Vancouver is such a vibrant and diverse city, and this is reflected in its neighbourhoods – each offering a different atmosphere, vibe and culture. And to top it off, they are all walking distance from one another, meaning that you can sample Vancouver’s diversity without having to travel too far.
It would take a couple of months to properly explore each neighbourhood, so I’ve pulled together my recommendations of the best neighbourhoods (in my opinion) and what you can find in each one...
Located on the shoreline of the downtown area, Coal Harbour is a great place to take a break from the noisy city streets. The area stretches from Canada Place, where you’ll find the Vancouver convention centre, all the way along the seawall to Stanley Park.
The area around Canada place is busy – outside the front of the convention centre and the ferry terminal, you will find a tourist information kiosk where you can purchase tickets to attractions and transport.
Walking along the seawall promenade, there are plenty of benches to sit and watch the sea planes come in and take off, as well as lots of cafes, bars and restaurants. Or if you fancy renting a boat or a bike, you can do that here too.
Tip: Come here early evening for a quiet stroll or a beer as the sun sets
Evening stroll along the Coal Harbour waterfront
Also known as ‘The Drive’, Commercial Drive boasts 22 blocks of shopping, dining, theatres and nightlife, as well as 8 blocks designated to ‘Little Italy’ – an area full of authentic Italian restaurants, deriving from 60 years of Italian heritage in the city.
The diversity of cuisine on offer in The Drive is huge, if you’re after something specific, you’ll most likely find it here! It’s also a great place for beer lover, with several tap houses and breweries serving both local and European brews.
Tip: Many of the shops in this area sell mostly food produce, including speciality wines, cheeses and charcuterie, so this is a great place to pick up some delicious food!
Colours of the Italian flag are painted on the crossings
Gastown was one of my favourite neighbourhoods to wander. It is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood and still has some of its historic charm. It is known for stylish, independent boutiques, galleries and fashion houses as well as some of the best restaurants in Vancouver.
Take a walk down Gastown’s ‘highstreet’, Water street and visit the historic steam-powered clock, which whistles every 15 minutes.
Gastown is home to a thriving culinary scene as well as must-visit cocktail bars – the area has a really cool vibe, especially in the evening.
Tip: Bring some extra pennies if you’re eating out here!
Historic buildings and the famous steam clock in Gastown
Don’t make a trip to Vancouver without catching the tug-boat ferry across to Granville Island. To reach it you can take either the False Creek Ferry or the Aquabus, both are relatively inexpensive and just a short ride. I loved it here and it’s a great way to spend the day or afternoon.
The main attraction on Granville Island is the indoor public market, which sells fresh produce, baked goods, street food and unique gifts. This is a foodies paradise!
Outside of the public market, there are also numerous boutiques selling fashion, jewellery and arts and crafts as well as several restaurants, cafes and bars. There’s even a spirits distillery and two breweries.
Once you’ve eaten enough at the market, take a walk along the sea wall, or join a kayak or paddleboard tour from here as well.
Tip: You can walk along the sea wall through Vanier Park (past the maritime museum) to Kitsliano beach. The walk is 2.5km one way and takes just 30 minutes.
Inside Granville market
Lower Londsdale / Shipyard District
Located across the water in North Vancouver, Lower Lonsdale, or The Shipyard District as it’s otherwise known is a vibrant hub of independent shops and restaurants, with stunning views of downtown Vancouver and the waterfront.
This neighbourhood has a strong community feel which is centred largely around food. The Lonsdale Quay market features 80 vendors selling fresh produce whilst just outside the Quay is ‘restaurant row’, with 5 restaurants sat side by side in front of an extended patio. In the summer, you can visit the Shipyard night market, a free market with live music, over 40 food vendors and a large beer garden.
The Shipyards District
Robson street is the street if you want to do some serious shopping. Start from the Pacific centre shopping mall on Granville Street and work your way down to Jervis Street. Along the way you’ll find all the big brands as well as a coffee shop on basically every corner!
At the end of Robson street is the BC Place Stadium, which is home to the BC Lions Canadian Football league team as well as the Vancouver whitecaps soccer team.
Tip: For a mid-shopping pit-stop, head to Robson Square for a rest in front of Vancouver Art Gallery.
Pacific Centre shopping mall and Vancouver Art Gallery
Sat between Downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park, the West End was another one of my favourite areas in Vancouver. The location is ideal – on one side you have all the amenities of the city and on the other, 400 hectares of open park space. It is a great place to start a walk or cycle around the Stanley park sea wall. There's also English bay beach, which is a very popular beach with local residents. Here you can also rent a paddleboard or kayak, and there are volleyball nets.
The main pull of the West end is the access to the beaches and open space, however the area is also hugely diverse. There are influences from many cultures in this area and it is also home to Vancouver’s gay community, which is centred around Davie Village.
Tip: Eat at a local vendor and grab a table on the street for great people watching before taking in the sunset on the beach
Enjoying the evening sun at English Bay beach
Home to many residential apartment buildings, Yaletown is a chic neighbourhood, on the southside of the downtown peninsula. The main pull of Yaletown is the numerous green spaces along the sea wall, which make it great for a morning or late afternoon stroll. The shops here are mostly locally-owned and are quirky and stylish, offering everything from home furnishings to fashion. As you might expect from a residential area, there are plenty of restaurants here, particularly seafood. The nightlife here is also good, with lively bars and also nightclubs.
We stayed in an Airbnb on the outskirts of Yaletown, across from the Rogers sports arena and it is a great area to base yourself. We could walk all the way along the seawall from Yaletown to Coal Harbour.
Tip: Grab a takeaway coffee and take a morning stroll along the waterfront
The David Lam park in Yaletown
There’s so much to do in Vancouver, you couldn’t possibly see it all without spending several months here exploring, however I’ve put together a list of my favourite things to do whilst in Vancouver. See my post, here.
My Two week Canadian road trip
Two weeks is not a lot of time to see Canada but I managed to squeeze in three main destinations in my two week road trip. See my itinerary for two weeks in Canada, travelling from Toronto to Banff and then onto Vancouver.
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