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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 before heading off to discover Gastown. Begin 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 and on weekends, streets bustle with visitors shopping for food, fashions and souvenirs of British Columbia icewine and wild Canadian candied salmon. Some favorite finds include the Inuit Gallery, a showcase for northern native sculpture, 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.

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

Next, head to the 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 most comprehensive collections of artifacts in the world, as well as objects from other cultures for comparison. There's an outdoor sculpture garden that includes 10 totems and two carved Haida houses that blend perfectly with the cliffside setting. The museum shop features a fine selection of Northwest Coast gold and silver jewellery, limited edition prints, carvings, baskets and masks.

After you've got your anthropological fix, go back downtown to stroll Robson Street and the more hip Alberni Street, home to high-end designers (Tiffany, Betsey Johnson, Brooks Brothers), or head to up-and-coming South Main Street (SoMa) from about 8th to 24th Avenue 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 Canadian designers. If you're feeling peckish, you can grab a bite at Crave on Main, a modest neighborhood spot owned by ex-Four Seasons chef, Wayne Martin.

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. In Yaletown, go early to secure a perch at Rodney's Oyster House, where you can order succulent Pacific Northwest and East Coast oysters. To rub elbows with visiting celebrities and sophisticated locals, head to Blue Water Café + Raw Bar for sushi and pristine seafood towers, Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca or Lupo for fine Italian, and Hapa Izakaya for inventive Japanese mini-plates plates such as mackerel blow-torched tableside and beef tataki.

Downtown, über-chef David Hawksworth has opened Hawksworth and brings fresh and vibrant dishes and a new luster 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 Pan-Asian bistro in the Fairmont Pacific Rim offers a culinary journey with signature dishes from India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. The best Chinatown fix is Bao Bei on Keefer near Main, but arrive early or plan on eating in the bar.

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

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

(Updated: 07/02/12 CT)

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