City guide: Vancouver

British Columbia’s largest city offers spectacular views, great food and a thriving business environment.

Keep your camera at the ready when visiting Vancouver. Nearly every part of the city offers spectacular vistas of snow-covered mountain peaks, glittering Pacific Ocean waves or lush redwood forests. And it’s a great city for “doing,” as well as “seeing.” Vancouver boasts gourmet restaurants with influences from around the globe; world-class shopping on Robson Street and Granville Island; and an abundance of outdoor activities including golf, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking. Stanley Park hugs the downtown core and provides a beloved communal backyard for Vancouverites.

The largest city in British Columbia is a business hub, too. Vancouver is Canada’s gateway to the Pacific Rim and home to the country’s busiest seaport. It boasts a robust financial services sector. Other economic drivers include manufacturing, film, technology and tourism.

Getting to and from the airport

Vancouver International Airport is on Sea Island in Richmond, British Columbia, about 12 kilometers (appoximately 7.5 miles) from downtown. The rapid transit Canada Line makes the journey in less than 30 minutes. Trains are accessible from the international and domestic terminals. A single fare is C$2.75 (US$2.14 using the exchange rate US$1 = C$1.28). Visit the Canada Line website for schedule information.

Taxis are available on Level 2 of the arrivals area. A one-way trip downtown costs a flat rate of C$35 (US$27.24).

Your hotel may provide a courtesy shuttle to and from the airport; check the list of participating hotels at pick-up and drop-off areas under the green canopies outside arrivals areas of Level 2 (international terminal) and Level 1 (domestic terminal).

Getting around Vancouver

Vancouver is a walkable city. The downtown core is compact. Attractions and offices are often just steps away from central hotels. It’s easy to hail a taxi from the street or at designated stands throughout the city. Most hotels and restaurants also will call one for you.

The city’s public transportation system is convenient and accessible. Buses run on highly used routes from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., and limited bus service is available during other hours. The SkyTrain automated light rapid transit system offers service on three lines. Trains depart every two to five minutes between 5:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. Stations enable passengers to connect to bus routes for transportation throughout the city. A public ferry called the SeaBus provides service across the Burrard Inlet, connecting Vancouver with Lonsdale Quay on the North Shore. The journey takes 12 minutes, and the final ferry leaves Lonsdale at 1 a.m. Check out the TransLink website for a handy trip-planning tool connecting various modes of transit.

SkyTrain and SeaBus are divided into three fare zones, while bus fares carry a flat rate regardless of distance traveled. A single zone fare is C$2.75 (US$2.14). A DayPass can be purchased at all SkyTrain stations for C$9.75 (US$7.58) and allows for unlimited travel across all three zones.

Where to stay

For luxury and upscale hotel options, try Fairmont Pacific Rim (101038 Canada Place; Ph: 1-604-695-5300), The Westin Grand Vancouver (433 Robson St.; Ph: 1-604-602-1999), Hyatt Regency Vancouver (655 Burrard St.; Ph: 1-604-683-1234).

Midscale and economy options include Best Western Plus Uptown Hotel (205 Kingsway; Ph: 1-604-267-2000), Ramada Vancouver Downtown (1221 Granville St.; Ph: 1-604-685-1111), Super 8 Vancouver (725 Southeast Marine Drive; Ph: 1-604-321-6611).

Things to see and do

A trip to Vancouver isn’t complete without a visit to Stanley Park. It’s one of the largest urban parks in North America at about 1,000 acres. The park has an excellent network of bicycle paths; bike rentals are available at the west Georgia Street entrance. A stroll along the Seawall offers breathtaking waterfront views and will take you past an impressive totem pole display on Brockton Point. Hit the links at the Stanley Park Pitch & Putt golf course. Eighteen holes are bordered by a beautiful rhododendron garden. A single round is C$12.95 (US$10.03). If you packed your swimsuit, make a stop at Second Beach. The picturesque spot has concession stands, washrooms and lifeguards on duty during the summer.

The Vancouver Aquarium also is in the park. It’s Canada’s largest aquarium, housing over 70,000 sea and land creatures including otters, sloths, eels, dolphins and more. Educational exhibits will expand your knowledge of marine biology. Entry is C$36 (US$27.89). It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check the website for holiday hours.

The Museum of Anthropology is worth visiting just to see the exquisitely designed building perched between the mountains and oceans. But its prize feature is a world-renowned collection of First Nations art. The Vancouver Art Gallery’s touring exhibitions change quarterly, so you never know what great art you might find. Plus, the permanent exhibit of famed Canadian painter Emily Carr is unforgettable.

Granville Island—technically a sandspit, not an island—is a hub of activity and the perfect place to spend a few hours or even an entire day. Pick up gourmet teas, fresh seafood or local produce at the lively food market, open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Then have a picnic to enjoy your purchases. Head to Railspur Alley to watch glassblowers, jewelers, potters and painters at work in the many studios. The streets are lined with boutiques selling unique gifts, regional wines and fine textiles.

Where to eat

Alexander Crouse, BCD Travel’s senior manager of Travel Technology, is proud to call Vancouver home and happy to offer suggestions for where to dine in his city.

“Picking a place for sushi in Vancouver is overwhelming—you can’t walk more than a block or two without passing a restaurant serving it. But if you want high-quality sushi at an affordable price, the easy choice is Shiro,” Alexander said.  The establishment is understated and small, but the cuisine is divine. Melt-in-your-mouth tuna and fresh wild salmon will satisfy the most refined palates. And the friendly staff will make you want to come back for more. Find it at 3096 Cambie St.; Ph: 1-604-874-0027.

For delicious British-style fish and chips, take Alexander’s advice and head to The Fish Counter. “It’s simple, but oh so good,” he said. The signature dish is fried in clean oil and covered in a crisp, micro-brewed beer batter. The Fish Counter supports the Ocean Wise program, which champions sustainable seafood programs. It’s at 3825 Main St.; Ph: 1-604-876-3474.

Brunch lovers should stop in at Chambar, which Alexander said offers the best waffles in the city. If you’re looking for something light, order the bon matin—prosciutto, tomato, avocado, brie and soft boiled egg on sourdough. A heartier option is the fricassee—braised short ribs, balsamic onions, potatoes, watercress, fried eggs and apple wood smoked cheddar. It’s at 568 Beatty St.; Ph: 1-604-879-7119.

Alexander also recommends Bao Bei. Located in Chinatown, the brasserie’s menu has influences from Shanghai and Taiwan. Dishes are made for sharing, so bring a group. The steamed prawn dumplings and crispy pork belly are particularly good. Save some time before or after your meal to explore the food stalls, beautiful lanterns and historical buildings of the Chinatown neighborhood. Find Bao Bei at 163 Keefer St.; Ph: 1-604-688-0876.

“For special occasions, there’s nowhere better than The Teahouse in Stanley Park,” Alexander said. “You can stroll around the park, enjoy exquisite sea views and indulge in a gourmet meal. What more could you ask for?” It’s at 7501 Stanley Park Drive; Ph: 1-604-669-3281.

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