Architecturally speaking, Vancouver has a very modern vibe. Monkey puzzle trees, Japanese maples, magnolias, and azaleas can be seen on virtually every street, adding a unique sense of charm to the area. Vancouver also boasts one of the largest urban parks in North America; the 1,001-acre Stanley Park which contains half a million trees, many of which stand over 200 feet tall and have stood for hundreds of years. 8 million people visit this urban paradise every single year.
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Vancouver favours high-rise residential buildings and mixed-use developments owing to its density. Yet monkey puzzle trees, Japanese maples, magnolias, and azaleas grow everywhere. The city also boasts one of the largest urban parks in North America, the 1001-acre Stanley Park. And it’s the gateway to both the Rockies and Alaska.
International festivals include the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, The Fringe Festival, and The Vancouver International Film Festival, which shows over 350 films during two weeks every September. Put the food and craft markets on Granville Island on your list. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol for sustainable food, and know that vegetables are local and meat is nose-to-tail in the city’s many upmarket restaurants. Vancouver’s fusion cuisine is top-notch. Bon appetit!
Much like the people of Vancouver themselves, there is much variety in the styles of food and drink which are widely available across the city. While western seafood is one of the city’s staples, Belgian-style bistros, Indian restaurants and Persian-style takeaways are all extremely popular.
Some of city’s coolest food and drink experiences can be found in the many izakayas which are prominent in downtown Vancouver. These are essentially Japanese food bars, where sake and Japanese lagers are served alongside traditional dishes such as teriyaki beef and ramen noodle soup.
Despite its name, Granville Island is in fact a peninsula located beside the ironically named False Creek (proving that the locals have a sharp sense of humour), but don’t let that put you off. Granville ‘Island’ is one of the top spots to visit if you’re in search of some great dining and retail therapy. Granville is home to more than 50 permanent retailers and countless pop-up stalls and day vendors, each of which offers a taste of local cuisine (as with any place located near a body of water, fresh seafood is a popular choice) and/or goods. The ‘island’ is also home to a public farmers’ market, where fresh, locally sourced meats and vegetables can be picked up at great prices, as well as the Granville Island Brewing Company, which offers a selection of fine craft beers, all of which are named after local places, such as Cypress Honey Lager and False Creek Raspberry Ale.
Vancouver is renowned for taking pride in its homegrown produce, so whether you are dining in one of the city’s fine restaurants or grabbing a quick bite to eat from a mobile food truck, you’re bound to get yourself some authentic local flavours.
Thanks to a tax break created specifically for artists, Vancouver has seen a great many films and TV shows shot in its vicinity, earning it the unofficial nickname of ‘North Hollywood’. As it is generally cheaper to film in Vancouver than it is in the ‘real’ Hollywood, it is often used as a ‘stand in’ city which portrays other well-known locales. Some of the major sci-fi blockbuster movies to emerge from Vancouver’s film industry in recent years include Disney’s Tomorrowland, The Day the Earth Stood Still and I, Robot.
In terms of television shows, Vancouver was the main set for the hit comedy series 21 Jump Street, several episodes of The X-Files and, more recently, superhero shows Flash and Arrow. As one might expect of a place known as ‘Little Hollywood’, it is possible to take guided tours of the sets and locations where the various movies and TV shows were filmed, making the greater Vancouver area a film aficionado’s dream destination.
As one might expect of a city where so many movies are made, one of Vancouver’s most popular annual festivals is the Vancouver International Film Festival, which showcases upward of 350 of the year’s best upcoming locally and internationally made films over the course of a two-week period every September, making it one of the top five largest film fests in all of North America. Some of the films to win awards at this festival, and subsequently go on to become massive hits at the world box office, in recent years are Room and Brooklyn, proving that the Vancouver Film Fest audience knows how to pick out a good movie!
As well as movies, the city of Vancouver is a great supporter of the wider performing arts. The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival has been running since 2003 and takes place every January, lasting 20 days in total. This festival is seen as a celebration of music, dance and theatre performances from around the world, with a view to pushing boundaries and brining unconventional pieces of work to the masses. The festival typically sees somewhere in the region of 250 performances take place across 17 different venues, with more than 20,000 people in attendance. A similar, but older alternative theatre festival called the Vancouver Fringe Festival has also run every September since 1985 on Granville Island.