even continents, 195 countries, 10,000 cities. Planet earth is a big place. There's just so much to see, so much to do, so much to take in and so much to experience. It’s no wonder that traveling to major cities like Rome, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, London, and NYC is a bucket list item many people. If you already have a list of cities you want to see in person, don't forget to add Vancouver.
Van City, Eh?
Located in the lower mainland area of British Columbia, Vancouver is one of the largest cities in Western Canada. Not only has Vancouver been consistently rated one of the top-five most livable cities, it is also the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, next to Montreal and Toronto. You’ve probably heard it a few times now that VanCity is the place to be, but what is it exactly that makes this major city in Western Canada so special and beautiful?
Vancouver Really Does Have It All
Vancouver truly offers a little bit of everything for everyone. When it comes to mother nature, Vancouver really hit the jackpot. Obviously the ocean surroundings, soaring mountains and glistening skyscrapers add to Vancouver’s existing beauty, but the city has much more to offer than just good looks and a pretty skyline. Here’s a bit of a timeline to catch you up to speed.
Believe it or not, Vancouver is still considered a relatively ‘new’ city. Incorporated as a city in 1886, Vancouver resides in the traditional territory of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, members of the Coast Salish linguistic group. More than 8,000 years ago, Vancouver was considered home to ancestors of all these groups.
One of Vancouver’s greatest tourist photo-ops is the famous Steam Clock, built by Canadian clock maker Raymond Saunders. There are only six working steam clocks in the world, and one lies right in Vancouver’s Gastown. Today, Gastown is one of Vancouver’s trendiest historic areas, offering thriving fashion, stylish boutiques, art galleries, and some of the best cuisine.
Rewinding back to 1867, Gastown was actually Vancouver’s first downtown core and is named for “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who opened the area’s first saloon.
Underneath Vancouver's streets lies a series of steam pipes that provides heat to most of the downtown core, and provides the steam for the whistles of the Gastown steam clock. Every fifteen minutes, the famous steam clock shoots steam and whistles; on the hour, it shows off by marking the hour with a toot from each whistle. The area is often flooded with crowds and tourists trying to snap a photo next to the great steam clock, so maybe pick a weekday to head to Gastown to get your perfect picture.
A Foodie’s Paradise
Another winning ingredient that makes Vancouver one of the most beautiful places in the world is it’s bucket-list worthy food scene. And yes, the Canadian city offers more than just Tim Hortons and seafood. Inevitably, as a city on the Pacific Coast, seafood is going to be a major part of local dining. If you’re a sushi lover, it might surprise you that the famous California roll is credited to Vancouver chef, Hidekazu Tojo. Make a stop at award-winning Tojo’s to enjoy some of the world’s best sushi outside Japan.
Experiencing the Vancouver food scene also means testing out some of the ethnic foods the city has to offer. Next time you’re in town, make a stop for a Japadog, a small food stand chain that specializes in hot dogs with a variety of Japanese-style foods like okonomiyaki, yakisoba, teriyaki and tonkatsu.
Need to grab a bite on the go and don’t have time for a sit-down meal? The plethora of food trucks in Vancouver present a quick but delicious option when you need to satisfy a craving. Pick up some bannock from Vancouver’s first food truck to showcase Indigenous cuisine, Mr. Bannock. Need something tasty to wash it down? Stop by one of Vancouver’s cold-pressed juice pioneers, The Juice Truck.
The list wouldn’t be complete without listing one of Vancouver's best places to enjoy sweets with an incredible view, Honey’s Doughnuts located in beautiful Deep Cove. This magical shop offers more than the average doughnut; each doughnut is served fresh and is about the size of a fist, with the perfect amount of crunch and glaze on the outside, but amazing warmth and flavour on the inside. The lineup is often out the door and onto the street, but your taste buds will thank you for waiting. They might even beg you to go back for more.
Still hungry for more? Sign up for a food tour during your next visit to Vancouver so you can experience the city’s entire menu and understand for yourself why Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Parks and Beaches
Imagine finishing up your day at the office and riding your bike over to one of the world’s largest and most beautiful urban green spaces, Stanley Park. This green oasis is essentially a West Coast rainforest that offers ocean views, mountains, sky and majestic trees along Stanley Park's famous Seawall. The area is also home to Canada’s largest aquarium.
Stanley Park is definitely high up on the list of must-see places to experience in Vancouver, but don’t limit yourself. There are so many parks scattered throughout the city you can unwind at, stroll, sunbathe or swim from one of the beaches. Fun fact: Clothing is completely optional on Vancouver’s famous Wreck Beach, just steps away from the University of British Columbia (UBC).
Queen Elizabeth Park - highest point in the city, boasting spectacular views.
Lynn Canyon Park - The local’s favourite hidden-gem. Enjoy a free suspension bridge, walking and hiking trails, waterfalls, and a natural swimming pool.
Whytecliff Park - One of the first Marine Protected Areas in Canada where you're bound to catch a glimpse of Sea lions sunbathing on the beach during summer.
Kitsilano Beach - Also known as “Kits Beach'', this legendary beach is just outside of downtown Vancouver. Enjoy some time swimming, playing tennis, basketball or beach volleyball. Four-legged friends are welcome at the designated dog beach.
Adventure Is On Your Doorstep
When you’re in Vancouver, it’s very unlikely you’ll be saying the words “I’m bored.” Whether you decide to stay in city limits and enjoy a winter shred day at Cypress or Mt. Seymour, or wake up feeling ready to challenge yourself to the legendary Grouse Grind, Vancouver has something for all adventure seekers. It gets even better; Whistler and Squamish are just a venture away from Vancouver, which also boasts lovely mountain scenery and a lively après scene.
Have a day off? Take a short ferry ride over to Vancouver Island and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of a grizzly bear snacking on some salmon. It’s also quite common to see whales, orcas, sea otters and bald eagles, just some of the delights of Vancouver Island.
Not every city has a surfer’s paradise on its doorstep, but low and behold, Vancouver does.The small town of Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast, is heaven for surfers, and a great place for newbies to take lessons.
Pedal to the medal
No we aren’t talking about cars! Vancouver is one of North-America’s most bike-friendly cities with over 800 MILES of bike lanes! Many of these bike lanes have been incorporated into separate bike lanes on the local roads, making each pathway safe, scenic and connected so cyclists can truly enjoy the journey.
Go Green or go Home
Outlined in the City of Vancouver’s 2020 Action Plan, Vancouver aspires to be the world’s greenest city. Although the city isn’t there yet, Vancouverites' strong connection to the outdoors has definitely acted as an advantage to shifting the bigger conversation in a greener direction, for both tourists and locals.
Vancouver’s user-friendly transit system makes it easier than ever before for tourists and visitors to get around without a vehicle. Since 2011, the transit system in Vancouver has expanded rapidly to provide convenient bus and Skytrain schedules, along with the introduction of the Seabus, which connects downtown Vancouver and the North Shore. Each Seabus ferry can seat up to 385 passengers at a time, and departs every 15 minutes during the day.
Fun fact: the Vancouver Skytrain is the oldest and longest, fully-automated, driverless, rapid-transit system in the world!
It’s a Party in the USA?
If all this wasn’t enough to make you want to visit Vancouver, you’ll be incredibly glad to know Vancouver is just a couple hours away from one of America’s coolest cities - Seattle. You can head out for a weekend to enjoy a wide selection of lively bars, music and restaurants. Have a thing for coffee? Famously known as the home to the first Starbucks EVER, Seattle is sure to be a hit with coffee aficionados, especially since there are almost 2,000 coffee shops across the city. If you want to keep going, head just a few more hours to America’s food and beer capital, Portland.
Wait, if Vancouver is number five, who is ahead?
If Vancouver has all these amazing things to offer, how can it sit at number five? What city can truly beat all that adventure, scenery, cuisine, beer, coffee, hiking, biking and eco-friendliness?
It’s no surprise Paris holds the number one spot on being the most beautiful city in the world. The city is also home to the Eiffel Tower and hundreds of historic treasures inside the Louvre. Vancouver might not have a 300-metre tall iron statue or a reputation for all the love, but its beauty, lush forestry and mountains for days haven’t gone unnoticed.