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Vancouver Shopping Neighbourhoods
Vancouver is a shopper’s paradise, with numerous neighbourhoods touting distinct retail experiences. Below are our favourite shopping districts to explore, whether it’s for fashion and accessories, gifts and souvenirs, or arts and crafts.
Vancouver’s Chinatown brings together old and new. You’ll be shopping among long-time locals picking up some specialty ingredients and Asian vegetables for tonight’s dinner, as well as the young and hip ducking into independent boutiques. The main shopping streets in Chinatown are East Pender Street, and then the rectangle formed by Pender, Main, Keefer and Gore. You'll find everything from ginseng to green tea, fine embroidered linens, silk robes, exotic fresh produce plus traditional Chinese tableware and cooking utensils. Natural apothecaries and herbalists abound in Chinatown, and it's the best place in Vancouver to buy freshly-prepared Asian delicacies from moon cake to roasted duck. But along East Pender Street, west of Main, you’ll also find a number of cool new stores that break the Chinatown mould, selling skateboard decks, vintage clothing, cocktail sets and club wear.
Known as “The Drive” to locals, this unique shopping district is just a 10-minute drive or ride on the SkyTrain from downtown. The main shopping strip is on Commercial Drive between Broadway (9th Avenue) and Venables Street to the north. Unofficially known as “Little Italy,” this community also has its fair share of bohemian influence, so you’ll be strolling alongside dreadlocked artists and Italian grandpas. The shopping reflects this mix as well: expect some fantastic European food emporiums filled with cheese, freshly made pasta and charcuterie. But also expect plenty of places to purchase bongo drums, incense and beaded curtains. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot, where you’ll find locally-designed fashion, eco-friendly homewares and quirky gifts.
The residential area to the south of the downtown core, the West End’s shopping tends to be focused around Davie Village, the heart of which is at Davie and Bute streets and it radiates out from there. This is also the heart of Vancouver’s gay and lesbian community, so expect a diverse mix of residents shopping among the ubiquitous rainbow flags and pink bus shelters. The shops in this lively neighbourhood mainly cater to the everyday needs of the local residents (read: there are plenty of grocery stores), but you’ll also find cool bookstores, adult shops, and fashionable clothing boutiques.
The downtown blocks bordered by Burrard, Howe, Hastings and Georgia streets is a surprising treasure trove of unique stores, high-end fashion retailers and invaluable services. The area is right by the financial district, so you’ll find that many of your fellow shoppers are business-types on their lunch break and people grabbing a gift or bouquet after work. It’s very close to many of the downtown Vancouver hotels as well as the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place, making it a convenient area to shop if you’re limited on time. The Waterfront Centre Shops offer a great mix of fashion, plus services like a post office, drug store, ATM machines, newsstands and souvenirs, making it the perfect destination for one-stop shopping.
The downtown portion of Granville Street, from the waterfront on the north side of the peninsula south to the Granville Bridge is arguably the city’s most important thoroughfare. As a main artery for many of the public buses, this area sees a lot of foot traffic at all times of the day, which has lured plenty of big retail names. Undoubtedly, the biggest shopping draw on Granville Street is the Pacific Centre mall, anchored by three department stores including Canada’s high-end Holt Renfrew, and the upscale Nordstrom from the U.S. The mall runs three city blocks, much of it underground, and specializes in fashion brands. Outside of the mall, you’ll find other retail shopping as you head south along Granville, mainly clustered from Georgia to Smithe. Your best bets are big brand fashions, but there are also a few spots to pick up consumer electronics as well.
A pedestrian-friendly, picturesque peninsula, Granville Island is the perfect place to combine cuisine, culture and shopping. Many locals will head down the famous public market to pick up ingredients for dinner, especially on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s also a favourite shopping spot for the city’s chefs. With so many artisan studios and theatres on the island, you’ll also find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with the city’s creative types. If you want to take home a taste of Vancouver or Canada, this is the place to pick up smoked salmon, preserves, teas, B.C. wines, and other culinary souvenirs. If arts and crafts are more your thing, wander Railspur Alley and the Net Loft building across the market to shop one-of-a- kind crafts, many of which are created on the premises. If you have some little ones in your life, make sure to check out the Kids Only market for fantastic gift ideas.
Long known for its mother-lode of souvenir shops, in recent years, Gastown has emerged as a hotspot for fashion boutiques, modern homewares and gifts. In fact, some of the city’s coolest independent casualwear studios can be found around this area, so you’ll find the city’s young and beautiful come to browse the boutiques along with the visitors making a quick stop for vacation mementos. For souvenirs, Water Street, the neighbourhood’s main shopping thoroughfare is your best bet: you’ll find all of the greatest hits including t-shirts, coffee mugs, and postcards. But make sure you check out some of the excellent First Nations galleries where you can pick up aboriginal art to take home. Explore beyond the cobblestones and antique street lamps, and delve into the side-streets like Abbott and Carrall, and a street back on Cordova, and that’s where you’ll find the locals. Whether they’re picking up gifts for their hipster friends, buying a new pair of jeans or cocktail dress from a Vancouver designer, Gastown is where they head.
Kerrisdale’s shopping area is known to many as the "village." It's only 20 minutes from Vancouver's downtown, but the older, gracious homes along this neighbourhood’s quaint tree-lined streets set the tone for a relaxed, gentler shopping experience. The commercial district is on West 41st Avenue between Maple and Larch streets, as well as a couple of blocks along West and East boulevards where they intersect 41st Ave. There, you’ll find diverse shops and services that cater to the well-heeled locals, from boutiques and jewellery stores, to gourmet food and flowers, and plenty of cafes to take a break along the way.
In the 1960s, Kitsilano was Vancouver's hippy hangout, but these days the counter-culture has been replaced by urban professionals and young families who are drawn to the beachside neighbourhood’s slightly slower pace. The shopping action in Kits is split between West Fourth Avenue and West Broadway, and both offer a slightly different experience. Closer to the water, West Fourth, primarily from Balsam to Burrard, is where you’ll find most evidence of the hippy past with yoga wear retailers (including Vancouver’s own lululemon), organic markets, and outdoor adventure outfitters, along with great fashion options. Over on West Broadway, from Trafalgar to Alma, the stores have more of an independent, European vibe, which is fitting as this area is also known as “Greektown.” Broadway boasts some excellent bookstores, delicatessens, and a smattering of boutiques. Both shopping stretches are well worth a stroll.
A trip on the SeaBus from downtown over to the North Shore will deposit you at Lonsdale Quay, a popular destination with a fabulous harbour view back to the city’s skyline. The station is also a jumping- off point for visiting attractions like Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain, but a lot of commuters pass through here on a daily basis as well. The quay is home more than 90 shops and services, most notably the public market. Along with fresh food vendors, you’ll find a mix of artisans, fashion stalls, and some great homemade gifts. The market’s food court is a great place for a quick meal with an amazing view, but the surrounding streets are also home to many great restaurants and other small shops as well.
One of Vancouver’s smaller shopping neighbourhoods, the Punjabi Market is still worth a visit for its unique nature. As the heart of the City of Vancouver’s large Indo-Canadian community, Punjabi Market’s commercial strip runs about five blocks centred around the intersection of Main Street and 49th Avenue. You find members of the community shopping with their kids and grandchildren for silky fabrics, glittering jewelry, and exotic groceries, all of which make great souvenirs for visitors as well.
Vancouver’s most popular shopping street, Robson is where most visitors find themselves when the shopping bug hits. This is where you’ll find all of the big North American brands, as well as some local fashion chains, mixed in with souvenir stores, beauty outlets and unique gift stores. Retail activity is concentrated from Seymour to Jervis, intersecting Granville Street with access to Pacific Centre along the way. Serious shoppers will find plenty to love about Robson, but even window-shoppers will enjoy the frenetic energy, and people-watching in this district.
South Granville and Shaughnessy
On the south side of the Granville Bridge is the South Granville shopping district, which stretches up to West 16th Avenue. Sitting on the edge of the upscale Shaughnessy neighbourhood, the stores in the area are appropriately high-end to suit the tastes of their well-heeled local clientele. Rubbing shoulders with the ladies-who-lunch, you’ll find exclusive European designers, furniture and homeware stores, and gourmet grocery stores. But the unique draw for many is the concentration of art galleries along the strip. Spend an afternoon gallery hopping, and you’ll see a diverse cross-section of styles, from traditional Canadian landscapes, to modern Asian sculpture and contemporary aboriginal pieces.
South Main Street
Main Street is known to many locals as where the city’s hipsters congregate, but it’s a whole lot more than that. If you’re going to for the shopping, hit the stretch between 8th Avenue and King Edward Avenue (which is 25th Avenue), although if you’re looking for a longer stroll, there are still plenty of interesting stores up to 33rd Avenue. Slightly lower rents in this area mean that you’ll find a lot of young families along with the cool kids, which tempers the abundance of cutting edge boutiques with practical amenities. This shopping district has long been known for its antique shops, but it’s even better for vintage and consignment fashions. This area, especially the northern part, has also become the centre of the city’s growing craft beer scene, perfect for rewarding yourself with a post-shopping brew.
A former industrial area, Yaletown’s brick warehouses have been converted into hip clothing stores, modern designer furniture outlets, spas and galleries. The neighbourhood is filled with converted loft spaces and gleaming condo towers, attracting urban professionals and tech workers. The shopping is concentrated in the four blocks bordered by Davie, Homer, Nelson and Mainland, and you’ll find plenty of chic locals browsing stores alongside you. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes with appealing patios for taking a long lunch before hitting the stores again.