Hardly any other city is as close to the wilderness as Vancouver. The view through the urban canyons ends either in the dark blue of the Pacific or in the lush green of the Coast Mountains. Whether surfing or skiing – both are possible on the same day. Our blogger Eva immersed herself in the diversity of the metropolis.
It’s my first time in Vancouver, a big city with everything that goes with it. And yet there is an immediate holiday mood and the feeling that one could certainly live well in such a city. It’s no wonder that Vancouver, located in southwest British Columbia, consistently ranks among the world’s most livable cities.
There are some metropolises in the world that impress either with their proximity to the ocean or with their breathtaking mountain ranges. But few are surrounded by mountains and sea. Vancouver is one of those cities that offers both – hardly any other big city is closer to the wilderness. Or have you ever seen orcas from the balcony or a porcupine and raccoons in the middle of the city?
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Vancouver – lots of nature and a liberal multi-cultural mix
Admittedly, Canada’s third largest city also has huge shopping malls, fast-food chains and urban planning from the drawing board. From a historical point of view, the city is young, with a functional architecture and many consumption options. You can’t wander around Vancouver aimlessly and come across little architectural wonders around every corner. The sights of a sightseeing tour are quickly explored.
Rather, it is the closeness to nature, the location and the climate that make Vancouver so livable. It doesn’t get as cold here as in Toronto, there isn’t a meter of snow falling like in Montreal. It often rains here too. But that doesn’t detract from the charm of the city. Vancouver is young and adventurous, and the range of cultural, leisure and culinary delights is huge.
And something else is different: the mood, the atmosphere more relaxed, colorful, liberal. This has long attracted people from all over the world to Canada’s west coast.
The environmental organization Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver. This is where the Canadian advocates for the (now completed) legalization of marijuana have their home. Here, people celebrate all forms of sexuality with pride and tolerance – the highlight being the annual Pride Parade, which attracts more than half a million visitors.
Kitsilano, Vancouver’s loveliest neighborhood for me, was once a hub for hippies and is still home to a diverse mix enjoying an active lifestyle.
Work during the day, in the evening quickly go mountain biking, kayaking or the beach. All without having to plan ahead and leave the city. That’s exactly what the Vancouverites do! Because your city is surrounded by the sea and there are great beaches on the almost endless coastline, which are even served by public transport.
Explore Vancouver actively
I do the same. Today, on this sunny summer day, when the sea breeze blows through the streets and the nearby mountains glisten between the skyscrapers, the Canadian city of 600,000 people on the Pacific shows its most beautiful side.
I could sunbathe on the city beaches, lounge in the street cafes, but I prefer the active variant and explore the area by bike. My hotel in trendy West End Davie Village, which is also home to Vancouver’s LGBT community, offers free bike rentals.
I am magically drawn into nature, to Canada’s largest city park, Stanley Park, which reaches like a huge, flat hand into the waters of Burrard Inlet. I stop here and there at great beaches and circle the park on the Seawall Promenade. This is the popular riverside path that runs around 9 kilometers around the park. From here there are fantastic views of the Vancouver skyline, the snow-capped Coast Mountains and the elegant Lions Gate Bridge, which crosses the inlet north at the tip of the peninsula.
Stanley Park, a city park of great importance
The park is not only a green oasis of relaxation, there is also room for the legacy of his ancestors. It stands for the natives of Canada, the so-called First Nations, for the unity of man and nature. This applies to the trees, but also to the plants and animals in the park: the beavers, coyotes, eagles or, in the past, the grizzly bears that once roamed the forests here. The animals are important symbols and can be found on indigenous coats of arms or totem poles.
This is also the case at Brockton Point, the most popular destination in Stanley Park. Nine totem poles with magnificently carved animal symbols were placed there.
The recommended guided walking tour, the “Spoken Treasures,” allows those interested to learn more about how the indigenous people view the park, on whose lands the First Nations lived for more than 3,000 years before the first white explorers appeared.
The totems were carved from ancient giant cedars that were once found across the peninsula before many were cut down by lumberjacks in the 19th century. The First Nations made canoes from the cedars, baskets from their bark, healing ointments and creams from the sawdust. It’s a good thing that Stanley Park and the remaining cedars are protected today.
Vancouver’s urban side and shopping paradise
Vancouver is an outdoor paradise and at the same time one of the shopping eldorados on the Pacific coast. I can’t resist this facet of the city either. With the rainbow-colored Aquabuses I move charmingly, if not quite cheaply, between Granville Island, downtown and within False Creek on my shopping tour.
The choice is immense. The most popular shopping street is Robson Street in downtown, where all popular brands, cute bookstores, bars and cafés lure you. Funkier, more individual and more to my liking it will be in the Gastown district and on Main Street. The film industry meets in the hip Yaletown district, where there are hip and designer shops and trendy clubs.
Unlike downtown, Gastown’s streets are narrower, cobblestone, and tree-lined. Take Water Street, for example: not only is the world’s first steam clock here, a magnet for visitors that attracts crowds of tourists with cameras drawn with horns and whistles every quarter of an hour, but also the funky shoe shop by local designer John Fluevog or the concept store well worth seeing ” Secret Location ”.
The oldest neighborhood in Vancouver is still buzzing with life. It was a tavern in Gastown that made Vancouver a growing city. At night, the streets of Gastown come alive again.
Garden idyll and drug hell: contrasts in the middle of the city
You also have to be honest, Vancouver is not a perfect castle in the clouds on pink cotton candy, but a city with advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes worlds are very close together.
Only one street, East Hasting Street, separates Gastown from Chinatown. I am unprepared and shocked by the public drug use and decay on this street and am running this hot patch behind me more.
Through a colorful gate, the “Millennium Gate”, I reach Chinatown. More than 100,000 Chinese live in Vancouver, most of them in Chinatown. This makes them the second largest ethnic group in the city after the English-born majority.
Old-fashioned Chinese grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants can still be found in bustling but somewhat seedy Chinatown. But the zeitgeist has moved in here too and it’s nowhere near as charming as elsewhere.
A haven of peace in the hustle and bustle is “Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden , which opened for the 1986 World’s Fair. The small park with its typical Asian buildings with pagoda roofs is the first traditional Chinese garden to be created outside of China.
Life is blooming in Granville
For a few years also increasingly during the night hours. The city has made a number of efforts to upgrade the district with its artistic warehouse flair, such as the creation of special regulations for longer shop opening hours. That’s good for me. I still want to go to the Granville Island Public Market . There are more than 120 shops here that offer what are probably the best vegetables and meats from the region. Top-class seafood, specialties and lots of sweets that promote diabetes.
Locals love Granville for its exceptional variety of shopping opportunities. Anyone looking for individually designed Inuit art or unique items from the local artist and handicraft scene will find what they are looking for here.
Get out into Vancouver’s great outdoors
From Granville you can also leave the commerce of the city behind. You can either paddle the canoe yourself or contact the friendly guys at Granville Island Boat Rentals . They rent motor boats that you can drive without a license. Take a jaunt to Bowen Island and a large seal colony, or follow False Creek northeast to Granite Falls.
In general, one can answer the call of the wilderness from Vancouver at any time. Up in the mountains, it’s only a half-hour drive to Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain or Mount Seymour.
Whistler ski resort , formerly the site of the Winter Olympics, is only 125 km away. Even closer is Squamish , my favorite “outdoor adventure playground” with inviting swimming lakes, waterfalls and spectacular hiking trails. Already the attractive approach on the Sea-to-Sky-Highway gives an idea of the natural wonders that await us around Vancouver.
More tips and sights to discover:
- Don’t forget Vancouver’s North Shore! Another secret is the Shipyards Nightmarket at the harbor, where the Seabus takes you from downtown. The sunset at the pier is beautiful.
- The North Shore is a short distance from the Capilano Suspension Bridge . A spectacular suspension bridge. The no less attractive free alternative is Lynn Canyon . But the same applies here: better avoid the weekend.
- There is a cool atmosphere and delicious cocktails at The Diamonds
- Tacofino: What started with one food truck has grown into a group of ten restaurants and trucks.
- Vancouver Lookout at Harbor Center : The Lookout, inaugurated in 1977, sits enthroned on an office tower like a flying saucer. At the top you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the city, the Pacific Ocean and the mountains.
- The light-flooded café Nelson the Seagull with the open bakery is one of the most popular breakfast spots in town.
- Far Eastern dishes are skillfully prepared in the minimalistically furnished Pidgin with the beautiful street art mural
- The new Chinatown can be felt and tasted in THE KEEFER BAR as well as in the restaurants BAO BEI and KISSA TANTO .
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