While Vancouver is the largest city in British Columbia, and one of the most famous across the country, it isn’t the capital of the province. Despite its lack of the title, there is plenty to Vancouver’s name, which is why it is easily one of the top cities to visit in Canada. First things first, Vancouver has a rich history that has laid the foundations for the beautiful city known and loved today.
Thousands of years ago, Vancouver’s history started with the Coast Salish People, the First Nations whose history is still found laced within the city’s streets and parks. It wasn’t until the 1700s that the Spanish, and then the English, came to the western shores of Canada. It was there that Captain George Vancouver met with Spanish captains Valdez and Galiano, all of whom have namesakes in the area. The early 1800s found Hudson’s Bay Company building a trading post on the Fraser River, making it the first non-native settlement in the area. From there, the discovery of gold on the banks of the Fraser River resulted in the Gold Rush and expansion of Vancouver’s population. Trades like logging took over the area and the whole city prospered, taking over the population of B.C.’s capital city, Victoria, by 1900. Favourite landmarks like the Capilano Suspension Bridge made a showing in their original forms, and popular sports teams like the Vancouver Canucks and the BC Lions took to the rink and field for the first time.
Today, the city of Vancouver has close to 650,000 people, while the Greater Vancouver Area has over 2 million! It is commonly ranked within the top five worldwide cities for livability, and possesses a stunning cityscape intertwined with ocean and mountains. Surrounded by incredible amounts of nature, there are both urban and adventure aspects to Vancouver, making it a popular destination for a number of different crowds. Check it out below.
One of the densest and ethnically diverse cities, Vancouver has an incredible number of areas to explore, each offering their own flavor to the melting pot that Canada is famous for. From Yaletown, with its now swanky, re-purposed warehouses, to Gas Town with its infamous steam clock and romantic, cobblestone streets lit up with enchanting lights, seeing it all will take some time.
One of the most famous parks in Vancouver, Stanley Park is a 405-hectare greenspace that features an incredibly sea-wall walkway and plenty of other treasures within its bounds. Not only is the Vancouver Aquarium on site, there are stunning totem poles, towering trees, a miniature train that tours the rainforest, gardens, beaches, restaurants and even horse-drawn carriage rides. The park is a place to kick back and relax in nature, or sweat it out with an active exploration of the area. While Stanley Park is one of the most famous parks in the city, there are numerous other beautiful gardens and parks to explore that come highly recommended. Thanks to the city’s temperate climate, you can see unique and lush greenery and blooms nearly year-round.
Granville Island is a unique and kitschy area located on (you guessed it) an island within reach and surrounded by Vancouver. It is a collision of art, great food and colour, mixed in with a rich history and even a brewery. Spend a few hours by doing a taste-test of Granville Island Brewing’s various beers, souvenir and gift shopping at the unique boutique-type stores, and exploring the booths and produce of the public market. You could even catch a show at the theatre, take in a live musical performance, or watch artists at work in their studios. Vancouver also has numerous Farmer’s Markets throughout the city, so it’s worth finding out if there’s one near you to explore.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
A small trek out of Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is well worth the drive. Deep within some of the area’s most stunning and serene rainforests and spanning the Capilano River at 230ft high, the bridge is an unreal experience. The heights and views are unbeatable and within the park is an option to spend some time amongst the treetops on a suspended walkway.
Surrounding Vancouver is an incredible array of mountains and parks, which make for fantastic overnight and day hikes to beautiful summits offering panoramic views. There’s something for everyone, from easy strolls ending at beautiful lakes, to grueling trails like the infamous Grouse Grind. For anyone that Is interested in hiking amongst some of the most beautiful scenery British Columbia has to offer, the mountains and trails of Vancouver are a must.
For life below the sea, there’s no better place to be than the Vancouver Aquarium. Explore the largest public aquarium in Canada and learn about the incredible creatures that live in the very waters surrounding the city. There are 12 exhibits and galleries that take you around the world and immerse you in life below the waves. It’s a top spot for both kids and adults.
Thanks to the same mountains that produce the incredible hikes Vancouver is famous for, skiing is another must in the area. Whistler, Seymour, Grouse, Cyprus and many more mountains see incredible snow that entices alpine addicts from around the globe.
One of the most unique features of Vancouver is the numerous beaches that sit just outside of downtown. Including the nudist hotspot, Wreck Beach, located near the UBC campus, there are nearly a dozen great beaches to take in a bit of sand and sun, while having all the urban amenities you desire within reach.
Thanks to its large Asian population, Vancouver is home to some of the tastiest and cheapest Asian foods of all varieties, including sushi. With some of the freshest fish to be had thanks to the city’s proximity to the ocean, there are numerous places to pick up mouthwatering rolls of the seaweed-y goodness. Sushi, however, is far from the top of the pack when it comes to food. New restaurants seem to pop up daily, each offering their own fantastic array of incredible eats. Vancouver is a city where even the biggest foodie is guaranteed to find anything their heart (and palate) desires.
Microbreweries and craft beer area a hit that did not overlook Vancouver. With nearly thirty unique breweries within reach, even the most dedicated beer connoisseur will have a hard time taste-testing their way through the city. Fill up growlers of your favourite, hop onto a brew tour, or pick a few of the most intriguing hotspots to sit and sip an afternoon away. One thing is certain, Vancouver takes its beer seriously as a city.