Vancouver is ranked as one of the best cities to live. It is known and loved for its alfresco active lifestyle, thanks to its stunning natural scenery that includes mountains, beaches and forests. Cycle, run or walk along the city’s seafront, in vast Stanley Park or take a day trip to Whistler mountain. And, it’s fast becoming a city recognised for its culinary delights. The Michelin Guide came to Canada for the first time in October 2022, with restaurants in Toronto and Vancouver being awarded Michelin stars. Eight Vancouver restaurants won a Michelin star. Eating and outdoor pursuits aside, the city has a world class public art gallery and the second biggest fashion week in North America (open to both industry and public).
Where to Stay
Ideally located at the heart of the city, Rosewood Hotel Georgia is right across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, shops and restaurants, with beautiful Stanley Park and the seafront nearby. This Georgian Revival landmark has attracted famous guests since it first opened in 1927, including Marlene Dietrich (and her 40 suitcases), Louis Armstrong, Sir Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Queen Elizabeth and King Charles as Prince of Wales.
Vancouver’s most historic hotel was painstakingly and extensively redesigned around ten years ago by Studio Munge. The designers were careful to preserve key elements from the 1920s building, including terrazzo flooring, elevator cab detailing and the original clock and staircase in the Grand Hall. And, last year, many of the 156 suites and guest rooms were renovated. Guest accommodation features an appealing palette of light blues, ivory, and chocolate, complemented by sleek furnishings and spa-inspired bathrooms.
The hotel’s top suites, the Lord Stanley Suite and the Rosewood Suite, are sheer opulence, both featuring two bedrooms and a private rooftop terrace, offering stunning city skyline views, a plunge pool and a private garden. The Rosewood Suite can also connect to an adjacent room to create a three-bedroom accommodation.
As you’d expect from a five-star hotel, the Rosewood offers impeccable service, a great spa, a fitness centre, and an indoor swimming pool. The hotel also has one of the largest private collections of Canadian art available for public viewing, including Alan Wood’s Garden series and six tongue–in–cheek pieces by Vancouver native, the author Douglas Coupland.
Breakfast is in the chic 1927 Bar and lounge and there’s also a more casual cafe. Reflections, is an outdoor terrace for cocktails and snacks in warmer months. The on-site, fine-dining restaurant is Hawksworth, where Chef David Hawksworth and his skilled team transform the best organic ingredients and seafood available from suppliers local and from across Canada. Expect Pacific fish, including albacore tuna and oysters and haida gwaii sablefish on the menu.
Another great five-star with an excellent location is the Shangri–La Hotel. Robson Street for luxury shopping is close by as is Stanley Park and the nightlife on Granville Street. The 119 spacious rooms and suites blend modern luxury with traditional Asian décor. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer downtown city views, while over half of the rooms have private balconies. The marble-clad bathrooms feature heated floors and a television embedded in the mirror.
Breakfast is served in the attractive Carlino restaurant. The all-day restaurant pays homage to British Columbia and the similarities it shares with northern Italy – the mountain ranges, forests, lakes and coastal waters. As well as classic Friulian dishes, the menu includes specialties from neighboring regions Trentino and Veneto.
Shangri-La hotels are renowned for their spas and the Vancouver property is no exception. Chi, the hotel’s gorgeous Spa is a major draw for guests and outside visitors. Drawing inspiration from the legendary Shangri-La, a place of personal peace and well-being, the treatments are based on Asian natural healing methods. The spa uses local products made on Bowen Island by Sangre de Fruta Botanical, gorgeous organic products for the face, body and hair, created in small batches by Allison Audrey Weldon. The indulgent 90-Minute Massage includes a body scrub, a relaxing steam/shower, followed by a massage using Sangre de Fruta botanical body cream in a choice of delicious scents: Rose No. 1, Neroli Forever, or Jasmin de Nuit.
Where to Eat
St. Lawrence was an obvious choice for the Michelin star earned last fall. This modern Quebecois restaurant is petite and super popular so a reservation is essential (and be prepared to wait a month). Chef/Owner Jean-Christophe Poirier (formerly of the highly rated Toqué in Montreal) creates an often changing tasting menu ($125 plus taxes). Classic French cuisine meets the gastronomic identity and culture of Les Québécois.
Another worthy Michelin-starred restaurant, this smart, buzzy restaurant has a firm focus on the sustainable, sourcing ingredients from local farms and producers. The menu at Published on Main features creative items like bee pollen milk buns, bison tartare and wild BC fiddleheads. Other tempting choices include roasted Pacific octopus, twice cooked pork belly and BC halibut.
Chef Andrea Carlson’s love for British Columbia shines through in organic, seasonal plates that have thrilled diners since she opened her cosy restaurant in 2013. And Burdock and Co was the worthy recipient of a Michelin star last fall. The changing set menu ($95 per person) includes dishes like shrimp toast; nettle and ricotta ravioli; and dry aged pork loin in fermented spruce tree sauce.
Opened last year in Chinatown, this Italian gem offers the best in street food, in a warehouse space with a retro vibe. Menu highlights at Fiorino include divine focaccia sandwiches and schiacciata, including one stuffed with guanciale, drizzled with honey and spread with walnut crema, excellent pasta dishes like spaghettoni ai frutti di mare and pappardelle with wild boar sauce.
Miku Restaurant’s signature Aburi-style sushi (lightly seared and infused with savory sauces), delicious meats (tenderized by Sumiyaki grilling) and desserts created by a Kyoto-trained pastry chef, Miku won’t fail to please. Organic, local ingredients enhance Miku’s innovative menu, which is carefully paired with fine wines and sake. Executive Chef Kazuhiro Hayashi takes advantage of regional ingredients as well as Ocean Wise seafood options to showcase the best of what Vancouver has to offer.
Mustafa and Razaviah, siblings of Afghan descent, offer an eclectic menu at East is East that includes the flavors of India, Afghanistan and Persia. Menu highlights include Dhal soup with three different kinds of lentils, cauliflower, spinach, herbs and spices; and Boulani, a traditional Afghan whole wheat roti stuffed with potato, green onion and herbs. The decor features ornate carpets on the walls, ceiling mandalas and nature-inspired furnishings. Live music, often jazz, is a bonus.
Local Public Eatery, Kitsilano is a well-loved hangout for locals featuring a vibe that is a combination of relaxed, California lifestyle and small beachtown. Dine on the large outdoor terrace with favorites like fish tacos, Thai curry or Ahi Tuna poke rice bowl.
What to See and Do
Granville Island is Canada’s second most-visited tourist attraction, behind Niagara Falls and essential for food-loving locals and tourists alike. Vancouver Foodie Tours at Granville Island offers a tour and taste of fresh, local, seasonal produce, alongside a slice of local life. It offers a range of delicious samples from independent farmers and food artisans from Vancouver and beyond, from duck confit and cheeses to locally-made charcuterie, melt-in-your-mouth donuts, to world-class coffee and chai. Michelle Ng, the ebullient founder, often leads the Granville Island tour. They also have tours in Gastown and one focusing on Asian food in Richmond which according to the New York Times, has the best Chinese food in all of North America.
Western Canada’s largest public art museum,Vancouver Art Gallery has a permanent collection of more than 12,600 works. The historical and contemporary exhibitions, include artworks by Canadian, Indigenous and internationally acclaimed artists. Currently on (until 4 June 2023) is Hard-Edge showcasing a selection of abstract paintings from the 1960s and 70s. Drawn from the gallery’s permanent collection, are works by artists including Jack Bush, Frank Stella and Joan Balzar, some of which are being exhibited for the first time since their acquisition.
For fashion lovers visiting the city in April or October, Vancouver Fashion Week, unlike most other major fashion weeks, offers public access through ticketed shows. If you’re seeking vintage finds, try Stepback, a lifestyle shop in Kitsilano with books, prints, antique toys, Canadian Pacific railway dishware and more.
Vancouver’s parks and gardens are a joy, even on a damp day. Stroll through glorious Stanley Park and VanDusen Garden with 55 acres and over 7,500 plant species and visit Bloedel Conservatory, filled with 100 exotic birds and over 500 kinds of tropical plants inside the dome.
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