Explore Hip and Historic Gastown
Gastown is a place of contrasts. Take a walk down Blood Alley and you’ll see what I mean. Look to your left and you’ll find modern lofts and apartments that cost a pretty fortune. Look to your right and you’ll witness homeless people peeing next to smelly overflowing dumpsters.
Stroll down Water Street and you’ll find trendy furniture and clothing shops interspersed with cheesy tourist stores. You can dine in one of the expensive restaurants or grab a donair from a street stall.
Then there is the infamous Steam Clock, but more on that later. First, some backstory on the area.
Gastown was established in 1867 when John "Gassy Jack" Deighton, a barman, opened the first saloon here. “Gassy Jack" received his nickname for his talent in telling tall tales and talking without end. Eventually Gastown was named after him.
Soon Gastown flourished due to the opening of the Hastings sawmill, the seaport, and new trade and commerce. In 1886 Gastown was officially incorporated as the City of Vancouver.
From about the 1930s-1960s Gastown fell into a downward spiral and became known as a stereotypical skid row, similar to what can still be seen today on East Hastings Street.
In the last twenty years, huge efforts have been made to restore much of Gastown to its early glory and this has led to a huge revival and rebirth of the neighborhood. In 2009 it was named a National Historic Site by the government of Canada, thereby protecting its heritage buildings.
The steam clock is a farce! Every time I see fascinated tourists crowded around the clock I want to yell this at them because the clock is actually half powered by electricity. It’s just one of those things that the city likes to keep on the down low since the “steam” clock is Gastown’s most visited attraction.
Also, despite its aged look, the clock was placed in its current spot in 1977 to cover up a steam vent. This was to prevent homeless from sleeping here in cold weather. Not that exciting now is it? Note that the plaque on the steam clock conveniently leaves out this information.
Have a tortilla soup at La Casita, the best Mexican restaurant in the city!
Or stop at The Flying Pig for their delicious gnocchi side dish (head here during happy hour to save on appetizers).
Trees Coffee boasts to have the best cheesecake in town, and I think they might be right. Also, Trees offers a great place to sit outside and do some people watching.
One of my absolute favorite stores in Vancouver is Lynn Steven (225 Carrall Street). Even if you’re not interested in the clothing sold here, at least take a peak inside to check out the unique change room made out of stacked books!
Cute cards, locally made clothing, artwork, posters, socks, candles and more can be found in the tiny shop that is Meadow Gifts & Apparel (104 Water Street).
John Fluevog (65 Water Street) is a must see shoe store, not necessarily because I like the shoes, but because of the incredible glass ceiling wedged in between two heritage buildings.
Reasonably priced soft cotton t-shirts can be found at Tees.ca (227 Abbott Street). The shirts are covered in cool prints that range from old book covers to movie posters to unique designs.