In Vancouver, you pretty much have three options: ocean view, mountain view or both. And what could be more ideal? If you want to go to the beach, it’s all around you, as Vancouver’s a peninsula; if you want to shop, the city’s got boutiques that rival any other major city in the world; if you want to sit in a café supping a green organic smoothie in a vegan-friendly reusable mug after yoga class, you got it; or even if you want adventure, you’ll find it in Vancouver.
THE BEST VIEW IN TOWN
Start your visit with one of the most epic views you will ever see (no hyperbole here, we’re for real) at the Grouse Grind. Known by the locals as ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’, it’s a 3km steep hike up the Grouse Mountain that usually takes beginners about two hours to complete. No doubt you’ll break a sweat, and will be cursing us as you feel the burn (hello J-Lo-worthy curves!), but once you reach the top, the view across the shiny glass Vancouver skyline, the mountains and the gorgeous Pacific below will make you realise that it’s all been totally worth it. If you’re there in winter and fancy a spot of skiing and snowboarding, Grouse Mountain is a convenient spot that’ll save you the two-hour drive north to Whistler.
Make sure to reward yourself at the top of the mountain, by ordering a big plate of nachos at one of the restaurants at the pinnacle. Wash it all down with an icy glass of lemonade or something more substantial – British Columbia has some great microbreweries, so ask the barman his favourite and give it a go. We love the Granville Island Rogers’ Chocolate Stout, sounds weird, but it’s oh so good.
THE BOUTIQUE BEAT
Hit downtown’s Robson Street the next morning to scratch all your high-street sartorial itches. It’s got all your favourites and some Canadian mainstays like Club Monaco, Roots and Lululemon Athletica. For lunch, walk down to Yaletown, Vancouver’s answer to SoHo, which sits on the False Creek waterfront, and was actually one of the inspirations for Dubai Marina. It was originally a shipping zone filled with warehouses, but is now one of the city’s hippest areas, boasting quirky cafés and trendy nightspots.
For something a little different, check out the one-off boutiques along Water Street in historic Gastown, the city’s first downtown neighbourhood, which is named after John ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton, a steamboat captain and barman from Yorkshire who opened the area’s first saloon back in 1867. Wander past Gastown’s steam-powered clock, the area’s most famous landmark, which was originally built to cover a steam grate to prevent homeless people from sleeping on the warm, steamy spot on the road. While you’re in the area, nip into the Deluxe Junk Company on Cordova Street to score some vintage finds, and you definitely don’t want to miss Hill’s Native Art Gallery, right on Water Street. West coast aboriginal art is some of Canada’s most beautiful, and this is a good spot to pick up a reminder of your trip; prints, totem poles or moccasins, which are perfect to wear as cosy slippers in your maxed-out-on-AC Dubai home.
The waters along the BC coastline are full of whales and there are boat trips and guided kayak and stand-up paddle board journeys you can take to see them. You’re pretty much guaranteed to spot them jumping in the warm Pacific waters any time between April and November.
Another must-do is Stanley Park, which is three times bigger than London’s Hyde Park, and 10 per cent bigger than New York’s Central Park. It’s home to a rainforest, lakes, massive trees – some of them are 76 metres tall and hundreds of years old – and is surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean. You can rent bicycles, inline skates or just walk around and enjoy the gorgeous sea-meets-rainforest air. Along the seawall in the park, you’ll see eight massive totem poles, carved from tree trunks, which recount family histories, legends and important events in the lives of the Ojibwe people. Before you call it a day, head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which spans the Capilano River and is 136 metres long and 70 metres above the river. It’s absolutely stunning!
Or you might just fancy a little West Coast-style downtime by the Pacific. Hit up Kits Beach in Kitsilano or Wreck Beach near the University of British Columbia, but do note that Wreck Beach is ‘clothing optional’ – don’t say we didn’t warn you! Take in the sunset at Boathouse on Kits Beach, an amazing seafood spot with an even better view.
Vancouver is a place where people skip out of work a bit early because it’s a beautiful day – and why be hunched over a computer when you could be sunning yourself on the beach, surfing, taking an outdoor yoga class, jogging along the picturesque seawall or hiking up a sweat in the mountains? The city has a chilled-out vibe and a real lust for leisure, so it’s no wonder it’s consistently ranked as the best city in the world to live in. Go on, see for yourself.
Top three places for celeb spotting
Blue Water Café + Raw Bar
Alicia Silverstone, Jamie Lee Curtis and Uma Thurman love this Vancouver mainstay, where they use only wild and
sustainably harvested fish. Ahhh, seafood with a soul.
The best oysters in town, hands down, and a favourite of the Canadian A-list. Celeb spotting and seafood? We’re in!
CinCin Ristorante + Bar
When they’re in town Ben Affleck, Naomi Watts, Macy Gray, Robin Williams and Justin Timberlake all love this gorgeous Italian spot right on buzzing Robson Street. The wood-oven pizzas are a Scene fave.
Budget: Sylvia Hotel
Right on the English Bay next to Stanley Park (double win!), the Sylvia Hotel sits on some seriously prime real estate. The eight-storey building is blanketed almost entirely in a thick coat of dark green ivy, but even cooler is the fact that this no-frills abode is close to the beach. Rooms start at
Dh368 per night.
Mid-range: Moda Hotel
Historic yet hip and modern, the Moda Hotel is a seriously cool place to rest your head after a hectic day shopping, paddle boarding, hiking the Grouse and supping on cocktails until the wee hours. Rooms feature striking red accents and ultra-cool furniture, and start at Dh460 per night. The hotel will even welcome your pooch! What’s not to love about that?
Feel like splashing out a little? Why not do it in one of the trendiest hotels in the world? This achingly cool nest in one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods, Yaletown, provides guests with an iPad to use during their stay, mountain bikes if they feel like exploring, plus the room key doubles as a discount card for lots of places in the area. Ride around town in style by taking advantage of their complimentary BMW service that will take you anywhere downtown. Oh, and it’s pet friendly. We could rave for hours – this place is amazing. Rooms start at about Dh740.