My first trip to Vancouver was a bit of a whirlwind. I was there for — believe it or not — in-person all day meetings. I still managed to walk my feet off and explore downtown. But only downtown.
For that reason, we’re going to pretend Mount Pleasant and all the rest of Vancouver doesn’t exist.
Where to explore
I stayed in Yaletown, which was a great home base. The old warehouses are full of bars, cafes, and boutiques. It’s not the gritty feel of Bushwick, it’s more like polished Soho. The waterfront and the roundhouse were lovely. It feels very cleaned up for the tech scene.
The most interesting part of downtown is Granville Street, which feels like 14th Street in Manhattan or Yonge Street in Toronto.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is the third largest in North America. You have to stop for dim sum or pick up a snack for later from one of the markets.
Gastown is the full of Victorian buildings, galleries, and boutiques. It feels a little more touristy than Yaletown.
Coal Harbour is an upscale area with great views of the harbour. The West End is surprisingly suburban. The gay community and Koreatown keep things from getting too sleepy.
Be sure to pop out of the street grid to enjoy Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach.
I just dipped my toes into Stanley Park, but there’s plenty to keep you busy there. It’s not just greenspace on the waterfront. There’s biking, hiking, whale watching, carriage rides, the Klahowya Village, and a miniature train during the holidays. Fun fact: it’s the largest urban park in North America.
Where to work
Nelson the Seagull is clearly the best place to work in Vancouver. And not just because the name is so good. I didn’t get the picnic board because I was there by myself, so my new life goal is to go back and do that.
I don’t think I’m enough of a coffee snob to appreciate Revolver, but it kind of makes me wish I was.
If you’re hardcore into cycling, Musette Caffe is the spot for you. They’ll still serve you with true Canadian friendliness even if you didn’t bike over. Their decor is over the top (in a good way) and the wifi is legit.
Blenz Coffee is the local chain, so I obviously ended up there to send out some emails and use the washroom. There’s a code for the wifi, but there are plugs and comfy seats in most locations.
Where to eat and drink
If you’re in a rush or just hankering for a sandwich, you want to go to Meat & Bread. They stick to the basics, as their name suggests.
When I asked for brunch recommendations, the locals all pointed me to Acme Cafe and Cafe Medina. Alas, I can only eat so much, so I can’t tell you which one is better. I always choose the place with the shortest wait.
Mamie Taylor’s gets five stars for the decor alone. Don’t forget to selfie with the taxidermy.
Cactus Club Cafe has locations across Canada and three in Vancouver. This is when I admit I can’t remember what I ordered, which suggests it wasn’t a terribly noteworthy meal.
I stopped in at Hub for late-night bites after a long day. They’re a hipster burger joint, so they have a great selection of healthy options and indulgent classics. The prices are good and the service is friendly.
Granville Island is the best place I found for eating all the things while people watching. Or you could just hit T&T, which is right outside of the Stadium-Chinatown station. I’m so jealous of Vancouver’s easily accessible T&T when I have to trek all the way to the Portlands.
Where to stay
I stayed in the Opus Hotel in Yaletown, which was a super convenient location. It’s across the street from the subway, which means you can get anywhere easily. I hear rumors they’ll give you a free bike for the day, although I didn’t try that out myself.
The common spaces were trying so so hard to be hip. The restaurant food is surprisingly good. The bathroom for the restaurant is pretty special, but not in the good way.
The rooms were great, so long as you’re cool with that window into the shower situation all the hotels are into lately. I really prefer my bathroom to be a separate room. It’s Vancouver, so there are condo towers close enough to see you pee.
But the location is so good and the beds are comfortable, so just close the curtains.
The subway will get you between the airport and downtown quickly and easily for a great price.
I booked my flight at the last minute, but Skiplagged saved me from getting gouged. Thanks!