Vancouver’s only beachfront hotel conjures thoughts of a more genteel era, thanks to its Virginia Creeper–clad brick and terra-cotta walls and heritage building status. Erected in 1912 as an apartment building, the Sylvia transformed into a hotel in the 1950s and boasted the city’s very first cocktail lounge. Once the tallest building in the West End, now its neighbors—the high-rise condos and apartment buildings of English Bay—soar above it. Rooms in this always-popular hotel are pleasingly spacious, spotlessly clean, and, thanks to its previous incarnation, available in a wide range of configurations. For instance, 19 of the rooms have full kitchen units perfect for families and long-stay guests.
The decor leans toward the traditional, with cream, yellow, earth tones, and tapestry-style work as the main themes. Original vintage touches abound, including a medieval-style stained-glass window, an old-style dial on the elevator, and a regal marble entrance. The hotel’s fascinating history includes Errol Flynn as a previous resident (he spent his last night here before he died) and celebrity clients such as Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke.
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The Sylvia is perfectly placed, just steps from the sandy beach of English Bay, where visitors can swim, kayak, play beach volleyball, and people watch. One of the city’s most beautiful natural attractions is also right at the doorstep. Stanley Park has everything from woodland trails and totem poles to beaches, restaurants, and wildlife. In the summertime, guests with rooms facing the water will have the best view in the city for the Festival of Lights, an annual fireworks display. Running for three nights across two weekends in late July and early August, the festival packs every inch of beach with picnickers, and there’s a great pre-fireworks live music show and food trucks aplenty.
Need to Know
Rooms: 120 rooms, 19 suites; from $70. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The three-tiered Sylvia Restaurant looks out over English Bay with huge windows to catch that perfect sunset. The menu is made up of affordable seasonal comfort food with a twist. Check out the daily fresh sheet and bag a bargain at "Appy Hour" between 3 and 6 p.m. Spa and gym details: No gym or spa at this hotel, however, the seawall is right outside for running, blading, and biking. The sea is safe for swimming.
Who’s it for: Families, leisure travelers, and guests looking for dog-friendly accommodation. Our favorite rooms: Room 801 is the most requested in the hotel. The largest on the property, it used to be the Dine in the Sky restaurant and is now a King Size suite with a vast living room area and world-class view. Guests in the know seeking the best deal in the city ask for the Closet, a tiny queen-size room with a shower that’s perfect for those on a budget who just need a space to sleep in a prime location. A drink with history: Take a seat at the cocktail bar and sip a historic Vancouver cocktail (gin, red vermouth, B&B, and an orange twist) at the very place it was invented.