A few years ago, I was asked by a travel site to write up ten of my favourite places to visit in Vancouver. Today I received notice that the site is closing (I swear it wasn’t because of me).
They offered to return the piece I’d written, which of course, I’d completely forgotten about.
But, in looking it over, I still think these are some of my best recommendations.
Whether you’re a visitor or a full-time resident, these are some of my Vancouver favourites.
Milano Coffee Roasters is a cafe and roastery, which respects the tradition of roasting premium 100% Aribica coffee beans, for exquisitely crafted Italian coffees. International award-winning coffee by Master Roaster Brian Turko promises, and delivers, smooth rich taste. It is a place for connoisseurs and for all those who want to taste authentic coffee at any time of the day. They also serve pretty tasty sandwiches and pastries.The location on West Eighth Avenue, between Manitoba and Columbia, has a quiet green space view looking north over Jonathan Rogers park. With a big deck, creamy espresso and a laid-back vibe, it’s a different angle on the city.
2. Gallery Café
Gallery Cafe at the Vancouver Art Gallery is a fabulous place for a downtown lunch. With huge and original salads, hot entrees and a rooftop deck, it’s the best place to step up and out of the sidewalk hustle.
They serve European-inspired dishes and West Coast favorites: quiches with shrimp and asparagus or with wild salmon, capers and green onion; salad bowls, fresh soups, the sandwiches and panninis are wonderful.
The Gallery Café is also a good choice for quality coffee. The menu features a carefully curated wine list, with both regional and international labels. A limited choice of aperitifs is offered as well.
3. Creekside Kayaks
Creekside Kayaks is a boat rental company, offering kayak and paddle board rentals, as well as three-hour introductory kayaking lessons. The kayak rental fleet includes Necky Looksha 14 and the tandem Necky Manitou 11.
Creekside Kayaks rentals also include paddles, throw ropes, bilge pumps, boat sponges, spray skirts, and life jacket. Ideally located on the South side of False Creek, Creekside Kayaks gives you the opportunity to enjoy a day of watery fun and a completely different view of the city.
4. English Bay Bike Rentals
English Bay Bike Rentals offer a variety of bikes for all ages, as well as helmets, accessories, and locks, at very affordable prices. This is your go-to destination for junior mountain bikes, children’s bikes, trailers or trail-a-bikes, and much more.
The English Bay Bike Rentals also works with Vancouver Bike Tours to offer guided tours of the city, on Vancouver’s seawall, Stanley Park and the the city’s own grid of bike lanes.
5. Nitobe Memorial Garden
The Nitobe Memorial Garden is considered to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America, with every plant and stone carefully placed throughout the garden. The cherry trees are the biggest attraction here. They bloom in April and May. You can also enjoy a tea ceremony here.
While some of the plants are native to Canada, and have only been grown and pruned to represent the shapes commonly found in traditional Japanese gardens, there are a number of plants brought over from Japan. It’s a beautiful spot to stroll and reflect when you just need a little peace.
Raining? There’s nothing more beautiful than the Nitobe Memorial Gardens on a misty day. Of course, the 2 1⁄2 acres of traditional Japanese garden is pretty haunting and gorgeous in the sun too.
6. Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Take a trip back in time to 15th-century China. The Dr. Sun Yat- Sen Classical Garden seeks harmony through four principal elements: plants, water, rock and architecture. This is a superb oriental garden space everyone visiting Vancouver should experience.
The limestone used throughout is believed to coax lucky spirits to the garden, while the jade-green waterways help show off the carefully landscaped delicate bamboo, winter plum, miniature rhododendron and other imported Chinese plants. With signs of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism everywhere, it’s a serene spot in every season.
7. Granville Island
One of the city’s most popular attractions, Granville Island has shopping for all ages. Weave your way around boutiques, galleries and workshops – some down the most unlikely- looking alleys – to snap up handcrafted shoes, fresh sake, or beautiful blown glass and ceramics.
The Kids Market has child-sized treasures, while Granville Public Market itself has a visually stunning (and tasty) display of BC produce.
There’s a good reason that everyone will tell you to head to Granville Island, it’s fun for both locals and visitors. Work up an appetite and walk a little further on the southwest side of the marina to Go Fish. Great fish and chips and other ocean treats.
8. Go Fish
No time for a big sit-down meal? Then head for Go Fish, snuggled up on the seawall next to Granville Island. This steel-clad shack has the city’s best fish and chips with some yummy twists: the tempura batter on the day’s fresh catch is dipped in local honey lager. It’s all served in baskets along with Pacific Rim slaw or organic greens. And chips – of course. If you want to experience a fun lunch with seafood done right, check it out.
9. Museum of Anthropology
Canada’s largest, the Museum of Anthropology began life in the 1920s in the basement of the UBC library. Designed by Arthur Erickson in 1976, it is modeled to reflect traditional wooden west coast post and beam structures.
Look through the soaring glass walls of the Great Hall and you’ll see some of them in the re-creation of two Haida longhouses in the museum’s grounds. These windows allow the Great Hall’s range of aboriginal sculptures, totem poles, feast dishes and masks to be admired in natural light.
You are also encouraged to touch some exhibits, notably Bill Reid’s cedar bear and sea wolf. Reid (1920-1998) is considered the museum’s most important artist. In addition to works by Reid and Martin, the museum showcases beautiful carvings from First Nations communities of the Pacific Northwest. Even before you get inside you pass two imposing figures by Musqueam and Nuu-chah-nulth artists, and the magnificent wooden doors are by four Gitxsan wood workers, dating from 1976.
Collections from Africa, Asia, Central America and further afield sometimes often sit with the local artifacts, but the museum’s visible storage is another treasure trove, allowing the public to browse through 13,000 objects.
The Museum of Anthropology at UBC is a chance to get up close and personal to some epic totem poles and other incredible displays of arts and culture by First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest.
10. Revel Room
The Revel Room opened its doors in 2008 with the goal of bringing a little bit of Southern hospitality to Vancouver’s funkiest neighborhood in Gastown. The Revel Room features live blues, jazz and rockabilly every Sunday and Wednesday.
The Revel Room serves dishes inspired by the cuisines of the South, from New Mexico to New Orleans. Menu highlights include Bayou gumbo, shrimp jambalaya, and buttermilk fried chicken. There’s also an extensive cocktail list focusing on spirit and bourbon cocktails.
They offer live music six nights a week in a groovy small space. Grab a table and prepare to feel the music.
For more suggestions, visit Tourism Vancouver’s site. It’s full of great ideas.