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Tour Vancouver

Travel Tips

Vancouver: Where Livable Becomes Lovable
Urban Cool

Vancouver's West End against a stunning backdrop of snowcapped mountains
Vancouver's West End in Winter


Start the morning with a jog around the seawall so you'll be in shape for an early dim sum brunch (from 11 a.m.) in the Art Deco dining room of the Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant. Then head off to discover Gastown, beginning your exploration along cobbled streets amid some of the city's oldest buildings. Gastown was where the city began in 1870, known then as Granville, before being annexed into Vancouver in 1886. During summer months and on weekends, streets bustle with visitors shopping for food, fashions and souvenirs of British Columbia such as ice wine and wild Canadian candied salmon. Favorite finds include the Inuit Gallery, a showcase for northern native sculpture, art prints and ceremonial masks; John Fluevog, the celebrated footwear design studio housed in a glassed-in gap between two historic buildings; and Button Button, an amusing shop specializing in colorful contemporary and vintage buttons. Gastown, too, has become a hotbed of innovative restaurants and cocktail dens so you'll have plenty of options for quenching a thirst and slaking hunger pangs during your tour.

The Gastown Steam Clock emits real steam and whistles every 15 minutes
Gastown Steam Clock

Next, head to the newly expanded Museum of Anthropology (MOA) on the western edge of the University of British Columbia. As you walk through the carved doors, it's hard to tell which is more awe-inspiring, the building or its contents. Impressive Northwest Coast artifacts include monumental totems studded with carvings of ravens, bears, eagles, frogs and beavers. Visitors are encouraged to open any of the dozens of drawers that contain one of the world's most comprehensive collections of native artifacts, as well as objects from other cultures for comparison. There's an outdoor sculpture garden with 10 magnificent totems and two carved Haida houses that blend perfectly with their cliffside setting. The museum shop features a fine selection of Northwest Coast gold and silver jewelry, limited edition prints, carvings, baskets and masks, all created by first nation artists.

After you've had your anthropological fix, head back downtown to stroll Robson Street and the more hip Alberni Street, home to high-end designers (such as Tiffany, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Escada, and De Beers, should you be in need of a diamond or two), or head to up-and-coming South Main Street (SoMa) from about 8th to 24th Avenues to check out local designers, one-off boutiques and gift shops. Eugene Choo features mod clothing, carved wood jewellery and leather bags; the Regional Assembly of Text is a one-stop shop for gifts under $20, including old-fashioned stationery sets, while Hum is completely dedicated to contemporary Canadian designers. If you're feeling peckish, grab a bite at The Fish Counter, a neighborhood spot that's a combo of fish shop and casual café.

Robson Street in Vancouver is famous for its world-class shopping
Robson Street

It would take a visitor several weeks to experience all of Vancouver's popular dining spots. For starters, head to Yaletown, and go early to secure a perch at Rodney's Oyster House where you can order succulent Pacific Northwest and East Coast oysters. If rubbing elbows with visiting celebrities and sophisticated locals appeals, head to Blue Water Café + Raw Bar for sushi and pristine seafood towers, Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca, or Lupo for fine Italian fare, and Hapa Izakaya for inventive Japanese mini-plates plates such as mackerel blow-torched tableside and beef tataki.

Downtown, über-chef David Hawksworth presides at Hawksworth bringing fresh and vibrant dishes to the legendary Rosewood Hotel Georgia. It's fun to sit in the art deco-detailed bar and the casual dining area, but the big show is in the elegant chandeliered space with a view of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Oru, the Pacific Rim bistro in the Fairmont Pacific Rim marries local ingredients with the flavors of coastal BC and California with those from Polynesia and Chile. The best Chinatown fix is Bao Bei on Keefer near Main, but arrive early or be content with eating in the bar.

When your vacation tour is finished, don't be surprised if Vancouver's sophistication and fascinating venues linger in your mind. Packed with energy and youthful spirit, flush cool restaurants and cooler cocktails, resplendent with art and surrounded by stunning natural beauty, Vancouver offers an idyllic urban getaway that's uncomparable.

For more information about Vancouver, contact Tourism Vancouver at 604-683-2000 or online at Or visit the Vancouver Touristinfo Centre at 200 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 3L6.



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* Images courtesy of Tourism Vancouver; seawall image by John Sinal


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