Hugged by the salty Salish Sea on one side and towering North Shore Mountains on the other, Vancouver has a few nicknames. There’s City of Glass, coined by local artist-author Douglas Coupland due to downtown’s bounty of reflective skyscrapers, and Rain City, for the reliable stream of wet weather that keeps the landscape especially evergreen. Kiwi Collection simply calls it Home, as does photographer Britney Gill. When she’s not traveling around the world camera in hand, she’s recharging here via the abundant nature and vibrant culture. Covering the best lobby bar, hiking loop, gallery hop, moules-frites and more, this is her Destination Guide to Vancouver.
Fairmont Pacific Rim
Excitement for the Fairmont Pacific Rim, which opened in 2010, has yet to wane with both tourists and locals still flocking to this hotel. Fueling the draw are its delectable Botanist restaurant, where the menu depicts the culinary abundance and botany of the Pacific Northwest, as well as an impressive lobby bar that feels like it puts Vancouver on the map—people watching at its finest. There’s also an epic Willow Stream Spa boasting a grand stone steam room and facials with Biologique Recherche products from Paris.
This boutique hotel in the heart of Vancouver’s cosmopolitan Yaletown neighbourhood has been a mainstay for many years. The rooms at OPUS Vancouver are spacious and funky, with vibrant color palettes and pop-deco art. The amenities are on-point—hello, Dyson hair dryers—and their dining concepts always create a buzz. The latest features tasty house-made pizza and Italian fare at Capo, and yummy cocktails at The Spritz, a cozy bar with both classics and original libations by world-class bartenders.
Shangri-La is a staple in the city, exuding sleek sophistication and Zen-like energy. Occupying downtown Vancouver’s tallest building, you’ll find yourself in the heart of one of the most popular areas for shopping and dining. I recommend a Negroni in the lounge, and the in-house restaurant Carlino is a new favorite that pays homage to British Columbia and its similarities with northern Italy. Last but not least, be sure to book a treatment at CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La.
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Sophisticated with a touch of old-world charm, the historic Rosewood Hotel Georgia is a crowd favorite that combines the grandeur of the Roaring Twenties with contemporary design in the heart of Vancouver. The 1927 Lobby Lounge is one of the all-time sneaky spots in the city to hide away with a delicious cocktail, and Hawksworth Restaurant boasts contemporary cuisine and an award-winning wine list. Also not to be missed is Reflections Terrace, one of the best patios in the city with tapas-inspired fare.
EAT & DRINK
Autostrada Vancouver House
A test concept turned success story, Autostrada bridges the decadence of Italian food with Vancouver’s casual, laid-back style. At the Vancouver House location, my personal favorite of the three in Vancouver, expect a welcoming, bustling and unpretentious space. At the downtown location, the knick-knacks and finishings remind you of a family dinner at Nonna’s home.
A quaint restaurant in Vancouver’s up and coming East Village, Elephant features Japanese-style omakase dinners reflecting the best local ingredients that B.C. has to offer. With only 18 seats, you’ll want to book in advance.
Award-winning St. Lawrence pays homage to chef JC Poirier’s upbringing in Quebec whilst bridging the fine dining techniques of France. Their famous sugar shack dinner was my introduction to their restaurant and the multi-course meal featuring Canadian maple syrup was one of the most memorable.
Vancouver’s best Belgian-inspired restaurant, Chambar is the perfect spot for just about any occasion. While the dinner menu is delicious, and I dream of the moules-frites, their brunch is also one of the most popular in the city.
Fabrique St. George
I love this funky winery, lounge and market because you can build your own picnic to dine in with or take out. If you take your FSG picnic to go, a great local spot to eat in the summer that’s not too far away is Jonathon Rogers Park. It has beautiful views of the city and tends to be a hot picnic spot when the sun is shining.
The Keefer Bar
This is the spot in town for iconic cocktails! In the heart of historic Chinatown, The Keefer Bar will never disappoint—it’s best for a late-night cap. I am a sucker for Fernet Branca so I indulge in the Chinatown Sour, but the Rosemary Gimlet also makes the rotation.
When shopping, I choose to support small businesses and friends with boutiques in the city—it’s a crucial way to build and maintain resilient communities. Obakki is the store nearest to my heart because I did development work and am always eager to promote and support both local and global artisans. Art has been a great tool for me to connect to the world and make a living, so it warms my heart to support others doing the same. Treanna, the founder, has curated the most inspiring design-focused, ethically handmade items from all around the world—my wish list from this shop is truly never-ending.
One of a Few
For almost 20 years, Michelle Rizardo of One of a Few has been a pioneer in the support and launch of hundreds of emerging fashion brands. Her shop’s focus on slow fashion is what drew me to it, and it is in historic Gastown which is a stroll that’s not to be missed!
A great shop for discovering up and coming designers and indie brands while also grabbing a few old faithfuls, The Block is another Gastown go-to. Established in 1999, it specializes in unique and classy clothing, shoes, bags and accessories.
With a collection of high-quality and intentional clothes, items and objects, the ever-friendly Neighbour is also in Gastown—an area for some of the best boutique retail therapy. Be sure to check out all three of their shops: Neighbour Object, Neighbour Men and Neighbour Women.
Family owned and operated since 1985, Boboli offers high-end fashion in an intimate boutique setting. This is a place to invest in timeless pieces that will last a lifetime, and the location is a wonderful spot to explore; it’s situated in Vancouver’s South Granville shopping district.
This is a shop where natural products are made with intention and care. Their sourcing has high ethical standards, so I am always tempted to buy almost everything in Harlow, but I adore their candles and skin gloss!
My preferred way to enjoy the city is to rent a bike and tour around the 28 kilometers of paved seawall stopping at restaurants and viewpoints along the way. Rent a bike in Coal Harbour, make your way all the way around Stanley Park, past Third Beach and English Bay, then zip by Yaletown, False Creek and Olympic Village. More ambitious riders can continue to Granville Island or even head over towards Kits Beach and Spanish Banks.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
This is always an impressive spot to bring friends and family from out of town and a unique way to experience the treetops and powerful rivers of B.C. Between the cantilevered and suspension bridges there are lots of thrills to be had at Capilano. Most locals prefer to go rogue on the multiple backcountry trails by foot or bike, but this is a nice introduction to our ecosystem before you start exploring deeper.
Parks & Nature Trails
One of the best parts of Vancouver is its proximity to loads of adventures. There’s the world renowned Stanley Park right downtown or Pacific Spirit Park by the University of British Columbia. Only 20 minutes from the city you can be deep in the forest on the North Shore, which is packed with parks. My all-time fave nature loop is through the weaving forests and along the river of Lynn Canyon, which also has a suspension bridge.
My favorite way to experience the art scene is spontaneous art hops between the many large and small galleries around town. I particularly love experiencing both emerging and established artists from all over the world. Monte Clark is a favorite for creative pop-ups and an impressive industrial canvas. Others of note are Equinox Gallery (pictured), Gallery Jones and the Vancouver Art Gallery right downtown.
Whistler is the ultimate getaway; the world-class ski resort is now just as busy in the summer for alpine hiking and downhill mountain biking. A quick hour and a half away from Vancouver, it is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are loads of lakes, hikes, restaurants and shops to keep you busy if you aren’t hitting the mountain.