The City Center district is the heart of Vancouver. Unlike many North American cities there is a very high density of residential in the downtown core, second only to Manhattan in North America. This includes the very exclusive high-rise areas of Yaletown, Coal Harbour and the huge Concorde Pacific development on the north side of False Creek. It also includes the Stanley Park, West End, Gastown and Vancouver's Chinatown.
Map of Vancouver City Center
The center of gay culture in Vancouver is on Davie Street in the West End.
As the City Center is the destination for most transit users, this area is well served by transit. Parking is as you would expect for a city center, expensive and at times hard to find. Expect to pay between $6-20/day for parking in a parkade. The parking meters are in effect from 9:00am-8:00pm 7 days a week. Many of the streets become no parking zones during rush hour.
Your best bet is to leave your car outside of the city center and use SkyTrain (from the east) or SeaBus (from the North Shore) to enter the area.
Science World, 1455 Quebec Street, (604) +1 604 443-7443, . This science centre is located in the distinctive building from Expo 86 at the end of False Creek. Has a wide range of participatory exhibits. Get off the Skytrain at the Main St/Science World station. The building is a unique shaped building that was constructed for Expo 86. Popular with the young and with those who like science. An Omnimax theatre is in this building as well. $8.50 per person.
Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street, (604) +1 604 662-4719, . You can see and learn a lot about Emily Carr in the permanent collection, but the rest of the gallery varies in quality depending on what they have been able to attract as special exhibits. Take advantage of admission by donation on Thursday evenings (5pm - 9pm) and sample what is there before paying the full $12.50 admission.
Vancouver Public Library, 360 West Georgia Street, (604) +1 604 331-3600, . The central branch of the City of Vancouver's Public Library is located in an architecturally interesting building, designed by Moshe Safdie. It was chosen in a public design competition and is based on a Roman Colosseum. There are large public spaces around the building and a nice atrium space in the lobby. Most of the internet terminals require a library card (residents only). However, many terminals allow access to selected resources (bus schedules, government pages, etc) and there are a few that allow wider access to the internet without a library card.
Yaletown and the Vancouver Marina are a beautiful micro-community in the heart of downtown. Take a walk through this area, check out the yuppie side of Vancouver. Hamilton & Mainland Streets are in actuality lanes (or back-alleys) with old loading docks, but have been converted into European-style high-curb streets.
Gastown is the oldest part of downtown. You will find cobble-paved boulevards and over-priced tourist traps selling every imaginable thing you can print "Vancouver" on. Popular with tourists are the Gastown Steam Clock, promoted as the only active steam clock in the world but in fact an electric clock that pumps steam rather an underwhelming experience; the Gassy Jack sculpture immortalizing the legendary Vancouver pioneer.The area is notorious for aggressive beggars-drug addicts who are quite unsettling.
Sun Yat-Sen Garden, 578 Carrall St., (604) +1 604 662-3207, . A Ming-dynasty style garden located in Chinatown. The gardens combines traditional Chinese buildings, plants, a small lake, and curved footpaths to create the illusion of a very big place within a single block. Tours available
BC Place and GM Place are the homes of the BC Lions CFL football team and Vancouver Canucks NHL hockey team respectively. Both buildings are also home to many conventions/tradeshows and big name concerts, although these days GM Place is preferred for concerts due to its superior acoustics. BC Place has the distinction of being the largest air supported dome in the world, and can pack in 60,000 people.Sadly BC PLace has seen better days and is now quite run down dirty and odoriferous the toilets are unimaginably dirty. Both buildings are located off the Georgia Street Viaduct at Pacific Blvd. near the shore of False Creek.
Map of Stanley Park
With 1000 acres of mostly forested land at the western tip of downtown this is one of North America's largest urban parks , and quite literally an oasis of wilderness in the middle of the city. The park is surrounded in its entirety by a 9km paved path called the seawall; a great place for rollerblading, cycling, jogging or just taking a pleasant walk. There is also hundreds of kilometers of inland trails crisscrossing the park in every direction. Stanley Park park attracts over 8 million visitors per year.
The park includes both heavily forested natural areas, manicured gardens and totem poles. As tall and old as the trees appear, it is interesting to know that much of them are second-growth, as the area was heavily logged from 1860-1880. There is a free bus that shuttles visitors around the loop to the different parts of the park. The bus operates in the summer, every 12-15 minutes. It takes 45 minutes to do the full loop. There are stops near all of the major attractions including:
Vancouver Aquarium, .Located in Stanley Park near its eastern edge. Open 10am to 5:30pm with extended hours in the summer. Be sure to visit the Amazon River section for some truly unusual and extraordinary animals. Bring $19.95 for each adult and $14.95 for each senior/student/youth.
Children's Farmyard and Miniature Railway, (604) +1 604 257-8531. Young children always like to see and pet farm animals and who doesn't like to ride a miniature railway. At Christmas there is a very popular light display for the miniature railway. Adult $5, less for seniors, children and youth (Slightly higher during special events).
Second Beach Pool A very large heated outdoor swimming pool. Adult $4.40, Children $2.25 (Family entry at child rate). Alternatively you could swim at the beach or use the spray park near Lumberman's arch for no charge. There are lifeguards at both Second Beach and Third Beach.
Prospect Point. At the north tip of Stanley Park, Prospect Point affords stunning views of the Lions Gate Bridge and First Narrows. There is a concession and bathrooms here, and sometimes you may spot a large contingent of Racoons begging for food. Please don't feed them.
Beaches. Second and Third beaches are spaced along the western part of the seawall in Stanley Park.
Nine O'clock Gun. Originally used by mariners to set their chronometers. But for World War II this gun has marked 9:00PM every night since 1894.
Trivia: Every single one of Stanley Park's grey squirrels was descended from eight pairs given to Vancouver as a gift from New York City in 1909.
While Vancouver may not be famous for its architecture, the City Center is home to some unique buildings both new and old.
Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard Street. Vancouver's oldest surviving church was completed in 1889. Often in the shadow of its neighbor, the 23 story Cathedral Place, you should visit in the afternoon to see the sun shining through the stained glass windows.
Marine Building, 355 Burrard Street. This 22 story Art Deco office tower was completed in 1930. Because of the great depression, only four floors were occupied for the first several years. Note the attention to detail on both the exterior, and in the lobby.
Hotel Vancouver, 900 West Georgia. The third such hotel in this spot, the Hotel Vancouver was built over 11 years and completed in 1939. As with all Canadian Pacific hotels in Canada, the chateau style is truly impressive. The hotel's first guests were King George and Queen Elizabeth. Bring binoculars for a close up view of the building's many gargoyles.
Robson Square, 800 Block Robson Street. Designed by Vancouver wunderkind Arthur Erikson (also famous for the Museum of Anthropology and Simon Fraser University) this building which houses Vancouver's Provincial and Supreme Courts was completed in 1979 allowing the Vancouver Art Gallery to take over its former digs across the road. This organic building featuring flowing water and greenery allows you to literally walk all over it.
Canada Place, 999 Canada Place. Built for Expo 86 as Canada's exhibit, today the building serves as a cruise ship terminal and convention center, and is also the site of an IMAX theater and the luxurious Pan Pacific Hotel. Walk around the unique sailed structure and take in views of the building itself, Coal Harbour, and the North Shore.
Library Square, 350 West Georgia. Designed by Moshe Safdie (who also designed the National Gallery in Ottawa). Constructed as a 'square within a circle', this building is reminiscent of a modern Roman Colosseum. Completed in 1995.
One Wall Centre, Voted the worlds best new skyscraper in 2001 by Emporis .
English Bay. The beach right in the west end. A popular place to watch the sunset. Probably the best place to see the festival of lights.
Vancouver Opera offers world-class performances from some of the world's best composers. Check out their website Vancouver Opera
Pro Sports The Vancouver Canucks are Vancouver's NHL club . The season runs from October into the spring. The games are played at GM place, it will be difficult and expensive to get tickets since all games sell out. BC Lions play in Canada's most elite football league the CFL. The Vancouver Whitecaps play professional soccer, but it is amateur compared to European leagues. Vancouver also has several minor league teams such as the Vancouver Giants of the WHL and the Vancouver Canadian's of single A baseball.
Festival of Lights (Fireworks) Seen one fireworks show, seen them all? Think again. Most Vancouverites come out to this event to enjoy the beach, the breeze and the hundreds of thousands of people who turn out. The fireworks themselves are just the excuse. Four shows, late July/early August. Make sure you take public transit. For more info see: http://www.celebration-of-light.com/fireworks/
Lantern Festival at Trout Lake Park Come see the most amazing hand crafted lanterns demonstrated in a parade round the lake on Vancouver's East side. Takes place each July on the 4th Sunday.
Geogad Mobile Tours. Geogad has two free MP3 walking tour of Vancouver that can be downloaded directly from the Geogad website. The tour can be uploaded to any MP3 device and works best on MP3 players that can display the tour photos and maps. One tour covers the downtown Vancouver and Gastown while the second focuses on Chinatown, Yaletown and Granville Island. These tours cover much of the interesting architecture and must-see sights in Vancouver's city center. Either tour is a great way to relax and explore Vancouver at your own pace.
Spokes Bicycle Rentals offers bike rentals and guided bike tours from a fantastic location on the doorstep of Stanley Park. $4.72/hr, $14.16/6 hrs, weekly and monthly rates also available. Various styles of bikes for adults and children, plus helmets and locks. 1798 West Georgia Street, right on the corner at Denman, Vancouver V6G 2V7. tel +1-504-688-5141. web http://www.vancouverbikerental.com/ . email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robson Street downtown is the main high end shopping district.
Yaletown is the newest Urban Residential area of Vancouver. Rather yuppie, you will find many beauty shops and self-improvement facilities (such as cosmetic dentistry and plastic surgery). Start your tour at Davie & Hamilton, walk along Mainland St, Pacific, Homer and finish at the spectacular Marinaside Crescent. This was formerly a warehouse district that is now a high end residential area with many upscale and mid-range stores. As an illustration of the neighbourhood's character, one cosmetic surgery office has valet parking in front.
Gastown is the area along Cordova street east of the Seabus terminal. This is a tourist area that has numerous souvenir shops. Some of the shops have nice first nations carvings. If you want a snow globe of Canada Place or a "My grandma went to Vancouver..." t-shirt this is the place to get it.
Chinatown is centered on Pender Street around Main. This is the second largest Chinatown in North America. Many Chinese import shops here.
Chinatown Night Market 100 & 200 Block Keefer Street, F-Su in the summer 6:30pm-11:00pm. Styled after Asian marketplaces these very popular nights have all kinds of stuff for sale. Watch out for the cheap imitation knock-offs that are commonly available.
The different parts of the City Center have diverse characteristics. The central business district has, as you would expect, a high number of coffee shops and lunch places, the West End has a wide variety of restaurants, Yaletown has a number of high end restaurants and Chinatown has many Chinese restaurants. Vancouver is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and this is reflected in its cuisine, particularly Asian. Some of the best Japanese food outside of Japan is in Vancouver and its Cantonese and Korean offerings are also world-class.
Thai Away Home, 1206 Davie St., +1 604 682-8424. Open daily from noon to 9:30pm. This small restaurants serve up good Thai food in a casual atmosphere. True to the name, you can eat-in (if you can find a seat) or take the food home and warm it up there. The price is certainly right, ranging from $5.00 to $7.50 for lunch and just slightly more for dinner.
Samurai Japanese Restaurant, 1108 Davie Street (at Thurlow), ☎ +1-(604) 408-0943. until 24h. Well known for having huge portions for small prices. It also has fresher sushi than some more expensive places. During meal times, it can be very difficult to get a seat. In the summer, it can be nice to get take out and walk down to Sunset Beach (4 blocks southwest on Thurlow, ~20min). Be sure to try their toro (fatty tuna), and salmon sushi/sashimi. Stay away from their tuna sushi/sashimi because it tends to be too frozen. There is another location at 5888 Cambie Street (at 43rd Ave) in Vancouver South, which is is slightly cheaper and much easier to park at, but the City Center location remains open later, until midnight. $10.
Moonpennies, 456 Howe Street, 899-1271. Simple food and great coffee in a friendly atmosphere. $6-$8.
Capers Community Market, 1675 Robson St., +1 604 687-5288. Open Mon-Sat 8am-10pm Sun 8am-9pm Self service take away or eat in. A great place for vegetarians and vegans. Food is charged by weight.
Vancouver Community College Cafeteria, Dunsmuir and Hamilton (located on the second floor), Weekdays Breakfast & Lunch. The cafeteria is run by the culinary arts program so you get gourmet food at cafeteria prices. Usually have a large sea-food selection. Don't miss the Asian Food program which has a separate service area. As you would expect from students the quality can vary. However, it is hard to complain when you get a fancy meal for less than $8.
Pita Wrap Cafe, 565 Dunsmuir St., M-Sa 7am-7pm. The usual Falafels, Souvlakis, Shawermas and greek plates, but very well executed. $5-$8.
Denny's 888 Burrard St. Open 24 hours a day Denny's is part of the large chain of diners. Decent fare at low prices make this a popular location at any time of the day. Main dishes start from just $6.
Kintaro Ramen 788 Denman St., +1 604 682-7568. Authentic Japanese Ramen shop. Often it's crowded and there's a lineup but it moves fast. Close to Stanley Park and the bike/roller-blade rental shops on the end of Denman St.
Ezogiku Noodle Cafe, 2 locations on Robson St. One near the north end (1329 Robson St., +1 604 683-6111) and the other closer to the Vancouver library and GM Place (270 Robson St, +1 604 685-9466). The speciality here is the Sapporo miso ramen ($6.55), a Japanese noodle soup flavored with miso paste and served with a heap of veggies on top; add in $2.20 for a serve of gyoza dumplings on the side. The servings are large, with a hearty broth and an authentic abundance of ingredients. Vegetarian soups and broths available. 2007/May/13: The north end location is closed until further notice.
Hon's Wun-Tun House on Robson, 1339 Robson Street, ☎ +1-604-685-0871 (fax: +1-604-685-0885), . Sunday-Thursday 11am-11pm; Fridays and Saturdays 11am-midnight. Famous for pot-stickers (pork, chicken, beef, or vegetarian), but has an array of cheap but excellent Chinese food; incl. dim sum, bbq and desserts ranging from $4 to $8. There is a separate kitchen for vegetarian dishes. Lunch special for less than $32 (incl. tax and tip) that feeds 4 people: congee (rice porridge), 2 side dishes, 1 rice or noodles...Robson location only. Located on north side of Robson between Jervis Street and Broughton Street. More locations in Chinatown, New Westminster, and Richmond.$4-$8.
The Mansion, 1523 Davie St., +1 604 689-4334, . Italian-styled restaurant in an historic manor house. Owned by USA's 'Romano's Macaroni Grill' chain of restaurants. Meals range from $10 to $20 CAD per person. Opens at noon; closing time varies.
Elbow Room, 560 Davie St. (at Seymour St), +1 604 685-3628, . "Food and Service is our name and Abuse is our game (so have some fun)" A restaurant that is famous for abusing its customers. Expect to line up to get in on weekends. Open for breakfast and lunch.
Wild Rice, 117 W. Pender St. (between Abbot and Beatty Streets), +1 604 642-2882, . Wild Rice has a fresh, very tasty reinterpretation of Chinese cuisine, with pan-Asian and North American influences mixed in, set in a sleek black decor. Small plates $6-10, entrees $13-25, desserts $7. Fine teas $3-7 . Dinner for two $45-50 without wine. Located in Chinatown near the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and BC Place, on the north side of a bleak Pender Street block. Lunch Mo-Fr 11:30-16:00h. Dinner Su-Th until 24:00h, Fr-Sa until 01:00h.
The Irish Heather, 217 Carrall St. (at the east end of Gastown), +1 604 688-9779, . Seven days a week, noon-midnight. Nice atmosphere, excellent pheasant, and apparently the only place in Vancouver that serves real Guinness. About $10 for lunch or $15 for supper (not including drinks).
Earls On Top, 1185 Robson Street. Part of the nation chain of restaurants, Earls offers a moderate selection of contemporary foods ranging from steak and chicken to seafood and pizza. More hip and happening than most of the chains outlets this isn't the place for a quiet meal. Good service and food make this a popular spot.
Stephos Souvlaki Taverna, 1124 Davie St, tel. +1 604 604-683-2555. A Greek restaurant in downtown Vancouver, famous for long lines of customers waiting for a table, hungry for Stepho's abundant and delicious platters of Greek favourites. Almost all the dishes on the menu are under $10.
Maria's Taverna, 1037 Denman St, +1-604 681-8500. Delicious Greek food, including a vegetarian souvlaki platter. The seating spills out onto the sidewalk, which is a treat in warm weather. There's another Maria's at 2324 W 4th Ave in Kitsilano.
Umberto's is a chain of restaurants throughout Vancouver, most of which are upscale joints serving west-coast variations of Italian classics.
Caffè Artigiano* Excellent coffee shop featuring "latte art," but it's still great. IntelligentsiA coffee available. Great espresso.
La Bretagne, "The Original Creperie", 795 Jervis St (just downhill to the north of Robson), +1 604 688-5989. A wide selection of both savoury crepes (with vegetables) and sweet crepes (with cream, fruits, and sugar), plus breakfast offerings and sandwiches. Try the organic buckwheat flour, which gives the crepe the rich dark brown colour of farm bread. A lot of choices for a light lunch or dinner, or mid-afternoon snack. Crepes $6-8, a full lunch $8-15.
Elixir, 350 Davie Street. +1 604-642-0557. M-Sa 6:30 AM-2:00AM, Su 6:30AM-Midnight. . Charming French brasserie inside the stylish Opus Hotel. Chef Don Letendre's menu is authentic French country cuisine with a modern panache. Roasted sable fish, braise du jour, bacon wrapped petit tenderloin, roasted veal chop and warm sticky toffee pudding are but a few bistro highlights.
Hy's Encore, 637 Hornby Street, (604) +1 604 683-7671. The most amazing service in Vancouver. This steak house is some fifty years old. Charcoal steaks are the house specialty, although the service is even better. The servers do an incredible job and the food is excellent.
Joe Forte's Seafood & Chop House, 777 Thurlow St., (604) +1 604 669-1940. Open daily for Lunch and Dinner; reservations strongly recommended. Usually mentioned amongst the top 5 restaurants in Vancouver, here you will find great food and great service. In the lavishly decorated open space, you may even catch a glimpse of a movie celebrity as you savour the oysters that are a specialty here. With glamour comes a price; expect to spend about $70/person for a complete dinner.
Le Gavroche, 1616 Alberni St., (604) +1 604 685-3924, . Open daily for Dinner; reservations required. The romantic and intimate setting in an old Victorian house will heighten your senses and put you in the right mood for French cuisine with a West Coast twist. The beautiful view of the mountains is no less impressive than the great food and service you will get here. Be prepared to spend $70/person or more for a memorable experience.
Parkside, 1906 Haro St., (604) +1 604 683-6912, . Open daily for Dinner; French with a touch of Pacific north-west. Some of the best food in Vancouver, in an intimate and pleasant setting. $50 and up including tax+tip.
Art Gallery Cafe, 750 Hornby Street. It's a little pricey, but it's definitely worth it.
There are many nightclubs in the City Centre area. Most of them are located in Vancouver's Entertainment District along Granville Street from Robson Street to the Granville Street Bridge.
Caprice, One of the more exclusive clubs in Vancouver.
The Cellar/Doollins, Doollins is a very popular Irish pub with a night club called the Cellar below.
Commodore Ballroom, 868 Granville St. This is a large venue frequent location for live concerts. Has a large famous 'sprung' dance floor. Capacity is 900 people. Most nights tickets are required to get in.
Opus Bar, 350 Davie Street. +1 604-642-0557. . Painfully ‘hip’ bar/lounge inside the much-hyped Opus Hotel in Yaletown. Beyond the fashionable clientele and contemporary décor there’s tapas, cocktails and an extensive list of imported and domestic wines and spirits. Signature small plates include 'O' Dim Sum, merguez corn dog and shish kebob, and Yuzu-spiced Garlic Wings.
Roxy's, 932 Granville Street, the house band Dr. Strangelove covers some of the best of the recent 'classic rock' and dance music.
Richard's on Richard's, The best spot for great up and coming bands.
Downtown Vancouver is home to Canada's finest hotels, a list that keeps growing. Vancouver will be the first city in North America to have a hotel from Asia's prestigious five star Shangri-la chain when the 61 story tower is completed in 2008. Downtown is the most densely populated part of Canada and as a result real estate is very expensive and thus so are most hotel rates.
American Backpackers Hostel, 347 West Pender St., +1 604 688-0112 . The real alternate location for cheap and cozy lodging in the real center of Vancouver, best prices, best friends. Long term rates! $10-$30 (6-person room to private room).
Global Village Backpacker's Hostel, 1018 Granville St., (604) +1 604 682-8226 (or toll-free (888) 844-7875), . Another appealing downtown option with some package deals and other good pricing choices. $20-$25 (a bed in 4-person room).
If you are planning to stay in a hostel downtown, it is probably better to ensure it is located West of Main street and caters mainly to backpackers (tourists on a budget.) Staying downtown keeps much of the frequently visited spots in walking distance. If you were planning to find a cheap (significantly less than $90) hotel downtown, you should know that it is likely to be located in the "East Side", infamous for its prostitution and drug problems.
Bosman's Hotel, 1060 Howe St, +1 604 682-3171, toll free +1 888 267-6267, . Two blocks from Robson Street's shopping and one block from Granville's nighlife, Bosman's Hotel is a very good deal for downtown Vancouver. Outside pool patio, and on site bar. $69-$89.
Comfort Inn Downtown, 654 Nelson St., +1 604 605-4333, tollfree +1 888 605-5333 . A reasonably-priced, well-situated hotel with some decent package deals as well. $89 (smallest room in winter).
Hampton Inn & Suites, 111 Robson Street, +1 604 602-1008, FAX +1 604 602-1008 . Near BC Place stadium, from $129.
Victorian Hotel, 514 Homer Street, +1 604 681-6369, toll free +1 877 681-6369 . A historic hotel that has recently been renovated. Close walk to most attractions, but note that it is near a rough area of town. Some rooms have shared bathrooms. $79-139 (less in the winter).
YWCA Hotel, 733 Beatty Street, +1 604 895-5830, toll free +1 800 663-1424. A modern hotel(12 years old) with a range of room sizes and prices. Close walk to most attractions and near BC Place Stadium. All rooms are private but some have shared bathrooms. $64-155(less in the winter).
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 801 W. Georgia St., +1 604 682-5566 . All you would expect from a great hotel, including its wonderful location across from the Vancouver Art Gallery. $300 (as low as $110 for advance purchases and off-season).
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, 900 W. Georgia St., +1 604 684-3131, . Vancouver's grand old hotel. Beautifully decorated and a firmly established part of Vancouver's history. $250-$400.
The Fairmont Waterfront, 900 Canada Place Way., +1 604 691-1999 . The Fairmont Waterfront has a stunning view wherever there's a window. This 5-star hotel is located right across from Canada Place. $300-$500.
Four Seasons Vancouver, 791 W. Georgia Street,+1 604 689-9333 . Classy luxury hotel in the heart of Vancouver, decorated in classic style but kept up to date with Internet and whatnot. $270 and up.
Opus Hotel, 322 Davie Street, (604) 642-6787, . Exclusive & stylish boutique hotel in Yaletown. The hotel boasts the popular Elixir (a French brasserie)  and trendy Opus Bar . Café O serves cocktails and lighter gastronomy like croissants and panini. The 96 rooms and suites are available in five separate décor schemes.
Pan Pacific, 300-999 Canada Place, +1 604 662-8111 . A harbor location just steps away from Stanley Park. If you are staying here, consider paying extra for a view of the coast mountains. At these prices, it would be a shame to miss out on the view. $300-$500.
The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, 845 Hornby Street. +1 210-507-5999, +1 604-689-7777. . The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, stately located on Vancouver’s stylish Robson Square, is a charming European boutique hotel. All 83 lavish rooms feature private balconies and posh furnishings. The latest addition is a spa and fitness center. The award-winning restaurant Bacchus is on premises for dining and live entertainment. Downtown location allows for suitable access to shopping, nightlife, parks and recreation, city tours and arts and entertainment.