In our opinion, Vancouver has everything you could ask for. The best of both worlds; a cosmopolitan hub with a vibrant cultural scene, surrounded by a natural playground of city side oceans, dense waterfront forests and stunning mountainous landscape. Paired with Vancouverite’s Canadian laid-back charm, you won’t want to rush your visit and will find it no surprise that Vancouver regularly tops the list of the world’s most liveable cities. Read on for our guide of what to do in the city that is so much more than just the birthplace of Lululemon – we just can’t guarantee you’ll ever want to leave…
Most hotels are in downtown which is great if you want to be in the main city centre, but if you want a true taste of Vancouver living on your stay, Air BnB is your best bet and you can pick up some local tips from your hosts too. Vancouver has tons of unique options including waterfront living, from beachside condos in Kitsilano to harbourside floating homes in North Vancouver. While back in downtown, Gastown has high ceiling lofts that would make New York jealous. Our advice – book well in advance if you can as listings do go fast. We recommend checking out Deep Cove Beach Apt for its stunning waterside location! Book here.
The Fairmont Waterfront
Somewhat surprisingly Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront is one of Vancouver’s greenest hotel choices with a sustainable philosophy recognised by Green Key Global and it’s current ‘5 Green Key’ status. From rooftop to fork, the Fairmont’s rooftop garden was one of the first green roofs in Vancouver when it was planted in 1995. Now the 2,100 sq foot garden produces much of the hotel menu’s fruit, veg and herbs. Alongside the permaculture, there’s also room on the rooftop for a ‘pollinator hotel’ providing habitat for hundreds of species of solitary bees native to British Colombia. The rooms are as expected for a Fairmont – luxurious, spacious and bright, but it’s the Harbour and North Shore mountain views that make them stand out from the rest. Oh and pack your cozzie for the rooftop pool. Prices start from £228 for double rooms in low season.
You’ll find no shortage of brunch spots in Vancouver, but we love Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant for the locally sourced seasonal ingredients that flood the plant-based menu, and interesting flavours that will have you dreaming of your dish for days. The bright minimalistic decor suits the laid-back vibe of the restaurant making it a perfect place to fuel up before exploring the city. Located in South Granville close to Downtown, there is now a second Heirloom in West Vancouver offering a counter service alternative to its original restaurant format.
Vegan comfort food at its best, make sure to put MeeT on your list for delicious food when hunger really strikes. Think sweet chilli cauliflower beer battered with a tamarind chilli glaze, oyster mushroom kalamari, a vegan burger menu and even vegan Poutine (yes you heard right). There are two locations in Gastown and Yaletown, both with a signature eclectic style and no reservations.
There’s an abundance of Asian cuisine in Vancouver (check out Richmond Market for delicious street food – cash only) and arguably some of the best sushi in Canada, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find better and more sustainably sourced seafood in the city than at Miku. The menu is centred around the aburi-style flamed sushi that chef Matsuoka is revered for, and the pretty patio and sweeping views of Coal Harbour, while you eat, make this destination well worth a visit.
Vancouver’s original natural foods restaurant is The Naam, founded in 1969. Loved by locals and visitors alike it has an effortlessly bohemian vibe, and it’s easy to see how the delicious vegan and vegetarian meals have sustained its reputation for almost 50 years. A large menu with something for everyone paired with lively atmosphere and hippie chic decor. Great value for money.
Our favourite place to workout in Vancouver is TurF. Located in hip Kitsilano the classes are fun and challenging, guaranteed to get you super sweaty. It’s also the only studio in Canada to offer Taryn Toomy’s cult The Class which combines yoga, cardio and HIIT. Worth a visit in its own right is the TurF cafe. Post workout smoothies have never tasted so good (we dare you not to like the Chocolate Mushroom Trip) and there’s an abundance of farm fresh food on the menu to satisfy your vegan cravings.
Vancouver is the yoga capital of Canada and you’ll find a studio on almost every corner. We love Y Yoga for the beautiful clean spaces and great teachers – what’s more, they offer 12 styles of yoga making it easy to find your preferred style or try something new. If visiting Vancouver in the summer, we also recommend you check out matcollective.com for times and locations of free yoga classes al fresco.
Step out into the open air, and Vancouver really earns its reputation as a Mecca for healthistas. There are three main mountains close to the city, all within an hours drive: Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain. If time only allows for one hike, and you’re looking for a serious workout, we recommend ‘nature’s stairmaster’ the Grouse Grind, which is a 2.9km, 853-metre vertical gain trail up the face of Grouse Mountain. Reach the peak for panoramic views of Vancouver that make it worth every step and bead of sweat.
Vancouver’s answer to Bondi pool, Kits Pool is an impressive 137 metre heated saltwater outdoor pool. Dependent on your fitness levels a length and back might be enough! It’s a must-visit on one of Vancouver’s sunny summer’s days, even just to soak up rays on the sun deck. The pool itself is picturesque, oceanside with mountain backdrops and views of the downtown skyline.
words by Mea Perkins
Read more: The Ultimate Wellness New York City Guide