Full disclosure: I haven’t actually been to Vancouver on holiday. Instead, I lived there for two years, but I still feel like I only scratched the surface of this massive Canadian metropolis. It’s a multicultural city, famous for its welcoming nature, and the bustling urban landscape of Downtown is perfectly balanced by the residential and rural comfort of the North Shore, meaning there’s something for everyone.
Vancouver’s diversity allows for an incredible assortment of cultures and cuisines, and the jewel in the city’s crown is the oriental experience led predominantly by the largest Chinatown in Canada, offering noodles and sushi to your heart’s content. And if that doesn’t float your boat, the sweeter offerings at the famous West Vancouver bakery, The Savary Island Pie Company, will surely be to your taste. Their pumpkin pie is a Canadian thanksgiving favourite, and it’s surprisingly tasty too. Alternatively, if you prefer artisan markets, Granville Island is a haven of gorgeous food outlets.
In some areas, the city still feels embedded in true Canadian wilderness, and nowhere is that more obvious than the stunning Capilano Suspension Bridge, which crosses a river far below, and the nearby Treetops Adventure which takes you up on walkways into the tall pine trees that surround the region.
Closer to Downtown Vancouver lies Stanley Park, a 1000-acre blend of open spaces and woodland, which is perfect for cycling. The city also lies on the coast, so if you know where to look there are lovely hidden beaches in the North Shore area: Eagle Harbour, for example, which I remember fondly for its impressive sunsets and the occasional visiting seal or otter.
With a country as young as Canada, ‘culture’ becomes an eclectic mix of adopted arts and hijacked fashions. It definitely has a San Francisco vibe, with strong links to the environment and a flourishing arts scene, but Canadians are also proud of their First Nations heritage, as seen by the totem poles which are dotted throughout the city.
Above all else, I’d advise you embrace Canada’s favourite stereotype and watch the Vancouver Canucks ice hockey team play – it really is a spectacle to behold, and the fans are a friendly bunch. (They also win regularly, which is nice). Similarly, if you visit in winter make sure you take a journey up the nearby mountains: skiing at Cypress Mountain was always really enjoyable, and the view was consistently breath-taking.
Remember: if you’re planning on exploring the forests that surround the city and line the coasts of British Colombia – something I’d definitely advise – make sure to pick up some bear spray: normally bears are scared of humans, but it’s not really worth the risk! Other than that, prepare for perfect summers and wet, wet winters. And when it snows in Canada, it really snows.