Exploring Vancouver Canada’s West Coast Hub

Exploring Vancouver
Canada’s West Coast Hub

By David Burke / Images By Joern Rohde

Vancouver at night. Downtown Vancouver. Stanley Park.
From art to dining to shopping to exploring historic neighbourhoods, there is something for everyone in Vancouver, the largest Canadian city west of Toronto and the country’s West Coast hub. If you only have a couple of days to explore Vancouver, deciding what to do and see in one of the world’s most beautiful cities will depend largely on what strikes your fancy.

Many people start their tour of the city at or near the distinctive white sails of the Vancouver Convention Centre and cruise-ship terminal. From here it’s a short walk to the Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre. This is a great place to get the lay of the land and stunning views of the North Shore mountains from the 169-metre (553-foot) observation deck. While you’re in the area, you can stop by the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre at 200 Burrard St., just across from the Convention Centre, for a COVID-safe consultation Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

For most first-time visitors, it takes at least a day to tour the downtown peninsula, sandwiched between Burrard Inlet to the north and False Creek to the south.
The 405-hectare (1,001-acre) Stanley Park, one of the world’s best-known urban green spaces, fills much of the peninsula’s western end. Here you’ll find several beaches, a stand of totems celebrating the vibrant cultures of British Columbia’s Native peoples (the three main groups are referred to by Canadians as First Nations, Inuit and Métis) and the popular Stanley Park Seawall cycling, walking/jogging path.

Stanley Park Seawall
In addition to great shopping and dining, the downtown peninsula includes two of the city’s most interesting neighbourhoods: Chinatown and Gastown. Chinatown, which centers on Main and West Pender streets, is one of North America’s largest Chinatowns. Highlights include the Sam Kee Building at 8 West Pender, one of the world’s narrowest buildings, and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Tickets for the garden can be booked at (vancouverchinesegarden.com). Gastown, just east of the Vancouver Convention Centre along Coal Harbour, is marked by Victorian-style buildings and the famed Gastown Steam Clock, one of only a handful of functioning steam clocks in the world.

The pathway along False Creek, south of downtown, is a great place for a stroll or a jog. Near the southern shore of the waterway — it’s really an inlet, not a creek — is Granville Island, home of the Granville Island Market, Vancouver’s public market and meeting place, where you can browse among the market stalls and cafés, pick up that one-of-a-kind souvenir and meet the creators of unique arts and crafts in their shops and studios. For an update on what’s open in the market, visit granvilleisland.com.

At the eastern end of False Creek is a geodesic dome that houses Science World at Telus World of Science, a great place for the whole family. It includes interactive displays and demonstrations, larger-than-life Omnimax films showcasing the physical and natural world and galleries focusing on life sciences and the animal kingdom. Daily admissions are capped during COVID, with timed ticket entry to ensure visitors’ safety.
Visit scienceworld.ca.

Science World

Art lovers will find numerous galleries downtown. The Vancouver Art Gallery is home to both permanent and visiting exhibitions of great art. Advance ticket purchase is strongly encouraged (vanartgallery.bc.ca). Nearby is the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, which includes a collection of creations by Reid, who is best known for his two- and three-dimensional depictions of Haida legends (billreidgallery.ca). Those with a keen interest in local art and culture should visit the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus, at the western end of the city. Reid’s famed sculpture “The Raven and the First Men” is among the great works housed here. See moa.ubc.ca.

Vancouver Art Gallery

For plant lovers, the UBC Botanical Garden includes the Nitobe Memorial Garden, a traditional Japanese garden dedicated to the memory of Dr. Inazo Nitobe, whose wish was to foster world peace. The Botanical Garden is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; visitors must pre-book entry times at (botanicalgarden.ubc.ca). South of the downtown core you’ll find the VanDusen Botanical Garden, a 22-hectare (54-acre) paradise of gardens, forests, ponds and even a hedge maze. Book tickets and entry times at (vandusengarden.org). In Queen Elizabeth Park, the Bloedel Conservatory houses a lush tropical forest complete with abundant bird life under a climate-controlled, translucent dome. Open daily, but tickets and 45-minute time slots must be booked in advance at vancouver.ca.

For information to help you plan your visit to Vancouver, call the Visitor Centre at 604-683-2000, email visitvancouver@tourismvancouver.com, or visit tourismvancouver.com.


Digital Whale


Queen Elizabeth Park


UBC Botanical Gardens


Museum of Anthropology