Surrounded by soaring snow-capped mountains, glistening blue fjords and dense green forests, Vancouver enjoys one of the most beautiful locations in North America. As Canada’s third-largest metropolis, this bustling, cosmopolitan city has enough sights and attractions to keep visitors occupied for weeks, but the entire region beckons for adventure and exploration. From soaking in alpine spas to eating at the city’s coolest restaurants and staying in historic hotels, here’s your insider’s guide to Vancouver.
WHERE TO STAY
St Regis Hotel | The St Regis is one of Vancouver’s oldest hotels, and it’s not hard to see why it’s still so popular over 100 years on. Located in the centre of downtown, mere minutes away from the hip Gastown neighbourhood and the city’s most visited attractions, the setting is perfect for exploring. Inside, the bedrooms are chic, light and bright – think dove-greys and cool creams – and the simplistic style is offset by colourful modern art. The marble bathrooms are sleek and stylish – and once you sink into the luxurious beds you won’t want to ever get out.
The service is impeccable; staff at the front desk are friendly and extremely knowledgeable about their city, so any questions you might have – from where to eat to what to do – they’ll give you excellent advice. All the mod-cons you could possibly want are included in the price, from speedy Wi-Fi, free international phone calls, newspapers and a delicious breakfast, and there’s also a gym and a business centre. For casual dining, the St Regis Bar and Grill will hit the spot, but for something more upmarket the Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar is ideal.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
YEW Bar | Inside the Four Seasons Vancouver is one of the city’s coolest places to eat and drink – YEW bar + lounge. Wooden panelling and floor-to-ceiling fireplaces create a cosy ambiance, and the soaring 40-foot ceilings are a nod to the region’s mountains. YEW is known for its award-winning fresh seafood, and their menu features an abundance of top quality British Columbia ingredients. YEW bar + lounge also serve up the most delicious cocktails, and their loyal bartenders are the best in the business; if you’re dithering over which drink to order, just ask for recommendations. Every week from 2pm – 6pm it’s Aperitivo Hour, where you can enjoy cocktails for just $12.
Virtuous Pie | Virtuous Pie is one of Vancouver’s coolest new restaurants, and this stylish joint is usually packed with people nibbling on plant-based pizzas. If you’re not sold on the idea of vegan pizza, Virtuous Pie will change that in a few bites; go for the ‘Stranger Wings’ pizza, which is topped with creamy cashew sauce, buffalo cauliflower, fried shallots, and scallions. All the plant-based ‘cheeses’ here are made in-house, and they’re truly delicious, from the mild and mellow cashew mozzarella to the creamy, whipped almond ricotta. Finish off with some of Virtuous Pie’s indulgent ice cream – choose from classic flavours like strawberry and vanilla, or try a specialty flavour like donut. Made with coconut and cashew milk, they’re just as rich and creamy as dairy ice-cream, but much better for you (not to mention for the environment and animals!).
Nuba | With so many delicious dishes on the menu, Lebanese eatery Nuba is a great sharing restaurant: go with a group and order as much as you can. Because food is made to order, many of the dishes can be tailored to specific dietary requirements, and the friendly waiters are more than happy to suggest their favourites. The Najib’s Special (crispy cauliflower with lemon, sea salt and tahini) and the Mjadra (lentils and rice with onions, jalapeño, avocado and onion) are gorgeous yet healthy choices, but there’s plenty to choose from – from kebabs to seafood to hearty soups and stews. Just make sure you save enough room to enjoy some sticky pastries for dessert!
WHAT TO DO
Indulge at Whistler’s best spa
Whistler is the most popular day trip destination from Vancouver, and this famous ski resort is a must-visit. Drive past ice-blue fjords, thundering waterfalls and craggy cliff faces to reach your destination, and when you do, head straight to Scandinave Spa. This super luxurious outdoor spa boasts one of the most beautiful settings on the continent, and here you can pamper yourself Nordic-style in the midst of spruce and cedar forests. Standard access allows you to enjoy the eucalyptus steam room, relaxation room, dry sauna, sun deck, and Nordic waterfall, as well as the many hot and cold baths. For something even more upscale, treat yourself to the Deep Tissue Massage. There are miles of hiking and cycling trails, golf courses, ziplines, and sparkling blue lakes to swim in, so for the perfect day out, why not get active before soothing your muscles in this mountain spa?
Fly to Salt Spring Island | Salt Spring Island is the most popular of the Southern Gulf Islands, and the best way to get here is via seaplane. Sit back and admire jaw-dropping views of this gorgeous archipelago as it unfolds beneath you, before landing smoothly into Ganges Harbour. After you’ve wandered through the bustling Salt Spring Market, and maybe treated yourself to a coffee and fresh pastry, it’s time to explore the island itself. Hike up the craggy bluffs, kayak over the clear waters, or stroll through thick forests buzzing with life – or for something more leisurely, try a tasting tour of the island’s famous cheeses and wines. Before you hop back on a seaplane to Vancouver, finish off your day with a meal at the island’s best restaurant, the upmarket House Piccolo.
Explore Victoria & Vancouver Island | The historic city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, is actually the capital of British Columbia. The downtown hub is packed with colonial architecture, excellent museums and cool, boutique shops, but the famous Butchart Gardens are a must visit. Wander through 55 acres of landscaped lawns and admire the countless varieties of flowers – be sure to bring your camera! There are plenty of excellent restaurants in Victoria, but Q Restaurant at the Empress is one of the very best. This sumptuously stylish, four-diamond restaurant has over 500 wine labels to choose from, and as you dine you’ll be serenaded by harp players. A romantic and indulgent candlelit dinner is the ideal way to end your day.