Grant Harder

Forward-thinking restaurants, hotels, and galleries—all surrounded by snowcapped mountains and centuries-old evergreens—have transformed this Northwestern boomtown into an outdoorsy capital of cool.

January 07, 2015

Lay of the Land

Downtown: Framed by English Bay and Coal Harbour, downtown is full of Asian restaurants, big-name shops, and shimmering skyscrapers.

Gastown: Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood is home to grand historic buildings and fashion boutiques.

Kitsilano: The happening area on the west side attracts the young and stylish to its organic restaurants and popular Kits Beach.

South Granville: The city’s best galleries and design stores, along with great sidewalk cafés, are in South Granville, which borders downtown.

Yaletown: A formerly run-down warehouse district, Yaletown now has a thriving nightlife scene.

Getting Around: The city is easily walkable and taxis are plentiful. There’s also Skytrain, an efficient light-rail system.

Stay

Our favorite hotels across the city.

Loden Hotel: If you’re looking for an unpretentious, eco-friendly hotel with views of the North Shore Mountains, this is it. The 70 rooms are decorated in shades of green and chocolate brown, and thoughtful touches include en suite Wii units and yoga mats. At night, locals congregate at the buzzy Tableau Bar Bistro for French-influenced dishes and an expansive wine list. $$

Rosewood Hotel Georgia: After a five-year makeover, this iconic hotel reopened in 2011 with a Roaring Twenties vibe. We love its Art Deco– inspired details like the gilded clock and elevator dial in the lobby and the hand- carved sandstone frieze in the ballroom. Bonus: a courtesy chauffeured Bentley is on hand for spins around the city. $$

Wedgewood Hotel & Spa: This family-owned, 83-room hotel downtown is outfitted with brocade and toile de Jouy fabrics, deep leather sofas, and antiques that give the place a European feel. Book a table for dinner at the restaurant, Bacchus, then make your way to the hotel’s dark, clubby bar for a digestif. $$

Shangri-La Hotel: The brand’s first North American property combines Vancouver’s easygoing style with Far East design. In the high-ceilinged lobby, you’ll find a two-story painting of a single brushstroke by Shanghai artist Xuyuan Wang. Upstairs, the rooms mix blackand- white art with B&B Italia furniture. $$

Fairmont Pacific Rim: One of Fairmont’s four hotels in the city, the Pacific Rim is connected to the Vancouver Convention Centre but has the soul of a boutique property. There are outdoor meditation pods at the spa, Mascioni linens, and private butlers for the topfloor suites. $$

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

See + Do

Four cultural stops not to miss.

Granville Island: To get to this peninsula, hop a water taxi at the south end of Hornby Street. After disembarking, tour the nearby small art galleries and craft studios, stroll through the daily Public Market, or go for a beer tasting at Granville Island Brewing.

Flyover Canada: This is no standard IMAX movie. Strapped into a seat that moves in six directions, you’ll experience a simulated flight from the Maritimes to Vancouver, complete with effects like wind and mist.

Vancouver Art Gallery: In a renovated 1906 courthouse, the gallery is known for both its visiting contemporary exhibitions (featuring works by Ai Weiwei and Robert Youds) and its 10,000-piece permanent collection that showcases pieces by regional and international artists.

Stanley Park: The 1,000-acre waterfront park is catnip for nature lovers, with numerous biking and walking paths and plenty of green space. Go there at dusk and watch the sun set from the seawall.

Shop

Where to find the best homegrown fashion, housewares, and more.

In the 105-year-old Mercantile Building, the Block carries a carefully curated selection of men’s and women’s clothing from Canada and beyond. Look for tops by Dace and vintage-style jewelry by Anna de Courcy, both local labels.

At Zonda Nellis, on Granville Street, you’ll find free-flowing silk and linen dresses created by the eponymous designer.

The collection of one-of-a-kind ceramic matcha bowls at O5 Tea is the centerpiece of a line of tea accessories that could be considered fine art.

Down the street, Kaarigar Handicrafts, in Yaletown, sells Indian home décor and accessories including hand-beaten copper jugs and mojri slippers.

Inside Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, there are colorful totem poles, carved stone masks, and paintings made by Inuit artists and regional tribal groups.

Downtown, Woo to See You sells mostly monochromatic women’s wear, sourced from Korea and Australia, in a light-filled space.

Eat

Vancouver’s hottest restaurants serve everything from shucked oysters to haute Asian comfort food.

Pidgin: At Pidgin, chef Shin Suzuki combines Japanese flavors with the rib-sticking fare of the Canadian prairie in dishes like sautéed wild mushrooms and soft-boiled eggs with pea purée. $$$

Rodney's Oyster House: This classic seafood shack specializes in red-sauce fish stew and West Coast oysters—as many as a dozen varieties—all accompanied by regional reds and whites. $$

L'Abattoir Restaurant: In Gastown, Vancouver’s first jail has been retrofitted into a split- level restaurant. Try the steelhead-and-potato salad and lightly smoked duck, and don’t miss bartending wunderkind Shaun Layton’s inventive cocktail menu. A highlight: the Slaughterhouse, made with Cognac, orange peel, sweet vermouth, and Chartreuse. $$$

Hawksworth: David Hawksworth is arguably the most accomplished chef in town, and his stylish restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia is the counterpoint to the city’s downscale dining trend. The grilled meats, fish, and vegetables are impeccably prepared and the service is top-notch, too. $$$$

Morning Shanghai: Just 15 minutes south of downtown, the town of Richmond has one of North America’s largest Chinese communities and is full of authentic Asian restaurants. Among the best is this small spot in a nondescript shopping mall. What to order? The steamed soup dumplings, salty duck, leek pie, and Shanghai noodles. 8291 Alexandra Rd., Richmond; 778/297-6098. $

Guu with Garlic: The Kitanoya Guu restaurant group’s five izakayas across Vancouver each have a slightly different focus. This one, on Robson Street downtown, is true to its name: dishes like deepfried breaded pork loin, udon soup, and teriyaki chicken all get a garlic kick. $$

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150

Local Take

Get an insider’s peek at the city from three natives.

Sarah McLachlan
Grammy Award–winning singer and songwriter
“One of my favorite spots for breakfast is Café Medina, which serves comfort food in cast-iron skillets. I order the waffles with salted caramel. To work off the meal, I love hiking the Grouse Grind from the top of Nancy Greene Way. The route follows the tram line, so you can walk up, have a cappuccino, then ride back down.”

Trevor Linden
President, Vancouver Canucks hockey team
“My go-to café in the morning is Nook near Kits Beach. It’s a laid-back place with a real local feel that has great coffee. In the summer, I’ll take my bike on the ferry to the town of Gibsons (bcferries.com) and ride the trails along the Sunshine Coast. On the way back, I always stop at the White Spot on the ferry for a burger on the sundeck. Downtown, there’s a cool boutique called Roden Gray that sells beautiful linen shirts and pants. It’s where I do all my shopping.”

Anthony Van Mandl
Proprietor, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery
“The perfect way to start the day is with a double-baked almond croissant at Thomas Haas, a fourth-generation pâtissier and Daniel Boulud alum. Nearby, Michael McBride Menswear stocks lesserknown Canadian and international brands; the staff go out of their way to make same-day alterations. For dinner, I’m a big fan of the Parker, a 19-seat vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown with a fantastic tasting menu.”

Where to Drink After Dark

Cocktail culture is thriving in Vancouver, where top mixologists are underground celebrities. At Blackbird Public House & Oyster Bar, Trevor Kallies makes bespoke drinks while presiding over a 120-bottle scotch menu.

Cactus Club Café serves killer margaritas with freshsqueezed watermelon juice.

The gritty Chinatown setting of the Keefer Bar belies the upscale concoctions served there, like the Buffalo Soldier, made with Buffalo Trace, tamarind, ginger, and lemon.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie is known for its Bakku-Shan, featuring Sichuan peppercorns and fig-infused rum, which is best enjoyed with Chinese pickles.

Bruce Schoenfeld is T+L’s wine and spirits editor.

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