Following our 24 Hour Guides to Berlin and Williamsburg, we present our latest installment, this time taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Vancouver’s famed vistas are the stuff of postcards. Framed by the soaring North Shore mountains and the great Pacific Ocean, the Canadian city is one of the world’s most beautiful metropolises, and visitors are just as likely to encounter evergreen trees, glassy lakes and pristine beaches as they are office towers and bustling traffic. Not surprisingly, the laid-back coastal city consistently scores well on quality of life surveys and lures in throngs of tourists each year, many of them enamored by its picture-perfect Pacific Northwest setting and wealth of outdoor attractions.
Look past the umbrellas, yoga studios and skyrocketing housing prices, and there’s plenty to love about the City of Glass. It’s a relatively young urban center with a compact, even walkable, downtown area and a resilient manufacturing industry that remains a driving force in the economy. The food scene is vibrant and varied, driven by talented chefs and unbelievably fresh produce. Cafés are plentiful and the overall caffeine scene is strong. There is a small, but world-class crop of brands and retailers that has sprung up in recent years. And what the city lacks in population density or cultural prestige it makes up for in diversity -- Vancouver is expected to be a “majority minority” city by 2017, and there are few places in the world where fresh sushi and quality skiing are equally abundant. Vancouver, in short, has all the trappings of a great holiday destination, and to make finding the top spots easier, we’ve selected a handful of the city’s best, with special consideration for convenience and, of course, quality.
Hotel: The Burrard 1100 Burrard Street Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y7
Housed in a freshly renovated 1956 motor inn, The Burrard is one of Vancouver’s most stylish and distinctive boutique hotels. Each of the rooms mixes retro influences with modern design touches -- including in-room amenities like HDTV flat screens and free wireless -- while a palm-shaded courtyard oasis and cafe are revamped versions of a '60s garden and cocktail bar, respectively. The hotel also occupies one of downtown Vancouver’s best locations, which means several of the following recommendations are easily within reach. Just grab one of the The Burrard’s complimentary Brooklyn Cruiser bicycles -- and a free umbrella -- and go.
Breakfast: The Templeton 1087 Granville Street Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L2
The Templeton promises “quality food and snappy service,” and the throwback Canadian diner delivers on both fronts. Located on Granville Street, just minutes away from The Burrard, this tastefully-retro breakfast institution serves up heaping portions of fresh, local ingredients -- including Hills natural free run, non-medicated eggs, handmade specialty turkey sausage and Hertel’s naturally-smoked, preservative free bacon -- while its affordable price points, vintage jukeboxes and worn leather booths hark back to the good ol’ days.
Site Seeing: The Seawall Stanley Park Drive Vancouver
The Seawall invariably shows up on every tourist’s itinerary and with good reason -- the 22-kilometer paved route flanks the city’s entire inner waterfront and reveals some of its most breathtaking vistas. While the mountains draw their fair share of tourists and die-hard outdoorsy types, the Seawall remains Vancouver’s most popular year-round recreational spot and a favorite haunt of local joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers and nature lovers alike. More importantly, the storied, nearly century-old path sits right on the city’s doorstep, looping around historic Stanley Park and connecting it to downtown Vancouver. Burn off the calories from breakfast with a brisk jog or better yet, save precious time by taking that Cruiser on an extended joyride.
Also check out: Gastown, Granville Island, English Bay Beach, Vancouver Art Gallery, U.B.C. Museum of Anthropology
Park: Stanley Park Vancouver, V6G 1Z4
Stanley Park is much more than just the Seawall, however, and the city’s first -- and most famous -- park has plenty to offer. Surrounded by water and conveniently located on a peninsula at the northwestern edge of downtown Vancouver, it’s a green oasis within the city’s urban confines, and one can easily spend a lazy afternoon wandering the park’s myriad paths under a canopy of century-old trees. The 1,000-acre expanse of cedars, firs and hemlocks, beaches and gardens is also home to Canada's largest aquarium, a totem pole display at Brockton Point and numerous historic relics, making Stanley Park one of the city's best-loved -- and for solitary types, best-avoided -- tourist destinations.
Also check out: Lighthouse Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, Crab Park, Whytecliff Park
Lunch: Kingyo 871 Denman Street Vancouver, V6G 2L9
No visit to Vancouver is complete without a good Japanese meal and Kingyo still sets the standard for casual izakaya fare. Located in the West End, just minutes from Stanley Park and English Bay, the small plate specialist serves up innovative riffs on Japanese tapas, along with ocean-fresh sashimi and a well-curated sake menu. The service is loud and friendly, and the stone-walled room -- dressed up tastefully with dark, lacquered wood -- toes the line between trendy and traditional. And, while the restaurant fills up quickly for dinner, Kingyo’s lunch remains vastly underrated, with a menu that offers beautiful ingredients and impeccable technique at bang-for-your-buck price points. Try your luck with the limited-quantity assorted deluxe bento box, or go for readily available standbys like the tonkatsu or pork belly combos, chef’s choice sashimi platter or one of several fish-on-rice bowls.
Shopping: HAVEN 52 East Cordova Street Vancouver, V6A 1K2
HAVEN -- the Chmielewski brothers’ wonderfully curated men’s retailer -- may have launched in Edmonton, Alberta, but the duo’s Vancouver location has become a mainstay in the local retail scene. Recently removed from a discrete Blood Alley shop front and now occupying a century-old historical building on the edge of Gastown, HAVEN’s new digs showcase clean, contemporary elements to go with the original space’s rich heritage and character. But while the shop’s location may have shifted, the impeccably-edited product selection remains, juxtaposing Nike Sportswear with cult Japanese brands like visvim and local favorites such as Reigning Champ, Wings + Horns and Arc’teryx Veilance.
Coffee: Matchstick Coffee Roasters 213 East Georgia Street Vancouver, V6A 4J7
Part of a recent explosion of specialty coffee shops in the city, Matchstick Coffee Roasters’ newest space is located on the fringes of Chinatown, just a few blocks from HAVEN and down the street from Vancouver foodie favorites, Phnom Penh and Mamie Taylor’s. The cavernous, but cozy room is simple, bright and airy, and furnished with communal-style wooden tables and little red stools. But make no mistake; it’s the handcrafted, single-origin coffee menu that’s the real draw, along with flaky pastries and lighter fare made from organic, seasonal and local ingredients. In short, it’s the perfect spot for a breather, quick bite and jolt of caffeine to get you through the evening.
Dinner: The Farmer’s Apprentice 1535 West 6th Avenue Vancouver, V6J 1R1
Something of a hole-in-the-wall, The Farmer’s Apprentice requires a bit of a detour -- it’s located in the laid-back, beachy neighborhood of Kitsilano -- but it’s one well worth taking. The 28-seat room is dedicated to Chef David Gunawan’s pared-down, produce-driven cooking, which makes use of seasonal, hyper-local ingredients to consistently create some of the most exciting dishes in the city. As a result, the restaurant’s imaginative menu changes almost daily and the only real constants are surprising combinations, Gunawan’s ability to perfectly balance flavors and his subtle use of Asian influences. The restaurant’s charming interior, meanwhile, is warm and welcoming, and features candle-lit tables, vinyl records and a turntable. Taken together, The Farmer’s Apprentice sets the gold standard for Vancouver’s new wave of high-end “casual” dining. Just be sure to book a table well in advance or take your chances when the doors open at 5:30pm.
Bar: The Keefer Bar 135 Keefer Street Vancouver, V6A 1X3
Named after its Keefer Street address in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, The Keefer Bar is a symbol of the once-seedy neighborhood’s recent resurgence. The sleek space is housed in a revamped boutique hotel and the lounge’s sultry, noirish aesthetic provides the perfect backdrop for its apothecary-style cocktails, small plates and good music. Better yet, the bar pays tribute to its Chinatown digs by using ingredients sourced only from local herbalists, in addition to house-made bitters, syrups and teas. Try one of The Keefer’s Alumni cocktails from its “list of remedies and cures,” including long-time favorites like the herbal Rosemary Gimlet or -- for the adventurous -- the Laoshi, which counts Shaoxing aperitif and Nin Jiom among its exotic Chinese ingredients. There’s also a well-attended burlesque night that has become a regular attraction at The Keefer, along with a variety of music-based events throughout the week.
Club: Fortune Sound Club 147 East Pender Street Vancouver, V6A 1T5
Vancouver’s nightlife has been much maligned over the years -- it’s the main catalyst for the city’s “No Fun City” moniker -- but there are still a few bright lights in the scene, the best of which may be Chinatown’s Fortune Sound Club. Situated within walking distance of The Keefer Bar, the award-winning venue has become a favorite of local club and concert-goers alike, and its popular live shows cover a wide range of rap, hip-hop, dubstep, electronic and metal. Most recently, the city’s go-to for contemporary bangers celebrated its fifth anniversary with a bash headlined by multiple Grammy-nominee, Sisqo, along with some of Vancouver’s finest hip-hop and dance DJs.
Hangover Brunch: Japadog 530 Robson Street Vancouver, V6B 2B7
The popular food cart’s stand-alone restaurant isn’t a brunch spot per se, but the quintessential Vancouver experience isn’t quite complete without a trip to Japadog. Located just minutes from The Burrard, the chain’s brick-and-mortar location serves up succulent -- and hangover-curing -- hot dogs topped off with Japanese-inspired toppings like dried seaweed, bonito flakes, grated radish and soba noodles. Go for the signature “Terimayo” -- a combination of teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed -- the carnivore-friendly "Meat Lovers" or the “Yakisoba,” and satisfy your sugar cravings with a matcha “Ice Age,” which consists of a deep-fried bun filled with three scoops of ice cream.
Text by: Jonathan Poh for Highsnobiety.com