style smoking.
Trail 6 from the University of British Columbia. Ask anybody how to get there. Locals, police, politicians, artists and visiting Americans all know how to get there.
I lived in vancouver for 4 months. I did this almost every second day and it just never lost its magic. the scenery is jaw dropping, the atmosphere is so relaxing and the contentment in everyone's face is tangible.
Head for Stanley Park and follow the coast
If you want to see artists and bourgeousie come together in what used to be a down and out area, try Main st/Mt. Pleasant. There's a cluster of hipsters, boutiques, coffee shops and ethnic restaurants that give the atmosphere of the way Vancouver once was: countercultural.
Main St. spans from our 'skid row' area on Hastings up to an Indian district. There's everything in between, including expensive character homes.
Commercial drive is a piece of unique heritage in an area of the world that is dominated by chain stores and coffee shops. The Drive is bucking franchises in favour of amazing shops and stores that are complete one offs.
Start by stocking up with fresh breads, fruits, herbal remedies and more, punctuated by a few coffee breaks along the way in one of many of the NON franchised coffee shops. Then finish your experience in one of the fantastic restaurants (many with outdoor heated patios) dotted along Commercial.
La Grotta del Formaggio is a treasured local purveyor of the best new-world Italian Deli sandwiches and cheeses. If you like kitsch then Urban Empire is the place for you - a shop filled with wonders and surprises. Havana is a great restaurant for good (if not traditional) Cuban food and it has a great photo gallery at the back. Waazubee is also a good rest stop or even better dining experience with a wide range of veggie dishes.
This all comes from a person who doesn't even live in Vancouver. Guess it must be great eh?
Between Broadway and Venables;
There are a couple of Burlesque promoters putting on events in the city, though Sweet Soul Burlesque are the only ones worth checking out. Great performers (local and visiting international burlesque artists), great vibe usually followed by a night of dancing with music provided by a mix of local DJs. Always in different venues so you have to keep your ear to the ground as to the time and place...
In the heart of China Town there is an oasis. The Chinese gardens are the biggest replica outside of China (I think) and are beautifully kept.
In the summer you can see turtles floating in the ponds and the flowers are stunning.
The guided tours are free and really interesting.
Well worth popping into especially if you happen to be in China town.
578 Carrall Street;
tel: 604 662 3207;
Just outside downtown Vancouver, Stanley park is a delightful wooded and grassed park on a peninsula in Burrard Inlet with wonderful views of Lion's Gate Bridge and Vancouver Harbour. You can spend several days here wandering around the forest paths, bathing at the beaches, seeing the impressive totem poles, as well as visiting the fantastic aquarium or relaxing in the Rose Garden.
Just go there and see for yourself why it's so great!
1 mile to the west of downtown Vancouver;
A superb little Indian restaurant in the South Granville area, run by a charming man with a spooky photographic memory. The food, atmosphere, crowd and bar are all stylish but low-key and unpretentious. Around the corner from Vij's is the Stanley Theatre, formerly an Art Deco picture palace and now the flagship venue for the hopelessly middlebrow Arts Club Theatre Company. Vancouver's restaurants help to make up for the city's appalling lack of a cultural life.
1480, West 11th Ave;
tel: 604 736 6664;
Overlooking English Bay and beside Stanley Park - ask for a room with a bay view. It is a local landmark built in 1912 of brick and terracotta and is covered in Virginia creeper. 25 minute walk to city centre. Rates from $100 high season.
1154 Gilford St;
tel: 604 681 9321;
A cheap CD store with a good selection. Vancouver was (is) one of the cheapest places to get (legal) CDs that I've been to and this store is the reason. Virgin had to leave town with its unused tail between its legs because it couldn't compete on price. The already mentioned Zulu records is okay for the locals (best selection and service) but expensive, and how hard is that to find in the UK? Also, try to find the free "HUB Magazine" for local computer stuff which is a deal.
Downtown at 556 Seymour;
Main Street south of 49th avenue to about 55th is lined with shops selling wonderful Indian fabrics, foods and jewelery. Fabrics are beautiful, authentic and extremely reasonably priced, and the clothes are unique and beautiful.
Farther north on Main is also lovely, but quite different. Between about 33rd and 16th it has plenty of antique shops, second hand stores and cute little stores selling home furnishings and accessories (no chain stores). Between 16th and Seventh it's more eclectic, with some very good second-hand stores (the Salvation Army is on 12th just east of Main) and cafes. Urban Source, at 16th and Main, is a fantastic resource for craft supplies: they recycle industrial leftovers, and the results and the offerings are irresistable.
The strange triangle between Fraser, Main and Broadway is known as Dysfunction Junction, and hosts 2 outstanding second-hand bookstores, literary cafe Our Town, a pool hall, a neon art cafe, and several hole-in-the-wall galleries and restaurants. The Jem gallery is a particular gem; a recent exhibit featured the work of I.Braineater, an outstanding local artist.
Farther north again, Loomis arts and crafts superstore is an awesome place for paper junkies. Just to the west is the Seawall; you can go on the south side all the way to Kitsilano, or you can take the north side and go up to Yaletown, English Bay, and Stanley Park. If you know some tricks you can connect with Portside Road and skate all the way from Science World (near Loomis) to Stanley Park and back to the foot of Main street, a loop of about ten miles if you don't also skate around the park itself. And it's all on the Seawall, away from traffic, except for a mile along Portside Road.
North along Main is Chinatown, and then at the very foot of Main street is the Viaduct which will give you a fantastic view of the mountains, North Vancouver, and Downtown. It will also take you to Crab Park (closed after 10pm) which is the only beach on the Downtown Eastside, and features nesting eagles and hawks, seals in the water, and a marvelous break from city noise.
Nearby, on Alexander just west of Main is the Alibi Room, a very arty place with a very hot crowd, very good food, and very original (and tasty) cocktails. Open late, and for great Saturday brunch, but the DJ might be a bit loud if you're hungover. Not that I would know what that's like.
It's the second-largest Chinatown outside of China, and perfectly authentic. It's a living, breathing cultural artefact. Go in the daytime, as everything shuts at six pm, unless it's a Friday or Saturday; the street market is on then in the summer.
See the Sun Yat-Sen garden and park, the Chinese Cultural Centre, and Pender Street between Carrall and Gore. Keefer Street is also Chinatown, between Columbia and Gore, and in the summer (late May-September) on Friday and Saturday nights it's closed to host the street market. This features entertainment, games, children's rides (dinky ones, but fun) and lots of bargains along the cheap bag/sunglasses/clothing line.
Good restaurants include Goldstone on Keefer (closes early), Hon's on Keefer, and Gain Wah on Keefer, which is open late. Great groceries are to be had at many of the local stores, or the local Asian supermarket, T&T, on Keefer near the Stadium Skytrain station.
After the street market (which runs till nine or so) walk over to La Casa Gelato on Venables and get one of their 200+ flavours of ice cream: rocky road, yes, but also durian, basil and pernod, or gorgonzola.
East Pender street between Carrall and Gore, Keefer Street between Columbia and Gore, East Georgia Street between Main and Gore. North-south axis is Main Street.
Most people go to touristy Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is really crowded and very expensive but right beside it is the free Lynn Canyon Park, with a larger suspension bridge, lovely walks and amazing pools to swim in.
Asian fusion bar/restaurant in a dodgy part of town, but with great food, beautiful people, amazing cocktails. It's one of the few places with a buzz.
117 West Pender Street, Vancouver;
tel: 604 642 2882;
Get on the little passenger ferry across False Creek to visit Granville Island. Former industrial buidlings have been converted into galleries, shops, craft workshops and restaurants. There is also a fantastic farmer's market and a brewery.
South Shore under Granville Street Bridge, catch the False Creek Ferry or Aquabus;
I wouldn't recommend this hostel, no matter how cheap and central it appears from the website. Unless you like the smell of boiling blood and junkies EVERYWHERE. Apart from that Vancouver's a decent place from which to get to other nice places.
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