Photo credit Tourism Vancouver
Vancouver resident Nikki Bayley builds the best two-day itinerary in town
A glittering glass skyscraper city by the sea, circled by mountains, Vancouver is proud to boast that it was the first to rank among the top 10 of the world’s most liveable cities for five consecutive years.
Even the wildlife agrees: eagles swoop over the soaring Douglas firs in Stanley Park, dolphins and seals swim in the clear waters and whales can be seen a few miles out to sea.
Human residents and visitors alike love the vibrant dining and bar scene, excellent shopping opportunities, lively cultural calendar with year-round festivals and celebrations, and the hiking, biking and winter-time skiing on the doorstep. Welcome to the wonder of the west coast.
08.30: Start the day at Purebread, innovative bakers whose from-scratch creations include delights such as lavender and Earl Grey scones. Coffee comes from Portland’s famous Stumptown beans. purebread.ca
09.00: Work up an appetite by joining the Lululemon yoga-pant-wearing locals and walk the seawall around the waterfront. Head down to Coal Harbour and follow the path west towards Stanley Park. Skirt Lost Lagoon, admiring the honking Canada geese and cute black squirrels and watch out for skunks and raccoons along the way. Walk along Beach Avenue towards the Aquatic Centre to board the False Creek Ferry to Granville Island, which is a short five-minute crossing.
10.30: Granville Island is one of the city’s most popular attractions and its public market is the main draw, pulling in 12.2 million visitors annually. Book a Vancouver Foodie Tours Granville Island Market Tour to sample everything from local charcuterie and cheeses to honey-dipped doughnuts and buttery spiced chai. Just outside you’ll find Canada’s only sake distillery.
12.30: From May to September there is a free shuttle from Canada Place to Grouse Mountain but out of season, a taxi is the fastest option and costs about £16 each way. From the thrill of the Skyride – North America’s longest aerial tramway system up to the summit – to the Eye of the Wind turbine (the only one in the world that allows visitors to travel up to the glass viewing pod), there are plenty of attractions on the mountain as well as just enjoying the trails and stunning views over the city and water.
Seasonal activities such as the world-famous Lumberjack Show and birds of prey demonstration make summer fun and an ice rink, sleigh rides and, of course, skiing and snowboarding, complete the winter programme.
17.00: British Columbian law has changed and Happy Hour is now legal. Celebrate at L’Abattoir in Gastown for cocktails or try Rogue for a local craft beer deal. labattoir.ca
19.30: Dine at Chambar, one of the city’s most popular restaurants, which recently moved premises. Famous for its moules frites and tagines, ask to pair your meal with some of the local Okanagan Valley wines and BC craft beers.
21.30: Stroll to the Gastown area and make for the Revel Room, Pourhouse or Irish Heather for live music and strong drinks.
Photo of Gastown Steam Clock, courtesy of Tourism Vancouver
09.00: Cafe Medina serves one of the city’s best brunches, giving organic and free range egg dishes a Mediterranean flavour, and their Belgian waffles have to-die-for toppings such as white chocolate, pistachio and rosewater or peach and bourbon butterscotch.
10.00: Soak up Canadian culture at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which has an extensive permanent collection of Canadian work – including Emily Carr’s paintings of the forests of the Pacific Northwest – and is also home to a range of excellent visiting collections.
11.00: Just around the corner is the Bill Reid gallery, full of contemporary Northwest Aboriginal art. See gems such as Reid’s original works (which are featured on the Canadian $20 bill), and an intricately carved totem pole.
11.30: Make time for one more attraction before lunch, the Fly Over Canada experience at Canada Place. This ‘flying’ ride offers a full sensory experience of zooming from coast to coast. Tickets cost from £11.
12.00: Pick up a porchetta sandwich (ask for extra crackling) from Meat & Bread and discover why critics regularly hail them the best in the world.
12.30: Continuing the ‘world’s best’ theme, ice cream shop Bella Gelateria is just two blocks away and it won the top prize in Italy’s World Gelato Festival in 2012. Join the queue – don’t worry, lines move fast – to pick from 30 fantastic flavours.
13.00: Hit the shops along Robson Street, between Burrard and Jervis, to pick up designer clothes, bargain north American brands including Banana Republic and Forever 21, souvenir ice hockey jumpers from the Canucks Team Store or maple syrup fudge from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company.
14.30: Meet at the lobby of The Westin Bayshore hotel to board the Sea Vancouver waterfront sightseeing tour, which zooms around Vancouver’s downtown waterfront on a zodiac boat going at a rapid 30mph – and often more – bouncing through the calm water. Fast, fun sightseeing that takes in the city’s skyscrapers, beaches, off shore tankers and parks at a thrilling pace over 90 minutes.
16.30: Relax with ‘buck a shuck’ Vancouver Island oysters and local BC wines and beers for Happy Hour at Joe Fortes, Vancouver’s legendary fish and steak house. In summer the patio is one of the city hotspots, but year-round the great service attracts locals and visitors alike.
19:30: Vancouver is the most ‘Asian’ city outside Asia, with about 43% of Metro Vancouver residents having an Asian heritage. Nowhere is this more evident than in the phenomenal quality of the sushi. Visit a traditional Izakaya – a Japanese casual pub-style restaurant – and discover for yourself. Hapa Izakaya on Coal Harbour serves up award-winning sustainable fish along with crunchy deep-fried delights and fun Asian spirit-themed cocktails.
21.30: After dinner, walk through the streets of Gastown, its trees strung with fairy lights. Join the other tourists for a photo at the steam clock, which whistles every 15 minutes and pose with the statue of Gassy Jack. Then head for a nightcap of a flight of local wines at the Salt Tasting Room, craft beer at The Alibi Room or climb the stairs to The Diamond for some of the best cocktails in town.
Where to stay
The St Regis. This 100-year-old downtown independent Vancouver institution with modern updated rooms offers phenomenal value for money and is just around the corner from the Canada Line direct to Vancouver airport. Double rooms start at £82 and include free worldwide calls, Wi-Fi, a cooked-to-order hot breakfast and gym passes.
Towering over the city is the province’s tallest building. The Shangri-La opened in 2009 and was built with guidance from a feng shui master and designed with Asian influence on the architecture and interior design. Home to the city’s most luxurious spa and the Jean-Georges Vongerichten Market restaurant, the rooms start from £130.
The Fairmont Pacific Rim is perched on the water at Coal Harbour and has possibly the most delicious smelling lobby in the world thanks to its signature ‘Waterfall’ Indian jasmine scent. It is an ultra-modern hotel with a range of high-tech luxe gadgets in every room including bathroom mirrors that turn into TVs, and curtains and lights which are controlled by iPads. The Ofuru rooms have huge Japanese soaking tubs with direct views across the harbour and the seaplanes. Rooms start from £200.
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