You probably all know the place – situated in the south west corner of Canada, there’s a truckload of beautiful scenery, endless bacon and maple syrup and more crazy ice hockey fans than you can shoot a puck at.
The hardest thing about writing this little feature, then, is just picking out what to include. There’s really no end to what you can get up to, but let’s try and start to narrow it down with a breakdown of my top five things to do in Vancouver:
Explore the Neighbourhoods
The first thing you will notice while wondering around the city is how diverse it is, both in architecture, scenery and residents. The downtown area is split into various historic neighbourhoods – Chinatown, Yaletown and Gastown – each with a very distinct character.
I highly recommend you visit them all, as they all have something different to offer. My personal highlight was Gastown, you’ll know you’re there instantly by the unique lights that line the streets and a feel that closest resembles the steampunk trend.
Eating out is Vancouver’s favourite activity and it’s easy to see why. With a truly enormous variety of restaurants and over half of Vancouver’s population speaking a first language that isn’t English, you’ll be sure to find fantastically authentic food across the city.
Don’t be too shy in jumping into somewhere where the menu isn’t in English because they are often hidden gems. Chinatown is obviously the place to fill your Asian cravings and Yaletown has a great selection of more American, barbeque styled menus. Also be sure to grab some sushi at night. Many places do a cheap night menu after about 9:30 pm and it is delicious.
One place to definitely eat at is Cambodian and Vietnamese eatery Phnom Penh. As the top rated restaurant on Urbanspoon, a reservation is essential. We managed to get a good group of people along and bought a whole bunch of different dishes to share. This is definitely the best way to eat as everything is excellent.
Venture Outside Vancouver
One of the greatest things about Vancouver must be its location. If you manage to work your way through the attractions in the city (you would have to be there a while) or maybe fancy a change of scenery, then there are many places within a few hours drive that could be brilliant holiday destinations in their own right.
The US and Seattle are great for a visit but if you’re after something a little more picturesque then you can head over to Vancouver Island, home to Victoria, which can only be compared to a quaint British seaside town. An entire day can be spent just wondering around admiring the beauty.
The other essential travel destination nearby has to be Whistler Blackcomb. A mountain biking mecca in the summer months and snow sports heaven for the other half of the year, it isn’t to be missed for any active enthusiast. Even if you’re not a keen participant Whistler plays host to various spectacular events such as the Fire & Ice Show.
Do the Grouse Grind (on a clear day)
Grouse Mountain is situated a few minutes north of Vancouver and can be reached by the city’s public transport system. Once you get there you can either get the cable car up or go up the trail. The walk is not to be underestimated. I consider myself a fairly fit guy and I was pretty winded by the end.
It isn’t a long hike but it is steep. Prepare by bringing water and wearing appropriate shoes. Also be ready to be embarrassed by the locals who run up the mountain for a bit of fun.
Once you get to the top there is a simply stunning view of Vancouver, but it doesn’t stop there. You can see all the way Washington state in the US and miles in every other direction. I would advise venturing outside the cafe to climb to the top of the small peak (it only takes a few minutes) and you’ll be able to see the dramatic mountains to the north.
Go to the Hockey
If you’re in Canada this should be compulsory. The Canadians LOVE hockey. The game is fast paced, full on and reasonably easy to get the gist of, so what’s not to love?
The spectacle is great and the atmosphere during the game is really something special. Ideally try to catch a Canucks game but if you aren’t too sure about the whole thing or it’s a bit out of your price range then Vancouver is also home of the Vancouver Giants. The Giants are a WHL team so the quality is still great and the tickets are far cheaper. We managed to get rink side for $20CAD which was really something. Whichever you go to see you’re bound to have a great time.