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 downtown core. Its first distinct feature is Stanley Park, located on the west end of Georgia Street. This 1000-acre park includes an 11 kilometre Seawall promenade, old-growth forests, hiking trails, and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Downtown is the city's largest shopping district. One of its main arteries is Robson Street, a highlight for both locals and visitors. It's brimming with fashion boutiques, coffee bars and trendy cafes.
Crossing Robson is Granville, a street that offers independent fashion stores and entertainment venues. Shops like John Fluevog Shoes and True Value Vintage are here, as well as the city's "Theatre Row," where concert, theatre and movie choices can be found. The Orpheum Theatre and the Commodore Ballroom are also on Granville, and are fantastic places to catch performances of live theatre and music. Overall, the area has restaurants to satisfy every palette, urban nightclubs, and a dizzying number of bars offering live entertainment.
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 Hill's Native Art, Three Centuries Shop, and Salmagundi West, combine with its historic character to make it a special attraction. The Steam Clock at Cambie and Water streets goes off every 15 minutes and adds to the area's quirky cachet.
Vancouver's Chinatown is one of the largest in North America, and is second only to San Francisco's. The area's specialty shops, superb dining, and heritage buildings attract millions of visitors. The bustle here goes on day and night, from the summer's open-air Chinatown Night Market, to packed restaurants such as Hon's Wun-Tun House or Floata Seafood Restaurant.
Not long ago, Yaletown was just a collection of abandoned warehouses. Today, it is one of the city's trendiest areas, dotted with posh condominiums and converted historic warehouses. One popular establishment is the Yaletown Brewing Co., and unique boutiques like Atomic Model and BoNaparte Designs are also worth checking out. Part of the area's popularity is its ultra-cool nightlife, and the exclusive Bar None is one hot spot.
A former industrial site, Granville Island has become one of the city's biggest and best attractions. Live theatre, pubs, and artist workshops converge here. The public market has one-stop food shopping, where you can select fresh produce and treats. La Baguette et L'Echalote, Edie's Hats, and the colourful Kids Only Market are favourites. Numerous festivals use the island as their headquarters, including the Vancouver International Writer's Festival, annual Vancouver International Comedy Festival.
Located minutes south of downtown, Kitsilano is known for its active population, beaches and mountain views. The community has a profusion of eateries, bookstores, theatres, bars, open-air grocers and boutiques. Here, you'll find gems like the Naam, Sophie's Cosmic Cafe, Kidsbooks and the Hollywood Theatre. Vanier Park accommodates the annual Vancouver International Children's Festival in May, as well as the summer's open-air Shakespearean Bard on the Beach productions.
Just to the west of Kitsilano is Point Grey, another residential area. One of the wealthiest regions of the city, it boasts stately homes, miles of waterfront, and one of Vancouver's oldest parks. The area's beaches stretch from Jericho Beach to Spanish Banks, offering haunts to swim, sail and walk in. It also has a cluster of antique and collectible shops, and is home to the annual Vancouver Folk Festival.
West Point Grey Park provides one of the city's most dramatic viewpoints, with the University of British Columbia (UBC) just south of it. UBC has an expansive campus, featuring several of the city's best museums and attractions, including the Museum of Anthropology and the Nitobe Memorial Gardens.
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 Commercial Drive, between Broadway and Venables, is often considered the city's hub for artists and counter-culture. Shops and cafes like Pupuseria Rinconcito Salvadoreno and La Casa Gelato help piece together this diverse community. You can also wander through the pockets of eclectic galleries and second-hand shops, such as Cosmopolis and Attic Treasures.
Another area to shop and dine in is Little India, located south of East 47th Street on Main Street. The Punjabi Market (Little India) has jewelery and fabric shops. This is also where flavourful Indian foods and spices are readily available. Some of the stores and restaurants here include Guru Bazaar, All India Foods, and Bombay Sweets.
This suburb area northwest of downtown is one of the most prosperous communities in Canada. If you're looking for a place to shop, the large Park Royal Centre is the country's first shopping mall. Be sure to take time out to walk through Lighthouse Park. It's in an 80-acre old growth forest, and visitors might get a chance to watch seals lounging on the rocks near Howe Sound.
Just next to West Vancouver lies North Vancouver. The lower Lonsdale area has heritage buildings and antique and specialty shops, while the Lonsdale Quay Market is a thriving waterfront treat. North Vancouver is the gateway for several of the area's ecological sites. Tourists will revel at Lynn Canyon Park, the thrill of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the splendor of the Fraser Valley. The year-round fun of Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain are also nearby.