From the gleaming beaches of Kitsilano, to the iconic Dogtown-esque neon cross in East Van, to the refurbished loading docks turned quaint shops and pubs in Yaletown, we heart Van City from end to end. Brimming with art, culture, beaches, local craft brews, historic sites, and shopping, here is the rundown of some of our favourite ‘hoods in central Vancouver:
Massive emerald green, gold, and red intricately designed structures connect Chinatown’s main thoroughfare. Between the historical buildings and shops, the airy mountainscape fills the background in the gaps between. Stop by the stunning Chinese classical garden, named after Chinese revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, an authentic representation of the Ming Dynasty and the first garden of its kind outside China.
One of East Van’s most popular ‘hoods and notorious hipster hangout zone, Commercial Drive once served as the city’s Little Italy back in the 1950s. While you can still find authentic Italian flavour and zest in the cafes, gelaterias, and pizzerias, these days on The Drive you’re also likely to come across vintage second-hand and antique shops, flea markets, and craft bazaars. Local craft brews are a stone’s throw away at The Charlatan, a gastro-pub and good starting point for a Friday night.
Rainbows (literally) pave the way of this LGBTQ-friendly stretch in the West End. It’s the heart of the Pride Parade route, the corridor to English Bay’s tangerine cotton candy sunsets, and lined with some of the city’s liveliest bars and nightclubs. For hangover cures, hit up The Score on Davie and order one of their infamous over-the-top caesars – a delicious caesar speared with an entire roasted chicken and stacked with a burger, slider, onion rings, chicken wings, a hot dog, and of course a brownie for dessert bravely hanging on for dear life.
Anchored by a steam clock tower on Water Street in the heart of downtown Vancouver, historic Gastown is a cobblestone stretch of block lined with heritage buildings and Gaslamp-like lanterns illuminating the way to one-of-a-kind and artisanal shops, cozy cocktail bars, pubs, restaurants, and one of the best tattoo shops in the city. It’s one of the most romantic strolls you can take, especially after it rains. Tucked away is a ‘secret’ hidden alleyway called Blood Alley – though far less daunting than it sounds. Here you’ll find nothing that would make you think you’re standing in a square called Blood Alley, but one with cool little taquerias, restaurants, and shops.
Granville Island is a little peninsula just outside of the downtown core, with one of the best markets in the city. Here you’ll find local merchants and booths that sell handmade goods, little shops selling stationery, paper and postcards, tea shops, a yoga studio, and some of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Come for the fresh flowers, produce, meats – stay for the improv. Seriously, drop in for a show and see the Vancouver TheatreSports League in action, you won’t regret it. But keep in mind, it’s not for the faint at heart, or the easily offended.
Granville Street is a neon strip of nightclubs, concert venues, shops, and bars. This major street is abuzz from day to night making a day of shopping transition seamlessly into a night of bar-hopping.
This little beachside neighbourhood is a popular spot to grab a beer and sit in a pub, bask and bronze in the summer on lively Kits Beach, or at the heated outdoor saltwater swimming pool right next to it. The only saltwater pool in Vancouver, this legend measures 137-metres in length – more than twice the size of an Olympic-size pool. Down the way you’ll find Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks, and a mass of students during the school year from nearby UBC. Kits is a great place to people watch, relax by the ocean, and enjoy the views of Stanley Park from across the water.
Grab a growler and head to Main Street in Mount Pleasant. In the heart of the brewery district, this scenic slope in Mount Pleasant has only grown in popularity with the rise of craft breweries opening in the area, including the Brassneck, Main Street Brewing, and 33 Acres.
Vancouver is a small city with one even smaller mall – this is where Robson Street comes in to shine. Along this street is block after block of the usual suspects and a few gems strewn throughout. Start at Nordstrom’s and make your way down the block.
Vancouver’s seawall borders this sophisticated, stylish and historical little corner of the city which was once a settlement established by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1800s. Today, Yaletown welcome locals and visitors to its upscale boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Spacious patios line the refurbished original red brick laneways, once loading docks to old warehouses.