Surrounded by mountains and water, Vancouver is arguably one of the most scenic Canadian destinations. Located in British Colombia, this West Coast city is a bustling hub filled with ethnically diverse culture, creativity, and adventure.
Photos by Jeremy Allouce (jeroadams), Johnson Tewid (@jtewid) and Mike Benna (@mbenna)
When contemplating about which Canadian city to visit, it’s normally a tough tie between Toronto and Vancouver. Today, we’ll try not to compare the equally amazing cities, but we did speak to Vancouver local, Rebecca Traub, and got the inside scoop on all of the city’s best.
A Vancouver resident for the past 8 years, Rebecca is also the CEO and Producer at Populist Media, which is a visual city guide of all things Vancouver. Founded in 2015, Populist was created to open up the community of Vancouver to the world, using the power of digital media. Having recently expanded to Toronto, Populist aims to spread its travel guide concept to various cities around the world. Being the CEO, Rebecca often travels between Vancouver and Toronto, giving her a dynamic edge on comparing both cities.
Photos by Mwangi Gatheca (@thirdworldhippy) and Brayden Law (@braydenlaw)
We knew Rebecca would be the one to give us the most insightful tips on Vancouver. See the city through Rebecca’s eyes, and start planning your next trip to the West Coast.
Being a coastal city along the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver has a breezy and oceanic climate. The large mountains surrounding the also protect the city from harsh winds and temperatures. As mild as it is, Vancouver also has a large reputation for rain.
Photos by Pamela Saunders (@pamsaunders) and Priscilla du Preez (@prinscillapreez)
“It rains for about the quarter of the year,” says Rebecca. “When I first moved there… I think it rained up to 220 days out of the year”.
The rainiest months are November and December. If you want to avoid the rain, book your trip during the months of July and August, where temperature average to 26 degrees.
Many of us grew up with films such as Jaws or Free Willy (One of Monte & Coe’s team favourites), which has instilled in us a lifelong fascination for all things ocean life.
Photos by Sofia Neumann (@sofianeumann)
Being next to the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver, British Colombia is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of aquatic wildlife. Visit Vancouver Island, which is 97km from Vancouver City, to explore an island paradise lush with trees, and perfect for viewing animals from the land and water. You can easily fly, drive, or boat to Vancouver Island, from Vancouver City.
If you’re basing your trip around spotting you favourite creature, book your trip during these months:
Black bear tours start in April and end in October. Tours are approximately 2.5 hours long, and depending on the season and ocean tide, guests can watch black bears feast on salmon or rock crab.
Photos by Luc Tribolet (@luctribolet)
“I went to Tofino in October. It was a bit raining and they were tons (of orcas) out. I always find when it’s rainy there’s a lot more out,” says Rebecca.
Prime whale watching in Vancouver and the Vancouver Islands last from March to October. From these months, you can see orcas, humpbacks, grey whales, and minkes around the island. If you’re hoping to see orcas specifically, they’re best seen during the months of May to October. Ocean Ecoventures, offers half-day tours, full-day, and multi day, ensuring that you get your whale sighting you have always envisioned.
If you’re hoping to see sharks, you’re probably out of luck. Although they do swim along the island and Pacific Coasts, sightings are rare. Surfers and fishermen have spotted a few occasional sharks, so beware - just don’t plan your trip around it.
How long to Stay in Vancouver
Although smaller than Toronto, Vancouver has so much more to offer whether it be from an urban or outdoorsy standpoint.
“There are so many surrounding areas, and there are so many types of vacations you could have,” says Rebecca.
It’s important to factor in the time you want to spend exploring city, hiking trails, and on the island. Rebecca recommends booking a trip for at least 10 days.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Vancouver is home to an ethnically diverse, active and creative crowd. The West Coast lifestyle is easily transferable to the city’s hospitality industry.
Call one of these locally approved hotels your home away from home:
Photos by Fairmont Pacific Rim (@fairmontpacific)
“The hot spot, or cool spot, is definitely the Fairmont Pacific Rim,” says Rebecca.
The Fairmont Pacific Rim is a luxury hotel located in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Each suite is comprised of luxurious linen sheets, spa-like marble bathrooms, and surround sound televisions. From its Taschen Library, featuring over 275 books, to its rooftop pool cabana, Fairmont has it all. Rest easy at this luxurious hotel, while planning your next adventure.
Photos by Pan Pacific Vancouver (@panpacificvancouver)
Check out the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, for an award-winning stay with a beautiful view. This hotel boasts beautiful views of the Vancouver coasts and mountains. Enjoy breathtaking views while swimming in their heated saltwater rooftop pool. While the Pan Pacific’s location makes you feel like you’re on an exotic escape, its location is minutes away from downtown attractions.
Photos by Hotel Belmont (@hotelbelmont)
If you’re looking to be in the city, book a stay at Hotel Belmont. Belmont is a boutique hotel built in a renovated historic building. The hotel is decorated with contemporary pop art and located in the heart of Vancouver’s entertainment district. Rest after a longs night out in your modern and chic suite.
If you really want to be immersed in Vancouver culture, book a stay at a local Airbnb!
Check out the Serene ‘Hummingbird Beach Sanctuary’ w/ Sea View, a three flour house located minutes away from the entertainment district, Kitsilano Beach, shops, and restaurants. Enjoy the well-lit space featuring hanging plants, skylights, and a rooftop patio. This Airbnb is perfect for couples, friends, or a small family. Feel at home in this beautifully designed Airbnb.
If you’re looking for a more centrally located spot, see the Modern Traveller Loft in Gastown. The host boasts incredibly high-speed internet and even provides in-building parking. The loft’s bright floor to ceiling windows make space feel even more spacious, and its decor is comforting yet chic. Rest after a long day of excursions in this thoughtfully designed loft.
Best Vancouver Neighbourhoods: Gastown vs Yaletown
Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, and its historic charm is still maintained today. This area seamlessly combined old and new and is always popular among locals and tourists alike.
Photos by Franz Harvin (@franzharvin) and Lucy Claire (@mslucyclaire)
“It’s got a lot of history and charm. It’s kind of like the Distillery District of Toronto,” describes Rebecca. “If you were an artist/hipster, that’s where you’d live”.
Gastown is located along the north of downtown Vancouver peninsula. Go back into the Victorian era as you walk along the neighbourhoods cobblestone streets that are dotted with historic lamp posts. Discover famous restaurants, boutiques, and one of a kind art galleries.
While you’re in the area, don’t miss out on checking Vancouver’s steam clock. The clock was built in 1977 over a steam grate, making it one out of six steam clocks around the world. Every quarter-hour, the clock whistles and shoots steam.
“It gets a little bit touristy in the summer,” says Rebecca. Cruise ships often port here during the summertime.
Rebecca prefers Yaletown over Gastown, but hey, to each their own.
Photos by Matt Wang (@iseeworld)
Compared to Gastown, “Yaletown is a little more bougie,” remarks Rebecca.
Opposed to Gastown, Yaletown doesn’t normally have a rush of tourists, it’s where the locals gather. Until 1986, the neighbourhood was a warehouse area and a terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today, Yaletown has become Vancouver’s chicest neighbourhood, and is known for its many boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Yaletown is located south of the downtown Vancouver Peninsula.
Best Coffee in Vancouver
“The coffee game in Vancouver is strong,” says Rebecca. Just the way we like our cup of joe!
Energize yourself before a long day of activity at one of Rebecca’s favourite coffee shops:
Photos by Small Victory Bakery (@sv_bakery)
“My favourite favourite favourite would be Small Victory in Yaletown”
Both locations are serving up great coffee and delectable baked goods. Guests can fuel up while getting work done in the cafes’ well-spaced tables with plenty of outlets, or catch a few rays of the sun on the patio.
Photos by Matchstick (@matchstickyvr)
Try out Matchstick, a Vancouver chain that has five convenient locations across the city. The coffee chain is known for its ethical business practices that aim to lift the Vancouver community and support farmers abroad growing coffee crops. Have a taste of Vancouver culture and community, while sipping on your daily brew.
What to do in Vancouver
“There are definitely two types of people in Vancouver,” says Rebecca. “There are the ones who get up super early to do yoga on the beach… then there are the.. let’s say, foodies”.
Whether you’re in it for the adventure or food, Vancouver has something for everyone. If you’re like us and love a mix of everything, Rebecca keeps it simple with the motto: “Eat lots of good food and do lots of outdoor things”.
Try paddleboard yoga with Just Add Water Yoga at The Westin Bayshore Hotel pool. The yoga studio has made adapted to Covid-19 precautions, and all classes are either through zoom or in an outdoor pool.
The open ocean’s more on your wavelength? Head to one of Vancouver’s beautiful beaches!
Photos by Jennifer Chen (@jnnfrchn)
Visit Kitsilano Beach Park, also known as Kits Beach by the locals, for a fun day by the water. Located on Cornwall Ave and Yew St, this park features a beautiful beach and an outdoor pool for those who rather swim in enclosed water. The park also features tennis courts and basketball courts, perfect for a jam-packed day of outdoor activities.
Check out Jericho Beach for a view of the Pacific Ocean and the city skyline. The beach is just a 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver and located on the Northside of Jericho Park. One side of the beach is reserved for swimmers, whereas the other caters to the sailboats and windsurfers.
“Then there’s Wreck Beach for those who want the party vibe,” says Rebecca.
Located on the edge of the University of British Colombia, Wreck Beach is Vancouver’s clothing-optional beach. 7.8km long, Wreck Beach is known as North America’s longest nude beach.
Photos by Koji Futami (@kojifutami) and Aaron Thomas (@aaronphs)
If you’re looking for something that will get you active, and reward you with a beautiful view, then check out the Grouse Grind Trail. Also known as the ‘Peak of Vancouver’ or ‘Mother Nature’s Stair-Master’, the trail is a 2.9km with an elevation of 853 meters and goes up the Grouse Mountain. On average, takes an hour and a half to make it to the top.
“It’s basically the Stair Master for like an hour… The views are amazing, but there are easier ways to see a view,” remarks Rebecca.
Where and What to Eat in Vancouver
If you’re the type who rather explore using your taste buds as opposed to your feet, you’re in luck, because Vancouver’s a city filled with culinary treats.
“The food in Vancouver is amazing, I’ve been to other places and.. I just don’t know how to express how lucky we are,” says Rebecca
Don’t believe us? Try some of Vancouver expert Rebecca’s favourite spots:
Photos by Blue Water Cafe (@bluewatercafe) and Leila (@leilalikes)
Make a reservation at Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown if you love high quality seafood.
“If you’re going to be in Vancouver, you’d probably want sushi or seafood. I have yet to find a place in Toronto that is as good,” remarks Rebecca.
Where East cuisine meets the West Coast, you will find Blue Blue Water Cafe. The high-end restaurant is committed to serving sustainable seafood, and transforms its fresh caught ingredients into mouth watering sushi. This restaurant is famous for a reason, and it’s dishes are definitely worth the price.
Photos by Brix & Mortar
Dine at Brix & Mortar, another gem in Yaletown, if you love wine and meat. As goes with other establishments in the area, Brix & Mortar is housed in a renovated 1912 brick heritage building. From gourmet appetizers, full meals, to an extensive wine list, bask in the restaurants sophisticated atmosphere. The space boasts a seven tier glass chandeliers, two stories, and two patios.
Photos by Mathjis Deerenberg (@@mathijs12) and Matthieu Joannon (@matt_j)
Vancouver’s diversity has lead it to having one of the most famous Chinatowns. Vancouver’s Chinatown is home to amazing dim sum, bakeries, restaurants, and cocktail bars. Give hidden gem Kam Wai Dimsum a try! The dim sum spot defines ‘hole in a wall’, but is serving up Vancouver’s most affordable and best dim sum. It’s more so of a takeout spot, and they also sell frozen dim sum to recook at home. Whether it be lunch, a snack, or a large dinner takeout, Kam Wai is a must try.
Photos by Sean Driscoll (@driscoll23) and Wes Hicks (@sickhews)
“Granville Island, which is sort of like St-Lawrence Market,” says Rebecca
From fresh baked breads, desserts, deli meats, pastas, seafood, produce, and more, the Public Market has plenty of ingredients to inspire a one of a kind meal. Eat like a local, save a buck or two, and have fun cooking up an authentic meal!
Best Sunset Lookouts in Vancouver
Nothing transitions day to night activities better than watching a sunset with your travel buddies. With Vancouver’s stunning beaches and scenic mountains, the city’s sunsets are no joke either.
Photos by Dustan Woodhouse (@dwoodhouse)
Check out Sunset Beach Park for an epic evening view.
“I’m assuming it was called that because of its great sunsets - because it does!” exclaims Rebecca.
Grab a picnic blanket and maybe a bottle of wine to share with your S/O as the orange colours of the sun gleam over the water.
Photos by Rachael Ren (@ro_finity10969) and Spencer Watson (@thebrownspy)
If you're spending the day skiing on Cypress Mountain, head to the lookout to see the sunset over the mountains. The lookout is also popular for star gazing and seeing the aurora borealis.
Request a patio seat at Cactus Club in Coal Harbour for a great view of the sunset with comfortable seating and cocktail service. This is the perfect place to see the sunset if you’re in downtown Vancouver. Enjoy happy hour deals while the sunsets over the Pacific.
Nightlife in Vancouver
Rebecca isn’t the biggest fan of Vancouver’s party scene, but she does have a few favourite late night bar spots.
Photos by The Parlour (@theparlourrestaurants)
Check out The Parlour in Yaletown for innovative cocktails, craft beers, and quality wines with pizza. Funny enough, they’ve also just recently opened up a location downtown Toronto.
“Parlour is a pizza place that turns into a good party after,” says Rebecca.
The private backroom of Parlour houses an exclusive Mezcal and Tequla cocktail bar. Whether it be for food, drinks, or the party, The Parlour is locals go-to spot.
Photos by Bartholomew Bar (@bartholomew_bar)
Just around the corner in Yaletown is Bartholomew Bar. Enjoy charcuterie and inventive cocktails at this gorgeous cocktail bar. A perfect date spot or friendly bar to hang with friends.
Photos by Pourhouse Restaurant (@pourhouse)
Visit Rebecca’s favourite in Gastown, Pourhouse Restaurant. The cocktail bar hails to the 1910s and 1920s, when Gastown was originally built, and features antique decor and furniture throughout its space.
“You can just go in and say ‘I'm feeling in a (blank) kind of mood’, and they just go ahead and make something amazing for you,” admires Rebecca.
Enjoy signature and creative cocktails while listening to nightly live music and performers.
What to Pack for Vancouver
Be prepared for Vancouver’s rainy weather and active lifestyle. Rebecca’s Vancouver essentials are simple, but incredibly useful and practical:
- “Definitely an umbrella and possibly and rain jacket,” says Rebecca. We recommend packing a light and foldable raincoat, and try finding an umbrella that compacts into a small cylinder. Easy and on the go rain protection.
- Layers. Packing layers is a must for those chilly nights, or rainy mornings. Layering is also perfect for active adventures where you might break a sweat! Shed a layer or throw another on, and you’ll be as good as new.
- Comfortable shoes. “You can walk from one side of Vancouver to another in half an hour.. And you’ll likely be walking everywhere,” says Rebecca. We recommend a pair of neat sneakers that can pull double duty day and night! According to Rebecca, “Vancouver is a very casual city, so if you’re going out and dressing to the nines or dressed causally, nobody will think twice”.
- Sunglasses. “Even if it’s raining during the day, usually during 4 or 5, the rain will go away and you’ll get a beautiful sunset,” says Rebecca.
A well known classic for a reason, Rebecca avoids checking luggage while flying.
“I never check luggage, or at least I try not to,” says Rebecca.
At least an hour can be shaved off of your travel time if you don’t pack a luggage! And as we’ve mentioned in a previous episode, our weekender bags were designed to perfectly fit below an airplane seat, so no need to squeeze it in a full overhead compartment.
Rebecca also recommends packing a few bags in her luggage. From purses, beach bags to tote bags, she has something for every occasion. Such a simple hack can really have a great affect.
Know that you’re in the know of all of Vancouver’s bests, it’s time to book your next trip!
If you make it to beautiful Vancouver, don’t forget to say hi to our new friend Rebecca Traub.
Looking for some travel inspiration? Check out our newest collection of weekender bags.