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.
Vancouver has vitality and style. Nowhere is this more evident than in the
Crossing Robson is Granville, a street that offers independent fashion stores and entertainment venues. Shops like
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
Not long ago,
A former industrial site,
Located minutes south of
Just to the west of
West Point Grey Park provides one of the city's most dramatic viewpoints, with the
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
Another area to shop and dine in is
This suburb area northwest of
Just next to West Vancouver lies North Vancouver. The lower Lonsdale area has heritage buildings and antique and specialty shops, while the
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.
Most accommodation in Vancouver was designed with the discerning visitor in mind. There is a variety of lodgings available, from economical to the luxurious, from modern to historical, and from quiet beachside locations to those at the bustling city core. If cost is of no real concern, downtown has many world-class luxury and business hotels. There are also more modest but comfortable hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts situated throughout the city that offer inexpensive and moderately priced rooms.
Major shops, services, restaurants and attractions are located in the heart of downtown, so it's no surprise that larger hotel chains and landmark hotels call it home. Among them is the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, where Queen Elizabeth billets when visiting the coast. It is one of the city's oldest and most striking landmarks, and its green copper chateau-style roof towers above the city skyline. Across the street is the Grand Old Lady of Georgia Street, the Crowne Plaza Hotel Georgia. The 12-storey heritage building has occupied the corner of Howe and West Georgia streets since 1927.
Business travelers will find staying at the Hyatt Regency and the Four Seasons convenient. Along with modern amenities and superior rooms, both have business facilities and are located beside shopping centres.
For water and mountain views, there are two world-famous choices, both situated at Canada Place. They are the Fairmont Waterfront, voted the country's top business hotel, and the world-famous Pan Pacific, luxuriously appointed. And if it is more refinement you're looking for, the Sutton Place Hotel is the place to be. With lavish accommodations styled after European homes, it's one of most elegant hotels in the city. Newer additions to the downtown hotel set include the Sheraton Wall Centre, Westin Grand Vancouver, and Lord Stanley Suites on the Park.
Budget conscious travelers who wish to stay downtown have a choice of many establishments with affordable rates. The Kingston is said to be the best low-cost hotel in town. In the heart of the theatre and club scene are the Barclay, Parkhill and Days Inn Vancouver Downtown. For the most inexpensive lodging downtown, there are two international youth hostels. The Jolly Taxpayer Hotel is also a popular choice among budget travelers.
This densely populated area is still downtown, but located west of Burrard Street in the direction of Stanley Park, stretching between English Bay and Coal Harbour. It offers apartment-style accommodations and homey bed and breakfasts steps from the beach, Stanley Park and other attractions. The West End is teeming with diverse restaurants, bars, lounges, nightclubs and shops.
The Pacific Palisades Robson Street location can't be beat, especially when you're in town to shop. But if it's a room with views of Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains that you're after, the Westin Bayshore and new Meridian at 910 Beach are ideal choices. Also within short walking distance of the park is the elegant Buchan Hotel.
One of the most notable hotels on this side of town, however, is the eight story Sylvia Hotel with its ivy-covered brick walls. It's the first high-rise to be built in the West End and the first to operate a cocktail bar in Vancouver.
False Creek and West Side
This uptown area across the water from downtown has many inexpensive hotels that offer value and well-kept rooms. Only a short walk from the city core, you can enjoy the relative serenity of the area while still remaining close to the action. The Granville Island Hotel, for instance, is nestled on the market and restaurant-sprinkled island, with water views and great rooms. Other hotels in the vicinity are the Holiday Inn, Ramada, and Plaza 500 Hotel.
The West Side, especially Kitsilano, has many world-class bed and breakfasts close to beaches that stretch for miles into Point Grey. Kitsilano in particular is laid-back, comfortable and filled with shops, theatres and restaurants. Some special B&Bs in the area are Johnson Heritage House B&B, Maple Beach B&B, and the Walnut House B&B.
Once you cross Burrard Inlet via the Lions Gate Bridge or SeaBus from Vancouver, you reach the green splendor of the North Shore. It's near Grouse Mountain, Cypress and Mount Seymour ski areas, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Lonsdale Quay and many notable boutiques in North and West Vancouver.
At the foot of the North Shore mountains, you will find motels like the Ramada Vancouver-Northshore and Canyon Court Motel. Some bed and breakfasts set in forested areas include A Lynn Canyon House Bed & Breakfast and the Capilano Canyon Guest House. Other options are the panoramic city views and unique shopping possibilities of the Lonsdale Quay Hotel, located right beside the Lonsdale Quay Market.
If you wish to stay near the airport or simply want to visit the city of Richmond, there are several accommodation choices. The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel is nearest to the airport, located just steps away from the main terminal. If you want to experience the different things Richmond has to offer, however, stop at the Radisson President Hotel. It is close to a popular Chinese supermarket, adjacent to a Buddhist Temple and minutes from shopping centres. Other places to stay include Sandman Hotel Vancouver Airport, and Holiday Inn Airport.
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.
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, Rossini's, the Roxy, Blue Note Jazz Bistro, Starfish Room and the Yale.
For punk, indie and other aural alternatives, smaller venues like the Commodore Ballroom and the Railway Club 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, Sonar, the Sugar Refinery and Nevermind are some of the places to go.
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, like Cinemark Tinseltown.
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.
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.
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.
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.