Why go now?
There’s a reason why British Columbia’s towering coastal pines are classified as “temperate rainforest”. Leaden skies are a fact of life here, but everything changes in summer. For the next few months, beach days, balmy nights and endless sunshine draw Vancouverites to embrace the great outdoors that lies on their doorstep.
Vancouver may be somewhat light on cultural and architectural icons, but its setting equates the downtown core with the world’s most striking cityscapes. Located on a peninsula flanked by seawater channels, urban beaches, the North Shore Mountains and 1,001-acre Stanley Park, its easily accessible, scenic surroundings offer plenty of active experiences.
Hiking, biking and kayaking combine with festivals and farmers’ markets to make Vancouver the ultimate summertime city.
Air Canada Rouge (0871 220 1111; aircanada.com) offers seasonal service from London Gatwick, from £454.10pp return (including tax). Both Air Canada and British Airways (0344 493 0787; ba.com) fly daily from London Heathrow, year-round. The half-hour Canada Line train journey from the airport to Downtown costs $7.75 (£4.50) per person.
Where to stay
Located on the waterfront at 1038 Canada Place, the Fairmont Pacific Rim (1) is Vancouver’s definitive luxury hotel, with bright, modern guestrooms plus a full-service spa with rooftop pool. Doubles from $599 (£350), excluding breakfast (001 604 695 5300; fairmont.com/pacific-rimvancouver). For a full review and to book, visit telegraph.co.uk/tt-fprvancouver
Boutique style comes with a focus on wellness at the Loden (2), where rooms offer yoga mats as standard. Set in a quiet, residential location at 1177 Melville Street (001 604 669 5060; theloden.com), with doubles from $299 (£175), excluding breakfast. For a full review and to book, visit telegraph.co.uk/tt-lodenvancouver.
It’s all about style on a budget at The Burrard (3), a limited-service property at 1100 Burrard Street (001 604 681 2331; theburrard.com). This independently owned, renovated Fifties motel has colourful, retro interiors and doubles from a particularly reasonable $109 (£64), excluding breakfast.
After the almost 10-hour flight, you’ll want to stretch your legs. The option is therefore to head straight for the painted totem poles and century-old cedars of Stanley Park (4), keeping eyes peeled for raccoons, otters, bald eagles and seals along the sea wall.
Exit the park via English Bay and follow the sea wall to 1600 Howe Street, where the Japanese/Peruvian fusion food at Ancora (5) (001 604 681 1164; ancoradining.com) is best enjoyed on the waterfront patio with the sun setting over False Creek.
Jet lag will have you up early, so make the most of it by beating the queue at Café Medina (6), 780 Richards Street (001 604 879 3114; medinacafe.com), which will stretch down the street by mid-morning. Hearty favourites on the Moroccan-inspired menu include cassoulet and breakfast paella, or waffles and lavender lattes for the sweet-toothed.
Take the complimentary shuttle bus from Canada Place for the 20-minute ride to Grouse Mountain (7) (grousemountain.com). The 1.9-mile (3km) Grouse Grind trail is popular with locals, but the cable car provides a less strenuous route to the summit ($44.95/£26pp). Tourist crowds can be overwhelming, but the views from up here are outstanding.
Stick with the outdoor theme and either walk or take the public bus down the hill to the popular Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (8) (capbridge.com; admission $44.95/£26pp). The impressive bridge was built in 1889 and spans an unspoilt, forested canyon; there’s also a cantilevered Cliff Walk, togther with some circular hiking trails and a café.
Take Capilano’s free shuttle back to Canada Place and stroll into Gastown (9), Vancouver’s oldest and most characterful neighbourhood. Water Street is particularly picturesque, but the cross-streets lined with handsome Victorian buildings are worth scouring for interesting galleries, shops and boutiques showcasing the latest made-in-Vancouver crafts and designs.
More made-in-Vancouver discoveries await in neighbouring Railtown. Craft beer is booming in British Columbia; visit Postmark Brewing (10) at 55 Dunlevy Avenue to try four of the beers (including the top-seller, West Coast pale ale) for $10/£5.85 (001 604 699 1988; postmarkbrewing.com). Wine-lovers may prefer checking out the samples next door at its sister company, Vancouver Urban Winery ($15/£8.75).
The combined effects of jet lag and booze will have you hankering for comfort food. Homer Street Café (11), at 898 Homer Street (001 604 428 4299; homerstreetcafebar.com) is a farm-to-table restaurant best known for its rotisserie chicken and “Meatwave” summer barbecues (held every last Friday of the month).
Cross False Creek by foot, bus or ferry and graze your way around colourful displays of mostly local and regional produce at Granville Island Public Market (12) (granvilleisland.com). There are shops and galleries to browse, too, but expect crowds: this is Canada’s second most-visited attraction after Niagara Falls.
Swap tourist trap for counterculture in nearby Mount Pleasant (13), a bohemian but evolving neighbourhood known for its art scene, coffee shops and boutiques. Gain extra insight from Tours By Locals; the customisable “Hippie to Hipster” walking tour, for example, costs $240 (£140) for two (001 604 777 4141; toursbylocals.com).
Stop for brunch at Burdock & Co (14), one of Vancouver’s leading farm-to-table restaurants, at 2702 Main Street (001 604 879 0077; burdockandco.com). The menu focuses on foraged and farmed ingredients from within a 100-mile radius. Brunch favourites include baked eggs and “eggs benny”, all priced at around $15 (£8.75).
Return to Granville Island and take advantage of being surrounded by water. Vancouver Water Adventures (15) rents kayaks on False Creek from $25 (£14.60) per person, or take a private lesson from $105pp (£61). If you’d prefer to try something less energetic, a City & Seal boat tour costs $45pp (£26). (001 604 736 5155; vancouverwateradventures.com).
Out and about
Vancouver is criss-crossed with cycle paths: many hotels have bikes to borrow, or rent one from Cycle City Tours (001 604 618 8626; cyclecitytours.com).
Discover the region’s First Nations heritage through totem poles, artefacts and tribal art at the Museum of Anthropology (moa.ubc.ca).