Exploring Vancouver

Exploring Vancouver
Shopping and Sightseeing

By Dee Raffo / Images By Joern Rohde

Vancouver at night. Downtown Vancouver. Stanley Park.

Shopping is a great way to explore Vancouver’s diverse neighbourhoods, and if you throw in a few of Vancouver’s “must-do” sightseeing attractions along the way, you have the perfect combination of retail therapy and cultural experiences. Here are just a few options that merge the two when visiting Vancouver.

Robson Street in Downtown Vancouver is one of the city’s oldest retail destinations and is known internationally for its diverse array of shopping and dining. Here you’ll find some of North America’s leading brands like Roots, Lululemon, Aritzia, Arc’teryx and Saje Natural Wellness alongside international giants, including the largest Muji store outside of Asia. It’s home to a variety of cafés and restaurants, so you’re spoiled for choice if you decide to stop for lunch or dinner. For a real credit card workout, head over one street to Alberni for labels such as Prada, Gucci and Rolex. There is also the Pacific Centre Mall, which includes three department stores: the iconic Hudson’s Bay, Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom (cfshops.com/pacific-centre.html).

From there, it’s a short walk to Canada Place, home to FlyOver Canada (flyovercanada.com). This incredible 4-D flight simulation ride takes you across the entire country, and you can feel the mist from the waterfalls and smell the scents of the fields as you soar above them. If you want to stretch your legs after the ride, then walk along the seawall towards the Convention Centre to take a photo next to Vancouver’s Olympic Cauldron, with views of the ocean and North Shore mountains in the background.

Heading east from the downtown core towards Gastown, make sure to stop at the Vancouver Lookout on the way. After a 40-second glass elevator ride, you’ll arrive at the panoramic observation deck 553 feet (169 metres) above the city, giving you an incredible 360-degree view. The ticket lasts all day, so you can always return to watch the sunset (vancouverlookout.com).

Don’t let Gastown’s Victorian-era cobbled streets and heritage buildings fool you into thinking it’s stuck in the past. This area is teeming with some of the city’s most exciting independent stores, swanky designers and indigenous artisan outlets. A few to look out for include John Fluevog Shoes’ flagship store, the latest styles in Oak + Fort, the unique array of products in the Old Faithful Shop, and the stunning artwork in the Inuit Gallery. If you’re shopping for a souvenir, then Water Street is the place, with a range of gift shops all in the shadow of the famed Gastown steam clock, one of the only functioning steam-powered clocks in the world. Interestingly, the clock has an electric motor and the steam is used to power the whistles that shoot steam and chime the “Westminster Quarters” (tourismvancouver.com).

Yaletown, south of the downtown core, is a great place to spend a few hours shopping and sightseeing. A trendy and fashionable area of Vancouver, it features designer clothing stores next to quirky pet boutiques and Canadian art galleries. Yaletown also boasts gourmet grocers and home decor stores, so there’s a variety of shopping to explore. One of the area’s focal points is the Engine 374 Pavilion and Roundhouse Turntable Plaza, which pays homage to the history of the district (roundhouse.ca/about-us/engine-374/). Yaletown Brewing Co. is a thirst-quenching reminder of its industrial past; and if you enjoy beer, then you might want to consider a tour (vancouverbrewerytours.com). For a unique way to get a feel for the city, head down to the foot of Davie or Homer streets and jump on a False Creek Ferry. The small water taxis offer 25- and 40-minute sightseeing cruises or a “hop-on/off” option, both giving you incredible views of the city with a little history as well (granvilleislandferries.bc.ca).

One of the stops on the ferry route is artsy Granville Island. You could easily spend a whole day here exploring the artisan studios, market and stores. Six buildings make up the indoor Public Market, where equipment for logging, mining and shipping was manufactured. The market is now a bustling place teeming with fresh produce, unique gifts, handmade products and the sounds of local musicians. A food lover’s paradise, the market boasts cuisine from all over the world, from Japanese noodles and Italian cannelloni to fresh Coho salmon and Dungeness crab. Behind the market are alleyways filled with studios and workshops for potters, jewellers, glassblowers, broom makers and the like, all welcoming visitors looking to find out more about their crafts. There’s also a theatre, kids’ market and brewery to explore (granvilleisland.com).

Also accessible by ferry is another place to visit that’s a little off the beaten path: the Lonsdale Quay Market (lonsdalequay.com). “The Quay” (pronounced “key”) is a scenic 12-minute ride on the SeaBus from downtown to North Vancouver, with the market located at the northern terminal. There are more than 80 shops and services to explore in this multi-level market with a diverse selection of tasty ethnic eats, including Thai, Indian and Vietnamese, alongside tempting bakery options, artisan pizza, and craft beer. There are children’s wear stores, kitchenware purveyors, jewellers, leather makers and fashion retailers — a little something for everyone.

It’s easy to get a mix of history, culture, sightseeing and shopping in Vancouver, but remember, if you’re visiting, you might want to check how much your suitcase now weighs after all that retail therapy.

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