The modern seaport city of Vancouver, nestled among the spectacular scenery of snowy mountains and sandy beaches, offers endless opportunities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Hemmed in by the intense blue hues of the Pacific Ocean and framed by the deep, zigzagging fjords of the Coast Mountains, British Columbia's largest city strikes a pretty pose. Urban sophistication gleams on the surfaces of sleek high-rises while raw adventure tempts from the enviable landscape surrounding Vancouver. A comfortable blend of indigenous First Nation culture and cosmopolitan ethnic diversity, the Hollywood North is a fascinating place to explore.
Set the ball rolling at the lively downtown area, dotted with modern architecture, vintage saloons and green sprawls. Let your curiosity guide you along Vancouver's hip 'hoods' trail. Start with Gastown, a historic precinct loved for its cobbled streets and chic eateries. Be a beach bum at Kitsilano, blow up your money on high-end shopping at Yaletown, dive into the Public Market at Granville Island, and hit the craft breweries at Mount Pleasant/Main Street.
Nature enthusiasts can devote an entire day to roaming free in one of the best parks in the world, the 988-acre Stanley Park. Walking trails through the marsh-like habitat environs, soaring fir and cedar forests lead to the Beaver Lake. And then there is the promise of fresh breeze, epic ocean views and visions of snow-capped mountains from every curve of Vancouver's meandering 28 kilometre seawall. Don't miss it for the world.
Fan your passion for the outdoors at Grouse Mountain, one of three ski hills on the North Shore. You can go zip-lining, skiing, snowboarding, skating, sleighing and even interact with grizzly bears in the wildlife refuge. Push yourself to a higher challenge with the Grouse Grind, an uphill 2.9 kilometre hike and reap the rewards with a stupendous panorama. There is always the easier option of sitting back and relaxing on the Skyride, North America's longest aerial tramway system.
When adventure comes calling, you cannot miss one of British Columbia's most famous attractions. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a wood-and-cable footbridge stretching 140-metres (460-feet) across a deep gorge, 70-metres (230-feet) above the Capilano River.
Water adventures are plentiful, with the Pacific Ocean lapping at the city's shores. Consider a diving excursion to see anemone-covered pinnacles, crevasses, overhangs, rock walls and underwater wrecks around the marine sanctuary of Howe Sound. Charter a boat to visit a seal colony and spend a few hours snorkelling with fluffy baby seals. For something more sedate, rent a paddleboard or kayak for a few hours away with stunning views of the surrounding ocean, mountains, and city. The Prince of Whales tour is an excellent option for those interested in observing British Columbia's marine life, like humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, elephant seals, sea lions, and bald eagles.
Robson Street: Soak up the original flavour of the 1940s-era Robsonstrasse in the old-style delis, bakeries and boutiques of one of the most popular shopping precincts of the city. From global brands, homegrown labels, souvenir stores, and beauty outlets to speciality gift stores, this street will keep you on your toes for hours.
Granville Island: Situated on False Creek with views of downtown Vancouver, the 37-acre island filled with shops, restaurants, and theatres is a favourite destination for locals and visitors. Spend some time at the Granville Island Public Market before hitting the fashion retail destination of the humungous Pacific Centre Mall. Spread over three city blocks, it houses three anchor department stores, including Canadian Holt Renfrew and US Nordstrom.
Gastown: A lovely neighbourhood with historic Victorian architecture has evolved into a stylish design centre and fashion hotspot with décor boutiques, First Nations art and exciting galleries. The flagship footwear store of iconic Vancouver designer John Fluevog is unmissable. Stretch that budget and stock up on more than you can manage.
Alberni Street: Fondly tagged Vancouver's "Luxury Zone" or "Luxury Row", Alberni Street is the home of every luxury brand in the city, including Burberry, Escada, Tiffany, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci and Ferragamo. Splurge to your heart's content, rest, repeat.
Museums & the Arts
The Museum of Vancouver: Part of a trio of museums located on the waterfront of Vanier Park, this award-winning museum is s must-visit for history buffs. The well-curated galleries showcase the life and culture of the original people, covering a vast period right up to the neon light phase, synonymous with the Vancouver of the 1950s.
Vancouver Art Gallery: Located right in the heart of downtown Vancouver, this excellent museum is housed in a classically styled former courthouse. Pore over an exhaustive collection of over 12,000 artworks ranging from historical to contemporary pieces. The section on pop art by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol is remarkable.
TELUS World of Science: Housed in a 155-foot-tall geodesic dome that hogs the limelight of the eastern end of Vancouver's False Creek skyline, this museum is a nod to cutting-edge developments in science and technology. Bookmark it for the interactive exhibits, a show in the world's largest OMNIMAX dome theatre, a VR Flying experience and fascinating After Dark events.
Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology: Head to this modernist masterpiece of a building which showcases 9000 ethnographic and cultural works of art from indigenous communities worldwide, both historical and contemporary. Various galleries display masks, weavings, carvings, jewellery and more. The highlights include the Great Hall with giant totem poles and the Bill Reid Rotunda.
Beaty Biodiversity Museum: Gawp at exhibits of over 2 million specimens in this natural history museum. The most fascinating presentation is the gigantic 82-feet blue whale skeleton, complete with a documentary on its journey across 6000-kilometres from Prince Edward Island. Science geeks can go places with tetrapods, fossils and insects.
Football: Watch the BC Lions play at downtown Vancouver's BC Place Stadium, an impressive structure with a capacity to seat 54,500. During the game season of June to November, nine teams play for the championship Grey Cup, so if you visit in the fall, you can participate in one of the most highly anticipated Canadian events.
Hockey: The hockey season starts in October and ends with the playoffs from April to June. Fans of the sport can witness the National Hockey League (NHL) team, the Vancouver Canucks, play at Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver. Later, pop into a local pub and dowse yourself with the enthusiasm of fellow fans.
Baseball: You can catch the city's minor league baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, playing at Nat Bailey Stadium from June through September. Get into the true spirit of the game with sushi, the local cuisine of the fans. End with homage to the stadium's Wall of Fame.
Restaurants & Bars
Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca: Your cravings for the finest Italian food outside Italy will be sated at this iconic establishment occupying a place of pride on the 50 Top Italy list. The menu flaunts a selection of modernist dishes with unabashed Pacific Northwest influences. The juicy and tender Pacific octopus with Tuscan white beans and the Atlantic lobster-stuffed linguine all'aragosta are divine.
Vij's Restaurant: Be floored by the culinary genius of an establishment run by celebrity chef and restaurateur Vikram Vij. Branded the most inventive Indian restaurant in North America, this fine-dining destination blends Indian sensibilities with European flair using local ingredients and hand-ground spices. Besides the vegetarian favourites like jackfruit in black cardamom and cumin curry, the most ordered dish is lamb "popsicles" in fenugreek cream curry.
Botanist: Book a table at this trendy Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel restaurant to indulge in a celebratory mood. Opt for the tasting menu and then wait to be swept away into gourmet heaven. Each successive course is a joy to behold and savour.
Blue Water Café: Head to one of the finest seafood restaurants in the city for a delightful dinner, and thank us later. Set in a converted warehouse, the intimate decor of this Yaletown institution is a perfect backdrop to the immaculate service and fabulous wines. Recommendations include sablefish with a miso sake glaze or meaty local Lingcod with chorizo, chickpeas, and smoked-paprika sauce.
Hawksworth Restaurant: The Damien Hirst wall art and the oversized crystal chandelier are dazzling, but the showstopper is the food itself. Brace for a sensory revelation with the West Coast cuisine peppered with Asian flavours and modern techniques.
Sports car lovers have the time of their life burning rubber on one of the most scenic roads in Canada. Pick a Ferrari Spider, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Nissan GT-R, or an Audi R8, and prepare for a luxury drive along the legendary Sea to Sky Highway.
Getting hooked on the beauty of First Nations art and its deep-rooted connection with the rituals, ceremonies and storytelling of native aboriginal culture is easy. For a one-of-a-kind souvenir, consider buying an Inuit sculpture in human form, called Inunnguaq, an iconic symbol of Canada. For centuries, they have had multiple applications, including use as navigation aids or marks of reverence.
Adventure junkies can plan a short two-hour drive north of Vancouver to explore the stunning mountain landscapes of Whistler. There is no dearth of options for those addicted to active outdoor sports. Think hiking, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and tobogganing. Thrill-seekers can bookmark the 360-degree-view suspension bridge. The Peak 2 Peak gondola ride always figures on the list of must-do's while in Whistler. For the penultimate adrenaline rush, reserve a heli-skiing experience.
Glam up for a 1920s-themed evening at Prohibition, a sophisticated speakeasy located within Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Done up in sumptuous fabrics, deep colours, leather banquette seating and a Deco-inspired chandelier, it has an upscale opulence rare in nightclubs. Enjoy inventive craft cocktails in a chic space resounding with the strains of live music. Prohibition ticks off all the boxes for a special night in a big city, from the plush decor to the chill atmosphere and understated service.
Vancouver is one of – if not the most – progressive cities in Canada. It is modern, clean and oozes class. No wonder that Vancouver is often voted the best city to live in the world. The city boasts a plethora of superb luxury hotels.
Both Vancouver International Airport and Seattle–Tacoma International Airport are well connected to the city by taxi. It is a good idea to hire a car from the airport for flexibility and independent commute. All attractions and neighbourhoods are within walking distance of one another, so let your feet guide you around. The Translink system, including the SkyTrain, the SeaBus ferry and bus routes, is an equally convenient option.
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