Vancouver is rated one of the world’s most liveable cities, and why not? It’s beautiful, clean, surrounded by ocean and mountains and has great food, shopping and atmosphere to boot. But with the snow fields of Whistler and the gorgeous Rocky Mountains within reach, Vancouver is often used just for its airport, rather than as a standalone destination. By leaving the tarmac straight for the ski slopes, you’re missing out on a great city with a lot to offer. Here are some local insights on the best things to enjoy in Vancouver.
Get out of the city centre
Avoid the high-rise glass of downtown Vancouver by exploring some more lively neighbourhoods. Kitsilano is a relaxed neighbourhood boasting Vancouver’s best beaches. The area is packed with cafes and retro bars. If you’re looking for a night out visit Broadway/Commercial, a colourful few blocks that come alive after dark and has a great live music scene. Main St is home to some great vintage shops and the up-market area of Gastown is known for its great restaurants.
Chill out on Granville Island
Granville Island is almost best described by what it doesn’t have than what it does. There’s no Starbucks. It’s not allowed. The closest it can get is a hundred metres from the entrance to the island for a global mega-chain has no place here. With a great undercover market, galleries and kayak hire, Granville Island is hands down one of the best places to visit in Vancouver. There is an eclectic collection of shops, with a lot of art and photography and local and handmade products. The Hang Out place is a bit of a local legend where visitors are encouraged to relax in the hammocks set up in the store.
Eat like a local
Vancouver is an extremely multi-cultural city and subsequently full of some fabulous restaurants showcasing the cuisine of the world. For breakfast head to the 24-hour vegetarian cafe The Naam in Kitsilano – it’s a Vancouver institution. Meat & Bread in Downtown Vancouver is one of the city’s top lunch spots, but don’t expect a huge selection. The menu is exactly what the name suggests. Neither spot will bust your budget. For dinner it comes down to what flavour you feel like. Indian? Head to Vij’s on 11th Ave. Lebanese? Any of the 5 Nuba restaurants. Ethiopian? Red Sea Cafe on East Broadway. Sushi? You’ll find it on every street. Finish up with dessert from Bella Gelateria by the water on West Cordova St.
Get outside and get active
With ocean, mountains and ski fields on their doorsteps, Vancouverites aren’t exactly a lazy bunch. Cycling is huge, as is yoga. If you want to join in the fun, pull on your runners and head along the sea wall that loops around Stanley Park. If you’re up to the challenge, tackle the Grouse Grind and climb to the top of Grouse Mountain. The nickname “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” should give you an idea what you’re in for, but the view at the top is worth it.
Other Vancouver tips:
- Explore the second-hand and consignment stores on Main St.
- Check out Kitty Night’s Burlesque at the Biltmore every Sunday night.
- See the Beluga whales at the aquarium.
- Watch ice hockey, either live if you can get tickets or in a pub packed with fans.