Vancouver is preeminently a maritime city, and the visitor is always aware of water and the closeness of the immense Pacific. Vibrant Vancouver is (mostly) on the British Columbia mainland, but charming Victoria occupies the southern tip of Vancouver Island, about 45km (28 miles) to the west.
To get the most out of this glorious part of Canada, you'll need a car. In Vancouver, you can ditch your car and use public transportation or walk, but to enjoy the almost limitless sightseeing opportunities outside the city, a car is essential.
Vancouver for Foodies
This city is crazy about food, especially when it comes to anything local, seasonal, and organic. It is, after all, where Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon wrote the book The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, which popularized the concept of dining from one’s own backyard. It’s also where Ocean Wise, the seafood conservation program, was created, as well as Greenpeace. And with its vibrant mix of Asian and European cultures, passionate chefs, talented bartenders, and super-savvy diners, you just know there are going to be some fine eats (and drinks) to be had here. Be sure to bring your appetite—and your credit card. Here are just some of the places to check out while you’re in town.
Start with a visit to the Granville Island Public Market, making sure you arrive early, before the crowds do. But first, swing by Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe, near the entrance to the island, to fuel up on pastry chef Jackie Ellis’s mouthwatering pain au chocolat and a perfectly frothy cappuccino. Then, at the market itself, browse through the stalls selling produce, pastries, seafood, exotic spices, and more, until you find the longest lineup, which will lead you to the exceptional charcuterie Oyama Sausage Co. Pick up a slab of their irresistible Belgian truffle pâté and a toothsome baguette from nearby Terra Breads, then head out onto the wharf to enjoy it along with the marina view—just watch out for the hungry seagulls, who know a good thing when they see it.
After that, wander over to Edible Canada, a bistro and boutique celebrating all things deliciously local. This is a good place to stock up on foodie gifts like bacon-flavored sea salt, West Coast smoked salmon, and Vista d’Oro craft beer jam and other preserves. If you’re still peckish, you can also stop in at the bistro for the Fraser Valley duck poutine topped with duck confit and eggs. On the island, also check out Finest at Sea for sustainable seafood, Granville Island Brewing for their classic lager, Artisan Sake Maker for a taste of locally made sake, the Liberty Distillery for a splash of gin, and, near the entrance to the island, Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can pick up sweet, buttery spot prawns during their short spring season. Also nearby is Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks, where you can find cookbooks by local chefs such as Rob Feenie or Vikram Vij.
Speaking of Vij, this is a good opportunity to venture up South Granville Street to Rangoli, the casual sister to his more famous restaurant, for a savory snack of lentil, paneer, and chickpea samosas with cilantro-jalapeño chutney. South Granville is also home to a number of kitchenware chain stores such as Cookworks and Williams-Sonoma, but at this point, I suggest you hop in your car or on a bus and head down to Gourmet Warehouse on East Hastings Street. Here you will find an epic selection of everything from spices, prepared foods, artisanal potato chips, and cocktail bitters to pots, pans, baking sheets, platters, and glassware.
Next, it’s over to Chinatown and the quirky little Harvest Community Foods on Union Street, where you can pick up a glass jar of Earnest Ice Cream, locally made small-batch ice cream that comes in flavors like salted caramel and strawberry basil. From there it’s a short stroll to the Keefer Bar and cocktail hour—try an apothecary-inspired cocktail like the Opium Sour. For a quick snack before dinner, visit the hip little modern Chinese joint Bao Bei two doors up for the truffled pork dumplings or shao bing, a sesame flatbread with lamb sirloin.
Finally, dinner. Vancouver has many choices for all budgets and tastes, but for a truly unforgettable culinary experience, go directly to PiDGin in Gastown. Chef Makoto Ono prepares true fusion cuisine, where east meets west, vegan meets carnivorous, and the flavors are vibrant, exciting, and like nothing you’ve tasted before. I love the dan dan raw rutabaga salad, the pickling spice half squab, the grilled octopus with romesco, and the duck-fat-washed Sazerac cocktail. Just order the tasting menu, and try them all. Afterward, should you find yourself in need of a nightcap, wander down the street to The Diamond for a handcrafted whisky cocktail.
If You Have Time
Go north: In North Vancouver, visit Thomas Haas Patisserie; he has been named 1 of the top 10 pastry chefs in America, and his croissants, pastries, and whimsical chocolates are worth the trip across the bridge.
Go south: The suburb of Richmond is home to some of the best Chinese restaurants in the world and is just a 20-minute ride from downtown via the Canada Line. Climb aboard for gourmet dim sum at one of the Cantonese dining palaces such as Sea Harbour, Fisherman’s Terrace (tel. 604/303-9739), or Sun Sui Wah.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.