Our family is one of those who live all over the world, which is both lovely but also not because it means we don’t get to see each other often. My mum and my sister and nephews live in Edmonton, Alberta, and I planned to visit them at the end of August. As there are no direct flights from London to Edmonton, I had to fly via another city so thought I’d take advantage and visit another city in Canada! That city was Vancouver.
I flew my mum over from Edmonton to spend the long weekend with me and we stayed downtown at the Four Seasons. We both landed at around 7pm so by the time we got to the hotel and checked in, it was time for dinner. The hotel suggested Joey Bentall One which was a five minute walk away and I’m so glad they did because it was great! This was definitely one of the best meals we had in Vancouver.
After dinner it was off to bed (as it was about 4am London time). Of course jet lag had me awake at about 7am though… but that just meant more time to explore the city.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great on the Friday. It was quite grey and rainy at times, although apparently Vancouver rains a lot. After breakfast, we decided to just explore the various areas of Vancouver. Here’s what we got up to.
Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood and grew from a single tavern in 1867. Today it’s a trendy, bustling neighbourhood full of bars, restaurants and achingly cool shops but still retains its historic charm. It’s in the north of downtown and runs from Richards east to Main Street, and south to Hastings Street.
Close to Gastown is Vancouver’s Chinatown, which dates back to 1890. A real highlight of Chinatown – and really unusual too – is a visit to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It’s an absolutely beautiful, tranquil garden right in the heart of a bustling city. It’s also a cultural centre where you can learn about Chinese culture and partake in a tea ceremony.
Don’t miss a stroll down Shanghai Alley, which is like going back in time. In the early days of the city, Chinese immigrants settled in this alley, which then developed into Chinatown. Today it’s a bit like a living museum, with plaques along the street sharing the history of the Alley.
For lunch, we headed to Yaletown, which was once the last stop on the Western end of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Now it’s a chic neighbourhood with a warehouse shopping district and sidewalk cafes and restaurants.
We had lunch at Wild Tale which was nice but nothing to shout about unfortunately. Lovely restaurant but the food was lacking.
After lunch we walked back towards our hotel and did a bit of shopping. Whenever I’m in the States I have to visit Old Navy because often they have great items at really reasonable prices – plus we don’t have them in the UK so I’m pretty much guaranteed no one will have the same outfit back home! I bought a really lovely dress and also a top for gym.
For dinner that night we hopped in a taxi and headed to the neighbourhood of Kitsilano for dinner at Maenam, which is a Thai restaurant. Being a Friday night, the place was buzzing and the food and service were great.
Luckily the weather on the Saturday was better than the day before – the sun even came out! So what did we get up to?
Previously an industrial wasteland, Granville Island is now home to shops, restaurants, a bustling daily market, a theatre, a museum, a brewery and more! You can drive to Granville Island but the funnest way to get there is by Aquabus.
The public market has over 50 independent stalls and is a renowned culinary destination. As well as buying things to take home, there are also lots of foods stalls where you can grab lunch. It’s all under cover so worth a visit even if the weather isn’t great.
After a bite to eat for lunch from the market, we hopped on the Aquabus towards the Olympic Village.
One of my highlights was a ride in the Aquabus along False Creek, which is a short inlet that separates downtown Vancouver from the rest of the city. We got on at Granville Island and got off at the Olympic Village stop, which took around 15 minutes or so. The views were just lovely! And because the water never freezes over, the Aquabuses run all year round.
When you alight at the Olympic Village stop, you get a great view of Science World. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to visit it but there’s one in Edmonton which my mum says is fab so put it on your list if you do go – particularly if you have children.
Olympic Village is a neighbourhood which – you guessed it – was the Olympic Village for athletes in the 2010 Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympics. To be honest, there’s not loads to see here although the giant sculptures, The Birds by Myfanwy MacLeod, are pretty cool.
What is great about the Olympic Village area is that you can walk or cycle 2.9 km along False Creek and the views are really something.
The last area we visited in Vancouver was Coal Harbour, which used to be a former shipyard and is now a pretty upscale neighbourhood with a marina and views of the North Shore mountains. We decided to do a harbour tour, which is a one-hour tour around the harbour, passing Gastown, the busy cruise ship terminals and more.
If I’m really honest, I didn’t think the tour was worth it. It was about $80 per person and as it’s a working harbour, a lot of what we saw was quite ugly! If you want to travel by water, definitely choose the Aquabus! That was only around $6 per person and the views of the skyline far surpassed the harbour tour.
The entrance to the famous Stanley Park was right near the harbour tour but it was already fairly late so we didn’t go and see it (also, it’s 400 hectars!). If I go back to Vancouver, I’d like to hire a bike and cycle around the park as it sounds amazing.
For only two full days in Vancouver I think my mum and I covered quite a lot actually! I really loved Vancouver – it’s a great city and well worth a visit if you’re planning a trip to Canada.