Earlier this year I have been invited to spend ten days in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada. I had just returned from my year long trip across Southeast Asia but since wanderlust had already started tormenting me again, I didn’t hesitate to book a flight and head for yet another adventure. Whereas I have been to Canada before, I have never visited Vancouver, the place which has recently been voted the third most livable city in the world. I heard a lot of good stories about the city – stories about an utterly relaxed lifestyle, mild climate, a beautiful setting by the Pacific and the great outdoors right at its doorsteps. It was time to discover and see for myself.
Explore Stanley Park by bicycle
It was the end of winter when I arrived and you might think that winter in Canada is not really the time of the year for outdoor activities. Not so in Vancouver. Most of the time the air was clear, the sky bright blue and the winter sun shining its bright light onto the city. Perfect for being outside, so we decided to rent bicycles and go around Stanley Park. Being Vancouver’s first and largest park, it is a green oasis right beside the city center and its high rise buildings. Just after 5 minutes of cycling, you feel completely disconnected from the busy city life, surrounded by natural rainforest, views of the sea and far away, snowcapped mountains appearing like a mirage with their reflections on the mirror like waters.
To honor the country’s indigenous people, the so called first nations, the government put up traditionally carved totem poles which line the path that goes around the park. The same path will take you along Vancouver’s famous sea wall. That’s probably the best part of the ride as it gives great views of North Vancouver and Lions Gate Bridge and also takes you along some of its picturesque beaches.
Renting a bicycle will cost about $10 to $15 for 4 hours which is enough to tour the park. Bike Shops are widely available around the park area. Just shop around and compare prices.
Indulge in the city’s Asian cuisine
Asian food in Vancouver? Why would I wanna do that, you might think. But trust me, I was also skeptical at first but became a huge fan of the city’s Asian cuisine.
Vancouver is truly multi-cultural and has a huge Asian population with the major groups coming from China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. They all brought their unique and traditional cuisines with them and established Vancouver as one of the top spots for Asian food outside of Asia. The culinary scene in Vancouver is one of the most diverse I have seen and the good thing is that the food is very authentic. Here in Europe, Asian restaurants have adapted their dishes to the European gusto whereas in Vancouver traditional recipes are still prevailing – probably due to the fact that they cater to their own countrymen and women. The Korean, Chinese and Japanese food I tried was absolutely fantastic and the Phở Bò was probably the best I’ve had outside of Vietnam.
Spend a day at Granville Island
Imagine an island in the middle of the city. That’s Granville Island. What used to be an industrial manufacturing area is now a trendy urban oasis buzzing with a lively artistic community. Granville Island is under the south end of Granville Street Bridge which connects Downtown Vancouver with Kitsilano and because it’s in the middle of the city, the Island is super easy to get to. Granville Island features cafés, theaters, galleries, craft studios, waterfront restaurants and the famous farmer’s market which is open 7 days a week. Here you can buy fresh fruit, all kinds of local produce or sample freshly made fudge or a warm muffin. With a coffee to go with it you can relax in the waterfront courtyard and listen to some of the professional buskers. From Granville Island you can also hop on one of the regular Aquabuses which will take you on a scenic trip along False Creek.
Explore Gastown by night
Gastown is a historic quarter of Vancouver, close to the city’s harbor. This district’s streets are lined with Victorian buildings that today house galleries, boutiques, studios, bars and restaurants. It’s this mix of historic charm and hip vibrancy that gives Gastown its special atmosphere. At night the quarter is illuminated by its characteristical street-lamps, dipping the cobblestone streets in a warm glow. Gastown’s most famous landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. What was built to harness the steam coming from an underground grate and keep people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather, has now become an iconic landmark.
Finish your day around Gastown and check out some of the native galleries and grab a cold beer and some chicken wings at one of the many bars around. But don’t venture too far as Hastings Street to the North can be quite dodgy at night.
Vancouver residents just love their coffee and they go about it with a passion. At almost every corner you will find a coffee shop, from small and cozy to spacious and trendy. The baristas take their job serious and will create all kinds of the tasty brew for every taste. Whether it’s sweet and creamy or strong and invigorating – they will have the right caffeine fix for you. And most of the time it comes accompanied by a home baked sweet treat.
Talking about treats. Don’t leave Vancouver without having tried the breakfast Canada is famous for – pancakes with maple syrup. It’s sweet, it’s filling, it’s typically Canadian and it tastes great. Try IHOP, the International House of Pancakes where the name says it all.
Vancouver is a great city which is so diverse that it offers something for every kind of taste. Whether it is a lively nightlife, beaches, outdoor activities or good food – Vancouver will probably have it. Another great thing is that the city has some of Canada’s real highlights right at its doorstep. Skiing in Whistler, exploring or surfing Vancouver Island and trekking some of British Columbia’s national parks. I totally believe that Vancouver is one of the world’s most livable cities. However. the only downturn is that it is pretty expensive. It is actually North America’s most expensive city to live in, ahead of New York City and Los Angeles. So make sure to come with a well stocked travel budget.
Have you been to Vancouver? What are your favorite activities in one of the most liveable cities of the world? Let us know and leave a comment below.