Vancouver Neighbourhood Stories

Like a city of villages, Vancouver neighbourhoods each have their own distinct dining, drinking and shopping scenes, providing plenty of unique angles for in-the-know “local flavour” stories. Here’s an introduction to the most intriguing of our 23 neighbourhoods. Consider a story that rounds up several neighbourhoods under a single theme – “historic ‘hoods”, “drinking districts” or “exploring on foot”, for example – or hit one neighbourhood and dig beneath its surface to provide an in-depth feel for visitors.


Downtown

Centered on Robson Street, the city’s downtown core is teeming with boutique-loving shoppers intent on scooping up the latest designer fashions. The street is also a de facto promenade: on summer evenings it’s full of strolling visitors ambling among the stores and checking out colourful street performers. Reflecting Vancouver’s burgeoning cosmopolitanism, Robson is also home to dozens of authentic ethnic restaurants, especially at its western end, where Korean and Japanese language students pack the busy noodle shops and sushi bars.

Story idea
Cover Robson Street’s vibrant young Asian culture – especially from a foodie perspective.


West End

Stretching from Coal Harbour to English Bay, with Stanley Park on one side and Burrard Street on the other, the West End’s tree-lined boulevards, diverse restaurants and independent shops serve a population of young people and seniors in a largely adult-focussed area of the city. This is also where Western Canada’s largest GLBT population lives.

The West End’s main thoroughfares are Denman Street, dominated by mid-priced restaurants; Davie Street, with its busy shops and gay-friendly nightlife venues; and Robson Street, with its Starbucks outlets and boutique chain stores. For a blast from the area’s past, check out Barclay Heritage Square, nine historic homes, including the popular Roedde House museum (www.roeddehouse.org).

Story idea
Cover the West End by bike or on rollerblades – there are several rental outlets in the area. Dive into the area’s bustling side streets, then trundle onto the Stanley Park seawall.


Gastown

A National Historic Site of Canada and the city’s oldest neighbourhood, Gastown is where Vancouver began. It’s named after John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, who showed up with a barrel of whisky in 1867 – telling the area’s sawmill workers they could drink as much as they wanted if they helped him build a saloon. Not surprisingly, the job was quickly completed and the new bar triggered a rash of development in the area. Now lined with brick-paved streets, Gastown’s heritage buildings have recently been colonized with cool designer stores and some of the city’s best bars. But it’s the district’s dining scene that has really taken off in recent years. One of Vancouver’s leading culinary hotspots, cutting edge new restaurants open in Gastown all the time, pioneering new movements in the city’s already exciting restaurant scene – stroll the streets here for unique sushi, charcuterie, Pacific Northwest, Asian fusion and hipster diner experiences.

Story idea
Delve into the area’s history by day on a walking tour run by the Architectural Institute of BC (www.aibc.ca)…then come back at night for a self-directed pub crawl of the area’s best watering holes.


Chinatown

It’s the third-largest Chinatown in North America and dripping with historic reminders of the immigrants that helped build the province from the mid-18th-century onwards – even before Vancouver was officially a city. Lining Main, Pender and Keefer Streets, today’s Chinatown is a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and aromas: from its teeming grocery stores, chatty dim-sum joints and steam-shrouded summer night market to its tranquil Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (www.vancouverchinesegarden.com) and towering Millennium Gate. This is the spot for a full cultural and sensory immersion.

Story idea
Compare the charms of old-school Chinatown with the bustle of Richmond, often regarded as a modern-day version of the original Chinese district.


Yaletown

An old redbrick rail terminal and warehouse district transformed in the early 1990s into swanky condo towers, lounge bars and chichi boutiques, pedestrian-friendly Yaletown is Vancouver’s “little Soho.” Roughly bounded by Nelson, Homer, Drake and Pacific Streets, the downtown enclave has a hip and inviting atmosphere – especially at night, when its bars can be packed to the rafters with the city’s beautiful people intent on checking each other out. Yaletown is home to some of the city’s best restaurants – a dining tour of the area is highly recommended – as well as the Opus Hotel (www.opushotel.com), the city’s contemporary, celebrity-friendly boutique sleepover.

Story idea
Explore the fine dining options on the streets of Yaletown, including Blue Water Café (www.bluewatercafe.net), Glowbal Grill Steak & Satay (www.glowbalgroup.com), Hapa Izakaya Yaletown (www.hapaizakaya.com) and Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar (www.brixvancouver.com). Include some chef interviews and a sidebar of recipes with your story.


Granville Island & South False Creek

Stretching west along the inlet from Science World, South False Creek is the site of the 2010 Olympic Village (now a residential development). Continue along the seawall here for a wonderful urban walk, combining waterfront vistas, public artworks and a mini nature enclave called Habitat Island. Conclude your 2.5-kilometre (1.5-mile) waterfront stroll at one of Vancouver’s favourite half-day hangouts.

Constructed on sandbanks and originally nicknamed “Mud Island,” Granville Island (www.granvilleisland.com) was an industrial park in the early years of the twentieth-century. Following decades of decline, it was reinvented in the 1970s as a visitor-friendly warren of artist studios, independent shops (chain stores are not allowed here), distinctive restaurants - plus a hugely popular Public Market. The locals embraced the transformation – often regarded as one of Canada’s best urban renewal projects – and visitors have been calling this spot one of their favourite parts of Vancouver ever since.

Story idea
Plot a food-lovers tour of Granville Island, from the produce and deli counters of the Public Market to the island’s own Granville Island Brewing facility. If you fancy company, book a guided tour with Edible Canada (www.ediblecanada.com)


East Vancouver: Main Street to Commercial Drive

One of Vancouver’s most culturally and socially diverse neighbourhoods, this large area stretches east from Gastown and Chinatown. Its key thoroughfares are Main Street and Commercial Drive, each with their own unique vibe. Nestled between and around these two spines are old but increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods like Strathcona and Mount Pleasant.

Stretching south from Chinatown, Main Street runs right through Mount Pleasant and is often regarded as the city’s dedicated hipster enclave. Its main hubs are the intersection of Main and Broadway – studded with indie coffee shops, unique clothing stores and cool bars – and the blocks running south from the intersection of Main and 19th Avenue, where you’ll find many of the city’s best independent shops.

Further east, Commercial Drive can claim to be Vancouver’s first hipster hood. Colonized by Italian immigrant families in the 1950s, it later became the city’s bohemian heart, a spot where Bukowski read, radical bookshops thrived and generations of counter-culture Vancouverites met and mingled. While its radical edge has dulled, “the Drive” is now one of the city’s most popular hangout streets: locals hit the restaurant and bar patios here on languid summer evenings or drop by the still-vibrant Italian coffee shops to catch a European soccer game.

Story idea
Consider one of two “afternoon crawl” stories, one encompassing the Italian coffee shops of Commercial Drive, the other hopping between the indie stores of Main Street. Better still, cover both in one comparison story.

Bonus Neighbourhood: Punjabi Market
Continue south on Main Street to 49th Avenue and you’ll come to an area also known as “Little India.” A bustling enclave of sari stores, Bhangra music shops and some of the region’s best-value curry restaurants, it also hosts several annual cultural events and is an ideal spot for an hour of gentle browsing.

Story Idea:
Consider a culinary story on the area’s Indian and Pakistani restaurants, interviewing chefs about their favourite dishes.


Kitsilano

Transient students and singles come and go, but a strong core of long-time residents still anchors “Kits,” one of the city’s most desirable older neighbourhoods. Overlooking the classic Vancouver skyline of sea, Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains, this area was once the hippy capital of the region and is now a comfortable, liberal paradise of well-heeled vegetarians and yoga-moms. Home to Kitsilano Beach, Vanier Park, Vancouver’s largest outdoor pool and a 4th Avenue thoroughfare of browsable shops and popular eateries, Kits is one of the city’s best summertime haunts.

Story Idea:
Find Vancouver’s laziest day in the Kitsilano neighbourhood, focusing on the beaches, shops and coffee houses. Ask locals for tips on the best ways to relax here.


South Granville

Starting at the south end of Granville Bridge and stretching to 16th Avenue, South Granville Rise (as it’s sometimes called) is an ideal on-foot amble for travellers who like to browse art galleries and shops without setting foot in a mall. But this popular Granville Street strip isn’t just about window shopping: for contemporary fine dining, the area’s French, Asian and Pacific Northwest eateries are among the best in town, while there are also plenty of hearty, home-style cafés for those on lesser budgets.

Story Idea:
Take a self-guided walking tour around the historic mansions of Shaugh-nessy Heights (just off the Granville and 16th Avenue intersection), then recom-mend the best drink, dine and shop spots of South Granville for your readers.


University of British Columbia (UBC)

Occupying the waterfront tip of Vancouver’s West Side peninsula, the giant UBC campus is a neighbourhood unto itself. It’s also packed with a surprising number of attractions for visitors, including the Museum of Anthropology (www.moa.ubc.ca), Beatty Biodiversity Museum (beatymuseum.ubc.ca) and Belkin Gallery. In addition there are green-thumbed attractions such as the Botanical Garden (http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/), Nitobe Memorial Garden (www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/nitobe) and Greenheart Canopy Walkway. The campus is also dotted with intriguing public art works and even has its own naturist beach. Check out www.ubc.ca for more information on campus attractions and activities.

Story Idea:
Consider a day-out-at-UBC story that covers all the main attractions and offers suggestions on where to eat, shop and grab a bite to eat. Time your visit well and you could include a festival – the UBC Apple Festival (October) is rec-ommended – or a musical performance at the Chan Centre auditorium.


North Shore

Comprising North Vancouver and West Vancouver and located in the shadow of the towering Coast Mountains, the North Shore is best accessed from the city via the Lions Gate Bridge or on a short SeaBus hop from Waterfront Station. The area’s main attractions include North Van’s Lonsdale Quay Public Market (www.lonsdalequay.com), Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (www.capbridge.com), Grouse Mountain (www.grousemountain.com) and Deep Cove, a tranquil, tree-lined inlet favoured by kayakers of all skill levels.

In contrast, West Vancouver is an established, village-minded community that hugs the start of the Sea-to-Sky highway to Whistler and is close to BC Ferries’ Horseshoe Bay terminal. A curious mix of old cottages and multi million dollar homes, West Van’s attractions include the seawall stroll to Dundarave Pier, Lighthouse Park’s verdant trails and Cypress Mountain (www.cypressmountain.com), the venue for freestyle skiing and snowboarding at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Story Idea:
Visitors alighting from the SeaBus at Lonsdale Quay used to spend their visit in the popular public market before heading back downtown. But now they take an extra hour or two to explore the rest of the Lower Lonsdale area. Show your readers what’s here, including a stroll up Lonsdale Avenue to check out the new shopping and dining options, as well as the waterfront walkways that run east alongside the historic shipyard area. Take a camera and tweet images as you walk.


Richmond

Metro Vancouver’s vibrant and modern Asian enclave, Richmond is packed with malls, restaurants and stores specifically aimed at its youthful Chinese, Japanese and Korean population. Now easily accessed from downtown Vancouver via the Canada Line, it’s also a favourite destination for taste-tripping foodies – the Golden Triangle area, for example, is stuffed with a full menu of traditional, fusion and cool contemporary Asian eateries.

But it’s not all about manga bookstores and Hello Kitty here. Richmond’s other main attraction is the community of Steveston, an old-school fishing village that couldn’t be more visitor-friendly. Once home to thousands of fish industry workers and dozens of canneries, it’s a great spot for seafood dining or a sunset wander along the boardwalk.

Story Idea:
Join an old sea salt on his boat for a fishing expedition from Steveston and learn all about the area’s rich seafaring heritage. Add visits to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery (www.gulfofgeorgiacannery.com) and the Britannia Heritage Shipyard (www.britannia-hss.ca) to your story.