Originally a logging settlement surrounded by swamps, mills, and a few taverns, Vancouver’s Downtown core has transformed and emerged as a sophisticated urban landscape with gleaming office towers, luxury boutiques, bustling shopping malls, and outstanding restaurants. The wide streets are lined with grand landmark buildings, vintage theaters, and fine art galleries. Downtown is always alive with a frenetic pace of activity, while the well-dressed locals rush about to relax and finish their day with a cocktail at one of the happening neighborhood lounges. Extending from Stanley Park and the West End to the west, to the historic districts of Gastown and Chinatown to the east, this area can be easily explored on foot.


1. Stanley Park

This 1.6 sq miles (4 sq km) of tamed wilderness is the green lungs of the city. The park is crisscrossed with trails and cultural landmarks, including Coast Salish gateways, totems at Brockton Point, and the life-size sculpture Girl in a Wetsuit. The Seawall circumnavigates it all and provides a perfect space for walking and cycling with stunning ocean views.


Haida artist Bill Reid’s totem pole at Brockton Point, Stanley Park

2. Christ Church Cathedral

prac_info 690 Burrard St • 604 682 3848

A gem in the heart of the city and once a beacon for mariners entering Vancouver’s harbor, Christ Church Cathedral, consecrated in 1895, was designed in the Gothic Revival style. The church interior has impressive old-growth Douglas fir ceiling beams and 32 stunning stained-glass windows; three in the office vestibule are by the British artist William Morris. Outside stands a 100-ft (30-m) tower of steel, clad with stained glass by Canadian artist Sarah Hall.


Interior of Christ Church Cathedral

3. Vancouver Art Gallery

When the Court House was erected in 1912, designed by Francis Rattenbury, one of BC’s flashiest architects, its solid form symbolized the British Empire at its very peak. Another controversial architect, Arthur Erickson, supervised the building’s redesign in the mid-1980s when it became the Vancouver Art Gallery. Inside, the Emily Carr collection is Canada’s largest, and includes the work Big Raven. Contemporary photoconceptual work also has a prominent place.


Big Raven by Emily Carr

4. Science World

The striking geodesic dome housing Science World’s interactive galleries and traveling exhibitions was built for Expo ‘86. Visitors can play with magnetic liquids, touch animal skin, check out exhibits on motion and energy, and also watch superb laser shows. The OMNIMAX® Theatre’s screen fits into the dome’s curves.


Futuristic exterior of Science World

5. Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

prac_info 900 W Georgia St • 604 684 3131 •

Begun in 1928 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, construction on the city’s most famous hotel halted with the 1929 stock market crash. Its steel skeleton sat until 1939, when it was hastily finished for the visit of King George VI. Features include a steep copper roof with impish gargoyles. Stroll through the lobby and enjoy afternoon tea or a drink in the lounge, while admiring the lavish surrounds.

6. Robson Street

West End residents, the city’s urban chic, international celebrities, and tourists alike flock to Robson Street to join the bustle of shoppers. Part of the fun is people-watching over a specialty coffee, then browsing the brand-name and independent Canadian and international shops. Slip down a side street to get a taste of the historic West End, Canada’s most densely populated area.

7. Robson Square and Law Courts

prac_info 800 block Robson St • 604 660 8989

Spanning several blocks and four levels, Robson Square was designed by BC architect Arthur Erickson. On the south side of Robson Street, a cascading waterfall and trees cool the steps near Spring, a red steel sculpture by Alan Chung Hung. On the level above is a pond with seating. Jack Harman’s sculpture, Themis Goddess of Justice, presides over the Great Hall, with its expanses of glass.


Cascading waterfall in Robson Square

8. BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

prac_info 777 Pacific Blvd S, Gate A • 604 687 5520 • Adm

Twenty galleries showcase BC’s sports history from the 1860s onward in a 20,000-sq-ft (1,858-sq-m) space located in BC Place Stadium. Interactive displays provide fascinating details of the lives of famous athletes, such as skier Nancy Green and sprinter Harry Jerome. The Participation Gallery is especially fun for kids.


BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

9. Bill Reid Gallery

prac_info 639 Hornby St • Open May–Sep: 10am–5pm daily, Oct–Apr: 11am–5pm Wed–Sun • 604 682 3455 •

Haida artist, master carver and gold- and silversmith Bill Reid blazed a trail for First Nations artists. The public gallery named after him is home to contemporary Indigenous Northwest Coast art, and temporary exhibits are thoughtful and far-reaching. A permanent gallery of his works, “Restoring Enchantment,” exhibits a 28-ft (8.5-m) bronze frieze.

10. Library Square

prac_info Corner of Robson & Homer sts

The Vancouver Central Library, partly designed by famed architect Moshe Safdie, opened in 1995. At first criticized by some for its resemblance to a Roman amphitheater, it soon became universally popular. Today, the Library Square takes up a whole city block, and includes the library, the Federal Tower housing government offices, a glass-roofed promenade, souvenir shops, a café, and takeout restaurants.


Born in Winnipeg in 1958, Terry Fox grew up in a Vancouver suburb. When just 18 years old, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and had his leg amputated. Three years later, in 1980, Terry dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic, starting his Marathon of Hope across Canada to raise money for cancer research. After 143 days and 3,339 miles (5,373 km) Terry stopped. Cancer had spread to his lungs. He died in 1981, just after realizing his dream of raising $1 for every Canadian – over $24 million. A memorial to Terry Fox now stands at BC Place.




Start at BC Place Stadium, exploring the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum for about an hour. Exiting the museum, head west towards Robson Street, passing by the four bronze statues of the Terry Fox Memorial, each bigger than the last, a tribute to the local hero who raised millions of dollars for cancer research. Continue west three blocks along Robson towards Homer Street and Library Square. Drop in to have a look at the building’s airy promenade before walking westwards to Pacific Centre. Browse the shops until lunchtime, then exit the mall and cross Howe Street to Vancouver Art Gallery. Enjoy a salad and sandwich in its Gallery Café (604 688 2233), snagging a patio table if the weather permits.


After lunch, head to the fourth floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery and take in the wonderful Emily Carr collection. Begin by watching the 15-minute video about this remarkable painter of forests and totem poles. Exiting the gallery, cross Robson and stroll through lovely Robson Square. Afterwards, indulge in some retail therapy in the various shops and boutiques on Robson Street. Satisfy a sweet tooth at one of the many chocolate shops. End your day with a fabulous dinner at Gotham Steakhouse. Treat yourself to the best steak in the city, while appreciating the Art Deco heritage surroundings.


1. Roots Canada

prac_info 1001 Robson St • 604 683 4305

Come here for Canadian-designed sportswear and leatherwear, including a wide range of classic accessories, from watches to belts and backpacks.

2. lululemon athletica

prac_info 970 Robson St • 604 681 3118

Wildly popular among millennials, this Vancouver-based company sells yoga apparel, athletic gear, and casual wear.

3. Bute Street Liquor Store

prac_info 1155 Bute St • 604 660 4569

This large BC Liquor Store carries an extensive variety of well-displayed wines, spirits, beers, and BC ice wine, made from frozen grapes.

4. Rendezvous Art Gallery

prac_info 323 Howe St • 604 687 7466

The contemporary and traditional Canadian paintings and sculptures at this gallery reflect West Coast beauty. First Nations and Inuit artists are well represented.

5. Daniel Le Chocolat Belge

prac_info 1105 Robson St • 604 688 9624

Belgian chocolate and all-natural and organic ingredients are used to create the delicious pralines, as well as the decadent champagne, coffee, and lemon truffles that are sold here.

6. Holt Renfrew

prac_info 737 Dunsmuir St • 604 681 3121

Dating back to the early 1800s, this is a uniquely Canadian brand. The iconic Vancouver luxury fashion department store offers in-store boutiques, including Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

7. Aritzia

prac_info 1100 Robson St • 604 684 3251

The haunt of trendy Vancouverites, Aritzia is a homegrown store selling stylish clothing and accessories.

8. MAC Cosmetics

prac_info 908 Robson St • 604 682 6588

A Canadian original, this is one of the world’s leading cosmetic manufacturers known for its wide range.

9. Murchie’s Tea & Coffee

prac_info 815 W Hastings St • 604 669 0783

The Murchie family began selecting and selling fair-trade tea and coffee on the West Coast in 1894 and the tradition continues today.

10. John Fluevog Boots & Shoes Ltd

prac_info 837 Granville St • 604 688 2828

Fluevog’s funky, trendy, yet sturdy shoes and boots are always being snapped up by the fashion savvy.


John Fluevog Boots & Shoes Ltd

Bars and Clubs

1. Prohibition

prac_info 801 W Georgia St (entrance off Howe St) • 604 673 7089 • Closed Sun–Wed

A green light is lit when this stylish prohibition-era-style bar at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia is open.


The chic liquor-lined bar area at Prohibition

2. Commodore Ballroom

prac_info 868 Granville St • 604 739 4550

A Vancouver institution since 1929, this club hosts popular ticketed rock, pop, blues, and jazz acts.

3. Juniper

prac_info 185 Keefer St • 604 681 1695

Committed to using sustainable and homegrown produce, Juniper offers sumptuous Cascadian fare.

4. Library Square Public House

prac_info 300 W Georgia St • 604 633 9644

Enjoy the well-curated range of craft beers on tap at this lively sports pub.

5. Republic

prac_info 958 Granville St • 604 669 3214

Hip-hop and house is the mainstay at this gritty nightclub. Its club-within-a-club, The Annex, is a major draw.

6. Venue

prac_info 881 Granville St • 604 646 0064 • Closed Sun–Thu

Live bands and a great balcony draw crowds to this trendy spot (see Venue).

7. UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar

prac_info 900 Seymour St • 604 632 9560

Operating as a café by day and a snazzy lounge by night, UVA offers tapas and seasonal cocktails. Live music on weekends.

8. One Under

prac_info 476 Granville St • 604 559 4653

Come prepared to practice your swing at this laid-back and spacious basement watering hole and eatery. The six golf simulation bays here promise an entertaining night out.


One Under’s relaxed seating area

9. The Roxy

prac_info 932 Granville St • 604 331 7999

This pulsating nightclub is where Vancouverites go to dance to local and Canadian bands. Arrive early during the weekends, as the crowd tends to increase steadily.

10. Dubh Linn Gate

prac_info 1601 Main St • 604 449 1464

Located at a stone’s throw from Science World, this Irish pub has quiz nights, live music, local craft ales, and of course, Guinness on tap. There’s also a decent gastro-
pub menu available here.

Live Music Venues

1. Fortune Sound Club

prac_info 147 E Pender St • 604 569 1758 • Closed Tue–Thu & Sun

Expect soul-stirring live performances by rock bands and talented DJs spinning the choicest of mixes at this club.


The performance stage at Fortune Sound Club

2. Revel Room

prac_info 238 Abbott St • 604 687 4088

Soak up some rock, country, jazz, and everything in between, six nights a week. The bourbon-forward cocktail menu complements the tasty tapas.

3. Oceans 999

prac_info Pan Pacific Vancouver, 300–999 Canada Pl • 604 895 2480

Enjoy an extravagant Italian Opera Buffet while admiring pretty ocean vistas every Saturday night at this eatery located in the Pan Pacific hotel.

4. Live Bait Marine Pub

prac_info 1583 Coal Harbour Quay • 604 669 7666

Tucked away inside the marina-side Cardero’s Restaurant, this cozy spot has local talent stringing their guitars Sunday through Thursday after 9pm.

5. The Loft at Earls

prac_info 1095 Mainland St • 604 230 1986

With stylish exposed-brick-and-beam interiors, this heritage loft lounge offers a vintage vibe. A range of live music performaces are featured on Thursday nights from 7pm until 10pm.

6. Frankie’s Jazz Club

prac_info 765 Beatty St • 604 688 6368

Sip on a glass of BC wine, and enjoy exquisite Italian fare paired with fantastic live jazz at this venue every night, Thursday through Sunday. Both local as well as international jazz musicians are proudly featured.

7. Railway Stage & Beer Café

prac_info 579 Dunsmuir St • 604 564 1430

Established in the 1930s, this café hosts local and traveling bands, plus a set of interesting comedy acts nightly. The expansive menu of craft beers is an added delight.

8. The Cobalt

prac_info 917 Main St • 604 398 4010

Over a century old, this bar and performance stage boasts a wide variety of entertainment including alternative bands, DJs, karaoke, live painting, and even drag shows.

9. Calabash Bistro

prac_info 428 Carrall St • 604 568 5882 • Closed Mon

Bands playing reggae, blues, and funk generate a fun vibe in the downstairs lounge on most nights, while the dining room upstairs offers a selection of delicious and colorful Caribbean fare.

10. Pat’s Pub

prac_info 403 E Hastings St • 604 255 4301

Live jazz acts have been performing at this historic pub since the 1920s. The drinks menu includes delicious craft beers from the Hastings Mill Brewing Company located on site.


1. Gotham Steakhouse

prac_info 615 Seymour St • 604 605 8282 • $$$

Indulge in the seafood tower filled with fresh crab, prawns, and oysters, or choose from the choicest steaks. End your meal with the bourbon cake.

2. Royal Dinette

prac_info 905 Dunsmuir St • 604 974 8077 • $$

Chefs push boundaries with creative local flavors. There are great cocktails and craft beers to pair with the food.

3. Forage

prac_info 1300 Robson St • 604 661 1400 • $$

Set in the Listel Hotel, this gathering spot (see Forage) for locavores is all about sustainable dining and organic produce.

4. Diva at the Met

prac_info Metropolitan Hotel, 645 Howe St • 604 602 7788 • $$

In the open kitchen, chefs conjure up gastronomical magic. An exceptional wine list offers BC wines.

5. Nightingale

prac_info 1017 W Hastings St • 604 695 9500 • $$

Owned by local celebrity chef David Hawksworth, this laid-back yet refined spot serves modern Canadian cuisine.

6. Coast

prac_info 1054 Alberni St • 604 685 5010 • $$

This vibrant place showcases BC’s finest, freshest fish and seafood. Be sure to try one of the seafood towers.

7. Le Crocodile

prac_info 100-909 Burrard St • 604 669 4298 • $$$

Alsatian tart has been the signature dish at this elegant French restaurant for many years. The list of French wines here is extensive, and the service is impeccable.

8. Medina Café

prac_info 780 Richards St • 604 879 3114 • Closed D • $$

One of the best brunch spots in the city, this unique café serves strong coffee and potent cocktails along with Mediterranean-style food – cassoulet, paella, and couscous.


Paella brunch at Medina Café

9. Hawksworth

prac_info 801 W Georgia St • 604 673 7000 • $$$

Contemporary cuisine is the order of the day at this restaurant set in the glamorous Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

10. CinCin Ristorante & Bar

prac_info 1154 Robson St • 604 688 7338 • Closed L • $$$

Delicious rotisserie meats, risotto, and pasta are served in this Italian-themed restaurant popular with visiting Hollywood stars.


Terrace at CinCin Ristorante & Bar

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