There are few cities in the World that offer a metropolitan and vibrant city life combined with outdoor adventures, and Vancouver is one of them. It is possible to go skiing in the morning, whale watching in the afternoon, and still having the time for a cocktail or two in one of the fancy bars in town.
It is also a multicultural city, whose citizens are likely to speak more than one language, due to the enormous number of immigrants from all over the World and it’s a hot-spot in the movie industry, indeed the city is also known as “Hollywood North”due to the impressive number of famous movies being shot here. It is very common to be walking on the street and spotting filming crews setting up the scene for a movie or, even better, to spot celebrities walking around just like normal people.
This area of Canada has another advantage: the mild climate. It never gets too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. The average temperature on a summer day is between 15˚ and 20˚, and on a winter day is between 1˚ and 7˚, making Vancouver the perfect place to be, especially during the winter months, where everywhere else in Canada the temperature is dropping dramatically.
Gastown is the historical district of the city, combining Victorian buildings with a thriving fashion scene, from bars and cafes to vintage shops and boutiques. This area is famous for the steam clock on Water Street, which displays the time on four faces and announces the quarter hours with a whistle chime that plays the Westminster Quarters.
Highlights of the area: the Vancouver Lookout Tower offers panoramic 360˚views of the city and hosts the Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant, where you can enjoy your meal while the restaurant revolves over the city. It takes one hour to complete the rotation.
Locals recommend: Skwachàys Lodge is a boutique hotel on West Pender Street and every room of the lodge is designed by a different aboriginal artist, there is also a smudging room that can be rented by small groups, one art gallery and a Sweat Lodge that can be rented for ceremonies.
Canada Place is the cruise port and convention center, there is a very nice promenade overlooking the ocean and Stanley Park, where you can enjoy the sunset. Between April and October, Canada Place is the cruise port hosting the week-long cruises heading to Alaska or the two weeks-long cruises heading to the Hawaii and the Pacific.
Highlights of the area: the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel faces the ocean and is connected directly with the cruise port. In 1996, the hotel decided to dedicate the terrace of the third floor to create a vegetable garden, which is used daily by the Chef to create the dishes served at the famous ARC restaurant.
Locals recommend: The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel recently started a beekeeping project and now it hosts four beehives and 250,000 honeybees. During the summer months is possible to join them for a tour of the apiary, with a tasting session included!
Stanley Park is the biggest park of the area, it is almost as big as the downtown area itself, so renting a bike would be highly recommended! Inside the park there are the Vancouver Aquarium, the Totem Poles Park, which is a tribute of the aboriginal culture as well as two beaches and a swimming pool facing the ocean. During the summer months there is also an outdoor cinema and during the winter months the park is lit upby three million twinkling lights.
Highlights of the area:Join one of the horse-drawn tours and get lost in the park on an old-fashioned vehicle while the guide narrates old stories about the park.
Locals recommend: during the summer months, every Tuesday evening, on the Third Beach there is a drumming session that gathers few hundreds of people dancing on the beach until the sun goes down.
English Bay is the area located just outside the Western side of Stanley Park, home of a very long beach that stretches all the way down to Yaletown and the restaurant district. It is a very pleasant area to have a walk or to cycle around.
Highlights of the area: A-maze-ing Laughter is a well known public piece of art located on the promenade of English Bay. It consists of fourteen bronzes statue of shirtless guys laughing hysterically. It is possible to walk around them and take pictures.
Locals recommend: The Inukshuk statue, located a little bit further down from the laughing guys (as they’re called in Vancouver) is an Inuit sculpture used for navigating purposes, and it’s a well-known meeting point in the area.
The Van Dusen Botanical Gardens are beautiful botanical gardens located in Southern Granville Street, just few minutes away from Downtown Vancouver. The gardens are an oasis of peace within the city and are divided by country. They are active all year round, and the park hosts an aboriginal medicine wheel, dedicated to the ancestors, as well as a Chinese Temple and a maze.
Highlights of the area: the Shaughnessy Restaurant is inside the gardens and they have a daily Happy Hour menu, as well as brunch, lunch and dinner.
Locals recommend: there are several interesting activities organized by the park, from perma culture workshops, to yoga classes, all being held in specific areas of the park.
Queen Elizabeth Park is a beautiful park located just outside the Downtown area and easily accessible by car or by public transport. It is not a botanical garden, but there are several different gardens with different plants. It’s free and it’s a very famous location for weddings.
Highlights of the area: the Bloedel Conservatory is a dome containing a lush tropical garden with parrots and birds. Locals recommend: an happy hour at the restaurant Seasons in the Park, with a spectacular view of the city from the top of the hill.