Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that I’ve never been to Canada’s west coast. Here I am travelling the world, yet I haven’t even seen my country from coast to coast. It is something that did bother me, although most Canadians hesitate to travel within our own nation simply due to the high costs of air tickets plus the time it involves to travel within this vast land.
This summer I decided to change that and booked a week in Vancouver, Canada’s most popular city (after Toronto, I must add).
Vancouver is a small city surrounded by nature. You can easily hang out in the Pacific Ocean and see the Rockies in the distance. It almost feels like you aren’t even in a city sometimes. Stanley Park is a huge urban park with wonderful bike trails, especially by the sea wall. You can rent bikes easily and explore the park for a whole day, visiting beaches, totem poles, small lakes, a rose garden and see lots of wildlife.
I stayed at the Fairmont Hotel for my first few days which provided free bike rentals and it was centrally located that I could check out Vancouver’s main sites on foot.
Canada Place is located right on the waterfront and has informative displays about Canada’s history. This is mostly where the tourists congregate and this city sees a lot of them!
One of my favourite things about this city is the fresh sushi and amazing Asian cuisine in general. For the first time I saw Korean food trucks! They also have amazing grilled cheese food trucks! There is no way you can get bored if you are a foodie.
Unfortunately there is also a lot of homelessness, as in any big Canadian city. However I never felt unsafe even after dark. Also as a Canadian, for the first time I felt the presence of our First Nations history here, from the totem poles which you can see in major areas of the city such as Stanley Park to the art, artifacts, galleries and museums that emphasis this cultural history.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is located in North Vancouver and offers a free shuttle bus from Canada Place. It is well worth the steep admission price as you can easily spend half a day here. They have free guides and the area of this temperate rainforest is simply stunning.
After my first few days of living it up at a 5 star hotel, I couch surfed with my good buddy Patrick in a suburb of Vancouver. Through him I really got to experience the local Van city life of the suburbanites. This is a city where you do need a car as public transport beyond the downtown area isn’t that great. For example, I initially wanted to take the ferry over to Victoria for a couple of days but it was almost impossible to do due to the lack of transportation and connections.
Patrick introduced me to the micro pub culture that is taking Vancouver by storm. Granville Island has the most popular microbrewery (plus a cute market you can visit) but it gets pretty busy with locals and tourists alike. We also visited more smaller micro breweries such as Storm and Callister (meeting some amazing local Vancouverites on the way!). Micro breweries are great because the beer is cheap and locally made with experimental flavours. Plus the community feel makes it welcoming and great cause you want to support. It’s just VERY Canadian!
Queen Elizabeth Park is a beautiful park where you can get a stunning view of the city from. It also has a zip lining option which is pretty popular (my fear of heights prevented me from doing this), and wonderful flower gardens. It’s a popular place for wedding photography and great place to hang out on hot summer days. Another great place to chill out and people watch is Kitsalano Beach (known as Kits by the locals).
Vancouver is a city I could see myself living in, just because of how much nature surrounds it. The people are relaxed probably due to the fresh ocean air, and life just seems more simple and healthy.