A Travel Guide to Vancouver Neighborhoods

Vancouver hardly needs an introduction. With picturesque mountains framing a modern glass cityscape, and a backyard consisting of the great Pacific Northwest, Vancouver is easily considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s bursting with multiculturalism, coffee shops, umbrellas, and rain boots.

And, if you happen to catch the city on a sunny day, Vancouver will easily fall into your category of favorite destinations.

Each Vancouver neighborhood is unique and has something to offer for visitors and locals alike. From the bustling downtown core to the colorful streets of Chinatown to the laid back vibe of Kitsilano, these neighborhoods all deserve to be fully explored. Below you'll find a curated list of the best places and things to eat and see in Vancouver's most interesting neighborhoods!


Downtown

(including Coal Harbour, Yaletown and the West End)

Downtown Vancouver is an area that is often referred to as a laid back west coast “mini Manhattan” that contains plenty of attractions and things to do. Although this is clearly the most tourist-y area, it’s still a must see.

Eat

Sala Thai Known for its flavorful Thai dishes, Sala Thai is a family run restaurant located right in the heart of downtown on Burrard Street. It's the go to place to fully enjoy authentic dishes loaded with Thai staples such as lemongrass, chili, and fragrant spices.

Bella Gelateria Rarely without a line up in the summer months, waiting for gelato at Bella Gelateria is entirely worth it. A cafe that serves handcrafted flavors like Lavender & Earl Grey and Vegan Lemon Matcha, their gelato is arguably the best in the city.

Simba's Grill A one of a kind place on Denman Street, Simba's Grill serves mouth watering East African fusion. Simba's chicken tenders are perfection.

Mom's Grilled Cheese The street food scene has grown tremendously in Vancouver over the last few years. Specializing in home style gourmet grilled cheese, Mom's Grilled Cheese is the ideal stop to satisfy a comfort food craving on a rainy day.

Stepho's Greek Big portions, reasonable prices, delicious, fast service. What more is there to say about Stepho's?

Medina Cafe Vancouver's favorite brunch spot. Head to Medina Cafe extra early to catch a table on the weekend or try to visit on a week day to skip the lines. Don't miss out on their signature Belgian waffles and unique caffeinated beverages like the Lavender Latte.

See

Stanley Park An 8.8km seawall, 400-hectare rainforest, beautiful beaches, wildlife, and restaurants make this huge public park hard to beat. TripAdvisor rated Stanley Park as the “#1 public park in the world” in 2014. It's easy to spend a whole day roaming around in this huge green playground.

Vancouver Art Gallery Store One of the hidden gems of downtown Vancouver, the gallery store in the Vancouver Art Gallery contains an extensive collection of art books, games, jewelry, paper goods, and little knickknacks. Although you can visit the store without visiting the gallery, take advantage of Tuesday night (5-9pm) when admission to the gallery is by donation.

Vancouver Seawall Nearly a century old, the Vancouver seawall is the world’s largest uninterrupted seaside path. Totaling 28km, you can walk, bike, or run the seawall all the way around downtown, Stanley Park, False Creek and Kitsilano. 

Library Built like a modern day Colosseum, the Vancouver Public Library is architecturally gorgeous and contains an inner courtyard with cafes and eateries to relax in.

Vancouver Lookout For a 360° view of the city, there is no better place than the Vancouver Lookout. Head up on a sunny day to marvel at the mountains, ocean, and skyline. For an extra special meal, you can also dine at the top in the revolving restaurant.


Gastown

Originally the birthplace of Vancouver, today Gastown is home to beautifully restored heritage buildings, unique galleries, one of a kind boutiques, intimate restaurants and bars, numerous coffee shops, and one infamous steam clock. It's especially pretty to visit at night when the old school street lamps and twinkling lights strung in the trees illuminate the brick buildings on Water Street.

Eat

La Casita A casual, friendly restaurant located on Abbott Street, La Casita serves some of the most authentic Mexican food in the city. Sit down, enjoy a margarita, and don't miss out on the tortilla soup.

Deacon's Corner A retro style diner, Deacon's Corner offers classic breakfast items and a hearty lunch menu. Although this diner is always busy for weekend brunch, the wait times usually aren't unbearably long. 

Trees Organic Coffee The perfect spot for people watching on Water Street, Trees Organic Coffee not only has some of the best organic coffee, but they also serve several different varieties of cheesecake that are hard to resist.

Tacofino What originally began as a food truck business on Vancouver Island, has morphed into one of the most beloved taco eateries in the city. Tacofino is best known for their delicious Baja-inspired fish tacos.

Water Street Cafe A small and intimate restaurant right across from the steam clock, Water Street Cafe is probably one of the most romantic places to eat in the city.

The Juice Truck Located at the corner of Abbott and Water Street, The Juice Truck is Vancouver's first cold pressed juice company. With a focus on sourcing their produce locally and organically, you can expect juices that are not only good for you, but also packed with flavor.

See

Meadow Gifts & Apparel Cute cards, locally made clothing, artwork, posters, socks, candles and more can be found in Meadow Gifts & Apparel, a hole-in-the-wall shop located right on Water Street.

Crab Park Walk through quiet Crab Park for a view of the Vancouver skyline, the white sails of Canada Place, the North Shore mountains, and the gritty industrial side of Gastown.

Lynn Steven Worth a visit purely to check out the one of a kind change room, Lynn Steven is a local boutique that sells unique and fashionable women's clothing and has friendly, helpful sales staff.

Steam Clock Always a hit with visitors, the steam clock whistles a little tune every fifteen minutes.

Tees.ca Reasonably priced soft cotton t-shirts can be found at Tees.ca. The shirts are covered in cool prints that range from old book covers to movie posters.

Gassy Jack John Deighton, also known as "Gassy Jack", was a Gastown bar owner in the 19th century. Today, he is a Vancouver legend with his very own statue in Maple Tree Square, where Alexander, Carrall, Water and Powell Street meet.

Kimprints Art store, custom framers, assorted gifts and greeting cards, Kimprints is your all in one store for art curiosities.


Chinatown

Colorful, detailed, and full of history, Vancouver's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in Canada. With street and shop signs in Chinese, bright red lanterns dangling from buildings, and a gorgeous and well cared for Chinese Garden, Chinatown is truly one of the most unique neighborhoods in Vancouver.

Eat

Phnom Penh A hidden gem tucked away on East Georgia Street, Phnom Penh is a must for foodies or anyone with an appreciation for a good meal. Don't miss their signature garlic chicken wings, and be sure to arrive early as there is always a long line during dinner.

Calabash Bistro With regular live music, spicy jerk chicken, and down to earth staff, Calabash Bistro is a reggae infused restaurant that will make you feel as if you've been transported to a fun Caribbean island.

The Keefer Bar A swanky little hidden gem right in the heart of Chinatown, the award winning Keefer Bar excels in apothecary style cocktails.

See

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden Famed for being the first of its kind built outside of China, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is an oasis in the heart of Vancouver.

Sam Kee Building Recognized by Guinness World Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not! as the shallowest commercial building in the world, the Sam Kee Building has a ground to floor depth of 1.5 meters and houses an insurance office.

Self guided walking tour The best way to explore Chinatown is on foot. Notable stops of interest include the Millennium Gate, Shanghai Alley, West Han Dynasty Bell, and the Chinese Garden.


Mount Pleasant

An up and coming neighborhood that was once home to early industry in Vancouver, today Mount Pleasant contains interesting heritage buildings, an eclectic shopping district, and several arts focused festivals.

EAT

Milano Coffee Awarded several times by the International Institute of Coffee Roasters, Milano Coffee owner Brian Turko has created signature caffeinated beverages by using Italian roasting techniques and innovative blending. Milano Coffee is also the only place in Vancouver that offers a espresso tasting bar, allowing guests to sample eight different espressos at any given time.

Los Cuervos Graphic colorful walls, intimate and cozy tables, this taqueria and cantina serves the best tacos in Vancouver. From deep fried avocado to bison steak to caramelized cauliflower, Los Cuervos tacos are to die for.

Our Town Cafe There are few places in Vancouver that are more perfect than Our Town Cafe in Mount Pleasant to spend an afternoon in. A coffee shop by day, a small event venue by night, Our Town offers a collection of good coffees, gooey cinnamon buns, couches, mismatched chairs, board games, and books to keep you entertained for a couple of hours.

Swiss Bakery It may not look like much from the outside, but this European style bakery is a treasure chest of baked goods. Head to Swiss Bakery to try their best selling frissant, a fritter and croissant hybrid much like the popular American cronut, with two different varieties offered daily. 

Cartem's Donuterie A great place to take a break, Cartem's uses locally sourced ingredients to make their signature donut flavors like Earl Grey and Canadian Whiskey Bacon.

SEE

Dude Chilling Park A sign installation in Guelph Park, originally created as a prank, now has official public art status in Vancouver and is a great photo opportunity for the visitor seeking a unique souvenir to take home.

John's Jukes Equal parts nostalgic and magical, John's Jukes is a curious little shop specializing in arcade games, video games, and pinball machines.

False Creek A short inlet in the heart of the city, False Creek separates downtown from the rest of Vancouver and is the perfect place to go for a walk past Science World, Olympic Village, all the way to Granville Island and Kitsilano.

Historical Walking Tour "Since the early 1990’s, Mount Pleasant has undergone an amazing transformation, with local, hip businesses moving into the area and the escalating process of gentrification changing the whole landscape of the community as East becomes the new West" states the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area. Explore more of the neighborhood with a historical self guided walking tour highlighting the key buildings in the area. A downloadable map can be found here.

Olympic Village During the 2010 Winter Olympics, this village accommodated over 2800 athletes, coaches, and officials. Today, Olympic Village is as a residential area with a scenic location right on the False Creek seawall. Olympic Village is five minutes away from Science World and a 15 minute walk from Granville Island.


Kitsilano

The flower child of Vancouver, Kitsilano is full of green spaces, quiet residential areas, a popular shopping street full of local businesses, one beloved beach, and over 15 public parks. Known among locals simply as “Kits”, this laid back neighborhood is perfect for a day shopping, sun bathing, or simply relaxed exploring.

EAT

49th Parallel Coffee A local coffee chain with great drinks and a cozy cafe interior, 49th Parallel ethically sources their beans and aims to work with the same producers year after year.

Lucky's Donuts Created by the team behind 49th Parallel Coffee, at Lucky's Donuts you'll find some of the tastiest and freshest donuts around. Original flavors include Coconut Bismarck and Orange Pistachio Honey. Mmm!

Nuba One of the best lunch spots in Vancouver, Nuba is an authentic Lebanese style taverna that serves a ton of delicious vegan and gluten free dishes. Don't miss out on trying the Najib's Special plate, crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon and salt, served with house made tahini.

Beaucoup Bakery & Café A French infused bakery that specializes in croissants, Beaucoup Bakery & Café is the pastry and coffee lover's idea of heaven.

Tractor Foods A bright and neat cafeteria style eatery that serves healthy and creative dishes. Tractor Foods also has a nice patio for people watching on West 4th.

See

Museum of Vancouver Located in beautiful Vanier Park right by the ocean, the Museum of Vancouver looks like some kind of futuristic space ship. Sharing its facilities with the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, the museum houses several permanent exhibitions, as well as a few changing temporary collections, that aim to deepen your understanding of Vancouver through stories, objects and shared experiences.

Greek Day One day each summer, several blocks of Broadway are closed down to hold Greek Day, a festival that aims to share Greek culture with everyone. Live music, food and drink vendors, and entertainment fill the streets.

Kitsilano Beach Popular among locals, Kits Beach is the perfect summer hang out spot with views of downtown, the North Shore mountains, and Stanley Park.

Vancouver Maritime Museum Ahoy! For history buffs interested in Canada's Pacific port, this Maritime Museum is the place to go. Exhibits and collections not only feature Vancouver, but also the rest of the world, as well as various naval expeditions.


Commercial Drive

Multicultural and colorful, “The Drive” feels as if it’s a community separate from the rest of the city. Located in the heart of East Vancouver, Commercial Drive contains a plethora of ethnic restaurants, European style cafes, and heritage buildings.  

EAT

Turk's Coffee A hole in the wall coffee shop located right on Commercial Drive, Turk's Coffee makes unbeatable hot and iced beverages. They are also the creators of the ultimate summer drink: the Turksicle. Just try it, you won't regret it.

Marcello Pizzeria Aside from the outstanding Neapolitan style pizza and homemade gnocchi, Marcello has one of the coolest kitchens around, featuring a giant Sun God oven that roasts the pizzas.

JJ Bean Some might say that this local chain brews the best coffee, but JJ Bean is also the go to spot for the creamiest hot chocolate.

Sula Indian As soon as you step through the door, the smell of exotic spices ensnares you. Sula Indian serves the finest Indian food in town, with plenty of vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and dairy free dishes listed in their menu. For a sweet treat after dinner try one of their delicious chai teas.

Absinthe Bistro An intimate 22-seat restaurant with a French menu composed of three starters, three entrees, and three desserts that changes on a regular basis and is reasonably priced, Absinthe Bistro is a must for anyone looking for the best food and service in a familiar environment. Officially my favorite restaurant in all of Vancouver.

Cafe Calabria Not only a great Italian coffee shop, but also a kitschy experience that must be had. Don't miss visiting Cafe Calabria around Valentine's Day (you'll see).

See

Italian Day on the Drive Originally dubbed "Little Italy", Commercial Drive has deep Italian roots. The neighborhood celebrates it's heritage each year by hosting Italian Day, a giant street party spanning thirteen blocks on one Sunday in June. Expect to find a cultural festival with street performers, live music, food vendors, and a sea of white, red, and green.

Gatley A sweet little women's clothing boutique offering many fashions by Canadian designers, jewelry, cards, hats, and scarves. The customer service at Gatley is the right mix of friendliness and advice without being pushy. 

Artrageous Pictures and Framing Numerous pieces of artwork and prints adorn the walls of Artrageous, a custom picture framing and art store that carries unique cards and gifts, and can take care of all your framing needs with personalized service.

York Theatre A 100-year old restored stage located on the north end of Commercial Drive, the York Theatre hosts musical, dance, and theatre performances on a regular basis. 

Trout Lake Farmer's Market Not technically on the Drive, but close enough, the Trout Lake Farmer's Market is one of Vancouver's largest and most well known farmer's markets. Stop on by from May to October for free range eggs, organic meats, fresh vegetables, Okanagan fruits, food trucks, and local coffee.


Vancouver is the square root of negative one. Technically it shouldn't exist, but it does. I can't imagine living anywhere else.

- Douglas Coupland


 

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Each Vancouver neighborhood is unique and has something to offer visitors and locals alike. Here is a curated list of the best places to eat at and visit in Vancouver's most interesting neighborhoods.