Travel Guide for Vancouver, Canada
After dreaming of it for a few years I finally traveled to Vancouver, Canada in August 2016. My desire to travel to foodie destinations has grown over the years to the point that my trips are based on "but is the food good?" before I consider anything else it has to offer. Luckily Vancouver has it all in regards to a thriving farm-to-table culture, beautiful scenery, outdoor activities and bustling neighbourhoods. Plus it’s Canada which always means that you will find a clean city with lots to do and friendly locals. As per usual I did hours upon hours of research on what the most popular, respected and award winning restaurants were and made the appropriate reservations. Here are my recommendations on what to do, eat and drink in one of the most beautiful cities in Canada.
I found Tourism Vancouver incredibly helpful as a city guide and Vancouver Magazine’s 2016 Restaurant Awards, the 2017 Restaurant Awards and Canada’s 100 Best List helped me select some of the restaurants on this list. Check them both out as resources when you plan your trip.
Where To Eat...
1168 Hamilton St., Vancouver
Once we dropped our bags at our Airbnb we visited the Yaletown location of The Flying Pig. When we walked in it was already buzzing because their popular 'Appy Hour was taking place. This deal is all about small, shareable and tasty appertisers and local brews to kickstart our Vancouver trip. Note that The Flying Pig has 3 locations throughout the city, but this location won 3rd place in the 'Yaletown' category in Vancouver Magazine’s 2016 Restaurant Awards.
Rosewood Hotel Georgia, 801 W. Georgia St., Vancouver
This is your splurge restaurant! It is listed in Vancouver Magazine’s 2016 & 2017 Vancouver Restaurant Awards as 'best upscale', as well as in Canada's 100 Best Restaurants 2017 as the 6th best restaurant in Canada and the best restaurant in British Columbia. The service is incredible and the food is innovate, beautiful and delicious at this contemporary Canadian restaurant. You can opt for the seasonal a la carte menu or the always changing, adventurous tasting menu. If you order the tasting menu then do the wine pairing add-on (you may as well go all in). My one regret is that I wish I had better photos to showcase our experience, but sadly the romantic lighting got in the way. Some of my favourites included smoked sturgeon with saffron potato, green olive and charred buttermilk, as well as the confit pork with king oyster mushroom, smoked cauliflower and summer black truffle. Visit their website to see photos of their stunning dishes and impressive plating skills.
305 Alexander St., Vancouver
This Italian-inspired restaurant may be the smallest space that I have ever been in, but note they are well respected for making some delicious food even though their brunch, lunch & dinner menus consist of less than 20 items. It was given an honourable mention in the 'best brunch' category and won 2nd in the 'Gastown/Railtown' neighbourhood in Vancouver Magazine’s 2017 Restaurant Awards. If that's not enough to impress you to visit this wee restaurant then note that it also made the Canada's 100 Best Restaurants 2017 list at 90th place in Canada and 17th place in British Columbia. We ended up going for brunch as they serve it on Saturdays & Sundays, but I'm sure the regular menu is just as flavourful, especially with all of their accolades. You should note that they don't accept reservations and you can only fit 6 maximum per group, so be prepared to wait (but it's totally worth it!)
1095 Hamilton St., Vancouver
When in visiting Vancouver it is a must to enjoy their local seafood, and Blue Water Cafe is the restaurant to go to for the freshest and best dishes. The outside patio seemed small when we walked by, but once we entered the restaurant we saw how far reaching it truly was. We ate some of the freshest sustainable seafood that Vancouver has to offer from Dungeness crab to salmon and lobster. The appetisers were beyond creative, whilst the mains were classically done favourites. The server was attentive and he even organised for the sommelier to come and speak to us about which wine would pair best with our meal. They were rated 78th in Canada and 14th in British Columbia on the Canada's 100 Best Restaurants 2017 list. It has also won the 'best seafood' category in Vancouver magazine’s 2016 & 2017 Restaurant Awards.
3106 Cambie St., Vancouver
Assume you know nothing about Indian food until you have eaten at a Vikram Vij restaurant. Our foodie friends from Squamish told us that we had to make this a priority. It doesn't hurt that it won 2nd in the 'best Indian' category in the Vancouver Magazine’s 2017 Restaurant Awards and is #26 in Canada and #4 in British Columbia on Canada's 100 Best Restaurants 2017 list. Vikram is beloved in Vancouver and rumour has it that if he's at the restaurant he will stop by your table to say hi. The food is mind-blowingly delicious, the servers were on the ball and surprisingly (to me at least) all of the cooks are women. It may be outside of the downtown area, but the out of this world flavour combinations are worth the drive.
1333 Robson St., Vancouver
There is some pretty authentic Asian cuisine in Vancouver, so it was decided that we had to have some ramen on our trip. Tommy absolutely loves it and I had never had it before, so we randomly scoped it out on Google. We stumbled upon Danbo Ramen while walking along Robson St. and after verifying that they had a high rating online we decided to go in. This was definitely not the ramen you ate out of a styrofoam cup in university, but a rich and intensely flavourful broth with pork, scallions and any additional toppings you wanted. I'm not really a believer of egg in soups so I opted for my favourite food item instead - mushrooms! I learned that at a real ramen spot you should be able to customize your ramen by choosing the noodle thickness and firmness, and the staff recommended that we should order another batch of noodles when our broth was half empty to enjoy every last drop. Also slurping is encouraged!
Check website for multiple locations
Japadog is another popular gem that will challenge everything you think you know about food. This is a Japanese-style hot dog truck/cart moving around 6 locations in Vancouver (plus 1 restaurant). This may have been the quirkiest restaurant I had ever heard of, but we just had no time to find one. Luckily as we headed to the airport to catch our flight we happened to see a Japadog cart across from the terminal and I knew this had to be our last taste of Vancouver. We kept it simple by going for the signature dog which is the Kurobuta Terimayo - a korobuta pork hot dog topped with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, fried onions & seaweed. I say simple because the other options were even more extreme. You definitely need to be open-minded when eating one of these out-of-the-box, delicious dogs.
70002 Squamish Valley Rd., Squamish
We took a quick trip to Squamish to see some of my university friends. To make it easier for us first timers to meet up we decided on Fergie’s for lunch . Of course I had done some research on my own and saw that it is a local favourite and one of the best breakfast and brunch spots to visit in this small town. The fast casual vibe means that you order and pay inside the trailer and when it’s ready the staff will bring it to your table when its ready. The ‘Dubliner Benny’ and Kale Caesar Salad were delicious and worthy of ordering. This is definitely a place to go to if you are in the area because of the forested outdoor atmosphere, welcoming staff and locally sourced ingredients.
What To Do...
Explore the Neighbourhoods
Vancouver is known for it’s very distinctive neighbourhoods and they are all worthy of exploring even though we only made it to a few of them. We were located in Yaletown which is known for it’s excellent food scene and buzzing bars which is why we searched for an Airbnb in this area. On our list of must-eat restaurants, we realised that four were within a 10 minute walk of our temporary home, with two of them being next door to one another! Davie Village was on my list because I wanted to see their permanent rainbow crosswalk and the primary hub for the LGBTI community of the city. It’s an excellent place to sit on patios and enjoy a beer or brunch, but also great for shopping in boutique, wine and vintage stores. It seems every city around the world has their version of Chinatown and in Vancouver it’s where you’ll find the Chinese food markets with some interesting ingredients I’d never seen before (dried sea cucumber anyone?). While you’re there, take a break from the urban buzz and find some tranquility by visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, the first authentic Chinese garden built outside of China. Gastown is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver and it has it all - cobblestone streets, boutique stores, Victorian-era streetlamps, delicious food and art galleries. A popular tourist stop in this area to watch the steam whistle out of the Gastown Steam Clock, one of the few steam-powered clocks in the world. Lastly, if boutique shopping isn’t for you then visit Robson Street where you van visit the CF Pacific Centre and locate popular clothing store chains. These were just a few of the many neighbourhoods that Vancouver has to offer, but you can learn more about these and others by visiting Tourism Vancouver.
1669 Johnston St., Vancouver
Cayman has only started to really develop their farmer's market, so to visit the public market on Granville Island was eye opening. There were so many different vendors displaying of local produce, freshly caught fish, wine merchants, sausage makers, local brews, custom-made French macarons and so much more. Our Squamish friends advised us to go to the Oyama Sausage Co. for the best cured meats, the Benton Brother's Fine Cheese for an array of cheeses made from cow to buffalo, and also the Artisan Sake Maker to do a tasting and buy some local sake. My all time favourite dessert is the French macaron so when I found Bon Macaron Patisserie I was ecstatic to see the variety of sweet & savory flavours. These memorable flavours included bacon (yup!), watermelon, rose & lychee, salted caramel and champagne flavours, just to name a few. I could have probably spent a whole day tasting food and drinks from different vendors, but we decided to check out the craft stalls and art stores in the area for a memorable souvenir.
A trip to Vancouver is not complete without visiting Stanley Park, the largest urban park in the city at a whopping 400 hectares. The interior of the park includes lush gardens, First Nation totem poles, hiking trails, but we mostly spent our time along the famed seawall. The seawall wraps around the entire park and is a great for mountain, sea, forest and city views while taking on some physical activity. We decided to rent a bike from a nearby shop (they are all over!), but it’s designed for inline skaters, joggers and walkers as well. It is a popular spot for residents especially on the weekends, so go out and join them!
On our one hour drive from Vancouver to Squamish we passed a lot of nature and bear signs along with way, but it was clear this was an area for the outdoorsy folk. We spent time at the lake and gentle hiking while there, but if you are more adventurous then I would suggest using Explore Squamish as your guide. On our way back into the city we stopped at a tourist attraction we had seen on our way in, the Sea-To-Sky Gondola. Once you board the gondola you’ll take the gentle 10 minute ride up to the Summit Lodge, a spectacular 885 meters above sea level, before starting your adventure to the top. Coming from the flattest country in the world we mapped out a few gentle hiking trails that took us past lakes, streams, flora and luckily no bears. There are three viewing platforms around the area and they provide different views from the top of the mountains and everything beneath you. With a restaurant and shop at the top as well, you can easily spend a few hours up there.
With so much to see, eat and do I suggest you start planning out your Vancouver vacation from now!