Revisiting the International Appeal and Breathtaking Beauty of Vancouver

The fair city.

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  • Written by
    Darren Elms

Burdock & Co. Photo by Hakan Burcuoglu.

Anyone remember the World’s Fair—the every-two-year global showcase of culture and advancement that took over a host city for an extended period of time? In 1986, Vancouver’s Expo 86 was the summer destination, and my family couldn’t resist the buzz. I remember loving this trip—the exhibitions, the gorgeous mountain backdrop, the monorail (they had a monorail!). 

I can’t believe it took me 35 years to return to Vancouver. The fairgrounds are long gone, but the international spirit survives … in the culture, in the food and in its diverse population.

Vancouver is also drop-dead gorgeous. A mostly modern metropolis surrounded by parks, forests and mountains, it’s not hard to delight in your surroundings. Whether you decide to spend your vacation time immersed in nature or canvasing the wonderfully unique neighborhoods—or both—Vancouver is unlikely to disappoint.

Where to Stay

The St. Regis Hotel can’t be beat for its central downtown Vancouver location and top-notch amenities. Another resort, Landmark Rosewood Hotel Georgia, enjoys a Hollywood pedigree, having hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn and the king himself, Elvis Presley. If you prefer to live like a local, consider a private home rental—from stylish high-rise condos to charming houseboats with harbor views.

The Neighborhoods

Gastown, Vancouver’s most historic hub, got its name from saloon proprietor Gassy Jack Deighton. Popular among tourists and locals alike, this enclave of cobblestone streets and restored Victorian buildings hosts shopping, dining, art galleries and great people-watching.

A former warehouse district, Yaletown is now home to chic coffee shops, lounge bars and boutiques. Over on the West End, tree-lined boulevards, cafés and independent stores welcome a bohemian crowd. Known for its famous Kits Beach, Kitsilano is considered one of Vancouver’s most desired older neighborhoods, with views of the city skyline and Stanley Park.  

Speaking of Stanley Park, this expansive nature rainforest on the city’s northern peninsula is a must for the outdoor enthusiast. Traverse the famous seawall by foot or bike, get lost in the forests of Douglas fir and western red cedar or get to know the regional aquatic life at the Vancouver Aquarium. Yes, they have otters. 

L’Abattoir. Photo by Eric Milic.

Where to Eat

Housed in a 19th-century building that acted as Vancouver’s first jail, L’Abattoir stands out as one of Gastown’s best dining spots. Woodsy and industrial on the inside, the cozy venue packs in fans of the French-influenced West Coast fare by chef and proprietor Lee Cooper, along with exquisite cocktails and wine selection. 

Chef Andrea Carlson’s close relationship with local suppliers means the menu at Burdock & Co shines with the freshest ingredients in town. Communal tables invite diners to get acquainted while feasting on shared plates and sipping natural wines, craft beers and inspired spirits. Sister property Bar Gobo makes a great stop for wine tasting and quick bites or snacks. 

And no foodie should miss Granville Island. After a quick ferry ride, visitors can start at the Public Market, where the city’s top chefs source local ingredients from an array of vendors selling fresh produce and gourmet goodies. There are also plenty of restaurants scattered on the island, especially the seafood variety—a perfect lunch stop for oysters, a baguette and a chilled glass of white.