Vancouver Travel Guide

Canada  #2 in Best Family Vacations in Canada

Courtesy of danbreckwoldt/Getty Images

Vancouver Area Map


Situated in the southern portion of Canada's British Columbia province, Vancouver is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains. Downtown Vancouver is set on a peninsula described by experts as a mitten-clad hand with downtown perched on the thumb. The peninsula is separated from the rest of the mainland by the Burrard Inlet to the north and the Frasier River to the south. 

The main feature of downtown Vancouver is Stanley Park, which is located at the tip of the peninsula. The park is 1,000 acres in size, featuring numerous hiking and biking trails, and is home to the nearly 14-mile-long Seawall and the Vancouver Aquarium. Downtown is also the city's largest shopping district. Robson Street in particular brims with shops and cafes while its neighbor, Granville Street, features numerous independent boutiques. Granville Street is also known as "Theater Row" because of the dozens of concert, theater and movie venues that are located there.

Perched just northeast of downtown, Gastown is another popular tourist neighborhood. With its cobblestone streets and Victorian architecture, Gastown has an Old World charm. Tourists are generally attracted to this neighborhood for its historic flavor and myriad of boutiques, restaurants and shops. Gastown is also home to the world's first steam-powered clock, which still chimes every 15 minutes.

Vancouver's Chinatown is one of the largest in North America, just behind San Francisco and New York. Located a few blocks east of downtown Vancouver, Chinatown is home to numerous specialty shops and top-notch Chinese restaurants that attract millions of visitors each year.

Formerly a collection of abandoned warehouses, Yaletown has made a dramatic comeback and is now one of Vancouver's trendiest neighborhoods. Yaletown boasts dozens of unique specialty shops and independently owned restaurants. Yaletown is also one of Vancouver's hottest nightlife spots, with lively bars like the Yaletown Brewing Co. calling to night owls.

Granville Island sits just south of downtown's thumb-like peninsula. Formerly an industrial site, Granville Island is now one of Vancouver's top attractions with live theater, pubs, artists' workshops and the Granville Public Market, home to stalls that sell a variety of fresh produce and tasty treats. Granville Island is also a popular spot for families thanks to the Kids Market, which boasts its own indoor play area, shops hawking unique toys and family-friendly entertainment. Plus, this area plays host to several of the city's most popular events, including the Vancouver Writers Festival and the annual JFL Northwest, Vancouver International Comedy Festival.

Travelers and experts alike suggest spending at least a day in Kitsilano. Known for its numerous outdoor activities, beaches and mountain views, Kitsilano sits just south of downtown across English Bay. Here you'll find some of Vancouver's most popular outdoor spaces, including Kitsilano Beach and Vanier Park. The parks hosts some of the city's favorite events like the Vancouver International Children's Festival in May and summer's Bard of the Beach, which features outdoor performances of Shakespeare's plays. Kitsilano is also a foodie's paradise, boasting dozens of one-of-a-kind eateries.

Follow Jericho Beach Park and the Spanish Banks west from Kitsilano and you'll find Point Grey, a primarily residential area featuring historic homes and impressive stretches of waterfront. This neighborhood's beaches – including the clothing-optional Wreck Beach – provide many great spots for swimming and boating. Point Grey is also home to a handful of popular attractions, including the Nitobe Memorial Garden, the Museum of Anthropology and the Old Hastings Mill Store Museum, which is housed in Vancouver's oldest building and the site of its first store.

Vancouver's east side is made up of a conglomeration of ethnic neighborhoods which feature unconventional shopping, top-notch dining options and plenty of entertainment venues. Commercial Drive – also known as Little Italy – is famous for being Vancouver's artistic hub and is packed with art galleries, second-hand shops and plenty of Italian restaurants and cafes. Another well-known cultural pocket is Little India, aka Punjabi Market. Located on Main Street starting at East 49th Avenue and continuing six blocks south, this area is filled with Indian restaurants, markets and boutiques.

Sitting northwest of downtown, this suburban section of the city attracts shopaholics with large commercial centers such as the Park Royal, Vancouver's oldest shopping mall. West Vancouver's other main attraction is Lighthouse Park, a nearly 200-acre forest where visitors can sit and watch seals lounging on the rocks near Howe Sound.

Located across the Burrard Inlet from downtown Vancouver is North Vancouver, which acts as a gateway to some of the city's nearby natural attractions, including Lynn Canyon Park, Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Even if you are not interested in these outdoor activities, recent visitors say that North Vancouver is worth a visit. The area is filled with antiques shops, and the Lonsdale Quay Market – which consists of three different levels – is home to dozens of specialty shops, restaurants and fresh food vendors.

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