As a travel destination, Vancouver took me completely by surprise. "Come with me on my business trip," said Brian, "you'll love it." Would I? As a traveler, I'm much more drawn to the grit of a city than the beauty of nature, so I was skeptical on what Vancouver could offer. It turns out, Vancouver can offer it all; a world-class city with a backdrop of ocean and mountain. A place with an unrivaled coffee-culture and an electric food scene, all with a friendly west-coat attitude. Vancouver, I wasn't expecting to love you so much but consider me smitten. Here's my 3-night trip, in a nutshell.
We flew directly from Toronto to Vancouver with a delay, so when we landed Brian and I were both pretty anxious to get into the city and to our hotel. Despite being recommended to take the SkyTrain into the city, we instead opted for a cab hoping that it would get us there quicker. Well, we shaved 10 minutes off of our trip by taking the cab, but our driver drove so erratically that I arrived at our hotel horribly carsick. When speaking to staff at the hotel, I learned that this was not uncommon. Lesson learned: take the SkyTrain to get to and from the airport in Vancouver; I did on my way home, and definitely had a more enjoyable experience.
Once you're in Vancouver proper, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how accessible things are on foot or by bicycle. For a major city, Vancouver isn't too big so traveling from one destination to the next was fairly easy. We walked for the most part, only opting to take a cab once when going to and from Granville Island. I also have heard good things about their in-city public transit, but I didn't experience it for myself. Vancouver doesn't yet have Uber, which is a shame since that is my preferred method of transit while traveling, but you can definitely make due. For our next trip, Brian and I plan to rent a car so we can explore the areas around Vancouver and drive into the mountains.
|Photos were taken while biking the sea wall in Vancouver|
What To Do
I truly believe that Vancouver offers something for everyone. I spent the majority of my time in Gastown, a beautiful historic site on the northeast end of downtown Vancouver. I absolutely loved this picturesque neighborhood and spent hours upon hours visiting their beautiful cafés, curated specialty shops, and beautiful eateries. Seriously, this area is an avid Instagrammer's dream come true. There's a definite hipster vibe in Gastown and an eclectic crowd which makes it a great spot to people watch.
Brian and I also took a stroll through Yaletown, a more upscale neighborhood and area that offers amazing views of the water and the marina. This is another great area for cafés and restaurants, although I personally enjoyed the vibes of Gastown more.
We also took some time out to rent bicycles and bike the Stanley Park Seawall. This turned out to be one of our best decisions, although we stumbled into it - once you start along the trail, it's a one way so there's no turning back! This scenic bike ride was absolutely amazing, and I captured some of my favourite photos from the trip on it. The next time we're in the area, I definitely want to venture out into Stanley Park itself, I've heard that it's beautiful.
Another way to spend a sunny afternoon is to head to the Granville Island Public Market, a bustling market to pick up fresh produce and baked goods or stop for lunch. Brian was quick to compare this market to th
e St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and, while the concept is similar, the Granville Island Public Market is on the water and there's something about eating fresh food beside the ocean. Sorry, St. Lawrence - I think Vancouver's got you beat on this one. South Granville is also a great area to check out, full of galleries, a brewery and some pretty incredible murals and street art. Very Instagrammable.
|A flower stall at the Granville Public Market|
Did I mention Vancouver's coffee scene? Now I thought Toronto took it's cafés seriously, but it cannot hold a candle to Vancouver. I tried to visit as many cafés as I possibly could, but I barely scratched the surface of what's available. Here's a few that I really enjoyed:
Caffè Artigiano: Don't let the fact that this is a popular café chain in Vancouver deter you - Caffè Artigiano serves some of the best, smoothest lattes I've ever tasted with award-winning latte art. Their coffee is so tasty and balanced that we had to bring home a few bags of beans with us. So good.
Revolver Coffee: Revolver takes its coffee very seriously, and has the following to prove it. All of their beans are ethically sourced and fair trade. I spent a very enjoyable hour here working on my laptop while sipping on a delicious espresso macchiato, with the occasional people watching and eavesdropping on a conversation.
Nelson the Seagull: I actually spent an entire morning at Nelson The Seagull taking advantage of their free wifi and working. Although I came for the brunch, which was definitely tasty, I downed a delightfully smooth and simple Americano from a large pottery mug and loved every second of it. This café also has a great atmosphere and cute tiled floors, which I documented on my Instagram.
|A coffee at Nelson the Seagull|
|The Birds & The Beet|
Where To Eat
Just like the coffee scene, the food scene in Vancouver is pretty amazing. Here's a few places that we checked out and enjoyed.
The Birds & the Beets: We had our first meal of the trip at The Birds & the Beets, and it set the bar pretty high. Using mostly local ingredients, and making all of their bread in-house (!!) our lunch was mouth-wateringly delicious. I had a sandwich with in-season, spiced cauliflower and a side salad that was so good, it made me forget that I don't like salad. Both Brian and I agree that this simple lunch was one of our favourite meals of the trip.
Tuc Kraft Kitchen: A brunch stop for us, Tuc Kraft Kitchen delivered happiness in the form of fluffy waffles with banana foster and whipped cream. Although the restaurant literally a few steps off the beaten track (every step makes a difference in Vancouver), it was well worth it.
Miku: When asking for recomendations on where to get sushi in Vancouver, Miku was always first on the list. We managed to get a table by visiting earlier and promising up and down that we would be done in an hour. Fresh would be an understatement for the sushi, and we enjoyed their famed Aburi Oshi Sushi, which is lightly seared to bring out the oils of the fish. Overall a delicious, upscale experience with a water view to boot.
Tacofino: I consider myself a Mexican foodaholic (you're talking to a girl who ate at a Mexican restaurant the last time she was in Paris) so I had to visit Tacofino in Gastown. I absolutely loved the decor and atmosphere of this place, and their steak taco was one of the best I've ever had. We finished off our meal with an order of churros to split that was so plentiful, I couldn't finish - which is really saying something. I can't wait to go back to Vancouver to visit another of their many locations.
Chill Winston: Although we didn't formally dine at Chill Winston, the patio beer and french fries were exactly what the doctor ordered on a sunny afternoon in Gastown. Best patio for people watching, and for atmosphere.
|Beer at Chill Winston; Tacos at Tacofino|
|Old Faithful Shop|
|My dream bed at The Cross Decor and Design|
Where to Shop
There's a huge shopping district as well as the CF Pacific Centre on Robson, so I'll spare you the details on what is a very good, but typical experience in that area. Instead, here are two stores that stole my heart.
Old Faithful Shop: I stumbled into Old Faithful Shop while wandering around Gastown and am so glad that I decided to pop in. The whole shop is just curated and merchandised to perfection, and I loved all of the simple home-goods that made me mentally redecorate my condo while browsing.
The Cross Decor & Design: Be still my heart. The moment I walked into The Cross Decor & Design, I never wanted to leave. If you have a love for anything and everything girly, you need to come here. I'm not joking when I say that this place is so beautiful that I almost shed a tear; when a sales associate asked if they could help me with anything, I just started at them, speechless.
So to sum this all up yes, I very much enjoyed my time in Vancouver - more than I ever expected to. Visiting Vancouver was just the reminder that I needed that Canada is indeed an incredible country, with so much to offer. I can't wait to go back.