There are a handful of cities in the world that combine an exceptionally beautiful setting with a dynamic urban landscape. Among such cities are Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Cape Town, Hong Kong and Vancouver.
For those who love to cruise, Alaska is one destination that offers incredible mountains, fjords, wildlife and a raw frontier spirit. Yet the majority of Alaska cruises either begin or end in Vancouver, a city of Old World charm and 21st century sophistication. It’s set in a landscape not unlike that of Alaska, and herein lies a paradox.
Too many sail into the Vancouver Harbour with plans to go directly to the airport because they have no idea that this Pacific gateway is such a beautiful and dynamic city. Don’t be one of those who regret it!
The setting for Vancouver includes a dynamic urban landscape where the love for high-rise has reached quite a crescendo, giving the city more tall buildings than any other city on the West Coast, including Los Angeles or San Francisco.
It sounds hard to believe, but it’s a fact.
But the city also has many magnificent parks, including Stanley Park, several thousand acres of natural temperate rainforest. And to the north of the mountains rapidly rise to top out at over 1,500 meters above sea level, their lower slopes thickly forested while their peaks remain dappled with snow even into the summer.
The city has a deep water harbor that is actually a glacial fjord, separating it from the mountains. And to the west is the Georgia Strait, a 56 kilometer wide channel separating the mainland from magnificent Vancouver Island with its thousands of square miles of forested wilderness.
But the island is also home to the city of Victoria with over 500,000 residents. It’s actually the capital of the Province of British Columbia, but it can only be reached by ferryboat or air. Again a city of many sides!
There’s much to see within the city of Vancouver, and that’s why several days are recommended. Below are listed just the major sights:
Capilano Canyon and Suspension Bridge – A foot bridge suspended above a small rushing river in the foothills of Grouse Mountain across the harbor
Gas Town – With its quaint gas street lights, this old Victorian waterfront district is where Vancouver began
Chinatown – Vancouver has a very large Chinatown that is actually a true Chinese neighborhood that feels more like being overseas than being in Canada
Granville Island – Located in False Creek, this is the city’s great public market and gourmet dining spot
Granville Street – This pedestrian friendly street contains the city’s downtown shopping, including Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay Company, Holt Renfrew and the shops of the Pacific Centre Mall
Grouse Mountain – You can ride a gondola to the top of the mountain 1,231 meters above the city where you can dine with a breathtaking view
Kitsilano Beach – A waterfront suburb on English Bay with dramatic views of the West End skyline, and containing some of the remaining Victorian homes of the 19th century
Point Grey – Along English Bay and leading to the University of British Columbia, this is one of the most favored residential communities
Richmond – The island suburb that is more like Hong Kong than it is like Canada, replete with great Chinese restaurants
Robson Street – The most chic street in the West End filled with clubs, bistros, bakeries, cafes and boutiques
Simon Fraser University – High atop Burnaby Mountain the campus has been used as a setting for many science fiction movies
Stanley Park – A semi wild park beyond the West End consisting of 405 hectares of forest, gardens and public attractions
University of British Columbia – Situated at the end of Point Grey, the campus is quite dynamic with a mix of architectural styles
West End – The second most densely settled neighborhood of high-rise apartments and condominiums after that of Manhattan in New York City