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It’s not just the West Coast location and gorgeous setting where mountains meet the sea. And it’s not just the temperate climate that makes Vancouver a year-round paradise for sports and outdoors-minded people. It’s also the sheer range of enjoyment for body, mind and soul. You can ski, golf and go sailing here all on the same day and then catch an opera or Broadway musical by night.

Other Canadians call Vancouver “lotus land.” They do so with good reason, and perhaps a little envy. The pursuit of happiness and cultivation of beauty are taken seriously here. They find expression in many ways: In lush, plentiful parkland and abundant recreational facilities of every description, from ocean beaches to bike paths along the Mighty Fraser River. In more than 150 galleries, museums, theatres and clubs. In a heady mix of cultures: North American, Asian, European and Indian.

In more than 25 different cuisines offered in some 4,000 restaurants, bistros and cafes. In bold architecture and exquisite formal gardens. In North America’s third largest film production centre. In shopping that’s to die for. In music of every type, from classical to Celtic, Caribbean to country, big band to blues and folk to funk. In Vancouver’s slew of festivals, including celebrations for children, jazz, writing, dance, film, comedy, bluegrass, fireworks and folk music.

Life here is an exotic mix: from Ancient indigenous settlements to ultra-modern high-rises. One of the world’s most beautiful and busiest harbours and the vast urban wilderness of Pacific Spirit Park. A Sea Bus and a Sky Train. Fertile farms and the fertile minds of high tech entrepreneurs. Old Money and New Age therapies. And fibre optic networks and streets lined with 40,000 cherry trees whose blossoms capture Greater Vancouver’s perennial grace.

Here, getting there to see the sights is half the fun. You can walk or bike pretty much where you please. And there are lots of different tours. Neighbourhood, museum, gallery and garden tours on foot. The downtown on foot, bike or trolley. The harbour, by boat or kayak.

However you decide to experience Vancouver, if you can imagine it, you can experience it here. Let's get exploring!

Quick Facts

Typical Tax:
7% PST & 5% GST
Time Zone:
Pacific (PST)
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Vancouver’s history as an urban centre got off to a snappy start in 1867. All that was here on the south shore of Burrard Inlet was the Hastings Sawmill and a couple of indigenous family groupings. It was so quiet you could shout across the inlet and be heard by someone on the other side. Then, on the last day of September, a ruddy-faced and forever-talking saloon keeper from New Westminster, John Deighton (they called him “Gassy Jack”), came rowing around the heavily forested peninsula that loomed over the entrance to the inlet and aimed his rowboat straight for the mill. With him in the boat was his indigenous wife, her mother and a cousin, a couple of sticks of furniture, an old yellow dog and a barrel of whiskey. The history of this area was about to change forever.

Fast forward, the first Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train to arrive in Vancouver, tugged in by the famous little locomotive #374, arrived in May of 1887, adorned with a large photograph of Queen Victoria. (#374, beautifully restored, is on display these days in its own brick-lined room at the eastern end of Davie Street.) When the CPR announced Vancouver would be the railway’s terminus, the town’s population had been about 400. Four years after the rail- way arrived, it was 13,000. Many, many more thousands of people would arrive in the city over that same line during the following decades. The first train was followed a month later by the arrival from Japan of the CPR-chartered S.S. Abyssinia with a cargo of tea, silk and mail bound for London. The Abyssinia’s arrival marked the beginning of the trans-Pacific, trans-Atlantic trade using the new railway. It left no doubt the little city was going to thrive.

A fine sense of the vitality of the city can be seen in a short film made here in 1907 by a man named William Harbeck. He stuck a camera on the front of a city street car and filmed the city’s daily life. It’s black-and-white, of course, and silent, and it’s fascinating. The streets are alive with people hurrying here and there, horse-drawn buggies clatter by, boys on bicycles zip in front of the camera, ladies with street-length gowns sweep (literally!) along the sidewalks. It’s the earliest film we know of that shows the city.

The years from 1909 to 1913 were particularly feverish here. One typical newspaper of the day had sixty pages of real estate ads. A tremendous amount of building went on in those years, and many of Vancouver’s most well-known structures—some still standing—went up in those few years.
Vancouver was recently ranked as the third most “liveable place in the world” for its high standard of living and quality of life. While it is ranked as the 10th cleanest city in the world.

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