The Saturday City: Vancouver

Vancouver from granville islandLocated in British Columbia, Vancouver is the largest city in Western Canada and the third-largest in all of Canada. It is known for its natural beauty, as it is nestled between the mountains and the ocean. Vancouver is one of my top ten favorite cities in the world.

Vancouver’s proximity to the ocean and the mountains provides for an excellent location: within minutes, you can get from downtown to the mountains or the beach. Vancouver is a dream for city-dwellers who need some fresh air but can’t quite move into a rural area.

Vancouver is just over 100 years old, and its namesake, Captain George Vancouver, sailed through the First Narrows in 1792. The first settlement on the downtown peninsula was Granville, located on the spot of today’s Gastown. Its location and harbor made it an excellent spot for a port, and Vancouver soon became the biggest port in the region. Today, it is still Canada’s main western port and the launching ground for most cruises up the Inside Passage.

Vancouver harbor

Vancouver is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty and the opportunities afforded by its natural environment. Surrounded by water on three sides and crowned by the North Shore mountains, Vancouver is a great starting point for discovering the area’s many outdoor activities. In less than an hour, I went from downtown to the mountains, exploring the Capilano area, overcoming my fear of heights on the Capilano bridge, hiking across rivers, and ending up in random sea ports because I forgot what bus stop I needed to get off at. 

Vancouver’s true appeal comes from this blend of nature and man — from city to mountain and back all in one day.

Vancouver capiliano bridge

Vancouver’s main park is a gem among city parks worldwide. It may not be the biggest, but Stanley Park is second to none. Perched on the edge of the city, this park is an oasis of calm in an already relaxed city. The park has an aquarium, beaches, and miles of trails that let you dissolve into nature while still being a stone’s throw away from the city. It makes for a great mid-day break location, a place to walk or hike, or a spot to just relax. In the park, you hear none of the sounds of the city. It’s easy to relax here, without the crowds you see in Central Park or Hyde Park.

Vancouver harbor

For foodies, Vancouver represents a delight for those who love Asian cuisine. As Canada’s major western port, immigrants from the Far East have long called Vancouver home. This has lead to a city with a high Asian population and Asian food on every corner. Sushi, Chinese, and some amazing Korean food can all be found here. Vancouver is home to the second-largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco.

Vancouver is a hip city — it reminds me a lot of Seattle, and a cross between Melbourne and Sydney. Walking around, everyone is relaxed, friendly, and very “cool.” The buildings are ultra modern, and there are cafes everywhere and outdoor restaurants when the weather is nice. And there’s also the wonderful Granville Park, a collection of eclectic shops and eateries for the yuppy liberal in all of us. I found some amazing food while I was there and even stumbled across a great local artist. I watched her set for half an hour. Good food, good music, and good wine is a lovely way to spend a weekend afternoon.

granville island in vancouver

I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Vancouver, and I suspect I probably never will. With so much to like here — from its food to its atmosphere to its location — there’s little bad you can really say.

There are many cities I like in the world, but few I would move to. Vancouver is one that I would move to. It’s that great.

  1. Fida

    Thank you for that lovely account about Vancouver. I fully agree with you, and I always love to show off the city to visitors as if it would be mine (I am an expat). But believe it or not – this summer I experienced what you thought would never happen to you. After 3 days of exploring the city with visitors, we sat down at the beach to relax after an other eventful day, and – what I thought – where enjoying the vibrant atmosphere, me beaming with delight at the view – when that 23-year old women summed up her experience with an almost disgusting expression on her face: “Vancouver is so disappointing.” My jaw is still hanging…

  2. I love Vancouver too – we visited a couple of years ago for a friend’s wedding at Easter – it was the perfect time of year as we had sunny weather to explore the city for a few days then headed to Whistler for some late season ski-ing – the perfect combination.

  3. I’d love to go and it has been on my list for some time. Similar to your last comment, I have only ever heard good things about Vancouver by people who have been there. A mix of Sydney and Melbourne can’t be bad (depending on which bits you pick from each place!!).

  4. I agree with Wendy, the quality of life does look outstanding compared to other American cities. So far I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about the city either.

  5. Taylor Davidson

    One of my favorite cities, spent a week there last summer. What’s great is the opportunities inside AND outside the city…

  6. As a native Vacouverite I couldn’t agree with you and all of your commenters more Matt!

    Vancouver is a great city and while I’m not often homesick (I currently am living the expat life in Tokyo), I often find myself reminded of how lucky I was to be born and raised in the city and eagerly await my opportunities to go ‘home’ and visit family and friends.

  7. Alex

    I’m from a suburb of Vancouver and although I’m a bit biased here, I think Vancouver is simply amazing. It doesn’t get much prettier scenery-wise (ocean AND mountains, what more could you want?!), lots of restaurants/bars, great shopping, hiking/outdoor activities, and so many different areas to visit within the city (Kitsalano, Yaletown, Granville Island, Gastown, etc.) – all this with friendly people and a high quality of living… *sigh* I love this place!!! Feel lucky to live so close by. Enjoy Matt!

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