Consistently voted one of the best cities in the world to live in, what does Vancouver have in store for the unsuspecting visitor? Lauren Rayner heads there to find out.
What to see
The city, of course. Vancouver’s city skyline is pretty special. Flanked by the majestic Coast Mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, a spectacular Vancouver view can be savoured from the Lions Gate Bridge, from one of the city’s many panoramic restaurants, or from your kayak as you’re paddling down False Creek. You won’t spend much time standing still in this outdoorsy city – there’s simply too much to take in.
What to do
If you like to take your views from a higher angle, jump on a seaplane. Panoramic seaplane flights take off from Coal Harbour in the city centre and give you an aerial tour of the city and the surrounding mountains. After an unforgettable 20 minutes, you’ll land in the harbour with a thrilling splash.
Not to be missed is a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a narrow, 70 metre (230ft) high suspension bridge over the Capilano River. It’s a great way to get close to some of Canada’s incredible nature – the Treetops Adventure allows you to walk among the branches of ancient Douglas-firs and giant Red Cedars. And if you’re too scared to look down, you might be treated to the sight of a bald eagle soaring above the treetops.
If you’d prefer to gain your sea-legs than your tree-legs, a whale watching adventure is just the ticket. Every summer around 80 orca whales visit the warm waters that surround the Gulf and the San Juan Islands. On some days, you might be lucky enough to spot a pod of 100 orcas splashing about in the water. You might also spot some of the Pacific Ocean’s other friendly inhabitants: seals, sea lions, porpoises and on rare occasions, minke whales or sea elephants.
Where to stay
If views are what you’re after, the Fairmont Waterfront is where you’ll find them. Its spacious rooms are fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows begetting views of the harbour or the mountains. Dine in Heron’s West Coast Kitchen for a taste of all things British Colombia.
Inspired by the grace and elegance of European boutique hotels, The Sutton Place Hotel will add a dash of old world glamour to your Vancouver stay. Reward yourself for conquering your fear of heights with a pampering visit to Vida Spa.
What to eat
To Canadians, poutine is a fast food dish you’re likely to find at your local greasy spoon, and they’re likely to raise an eyebrow if you say you’re on the hunt to find the tastiest in town. But let me tell you: it’s delicious. Classic poutine is French fries soaked in gravy and topped with curd, but trendy eateries all over Vancouver are adding a twist to the staple dish. The Four Seasons brings a touch of class by adding lobster, and Edible Canada on Granville Island soaks theirs indulgently in duck fat – it’s off menu, but smile sweetly at the waiter and they’re sure to oblige.
Wandering the streets you’re likely to encounter another of Vancouver’s street food oddities. Japa Dog is a sushi-meets-hot dog concept found in food vans around the city. It sounds weird (I didn’t try it) but I’m told it works.
Where to shop
Robson Street, in downtown Vancouver, is your shopping mecca. Everything from high end labels, niche boutiques and your familiar high street retailer can be found here. Five minutes from town on the SkyTrain, Commercial Drive (that’s ‘the Drive’ to locals) is full of funky, unique stores, cafes and an old church that’s been converted into a theatre.
If you’re looking for a souvenir that isn’t a leaf-shaped jar of maple syrup, head to Granville Island. Bursting with crafty boutiques and gift shops, it’s here you’ll find beautiful paper products, books, glassware and pottery. Make sure you visit the Public Market – from the seafood, to the fruit, the bagels and the pies – everything seems supersize. We defy you to find bigger cupcakes anywhere else.
Where to hang out
The cool kids will tell you: go to Gastown. Once one of Vancouver’s seediest neighbourhoods, it did what all seedy neighbourhoods are wont to do and underwent an urban revival. Now it’s the hippest ‘hood in town – home to tech and media gurus, creative types and young professionals. Here you’ll find the cool contemporary fashion boutiques, art galleries, studios and Vancouver’s beloved steam clock. A night out in Gastown’s trendy bars and nightclubs usually begins here.
Food obsessed and fashion conscious? You need to be seen in SoMa (South Main Street). I’m told appropriate hipster attire is a lumberjack shirt over skinny jeans, just so you know.
What to tip
If you’re unsure of what to tip, 15% will usually suffice, 20% if you’re feeling well taken care of.
How to get there
Vancouver is a 10 hour flight from London Heathrow. Discover Vancouver with Air Canada flights from £599. Need more information about Vancouver hotels and tours? Visit your local Flight Centre store or call us on 0208 045 4186.
Do you have any Vancouver travel tips to add? Comment here to let us know!
Lauren Rayner is Social Media Specialist at Flight Centre UK.