Tips + Trends

A First-Timer’s Tour of Vancouver’s Iconic Neighborhoods

Grab dinner and drinks in the once-industrial Yaletown neighborhood. (Photo: Alamy)

Flying into Vancouver is a testament to the city’s vibrancy. As the plane dips toward land, you’ll see ocean waves lapping against the shore and fir trees lining the landing strip. The smell of salty air is the first to greet you upon deplaning. You’ve arrived in “Vancity,” as some locals call it, and your spectacular landing is just the beginning of what’s to come.

First-time visitors find Vancouver has no shortage of places to see, things to do and food to taste. It would be a challenge to try and see everything at once, but there are a few must-sees.

Explore Vancouver’s Oldest Neighborhood

The northeast side of downtown Vancouver is Gastown, one of the city’s oldest districts. On the corner of Water Street and Cambie Street sits one of the city’s best-known attractions, the Steam Clock. Powered by steam, the clock is one of Gastown’s main points of interest, but don’t get too caught up here.

Instead, opt to check out some of the neighborhood’s eclectic shops, like the John Fluevog shoe store, and stop at Revolver coffee shop for your fix of espresso. Walk up Cambie Street to Purebread bakery and indulge in a delicious treat like a cinnamon bun or their popular coconut loaf.

Bike to Stanley Park from English Bay

Vancouver neighborhoods
Spending time in the great outdoors is a must when exploring Vancouver neighborhoods. (Photo: Alamy)

If you’re looking for an easy way to work off the baked goods, head to English Bay, west of downtown Vancouver, and rent a sea-comber bike, also called a “cruiser” for its large frame and comfortable seat, from one of the many shops.

From here you’re only a minute away from the entrance to Stanley Park. Bike along the bay or, if you want to experience the park, spend an hour riding all the way around it along the seawall.

If you’re not already hooked on Vancouver, this ride will undoubtedly convince you how amazing the city is. See the natural beauty of the ocean lapping up against the seawall and inhale the smell of seawater as you watch boats drift into the harbor.

Don’t forget to look up at the overwhelmingly tall trees that have existed in Stanley Park for hundreds of years.

Shop Till You Drop on Robson Street

Vancouver neighborhoods
There’s no shortage of what to buy on Robson Street. (Photo: Alamy)

Indulge yourself while shopping on Robson Street. The street stretches the entire length of downtown Vancouver, from Stanley Park to BC Place stadium.

The stretch includes the Pacific Centre shopping mall, standalone shops and high-end outlets to peruse if you’re looking to give your wallet a workout. It’s the perfect place to get caught up in the hustle and bustle that makes Vancouver come alive.

Dinner and Drinks in Yaletown

Yaletown is another district of Vancouver with an interesting history. Originally, due to its proximity to the railroad, the neighborhood was an industrial enclave filled with warehouses.

Today, the now-trendy area houses stores, restaurants and other updated commodities, like converted railway platforms along Mainland Street that now serve as walking paths for pedestrians seeking restaurants.

Grab drinks and dinner on one of the many patios available here, from The Keg to Yaletown Brewing Company.

Check Out a Show on Granville Street

Vancouver neighborhoods
After dark, make your way to the neon lights of Granville Street. (Photo: Alamy)

The neon lights along Granville Street beckon, and you’ll be glad if you answer their call. The neighborhood is considered Vancouver’s entertainment district with good reason. The street is dotted with nightclubs, bars and music venues.

See what shows are happening at the historic Orpheum Theatre on your trip. The space hosts everything from contemporary rock and pop bands to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. If you’re looking for a night out on the town, check out The Roxy, a downtown Vancouver club that is known to be a local hot spot.