An urban paradise in a heavenly natural setting
While Aboriginal people have lived here for thousands of years, the first Europeans settled in what is now Vancouver just 150 years ago. What began as a sawmill is now one of the most sophisticated, ethnically diverse and, according to the polls, most ‘liveable’ cities in the world.
Half-ringed by Pacific waters and backed by forests and mountains, the city has a relatively compact centre with its own man-made forest of people-friendly high-rise towers.
The historic district of Gastown features studios, galleries and antiques stores, alongside one of the city’s hallmark attractions: the world's first steam-powered clock.
The city’s Chinatown is one of the largest in North America and has been home to a vibrant community since the 19th century. Enjoy an authentic experience of Chinese culture, from architecture and food to the Chinatown Night Market and the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
The Robson Street strip is the place to see and be seen while flexing that credit card in the many fashion boutiques, pavement cafés and fine dining establishments. Home to some of the most expensive property in the world, it stretches the length of the Downtown/West End peninsula.
At the southeastern end of Robson Street, you’ll find the neighbourhood of choice for urban trendsetters and celebrities: Yaletown. Once a rough industrial area, its loading bays and warehouses are now loft-style apartments and some of the coolest destinations in the city.
At the opposite end of Robson Street is Stanley Park, an urban oasis of forest and lakes. Attractions include the First Nation totem poles, the aquarium and the nearby Harbour Cruise Marina.
No trip is ever complete without a visit to Granville Island Public Market. Awaiting you there is a colourful array of shimmering seafood, artisan produce and freshly picked fruit and vegetables.
Places to see, things to do
While the climate in the city is remarkably mild, the nearby peaks of Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour offer some of the finest downhill and cross-country skiing in North America. As host city for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Vancouver also has world-class hockey and skating facilities.
Around two hours’ drive north is the world-famous Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. The largest resort in North America, it has everything from helicopter skiing to legendary après-ski, plus the breathtaking Peak 2 Peak gondola.
In late January or early February, there are numerous events in Chinatown to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The culmination of them all is the Chinese New Year Parade, a must-see extravaganza with more than 3,000 performers, including the largest assembly of traditional lion dance teams in Canada.
In summer, there are no less than three internationally acclaimed festivals. The Vancouver International Jazz Festival in late June/early July runs for 10 days (and nights) with a wide variety of genres in venues ranging from intimate bistros to major concert halls.
Next on the calendar is the Folk Music Festival, held on the third weekend in July. This three-day event offers more than 70 hours of world, folk and roots music across eight different outdoor stages. Downtown and the North Shore mountains provide a picture-perfect backdrop.
Celebration of Light is one of the city’s signature events and the largest offshore fireworks competition in the world. Up to 400,000 spectators throng English Bay for each evening event in late July/early August.
Of course, whatever the time of year, there’s always one attraction that is simply unmissable: the rugged beauty of British Columbia. From seascapes and rivers to mountains and lakes, it’s all easily accessible thanks to the excellent road network. Start with the gorgeous Lower Fraser River Valley and see where our car hire takes you.