The Best Places to Stay in Vancouver
Vancouver is a compact city of distinctive neighborhoods – each of which is worth exploring. Most hotels are located downtown but excellent transit makes all of these areas accessible from city center accommodations. The neighborhoods themselves are generally easy to explore on foot or via a combination of transit and walking. For example, Gastown and Chinatown are walkable from downtown, but Commercial Drive and Kitsilano are likely a little too far for most people to walk to, and need to be reached via transit, taxi, or bike before being explored on foot. All-day transit DayPasses are particularly popular with visitors here.
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The main thoroughfares in Vancouver’s glass-towered city center are Robson Street and Granville Street. The former is predominantly lined with branded chain stores and, at its Stanley Park end, serves-up an enticing array of authentic Japanese and Korean restaurants. Granville Street, especially between Georgia Street and Davie Street, is studded with mainstream bars and clubs. These are busy on weekends with partying locals, although Vancouverites with a more discerning nightlife eye prefer establishments in Gastown or along Main Street.
Downtown is where most Vancouver hotels are located and it’s also where major transit routes including SkyTrain, SeaBus, and key bus services converge. Visitor attractions downtown include the Vancouver Art Gallery, Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, the pier-like Canada Place building on the waterfront, and Vancouver Lookout, a lofty observation tower with panoramic city views.
The Best Hotels in Downtown Vancouver
2. West End
Adjoining downtown’s northwestern edge – and also just a few steps from Stanley Park – the West End is a pleasant grid of tree-lined residential streets studded with well-maintained 1950s apartment buildings. There are lots of historic, wood-built homes in this area, especially around Barclay Heritage Square where the delightful Roedde House Museum is a recommended stop for history fans curious about yesteryear Vancouver life.
Some of the West End’s best heritage homes have been transformed into high-end B&Bs. There is also a full menu of excellent dine-out options in this area, with restaurants lining both sides of Davie Street and Denman Street. Save time for a visit to the beach at English Bay – its panoramic sunsets can be spectacularly photogenic.
The Best Hotels in the West End
3. Stanley Park
Abutting the West End – there are main access points at English Bay and also near the Georgia Street and Denman Street intersection – Vancouver’s greenspace gem is one of North America’s largest and most celebrated urban parks. It’s easy to spend a day here, especially if starting with a walk around the 8.5km Seawall trail, which includes eye-popping ocean, mountain, and forest views. Interior trails also crisscross the park, while sightings of eagles, hummingbirds, beavers, Douglas squirrels, and more are common. Visit the Nature House for the inside track on park flora and fauna.
Additional park attractions include the Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park Train, and the Brockton Point Totem Poles. Other visit-worthy spots include the Rose Garden and Third Beach, where locals love watching the sunsets. There are several places to eat in the park—we especially love the Stanley Park Brewing Restaurant & Brewpub for its homegrown ales and elevated pub grub.
The Best Hotel near Stanley Park
A southbound stroll from downtown, Yaletown was originally a gritty railyard district lined with huge warehouses. These days, the trains have long gone and the old redbrick storerooms have been transformed into chichi boutiques and posh restaurants – especially along Mainland and Hamilton streets. There’s still a reminder of the original railway days at Yaletown’s Engine 374 Pavilion, a free-entry attraction housing the restored steam engine that pulled the first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in 1887.
Sports nuts should also take note of this area: Yaletown is home to BC Place Stadium where Vancouver Whitecaps soccer games and BC Lions Canadian football games are held. There’s also an onsite museum here tracing some of the region’s colorful sporting history – 2010 Winter Olympics included. Ice hockey fan? Nearby Rogers Arena is home to the Vancouver Canucks NHL team.
The Best Hotels in Yaletown
The brick-cobbled neighborhood where modern-day Vancouver began, Gastown is perfect for on-foot exploring. Centered on busy Water Street but radiating along adjoining thoroughfares such as Carrall Street and Abbott Street, its heritage stone and brick buildings now house popular boutiques, large souvenir stores, and some of the city’s favorite restaurants.
Attractions-wise, snappers can’t resist selfies at the Steam Clock (a retro-look freestanding timepiece that plays steam whistle tunes) and the statue of historical figure Gassy Jack, the pioneer-era bar owner who is said to have triggered the development that eventually became Vancouver. Dive into more of the city’s gritty past at Gastown’s Vancouver Police Museum, and consider taking an evocative walking tour of the old town streets with Forbidden Vancouver.
The Best Hotel near Gastown
Right next to Gastown and also designated as a National Historic Site, Canada’s largest Chinatown is a must-see. Its main thoroughfares include East Pender Street, Main Street, and Keefer Street and it is colored with red-painted lampposts, century-old shop fronts, bustling grocery stores, and authentic Asian restaurants. Most visitors start at the towering Chinatown Millennium Gate, located near the intersection of Carrall Street and East Pender Street, before exploring the nearby Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and its Zen-calm pathways. Feline fans should also beeline to the nearby Catfe for the chance to hang out with adoptable cats in a kibble-tastic lounge (book ahead).
Both Gastown and Chinatown are part of the larger Downtown Eastside area where drug abuse and mental health problems are common. It’s generally safe here but street smarts are required, especially during the evening when sticking to major streets is essential.
The Best Hotel near Chinatown
7. Granville Island
Across False Creek from Yaletown (mini-ferry services link the two areas), Granville Island started life a century ago as a busy hive of workshops and small factories. Not actually an island (it’s attached to the mainland underneath Granville Bridge), the manmade floating district faded into near-obsolescence in the 1970s – which is when city planners reinvented it as a bright-painted mini-village of restaurants, galleries, theatres, and artisan studios. The main draw, though, is the covered Public Market, a cavernous cornucopia of produce and deli stands with a side order of craft stalls.
On summer days, the market is among the city’s most popular visitor attractions. But the rest of Granville Island should also be explored. The Net Loft is home to some excellent boutiques while nearby Railspur Alley offers artisan sake and gin producers. There’s also a separate building filled with kid-focused shops and a popular brewery that offers tasty tours. Reminders of Granville Island’s industrial heritage also abound: look for rails embedded in sidewalks and a yesteryear yellow freight crane.
The Best Hotel at Granville Island
Hugging the southern shoreline of Burrard Inlet, Kitsilano was the center of Vancouver’s hippy explosion during the 1960s. Nowadays, the old heritage homes where those flower-power Vancouverites tuned in and dropped out are sought after multi-million-dollar residences beloved of well-to-do professional families. There’s more to see in Kits than nice houses, though.
Start at Vanier Park where its three cultural institutions include the Museum of Vancouver, the kid-friendly H.R. Macmillan Space Centre, and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Just along the shoreline, Kitsilano Beach is a huge sandy swathe that’s arguably Vancouver’s most popular summertime hangout. Shoppers should also save time for 4th Avenue, where independent stores and chain boutiques nestle alongside excellent restaurants and coffee shops. A few blocks south, the Broadway section of Kits also offers great shopping and dining.
The Best Hotels in Kitsilano
- There are no good hotels directly in Kitsilano. The Granville Island Hotel is a 30 minute walk along the beautiful seawall from Kitsilano.
9. University of British Columbia
Further west along the peninsula from Kitsilano, the waterfront UBC campus is one of the biggest in Canada. It’s also an enticing destination for a day out, complete with cultural attractions, public art, parks and gardens, and plenty of places to eat and drink.
Attractions-wise the campus is home to the brilliant Museum of Anthropology (MOA), where the collections include striking totem poles, carvings, and more from the region’s Indigenous people. There are also artifacts from countless additional cultures around the world. A 10-minute walk away is the Beaty Biodiversity Museum – the city’s natural history museum – as well as the nearby Pacific Museum of Earth with its gems, fossils, and minerals. Also on campus are the UBC Botanical Garden, the Nitobe Memorial Garden, and Pacific Spirit Regional Park – which is striped with woodland trails for walkers and bikers.
The Best Hotel near UBC
10. Main Street
East Vancouver’s two main neighborhoods are along Main Street and on Commercial Drive. Both are well worth visiting as the torch-holders of the city’s independent hipster spirit. Originally a working-class district, the Main Street stretch between Broadway and 30th Avenue is now home to a tempting menu of cool, one-of-kind shops – think record stores, bookstores, artisan shops, and local clothing designers – plus a great selection of distinctive cafes, bars, and coffee shops. A great place to rub shoulders with friendly coolsters, Main is easy to explore via transit bus Number 3, which runs the length of the street in each direction and also connects to downtown.
Craft beer-fans are well-served in this area. Known as Brewery Creek from the last few years of the 19th-century onwards, the last beer maker shut down in this area in the 1950s – before several new microbreweries starting recolonizing the district just a few years ago. Consider visits to Brassneck, R&B Brewing, 33 Acres, and Main Street Brewing, among others.
The Best Hotel near Main Street
11. Commercial Drive
An easy bus ride from Main Street on the 99B-Line Express, Commercial Drive was Vancouver’s Little Italy area from the 1950s onwards. And while many vestiges of this colorful immigrant history remain – the city’s best coffee shops and pizzerias are located on the Drive – the street later broadened its demographic to become far more bohemian. Most visitors focus on the stretch between Broadway and Venables streets, exploring a stroll-worthy, gently uphill promenade of eclectic shops as well as restaurants dishing up cuisines from Cuba to Ethiopia and from France to Thailand. There are some excellent vegetarian eateries and neighborhood bakeries here as well.
Nightlife-wise, there are some good bars on the Drive (plus a gaggle of great microbreweries a short stroll away from its northern tip). And, on nearby Venables Street, the Cultch is a beloved local theatre that stages local and visiting stage shows. Need more? Near the Broadway and Commercial intersection, the Rio Theatre presents art house movies, live music, and quirky comedy shows.
The Best Hotels near Commercial Drive
- There are no good hotels near Commercial Drive. If you want easy access to the charms of the Commercial neighborhood your best bet is to stay at the Sandman City Centre. It’s close to the Stadium-Chinatown station and a 5 minute ride on the Skytrain from the Commercial-Broadway station.
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