It was just last year that I got an opportunity to visit Vancouver, a coastal seaport city located in British Columbia, Canada. Located on the Burrard Peninsula, Vancouver lies between Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south. The moment I got down the flight, the feeling I got of this city was of a relatively densely populated one (especially because I was traveling from the other cities in the province). The Vancouver International Airport was fairly big, vibrant and welcoming and is located on Sea Island in Richmond, British Columbia, and is roughly about 12 km away from the Downtown Vancouver.
As I stepped out of the airport, I could feel the difference of Vancouver compared to the other cities in Canada and I realized the point of difference was its population both regarding its numbers and cultural diversity. There was something fresh about the city which was already giving me ‘a WoW feeling’. The drive from the airport to the hotel downtown was a beautiful one with water bodies, mountains, flowers all set in an urban well-planned backdrop. On the way, I even spotted a many high rise residential buildings. I knew I was already experiencing freshness, vibrancy and some kind of calm in the air which was pleasant to my traveler soul. Whenever in the past, I had read about Vancouver, the city had always intrigued me for getting regularly featured amongst the top cities to live in in the world. I always wanted to understand as to what makes Vancouver feature amongst the top cities to live in, in the world regarding the quality of life. The bigger question in my mind was what was adding to the quality of life for its population.
The hotels in the Downtown Vancouver were affordable, and I felt there was a room for all kind of travelers with different budgets and travel needs. After checking into my hotel, I stepped out for a meal, and I realized the option of food too were plenty around my hotel. While enjoying my meal I was updating my knowledge on ‘Vancuver-this wonderful city in British Columbia,’ through my interactions with my local guide in the city. On the face of it, I gathered that this city had some unique ‘British influence,’ which I wanted to experience and explore. At the same time, I was preparing my list of Places to Visit and Must Do Activities in Vancouver.
As a city, I was confident; it had a lot to offer and teach me. Whatever the locals shared with me on the city was pretty interesting and exciting. With a population of about 6,31,486, this city was one of the most densely populated ones in Canada and had over 5400 people per square kilometer. The city has an area of 114 km2, including both flat and hilly ground, and is in the Pacific Time Zone and the Pacific Maritime Ecozone. Interestingly, the city got its name from George Vancouver, a British officer from the Royal Navy who explored the inner harbor in 1792 and gave its various places different British names. Rightly named as a world city which means a city which is a primary node in the global economic network, Vancouver is Canada’s largest industrial center and is much known for its economic contributions towards the Nation. Its scenic setting makes it a sought after tourist destination, so I was sure I was moving towards an action-packed stay in this rich city- Vancouver. Its port is the largest port in Canada. I was surprised to know that the language spoken for communication in the city was as diverse as its culture, with English being spoken by most. The other popular languages spoken are French, Punjabi, Cantonese, Chinese, and Mandarin. I was ready to explore from the very next day. Basis my experience here is my list of the Must Visit places
- Stanley Park: Spread across 1001 acre land this park tops my list of the must-visit places when in this city. This park is almost entirely surrounded by waters of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay which gives it a unique flavor. Named after Lord Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, a British politician. When compared to the other large urban parks, this park is not a creation of man-made landscape architect (which is typical to most of the popular parks in this world). It has rather evolved out of the forest and urban space for many years. All through the park, I came across many manmade structures present that were created under the influence of then-superintendent W.S. Rawlings. The beauty of this park is magnetic and calls you again to witness its beauty especially because there are many parts of the park that need to be explored and enjoyed on different days. Apart from the natural beauty, this spread out park has many other attractions such as a polar bear exhibit, an aquarium, and a miniature train which adds to the fun aspect. Within the park the Vancouver Seawell is located which is popular for walking, running, cycling and inline skating. I also saw a few people fishing but I learned they had their license. Located within the park is the Beaver Lake, which is peaceful and is covered with beautiful water lilies. Another freshwater lake near the Georgia Street entrance to the park houses the Canadian geese and ducks. The park also is home to the largest Aquarium in Canada known as the Vancouver Aquarium and is home to dolphins, sea lions, harbor lions, belugas. There are approximately 300 species of fish, 30,000 invertebrates, 56 species of amphibians and reptiles, and around 60 mammals and birds. To add a technology touch to the park, there is a unique 4D theatre.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge: This is a simple suspension bridge crossing the Capilano River in the District of North Vancouver. Being on this bridge, was a ‘One of its kind’ experience in itself. This current bridge is 140 meters in length and is 70 meters above the river. It is part of a private facility and takes an admission fee to allow entry. The view from the bridge is simply spectacular.
- English Bay: English Bay is located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, west of the downtown peninsula and False Creek. It consists of the south side of the Burrard Inlet and extends from Point Grey in the southwest to Prospect Point in the northeast. This place is nice for enjoying a view of the bay by simply sitting and basking in the sun.
- Grouse Mountain: This 1,200-metre mountain range offers a wide range of activities from skiing to hiking, but above anything, this offers a mesmerizing view of Vancouver.
- False Creek: False Creek is a short creek in the heart of Vancouver. It separates downtown from the rest of the city. It was named by George Henry Richards during his Hydrographic survey of 1856-63. The Canada- Line tunnel crosses underneath False Creek. It is one of the four major bodies of water bordering Vancouver along with English Bay, Burrard Inlet, and the Fraser River.
- Jericho Beach: This is a popular beach in Vancouver and is located west of the seaside neighborhood of Kitsilano. It is surrounded by Jericho Beach Park, a grassy area with a pond, which is a picnic destination. This is a loved picnic destination for families, especially children.
- Queen Elizabeth Park: A large municipal park located in over 130-acres on Little Mountain (that has an elevation of approximately 152 meters almost 500 feet above the sea level). Its surface was scarred at the turn of the twentieth century when it was quarried for its rock, which served to build Vancouver's first roadways.
- The Seawall: This is a stone wall that was constructed around the perimeter of Stanley Park with a purpose. The Purpose to construct it was to prevent the erosion of the park's foreshore. The Seawall is ideal for pedestrians and bicycle riders, and this has extended far outside the boundary of the popular Stanley Park. The Seawall is popular with both the localities and tourists. James "Jimmy" Cunningham, a master mason, dedicated his life to the construction of the seawall from 1931 until his retirement. Even after he retired, Cunningham continued to return to monitor the wall's progress, until his death at 85. The park users consider the seawall to be the most important feature within the Stanley Park and it is indeed the most used facility within the park.
- Lynn Canyon Park: This is another municipal park in the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia. It encompasses 617 acres. The park has many hiking trails of varying length and difficulty. The Baden-Powell Trail passes through the park crossing over the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. Due to its natural landscape, this is popular and ideal for the filming of TV serials. Some popular ones shot here are Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.
Life and Shopping in Vancouver
Vancouver is a paradise for shopaholics and offers a variety to them. Some of the popular must-visit places to shop and explore are:
- Gastown: One of the liveliest places in Vancouver is Gastown. It is popular for its whistling Steam Clock. It is a popular place for the tourists as it has a mix of different souvenir shops for tourists with different budgets. It also has art galleries and aesthetic decor stores housed in Victorian buildings. It is a buzzing place which is home to many happening food and drink lounges offering food and drink for every taste.
- Granville Island: Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. This is a hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment. Granville Island provides amenities such as a large public market, an extensive marina, boutique hotel, False Creek Community Centre, various performing arts theatres including Vancouver's only professional improvisational theatre company Vancouver Theatre Sports League, the Arts Club Theatre Company and Carousel Theatre, fine arts galleries, and variety of shopping areas.
- Robson Street: This is a major southeast-northwest thoroughfare in downtown and West End of Vancouver. Its core commercial blocks from Burrard Street to Jervis were also known as Robsonstrasse. Its name honors John Robson, a major figure in British Columbia's entry into the Canadian Confederation, and Premier of the province from 1889 to 1892. Robson Street that starts at BC Place Stadium near the north shore of False Creek, practically runs through northwest past Vancouver Library Square, Robson Square, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, coming to an end at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.
What to Eat When in Vancouver
This multicultural city offers diverse cuisines for different tastes. Japanese, Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, Cambodian to American to other palates, the wide range of restaurants are a treat for one and all. Must try delicacies are Aburi sushi from Miku that offer flame seared fusion food, Lamb popsicles from Vij’s in typical Indian style. Najib’s Special from Nuba for the unique Lebanese taste, Chicken wings (with citrus salt and pepper sauce dipping) from Phnom Penh at Chinatown and the Diplomat cake from Notte Bon Ton that specializes in pastries and cakes are perfect for dessert. The list of eateries will be an endless one though offering a unique taste.
Activities to Indulge In
Vancouver offers a wide range of activities for people on the go. Some of the recommended activities include:
Whale Watching Tour in a Covered Boat
Who would not like to admire the whales, so when in Vancouver one must go for this Whale Watching Boat tour. This tour gives you an opportunity to See and admire the whales and other marine animals very closely on the beautiful Ocean. The covered boat has quite a few viewing areas, and whale sightings could be just a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Sunset Dinner Buffet Cruise
To admire Vancouver's finest view of its city skyline and mountains a dinner on the sunset cruise along the Pacific Ocean is much recommended. On this cruise, you will be treated to a buffet dinner of delicious West Coast-style cuisine, accompanied by the sound of live music.
Vancouver is a picturesque and scenic city. To enjoy a bird's eye view of its picturesque harbor and nearby mountain peaks I took this short 20 minutes seaplane flight. It gives an excellent view of the city’s skyline and will leave you mesmerized especially when you witness its Olympic facilities from the top.
Vancouver in British Columbia is one of the finest cities in Canada and when in Canada it is much recommended to visit this city to explore its uniqueness. From sea to creeks to parks to mountains, this city has lots to offer to any traveler. Nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver has a truly majestic beauty. I am sure there is still a lot that I could have explored in the city but because of the paucity of time, I could only explore a shade of Vancouver. This city for sure needs a second visit for me to soak in more regarding its beauty and culture. I was carrying home some beautiful memories from this ten days tour to Vancouver and was already looking forward to my second visit to this beautiful city soon.