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.
Whether diners crave glamorous, elegant, warm or unadorned, Vancouver offers thousands of choices for memorable cuisine. Many of the city's establishments are internationally renowned and combine superb cuisine with extraordinary atmosphere.
Food-loving urbanites flock to bistros, dining rooms and cafes that range from home-style grub in perpetually busy diners to gourmet masterpieces in refined restaurants. Visitors can savour exotic Malaysian fare at lunch and Russian by nightfall, or choose from dozens of other ethnic cuisines. There are so many good restaurants in this city that it is difficult to narrow any list down to a few, but here are some noteworthy highlights.
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is a local favourite and a great place to go for beer and fresh smoked oysters. Other downtown highlights include Chartwell Restaurant , Diva at the Met , Le Gavroche , CinCin Ristorante and Piccolo Mondo .
This beachside neighbourhood is known as one of the largest gay and lesbian communities in the country. The dining selection here is superb: busy Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna has traditional Hellenic treats and the award-winning Raincity Grill , has elegant decor that is upstaged only by its West Coast flavours. Another award-winner, Sami's , has its second location here (the other is in Kitsilano), serving up Indian-inspired original creations. The popular Cafe de Paris celebrates Gallic cuisine here, too.
This is a good place to start your exploration of the city's culinary creativity. Many of the city's hottest eateries brighten this film and fashion centre . The Italian romance of Villa del Lupo and La Terrazza will soften even the most Scrooge-like of connoisseurs. If you prefer your meals more laid-back and inexpensive, Subeez and the Yaletown Brewing Co. are trendy hangouts with good food, eager-to-be-seen crowds, and in some cases, pouty and aloof wait-staff. The Southern-style barbecue creations at Dix BBQ & Brewery are also popular.
This charming historic area has an eclectic selection of eateries. For hot and spicy dishes to warm up with on cool days, the Jewel of India Restaurant will satisfy. For a relaxed atmosphere and interesting experience, try the internationally-known Blunt Bros. Cafe . The Irish Heather is a relative newcomer to the area, and packs them in almost every night.
From Dim Sum to fine dining, Vancouver's Chinatown offers Asian delicacies and treats. Some of the most popular venues include the busy and noisy Pink Pearl Seafood Restaurant and the Floata Seafood Restaurant , for authentic Hong Kong-style creations hot and fresh from the wok. Hon's Wun-Tun House is a good choice as well.
This once-industrial island was transformed in the 1970s into what it is today: a city oasis with a famous public market, heavenly bakeries and cafes and fresh-food restaurants. Seafood lovers will revel in Bridges' three-level restaurant, wine bar and bistro. Other choices include the Creek Restaurant and the Arts Club Backstage Lounge .
This casual and health-conscious neighbourhood has some of the top restaurants in town. Weekend line-ups shouldn't daunt you from trying out the kitschy, faux-greasy spoon humour of Sophie's Cosmic Cafe , whose breakfasts are rumoured to be the best in town. The Naam is a landmark, open 24 hours and offering a selection of organic and vegan health food. Top of the heap is Lumiere , with its fine French cuisine infused with a West Coast sensibility and the freshest of ingredients. Other critic's darlings: Sami's Indo-American Bistro's fresh and creative Indian-style; Pastis' French cuisine taken to new heights; and the raved-about Vij's Indian fusion creations. For young and casual hangouts, try the bar-like atmosphere of Nevermind .
This somewhat sleepy and upscale section of the city offers many dining choices.. Try the Celtic hospitality of Dentry's Irish Grill for a good time and meal. If you want something more intimate, the Brock House Restaurant provides an elegant setting for special dinners, and Cafe Madeleine has live music, readings and artwork. True Confections is the place to go afterwards for rich desserts.
There is plenty to sample all over vibrant East Vancouver, from Main Street's Little India to Victoria Drive's Portuguese neighbourhood to Commercial Drive's Little Italy. Try the savoury Indian fare at Nirvana and All India Sweets, both on Main Street. Farther east on Commercial Drive, there is so much to choose from that it may take a week of dining just to get an idea of its offerings. Places like Federico's Ristorante & Supper Club offer traditional Italian meals, while newer places like the Cuba-inspired Havana and the literary Bukowski's offer hip alternatives with live entertainment. Fet's has a 1950s diner feel, while Cafe Deux Soleils serves creative vegetarian meals. Further west on Main Street, young and artistic hangouts like the Locus and the Grind & Gallery Coffee Bar are changing the shape of city dining.
Restaurants are fewer and farther between in this suburban uptown area, but there are gems worth the quick drive from downtown. The elegant Seasons Hill Top Bistro in Queen Elizabeth Park offers fine dining.