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Vancouver Guide: Part 1 - Downtown

February 12, 2016

Vancouver is a city with extreme beauty.  Located on the coast of British Columbia, the downtown area is surrounded by a natural harbour, trees and picturesque mountains.  It is a paradise for someone who wants to be able to escape the busy city life and find themselves outdoors.  This guide is part 1 of 2, mainly focusing what is in walking distance of the city centre.  The public transport system is a great way to travel around the city.  Translink operate bus and automatic trains to the majority of Vancouver’s surrounds.  A day pass will cost $9.75 and a journey on a bus, $2.75. 



The Downtown Area

Granville Street is the main strip in the downtown area.  It is home to the Pacific centre where you will find all the high street shops and many bars and restaurants located along the street.  Down towards the cruise ship terminal, you will find the Fly Over Canada  attraction.  Strap yourself in as you are taken above Canada from the eyes of a bird.  For about $20 you will get whisked through mountains and feel the mist as you soar through the clouds. 


Not far from here you will find Gastown.  If you are in need of any souvenirs, this area will be the place to go.  The area is one of the oldest parts of town.  It was the original settlement of Vancouver and is rightly named after Gassy Jack. One of the icons of Gastown is the Steam Clock.  This little clock has some history behind it.  It has also been named the most over rated sights in Vancouver.  Originally marketed as a steam power clock, it is actually powered by an electric motor.  The Harbour Centre Tower is home to an observation deck.  This sits around 170 metres above the city.  It’s not the tallest tower around, but it will give you a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area.


Next door to Gastown is China town.  The highlight of area is Dr Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Gardens.  These gardens are an authentic replication of a classical Chinese Garden.  So authentic, it imported everything inside from China.  The trees, granite rock and fixtures all came from China.  It costs $12 and is open from 10am until 6 pm most days.  Aim to go when there is a free tour to understand the reasoning beehind the layout.  Afterwards, head down to Yaletown. Yaletown consists of 2-3 main streets where there are fewer cars and restaurants are a plenty.  



The British Columbia lifestyle is all about getting outdoors and what better way than to visit Stanley Park.  The escape from city life is right next door, about a 20 minute walk from Granville Street.  There are plenty of walks through the tall forest.  Follow the paths to end up at the Tea house or the Stanley Park lookout.  The quickest way to see the park is to hire a bike and ride around the seawall.  Allow at least 2 hours to ride along the 9 km track.  Spokes Bicycle rentals hire bikes for around $12 per hour.  Along the seawall you can see secluded beaches, swimming pools and plenty of photo opportunities.  One opportunity for a great sunset photo is to head to the cannon half an hour before sunset. At 9pm each day, the canon is fired.  This is now days a tradition but it did serve its purpose in the past to notify the ships in the harbour.  During the day, you can visit the Totem Poles and gain a small insight into the art of the First Nation people.


Vancouver is a sports mad city and has three teams which are ambassadors for the city.  The obvious sport to start off with is the local hockey team, the Canucks.  Unfortunately they haven’t won the Stanley trophy yet but came close in 2013.  The supporters were so angry they started a riot in the downtown area.  The Canucks have an Orca as the team mascot. A couple of the lesser followed sports teams are the BC Lions, the local Canadian Football team, and the White Caps, the local soccer team.  They both play at BC Place which is also home the BC Sports hall of fame.  Admission is $15 and the centre is open10am - 5pm daily.


Close to BC Place is Science World.  It is open Tuesday through Sundays and is $22.50 to enter.  Throughout the year, temporary exhibitions are shown.  At the time of writing, the Animal Inside Out exhibition is on and it is an additional $29.50.

If science isn’t your thing and you prefer to walk at a leisurely pace, why not check out the Vancouver Art Gallery.  It is open 10am-5pm daily and costs $24.  If you visit on a Tuesday night between 5pm and 9pm, the entry fee is by donation.


Walk over the Granville Bridge and you will arrive at Granville Island.  It is home to a brewery, fresh vegetables, local artwork and a happening food court.  There are plenty of souvenir shops here which don’t lean on the ’tacky’ souvenir side.



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