Vancouver is Canada's third largest city and often touted as one of the world's most liveable cities. Surrounded by the Coast Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean, the area's natural beauty provides stunning views and an abundance of outdoor activities to suit everyone. The mix of cultures has created some popular neighbourhoods such as Little Italy on Commercial Drive, Chinatown and trendy Yaletown.
For thousands of years segments of the Coast Salish people inhabited the area. Between 1592 and 1774 Spaniards explored the coast and later in 1792 Captain George Vancouver arrived. When he discovered the Spanish had already claimed the place he left but met with Spanish captains Valdez and Galiano on one of the beaches that today is known as Spanish Banks.
Simon Fraser, an explorer and fur trader, arrived in Vancouver in 1808, following an overland route from Eastern Canada by a river he thought was the Columbia. Even though he was wrong, the Fraser River is named after him.
The Hudson's Bay Company built a trading post on the Fraser River in 1827 which became the first permanent non-native settlement in the Vancouver area. Then in 1867 a talkative chap nicknamed "Gassy Jack" opened a saloon for forestry workers on the shore of Burrard Inlet. It became so popular that a community built up around the place and called itself Gastown which later was incorporated as the town of Granville. The town of Granville grew to over 1,000 people and was incorporated as the City of Vancouver in 1886.
The Canadian Pacific Railway's first transcontinental train arrived, sand was added to English Bay Beach, ice hockey was born and the Vancouver Millionaires became Stanley Cup champions in 1914-1915.
Many years later in 1986, Vancouver hosted the six-month fair Expo '86. In 2010 it hosted the highly successful Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games with 82 nations competing and watched by 2.5 billion people around the world.
Vancouver is located in the southwest corner of British Columbia and is the westernmost of Canada's ten provinces. It is 38 km (24 mi) from the Canada-US border. Vancouver juts out into the Pacific Ocean in the area that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland, called the Strait of Georgia. To the north, east and south are various communties that along with the City of Vancouver collectively make up Metro Vancouver. The majestic Coast Mountain Range forms the northern edge of the Vancouver metropolis, and is a major part of its spectacular views. The southern boundary of the City of Vancouver is the North Arm of the Fraser River, one of the largest rivers entering the Pacific.
The downtown area of Vancouver is an eclectic mix of buildings and experiences from sleek, glass-sheathed business towers, tempered by the classical columns of the Vancouver Art Galley, to the classical echoes of the new library (a $100 million homage to Rome's Coliseum). Upscale department stores, specialty shops and boutiques provide an abundance of shopping opportunities in the heart of downtown at Georgia and Granville and on Robson Street. And to get a view over the city, ride to the top of the Harbour Centre tower for a 360° view of the surrounding sights.
The crowning jewel in Vancouver is Stanley Park, one of the largest city parks in North America. With an area of over 400 hectares (1,000 acres) and an 8.8 km (5.5 mi) seawall popular with walkers, runners and cyclists, Stanley Park is a must-see for visitors. The Vancouver Aquarium, with fascinating marine exhibits, is located in the park.
Chinatown has been humming busily for more than a century, with vivid colours, exotic cuisine, and a vibrant culture. Rich in history and architecture, this area of downtown boasts North America's second-largest Chinatown after San Francisco. Highlights of a Chinatown visit include the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, the Sam Kee Building (world's narrowest commercial building) and the Chinese Cultural Centre. Festivals, parades, and the summertime Night Market also spice up the flavour of this neighbourhood.
This historic district's cobblestone streets are lined with Victorian buildings that today house boutiques, galleries and brew pubs. With informational plaques placed strategically along the street to tell the history behind various buildings and landmarks, Gastown is an excellent area for a walking tour.
Granville Island Public Market is just a short water taxi ride from Vancouver's downtown. Granville Island is home to an art school, restaurants, theatres, galleries and shops with activity being centred around the Granville Island Public Market itself. Enjoy a sunset dinner oceanside, where sailboats and other vessels are docked.
This False Creek waterfront community has experienced some serious revitalization since its rebirth as host of Expo '86. Formerly a warehouse district where textile shops and train yards provided little in the way of beauty or entertainment, Yaletown has been transformed into one of Vancouver's hippest areas, filled with sidewalk cafes, trendy restaurants, a thriving nightlife scene.
Whether you're a fan of the visual arts or just a casual observer, this museum is a low-stress place to spend an afternoon. Housed in a former courthouse and open year-round, this art museum offers one of the world's largest Emily Carr collections.
The awe inspiring scenery, majestic mountains and lush rainforests beckon you to take a hike or walk in and around Vancouver. Pacific Spirit Park on the western edge of Vancouver is a walker's/hiker's paradise with over 54 km of forested and shoreline trails. Stanley Park and the seawall draws thousand of visitors each day. On the north shore there are several easy and difficult trails including Lighthouse Park, Capilano Canyon and the Grouse Grind.
The city of Vancouver rarely sees snow but the mountains overlooking the city provide some of the best skiing in the province. Mount Seymour, Cypress Mountain, and Grouse Mountain provide plenty of fun just a short drive from downtown. Once you're there, you'll quickly discover what makes these areas so legendary - plenty of powder, awesome views of the city and region, and runs for all levels of skiers.
Being located on the shores of Burrard Inlet, English Bay and Georgia Strait, all types of watersports and activities are available right in Vancouver. Sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, paddleboarding, swimming and more are all close at hand.
During the summer months selected Shakespeare plays are performed in tents on the beach in Vanier Park overlooking picturesque English Bay.
This annual international jazz festival celebrates innovation, diversity and inclusivity. It kicks off the third weekend in June with a free festival on the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery and Robson Square. Held at a variety of venues in Vancouver the ten day event draws world-class musicians and entertainers.
Each winter between November and January millions of lights twinkle in Stanley Park attracting thousands to visit over the holdiay season. Music and storytellers entertain the crowds.
A four-day pyro-musical international competition takes place on English Bay at the beginning of August. One million people attend the annual fireworks event.
Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre
Plaza Level, 200 Burrard St.
Vancouver, BC V6C 3L6
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia