I’ve been fortunate to travel to Vancouver, BC multiples times in my life for work; it’s one of my favorite destinations because of it’s ease and modern sensibilities. And the food!
Sitting on the water, it’s an ideal metropolis that offers everything you could want. Spending a few days here will give you a great sampling of all this city has to offer, and it’ll make you want to come back again and again. And you totally should…
They’re not canuckin’ around here.
When you land in Vancouver, you should figure out which Dim Sum eatery you’re going to try first. This is the priority. I’ve never had a rental car here and had colleagues with me, so that limited my reach a little bit. If you’re wanting to stay downtown, Victoria Restaurant is not a bad option. Chinatown has a few hole in the wall places (you can stop at several, it’s okay, we don’t judge here) which are likely more decent than wherever you’re coming from (unless you’re from SF). Richmond is the place to go, but may be off the beaten path logistics wise. All asian food is a must eat here due to the large immigrant populations from Asia.
After stuffing yourself with as much Har Gow, Lohr Bahk Go and Nor Mai Gai as you possibly can, walk it off downtown. Robson street has a ton of great shopping, pick up something from Roots for some truly Canadian feel; Thurlow has high end designer shops. You can spend the afternoon wandering on Burrard, Melville, Hornby. There are plentiful Tim Horton’s and Cafe Crepe, so if you’re already hungry again (it was dim sum), why not?
Backtrack a little towards the waterfront and head east along Pender, Hastings or Water Streets. Stop for an afternoon coffee and pie at Acme. You will not regret it and you’ll need to energy for your walk. If you’re on Pender, and you keep walking, you’ll run into Chinatown. You should take a look at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden, although it’s pretty small, along Keefer Street. You’ll be coming back to this area later, so don’t worry.
Walk down to Rogers Arena to see where the Canucks play. From there loop back around to Downtown. Your legs will be killing you, ours were, so take some time to rest at your hotel before starting your night on the town.
First night in town, you need to have sushi and there is nowhere, and I repeat, nowhere better than Miku on the waterfront. I still lust after the Aburi sashimi and salmon from here. I did not know I needed flame grilled sushi in my life so badly before I tasted this. This place is not cheap, but the water views are panoramic and the service was ace.
For an after dinner drink, you need to keep the Asian theme going and take a cab to Keefer Bar. This might be my favorite bar in the world. It’s got a real old timey opium den feel to it, with old Chinese medicine anatomy charts wallpapered throughout. That’s my favorite kind of ambience. And their drink list is called “Cures and Remedies,” is extensive, innovative and strong as hell.
Somehow you’ve gotten home because the next morning, you should wake up fresh and get yourself an oatmeal or juice at SMAK before walking down to the Waterfront. I promise your hangover will feel better. The chilly air will refresh you as you walk towards Stanley Park along the Seawall walk.
I’ve walked all the way down to Stanley Park, but driving there is completely acceptable too, there’s a lot to see there, so save your energy where you can. There’s the aquarium, horse-drawn carriages, totem poles, every kind of water activity/tour you can take. Depending on your schedule, you could spend a whole day here. Check out the Olympic torch near Canada Place on your way back.
If you’re sick of convention/work food, I would suggest popping out for lunch to get a Japadog from the stand on Cordova. You’ve not had a hotdog as umai as this. Seaweed, togarashi, nothing is off limits and it’s a flavor bomb. Sala Thai has decent thai food with teak furniture (so you know it’s gotta be authentic 🙂 and Salam Bombay has a kick ass buffet from their second floor dining room overlooking the crowded streets below. Walking around downtown again provides an endless stream of people watching and if you can make your way over to the central library, you shouldn’t miss it. The architectural design is a marvel. On the way there on Robson is the Vancouver Art Gallery, if you want to wind down with some quiet gallery time.
After resting a bit, head back to the Gastown district. This is my favorite neighborhood in Vancouver. I’ve never been wronged here, food wise. The famous steam clock sits at the beginning of Water Street. It’s a nice place to just amble around and enjoy top quality meals in cozy settings. I’ve eaten at Pourhouse (burger with pork belly), Alibi Room (Belgian beer flight), Water Street Cafe, Revel Room (Bourbon cocktails!), L’Abattoir, Chambar. It’s all been fabulous, can’t pick a favorite.
If it’s not the weekend, a tiny hole in the wall place downtown is Symphonie on Pender. It’s a Filipino breakfast place and their longanisa with fried egg on rice hit the spot on a cold morning. Seems really popular with the locals and business people downtown and it’s legit delicious. This place is far ahead of its time, Filipino food is so hot right now.
Today make it a goal to see Granville Island market at some point. It’s a beautiful farmer’s market with artistic flounces throughout. There’s also a brewery and it’s a nice place to spend some time watching locals and tourists alike. Your last meal should be in Yaletown, an area filled to the brim with restaurants of all types. Blue Water Cafe has the best prepared, seafood so fresh it’s basically moving. It’s formal, but comfortable with an unpretentious air, like all Canada. It’s an excellent ending to your trip to this wonderful city on the coast of British Columbia.