With its vibrant creative arts scene and rugged natural beauty, Vancouver is western Canada’s capital of cool.
There’s a moment, standing at the foot of an ancient Douglas fir, when I felt completely insignificant – in a good way. These giant trees have been here for hundreds of years and, at 50 metres tall, they dwarf everybody and everything in Stanley Park. It’s hard to believe this massive expanse of forest, zigzagged with more than 27km of trails, is actually in the heart of Canada’s third-largest city. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised – after all, Vancouver has ambitions to become the most sustainable place on the planet by 2020. It’s well on its way to reaching this goal.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver attracts close to a million visitors a year. Stretching 140 metres over a canyon and the Capilano River, it offers breathtaking views of lush fir, cedar and fern-carpeted forests. The air smells of fallen rain and moss, despite the fact that the setting is just minutes from downtown.
The biggest allure of False Creek is its proximity to so many of Vancouver’s hottest suburbs. One afternoon, I walked for five minutes into buzzing Yaletown, its main street lined with achingly cool micro-breweries and boutiques like Woo to See You and Fine Finds, supporting local artisans who craft distinctive art, jewellery and covetable homewares. It’s also where you’ll find some of Vancouver’s most popular cafes and restaurants: at Minami, I spend a lazy lunchtime in the maple-draped courtyard eating innovative Japanese cuisine, with a sake flight on the side. Five minutes in the other direction and I’m checking out the indie bars and restaurants of Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest and perhaps most photogenic neighbourhood thanks to its grand historic buildings.
Nearby in Kitsilan, there are heritage-house beachfronts and browsable stores. It’s also a quick stroll from the Parq to the False Creek ferry, which zips me up the waterway to Granville Island. You could easily spend a day poking around in craft markets and art galleries here, stopping for a sip at the sake distillery or a bite at brand-new Popina. Housed in shipping containers and with sparkling water views, the café is packed from the moment it opens, with hungry customers queuing for juicy brioche buns loaded with lobster and a can of the house brew, Hoi Polloi.
By Natasha Gragun