Vancouver is an enormous city with lots of see. Located between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains, Vancouver has earned a reputation as a beautiful destination in the Pacific Northwest. It is easy to see why visiting Vancouver is a fantastic choice, but it is a lot harder to figure out exactly where to stay. Vancouver is densely populated and sprawling, so there are several great neighborhoods and districts worth exploring.
Vancouver’s top neighborhoods
1. Downtown · 2. Gastown & Chinatown · 3. West End · 4. Coal Harbour · 5. Kitsilano · 6. Yaletown · 7. Vancouver South (south of map)
Vancouver is home to lots of outdoor recreation, starting with the famed Stanley Park and its Seawall. You’ll have chances to go hiking, take boat rides or even ride a seaplane. Vancouver is a melting pot of culture, which means that there are a large array of restaurants serving up everything from sushi to dim sum to authentic Indian curries. There are world-class museums as well as bustling shopping centers. Take a closer look at some of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods to determine where to stay in Vancouver on your next vacation.
If you’re visiting Vancouver, then there is a good chance that you’ll spend at least some of your time Downtown. The heart of Downtown is the City Centre. This is where you’ll find the Financial District, so many business travelers opt to stay in hotels Downtown for convenience. Even if you’re traveling for pleasure rather than business, staying Downtown puts you close to all the action. Plus, Downtown is the city’s transport hub.
If you are planning any trips around or out of Vancouver, you’ll be close to the Waterfront Station and Burrard Station with plenty of train and bus connections. If you’re an architecture enthusiast, you might set off on a walking tour Downtown and spot landmarks like the 19th century Christ Church Cathedral, the Art Deco Marine Building and the Brutalist Harbour Centre.
Downtown is also home to major cultural attractions like the Vancouver Opera and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Robson Street is Downtown’s hottest shopping destination, especially if you’re in the market for high-end goods.
Gastown and Chinatown are some of the oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver, and the architecture definitely reflects that. It’s a little gritty, a little artsy, a little historic and wildly popular with both locals and visitors. In Gastown, you can walk along cobblestone streets, see restored Victorian buildings and visit some of the many souvenir shops in the area. Be sure to see the kitschy Gastown Steam Clock, which releases steam and noise every 15 minutes. If you’re up for some shopping, Water Street is lined with independent boutiques and flagship stores, not to mention countless restaurants and bars.
Head over to Chinatown to see the beautiful Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, and stay for the exciting nightly markets held on the weekends during the summer months. The neighborhood is home to a number of immigrants from Hong Kong, particularly following the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. In fact, Vancouver is sometimes called Hongcouver or Little Hong Kong, and Chinatown is at the heart of it all.
The West End of Vancouver is one of the city’s most tourist-friendly destinations. It is just steps from the Central Business District Downtown, which makes it easy to access via public transportation. The West End is also adjacent to Stanley Park, arguably the most popular attraction in the entire city.
The West End is a combination of modern urban city living and a laid-back beach lifestyle. The neighborhood is diverse, and it home to festivals and music events held throughout the year. Unlike the neighborhood of Yaletown, which is still new enough to be home mostly to young professionals, West End has been around long enough to have residents of all ages, including those who have made their home here for decades.
If you want to go to the beach while you’re in Vancouver, staying in West End is a smart choice. You’ll be within walking distance of the busiest beaches in the city, including Second Beach and Third Beach.
Just next to the West End, and very close to Stanley Park, is Coal Harbour. Just like the name implies, the neighborhood looks out onto a body of water called Coal Harbour. If you want to stay in an area with amazing views over the water as well as plenty of history, then accommodation in Coal Harbour is recommended. In the 17th century, Coal Harbour was known as Blueblood Alley, because it was home to many of the largest mansions in Vancouver.
Today, there are lots of marinas with houseboats as well as towering condo complexes. It is also just steps from Canada Place, a large convention center, so many business travelers make an effort to stay in Coal Harbour for its proximity. If you stay in Coal Harbour, you’ll also be able to see many of the seaplanes that take off for sightseeing and day trips in the region. If you have ever wanted to take a seaplane adventure, Coal Harbour is the perfect place to try it out.
Kitsilano, known to locals as Kits, was once an enclave for Vancouver’s hippies who wanted to escape the rat race. Today, Kitsilano is a popular neighborhood with great access to the beach. Kits Beach is a hotspot for those who want to unwind on a summer day, soak up the sun and make a splash. There is even a large salt water swimming pool as an alternative to swimming in the sea. Most of the commercial activity is along West 4th Avenue and West Broadway, but you’ll also find shops and restaurants in the areas close to the beach.
At Vanier Park in Kitsilano, you’ll be treated to amazing views of the city as well as lush greenery and fantastic opportunities for outdoor recreation. Vanier Park is also home to three major museums, each of which definitely deserves a visit. The trio of museums is made up of the Museum of Vancouver, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and Planetarium and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Staying in Kitsilano also puts you close to the art and culture of Granville Island, a must-see destination in Vancouver.
Bordering False Creek, Yaletown is a diverse neighborhood with plenty of culture. Oddly enough, Yaletown gets its name from a town more than 240 km (150 miles) away from Vancouver. When the Canadian Pacific Railway line finally extended beyond Yale and into Vancouver, Yale’s residents made their way to the city and settled in the area now known as Yaletown.
For a long time Yaletown appeared run down and was largely abandoned until large-scale development of the area began in the late 1980s. As a result, it’s a youthful and progressive destination. City officials have made sure that developers include plenty of green areas in their plans so there is plenty of parkland in the neighborhood as well as a seawall which attracts joggers and cyclists.
At the base of the many new skyscrapers and apartment complexes are trendy bars and shops, putting you within walking distance of plenty of attractions. It is also close to False Creek, give you easy access to the famed Science World.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but you still want to be close to major attractions for sightseeing, then consider staying in Vancouver South. This area is mostly residential, but there are still lots of transport links to get you downtown in a matter of minutes. Vancouver South is also home to a number of older communities, many of which boast historic architecture and beautiful community gardens.
Make time in your schedule to walk around the VanDusen Botanical Garden, where you can see a variety of Canadian ecosystems and indigenous plants. Fraser River Park is another popular spot where you can enjoy the outdoors and even watch the airplanes take off and land at the airport. Embrace some of the local cultures of Vancouver South by visiting Punjabi Market, also known as Little India, for some authentic Indian cuisine or clothing.