A picturesque and vibrant city by the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is one of the few places where you can windsurf in the afternoon and ski the same evening. Vancouver has diverse, bustling neighbourhoods, from Chinatown and the Punjan Market Indian district to gay-friendly Davie Village and bohemian Commercial Drive (once known as Little Italy but now popular for its array of ethnic restaurants).
Vancouver is one of North America’s greenest cities, with the 404-hectare Stanley Park right in its backyard. Stanley Park is home to the renowned Lost Lagoon, while Siwash Rock and has a scenic 8.8km seawall path.
Less than 30 minutes from the city centre are Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour, all of which have superb facilities and even offer night skiing.
BC Ferries, plying the Georgia Strait, connect Vancouver with Vancouver Island (including Victoria, British Columbian capital), and stunning gulf islands such as Galiano and Saltspring. A shorter ferry ride takes you to Bowen, a charming tiny island with a general store, coffee shop, pub and many hiking or bike trails.
Vancouver doesn’t experience the weather extremes seen in other parts of Canada, but a rainproof jacket is essential, as it rains. A lot. Flights to Vancouver land at the international airport, renowned for its First Nations’ art.
Vancouver reputedly has the finest weather in Canada, but put that in perspective. Summers temperatures are in the low 20s and winters are mild (it rarely snows and temperatures in January, the coldest month, range from zero to 9 degrees Celsius). The city does get plenty of rain.
Most visitors arrive from flights to Vancouver in July and August, though the tourist season begins in April and continues into the autumn. Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts arrive mid-December, with peak season on the mountains lasting until February. May-June and September-October are great times for whale watching.
Vancouver doesn’t really have a low season.
TransLink, Vancouver’s efficient public transport network, includes electric trolley buses, regular buses, SeaBus passenger ferries, the SkyTrain elevated light-rail system and West Coast Express trains. Good-value FareSaver books of ten tickets, available at newsagents, are valid for 90 minutes on buses, SkyTrains and SeaBuses, while a day pass allows unlimited daily travel. A car is unnecessary in Vancouver, especially given traffic can be a problem. You can hail taxis on the street or call one in advance.
Cycling is a great way to explore Vancouver’s neighbourhoods, with more than 16 bike routes covering more than 128km around the city.