I love Vancouver. Even during the height of Canadian winter it is rare for this coastal city to see snow. For the few days a year it does come, the flakes rarely last the day (at least at sea level, elevation is a different story!).
Vancouver does have its hot days, although they’re considered merely warm by summer standards in other Canadian cities. It occasionally reaches 30 (86 Fahrenheit) but the heat is cooled by the ocean breeze. Most days of the year in Vancouver, however, generally feel like spring.
And why am I giving you this weather report? Because a climate like Vancouver’s makes it the perfect city for visiting at almost any time of the year. And why perfect? Perfect for building up an appetite exploring the city and then indulging that appetite at Vancouver’s wonderful eateries:
- Spring-like temperatures make walking around to see the sites refreshing rather than tiring.
- All that walking will help you get hungry, but you won’t be so hot that you don’t feel like eating.
- Because you’ll eat light coastal cuisine, you won’t be so full of heartier fare that you won’t want to do a little sampling (well, maybe a lot of sampling!).
Before I tempt you with the food, let me tempt you with ways to work up that appetite.
Boost Your Appetite
Walking — or biking, or rollerblading — around the Seawall is a great way to explore Vancouver and get your belly ready for exploring its restaurants. You can rent wheels, or just stroll, and see Coal Harbour and False Creek and dream of owning one of the hundreds of boats moored next to the path. (If you’re past the dreaming stage, stop into Grand Yachts for help in making your dream a reality).
A walk through Stanley Park is a must for any visitor. It is easy to escape the city within this 405 hectare (1000 acre) urban oasis — bigger than NYC’s Central Park. Once you’re off the Seawall, the city’s towers, and even the surrounding mountains, quickly disappear behind giant cedar, fir and spruce trees.
Stroll through the rhododendron garden, through the ferns around Lost Lagoon, and on the lawns near the heron nests. Keep your eye out for raccoons and seals, the most commonly seen animals.
Blossom strolls are as popular here as leaf-peeping in central Canada. Vancouver’s spring weather means the city is full of flowers. Because of the mild temperatures the flowers also last a long time. (Yes, the rain contributes to Vancouver’s spectacular gardens, but our rains are usually at night and fairly light; and in the summer we often have drought conditions). The 300,000 tulips at the Canadian Tulip Festival in the capital, Ottawa, last just a few weeks. But in Vancouver, spring bulbs are in bloom from January to May. The blossoms on Vancouver’s 40,000 cherry trees also last months (can’t get to Japan? No problem!). They begin in early March and stretch well into May, with the best displays in April. Summer flowers prolong their petals into fall, and even December and January have flowers.
Shopping is, of course, another pedestrian way to work up an appetite. There’s lots of selection in Vancouver: luxury shops like Louis Vuitton and Burberry near Alberni and Burrard; independent fashion in Gastown and on Main between 20th and 23rd Avenues; fabrics and accessories in Little India; art on Granville Island and on Gallery Row on South Granville (while here, stop in at Vij’s, many say it is the best Indian restaurant on the continent); and yoga and sports clothing on West 4th in Kitsilano (need a break? Chewie’s Steam & Oyster Bar has brunch that poses as dessert).
For more active appetite-inducing activities, take a summer swim at either the beach or the pool in Kitsilano (gaze at the mountains when you come up for air); or, in winter, drive 15 minutes to ski at Grouse or Cypress mountains (and look down at the ocean on the chairlift). In any season you can kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
Best food and drink in Vancouver
All this activity will certainly make you hungry, but the balmy weather helps you to not overindulge.
Where and What to Eat on Granville Island
If you’ve been paddling or whale watching off Granville Island, you’re in the perfect place to start sampling. Stroll through the public market and make sure you stop at Oyama Sausage for artisanal meats, Benton Brothers for cheese (Quebec’s chevre noir is on my top 10 cheeses to eat before you die list), JJ Bean for coffee, and Edible Canada to eat in the bistro (stunning salads and fantastic fish & chips) or pick up Canadian products in Edible Canada’s shop (don’t miss Noble bourbon-barrel aged maple syrup!).
Where and What to Eat in Downtown Vancouver
While exploring downtown, make sure to try a few street food carts. Japadog was one of the first, but my favourites are Street Meet’s mushroom and truffle soup, Tacofino’s tuna ta-taco and chocolate diablo cookie, Vij’s Railway Express, and Vancouver Roaming Dragon’s Asian selections. The free Vancouver Street Food App is the best way to find out what’s open when and where.
Where and What to Eat in Gastown and Yaletown
Gastown and Yaletown are two neighbourhoods overflowing with phenomenal food, and you can walk between them easily. Some favourites:
- Consistently voted Vancouver’s best seafood restaurant is Blue Water Café and Raw Bar in Yaletown. They source wild and sustainable seafood (and feature an “unsung heroes” menu) and their chefs work magic with all of it — neither over-working it nor leaving it too plain. The restaurant also knows its wine and features over 1000 bottles (sit amongst them in one of the private dining rooms) to match perfectly with your meal. Service is friendly and top-notch.
- For something more casual, head to Blood Alley in Gastown for wine, cheese and charcuterie at Salt Tasting Room (don’t be nervous by either the name or the sketchy looks of Blood Alley).
- Still in Gastown, the Alibi Room has 50 taps of local and imported craft beer, plus boutique wines, inventive cocktails and delicious small and larger plates to accompany them.
- Technically just outside of Gastown, in Crosstown (though I didn’t know the difference), is the impressive Cinara. The food — modern European — is freshly inventive and the service is relaxed elegance.
Where and What to Eat in Vancouver’s West End
After a visit to Stanley Park, hit up one of the West End restaurants. My fave is España, a Spanish tapas place with an ever-changing menu. Experience an authentic Japanese izakaya at Kingyo on Denman Street (I always order the ahi tuna sashimi and a red-grapefruit cocktail, squeezed at the table). There’s a great selection of ramen shops near the intersection of Denman and Robson. Look for the lineups outside number 788 — Kintaro Ramen has some of the best noodles outside Japan. Hokkaido Ramen Santouka on Robson is great too.
The weather will be mild, so you can stroll back to your hotel after dinner (the Pan Pacific on the waterfront has spectacular views). You’ll be ready to eat Vancouver again tomorrow.