Where are you going?
Or, let us surprise youSpin the Globe ®

Vancouver City and Culture

People Who Live in Glass Houses
Vancouver City and Culture
Lovely and liberal, Vancouver effortlessly blends rugged beauty and cosmopolitan culture. Here, you’ll find everything from superb wine, beer, and fusion cuisine to skyscrapers and North America’s largest nude beach, all in Canada’s mildest climate.
By Amanda Castleman, AFAR Local Expert
Museum of Anthropology
  • 1 / 10
    People Who Live in Glass Houses
    People Who Live in Glass Houses
    Vancouver presides over a peninsula surrounded by stunning scenery. In fact, the landscape is so beautiful that it inspired a postwar architectural style called West Coast Modernism, which uses complex glass geometries and open-plan layouts to maximize nature and sunshine. These see-through houses dazzle at every turn, but architecture connoisseurs should also check out the University of British Columbia’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which takes advantage of its central “lantern” space to showcase an 82-foot blue whale skeleton. Equally stunning is the campus’s Museum of Anthropology, which Arthur Erickson designed to echo Vancouver’s post-and-beam tradition.
    Museum of Anthropology
  • 2 / 10
    East Meets West
    East Meets West
    Considered the “most Asian city outside Asia,” metro Vancouver embraces the strength and beauty of welcoming immigrants. Here, 41 percent of residents claim heritage from China, India, the Philippines, and other neighboring nations (compared to 41 percent in Seattle and eight percent in Portland). Celebrate the city’s Pacific Rim connection in Chinatown, at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, or at the International Buddhist Temple in Richmond. You can also delight in more modern interpretations of cultural fusion like the Richmond Night Market and the “Monster Cannery,” which was once a major employer of immigrants and now functions as an industrial museum. 


    International Buddhist Temple courtesy of Tourism Richmond
  • 3 / 10
    Spaaaaahs
    Spaaaaahs
    Downshift with treatments inspired by the bounty of British Columbia. Sense Spa at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia serves up maple pedicures and glacial honey scrubs, while Chi, The Spa at the Shangri-La builds its menu around marine botanicals. You can also take your relaxation directly outside at Whistler’s Scandinave Spa, where a series of pools overlook the cedar and spruce forest of Lost Lake Park. For a little at-home pampering, turn to Renaissance of Seaflora, an organic skin-care line from Vancouver Island’s “Seaweed Lady,” Diane Bernard. 


    The Scandinave Spa courtesy of Tourism Whistler
  • 4 / 10
    Food for Thought
    Food for Thought
    Full of superb bars, food trucks, and restaurants, Vancouver ranks high among the world’s culinary hot spots. It’s also a leader in the sustainable seafood industry, with the Ocean Wise program headquartered at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. For a taste of local flavor, head to the West End Farmers’ Market or the Richmond Night Market.
    The Night Market courtesy of Tourism Richmond
  • 5 / 10
    Dine and Dash
    Dine and Dash
    Known as North America’s capital of outdoor adventures, Vancouver is also home to several enticing food tours on foot. Explore the city’s Prohibition-defying past with Forbidden Vancouver, then raise a glass to progress—and modern triumphs in craft beer—with Vancouver Brewery Tours. Hungry for a tasteful overview of Vancouver’s culinary scene? Try Vancouver Foodie Tours, which romps from gourmet guilty pleasures to street food favorites like crispy fish tacos and a Berkshire pork hot dog topped with seaweed flakes.

    Vancouver Foodie Tours
  • 6 / 10
    Be A Good Sport
    Be A Good Sport
    Beyond its outdoor adventures, Vancouver has plenty to keep pulses racing. Each May, the Vancouver Marathon charges down from the city’s highest point in Queen Elizabeth Park, ending on the water at Canada Place. Gonzo cyclers get their due at the GranFondo Whistler in September, racing 76 miles along the Sea-to-Sky Highway and gaining 5,577 vertical feet in the process. If you’re craving your own adrenaline rush, follow in the footsteps of Olympians at the Richmond Oval, where you can experience the speed-skating rink from the 2010 Winter Games through a virtual-reality sports simulator. 



    The Oval courtesy of Tourism Richmond
  • 7 / 10
    Family Plan
    Family Plan
    If you’re visiting Vancouver with children, make a beeline for Granville Island, where the Kids’ Market sells funky handcrafted toys near North America’s largest free water park (open all summer). Then, hop on a rainbow-colored Aquabus mini-ferry and zip to False Creek, home to Science World and the Omnimax Theatre. Before leaving, you’ll also want to hit the sea otter show at the Vancouver Aquarium.
    Vancouver Aquarium
  • 8 / 10
    Shop Around
    Shop Around
    Vancouver’s big-brand destination for decades, Robson Street now has a rival two blocks northeast. Stealing a play from Rodeo Drive, Alberni Street dazzles with retailers like Prada, Versace, Burberry, Tory Burch, Tiffany & Co., and the De Beers flagship store. Shop until you’re about to drop, then refuel at Thierry with macarons, handcrafted chocolates, and artisanal sandwiches from Araxi executive chef Quang Dang. For thoughtful souvenirs—edible and otherwise—head to Gastown, Granville Island, or East Pender Street in Chinatown. Also worth checking out is Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre, an Asian mall with more than 160 stores selling everything from bubble tea to Mercedes-Benz coupes.


    Aberdeen Centre courtesy of Tourism Richmond
  • 9 / 10
    State of the Art
    State of the Art
    The only continental North American metropolis celebrated in Phaidon’s Art Cities of the Future book, Vancouver has long been a center for photoconceptualism. It’s also home to bold mixed-media artists like Andrew Dadson and Julia Feyrer. Of course, art aficionados should hit classic stops like the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Contemporary Art Gallery, and the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, but they should also make time for April’s Art Vancouver festival or Centre A, Canada’s only public gallery celebrating contemporary Asian visual art.
    Vancouver Art Gallery
  • 10 / 10
    Freedom of Expression
    Freedom of Expression
    In 2017, Vancouver’s first artist-in-residence, Justin Langlois, installed the neon-wrought sentence “Should I be worried?” east of Cambie Bridge. Like much of the city’s public art, the work is part of a dialogue about social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Other public pieces worth checking out include the totem poles in Stanley Park and Digital Orca, created by the artist and Generation X author Douglas Coupland near the 2010 Olympic Cauldron. Most noteworthy, however, is Stan Douglas’s giant photographic mural in the Woodward’s building, which meticulously restages a 1971 clash between police and marijuana activists during Gastown’s Battle of Maple Tree Square. For a more upbeat ending to your public art tour, enjoy a DIY or guided tour of the Vancouver Mural Festival in the Strathcona, Eastside, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.
    Vancouver Mural Festival