Canada’s third-largest city is a haven for culture vultures and as the country marks its 150th birthday, there’s never been a better time to go, says Catherine Van Brunschot
Why go? When it comes to sheer physical character, Vancouver has everything you could want from a city break. The North Shore Mountains tumble into the harbour and sandy beaches fringe the absinthe-tinted towers of the city’s core. Here, the appetite for outdoor pursuits is as strong as that for the bounty of its river. As Canada celebrates its 2017 sesquicentennial, Vancouver intends to be the country’s premier aboriginal culture destination, showcasing First Nations’ contributions to the city.
What to do Start the day as Vancouverites do, pedalling or pounding the rainforest trails and scenic seawall of 400ha Stanley Park, where totem poles mingle with ancient red cedars. Then head for the white sails of Canada Place, centrepiece of Expo 1986 and now a convention centre and cruise ship terminal with great views of Burrard Inlet. A few blocks down Howe Street is the Vancouver Art Gallery vanartgallery.bc.ca which was redesigned from a neoclassical courthouse by Arthur Erickson in 1983. It presents curations of Canadian and Asian art and photography, and houses a comprehensive collection of works by Emily Carr, one of the country’s most beloved artists. Across the street is the splendid Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art billreidgallery.ca featuring the lifeworks of the eminent aboriginal artist. After getting your art fix, head for Gastown, Vancouver’s Victorian birthplace. Long derelict before becoming a kitsch tourist district, it’s now a hip destination for cocktails and the preferred launch pad of rising culinary stars. On day two, beat the crowd to Granville Island, where galleries, shops and restaurants dominate a reclaimed industrial district and a colourful indoor market boasts all manner of local comestibles. Choose your transport – the Aquabus ferries theaquabus.com or the False Creek pathways – to Vanier Park and its handful of museums. The Museum of Vancouver museumofvancouver.ca offers a revelatory and immersive experience into the city’s history, while the Vancouver Maritime Museum vancouvermaritimemuseum.com is home to the first ship to complete a ‘sailing’ of the Arctic Northwest Passage at. Finish up in the former hippie enclave of Kitsilano, now gentrified with shops and cafés such as French bistro Au Comptoir 00 1 604 569 2278, aucomptoir.ca and Maenam 00 1 604 730 5579, maenam.ca a top Thai restaurant.
Where to stay? Embrace the West Coast lifestyle at Loden
00 1 877 225 6336, theloden.com a boutique hotel featuring free bikes, a spa, a 24-hour yoga channel and guided fitness hikes and cycling. The restrained facade of landmark Hotel Georgia rosewoodhotels.com has welcomed British royalty and Hollywood celebrities to its swish interior since 1927. A complete renovation in 2011 resulted in an impeccably restored heritage lobby leading to Hawksworth Restaurant hawksworthrestaurant.com headed up by chef David Hawksworth. Times Square Suites Hotel 00 1 604 684 2223, timessquaresuites.com offers bright and comfortable self-catering suites close to Stanley Park and English Bay beach.
Where to eat and drink? A farm-and-ocean-to-table philosophy underpins much of Vancouver’s culinary scene. Farmer’s Apprentice 00 1 604 620 2070, farmersapprentice.ca is a South Granville restaurant where chef David Gunawan creates an omnivore and herbivore menu based on what is available each day. His latest venture is Royal Dinette 00 1 604 974 8077, royaldinette.ca a retro-diner-meets-country-cupboard venue that serves up the likes of winter squash layered with smoked goat’s cheese, pickled grapes, oats and dill, as well as inventive daily pastas. In Gastown, you’ll find L’Abattoir 00 1 604 568 1701, labattoir.ca whose French spin on West Coast cuisine packs patrons into its industrial-chic digs. Just steps away, The Diamond di6mond.com is the go-to place for stellar cocktails.
Time running out? Ogle immense First Nations sculptures and the 500,000-piece international cultural collection at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. moa.ubc.ca
Trip tip Hop on the SeaBus to Lynn Canyon Park for free access to forested hiking trails, waterfalls and a suspension bridge.
Currency is the Canadian dollar. Time is eight hours behind GMT and flight time is approximately 17.5 hours from Dubai. The cost to carbon-offset is $30.22. For more details visit climatecare.org
Emirates Airline flies to Vancouver from Dubai via Seattle daily emiates.com British Airways flied to Vancouver from Dubai via London daily ba.com
Tourism Vancouver is the city’s official tourist guide. It offers online booking to some local attractions, as well as a list of sesquicentennial and other events. tourismvancouver.com
City of Glass by Douglas Coupland (Douglas & McIntyre, $22) is a series of essays and photographs about his home town.