Downtown Vancouver has five distinct neighbourhoods: Gastown, Downtown West, Coal Harbour, West End, and Yaletown, and each neighbourhood attracts their own unique crowds and vibes.
Downtown Vancouver is one of Canada’s most livable downtown cores and offers its residents a true urban lifestyle that is envied worldwide. From Gastown’s cobblestoned streets to Yaletown’s trendy urban shopping and the West End’s famed beaches and parks, there is almost no reason to leave the downtown core.
Downtown Vancouver is home to several major shopping districts: Pacific Centre, Robson Street, and Yaletown. Each of these areas are all within walking distance from each other, so any avid shopper would be hard-pressed not to be able to find what they are searching for, and with so much to see, one could easily spend a day perusing from store to store
For students looking for a convenient place to live and study, they need not look further than the downtown core. At Robson Square, the University of British Columbia has a downtown campus featuring Continuing Studies, Faculty of Law, and Faculty of Medicine (including a full-time Masters in Health Administration program) and the respected Sauder School of Business. The UBC Bookstore, a branch of the UBC Library, and over 70,000 square feet of convention and event facilities round out the amenities offered.
Downtown Vancouver’s five unique neighbourhoods each offer their own individual appeal, and depending on what you are looking for, each neighbourhood should be reviewed to find where your needs will best be met.
Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, Gastown, grew from a single tavern founded by John ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton in 1867. Today, the district retains its historic charm and independent spirit. Victorian architecture houses a thriving fashion scene, impeccably curated décor boutiques, one-of-a-kind galleries, and some of Vancouver’s best culinary fare. It’s a gathering place for stylish locals and tourists alike. Gastown lies along the north of the downtown Vancouver peninsula, from Richards east to Main Street, and south to Hastings Street.
Gastown is a neighbourhood that seamlessly combines old with new, history with the way forward. Gastown is home to many of the city’s hottest restaurants, making it an excellent pick for a special night out. From European cuisine with farm-to-table flair through to Asian-inspired molecular gastronomy and everything in between, Gastown’s restaurants will not disappoint.
Even though Coal Harbour is downtown, it’s a surprisingly calm neighbourhood, right on the water’s edge. It’s even more surprising given its industrial history as a former shipyard sitting next to the railway terminal. The area starts at Canada Place and stretches west to Stanley Park, and is bordered by Burrard Inlet to the north, and West Georgia Street to the south. Coal Harbour is a charming mix of business and residential, being home to both the Vancouver Convention Centre as well as many condo towers, and hotel residences. Around this neighbourhood you’ll find locals and visitors mingling on the Seawall, neighbourhood cafes, restaurants, and a popular marina.
Coal Harbour is known for its high-end apartments, posh hotels, and beautiful views. Looking north, you will see Vancouver Harbour, North and West Vancouver, and the North Shore Mountains, including Grouse, Seymour, and Cypress. This notably quiet neighbourhood offers some reprieve and tranquility from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city, and like many other areas of Vancouver that are close to the sea, offer a superb seawall walk that takes you right to Stanley Park.
A revitalized neighbourhood along False Creek that was once a warehouse district has been transformed into one of Vancouver’s chicest neighbourhoods, filled with residential loft spaces, sidewalk cafes, cool restaurants, unique shopping, and leafy parks. Several “loft-style” residential conversions and new construction have significantly increased the residential flavour of Yaletown.
The waterfront parks are a big draw in Yaletown. The city’s seawall runs right along the water, connecting two of the most prominent green spaces: David Lam Park and George Wainborn Park. Walk, jog, bike, or inline skate along the Seawall and you’ll find plenty of excellent public art sprinkled along the waterfront. The neighbourhood’s historical roots are also evident in the form of Engine 374, which pulled the first transcontinental passenger train into the city in 1887, on display at the Roundhouse Community Centre.
With its posh hotels, world-class shopping, and soaring office towers, Downtown West is the city’s heartbeat. Here you will find hotels such as the Four Seasons, Shangri-la, Hotel Georgia, and Fairmont Hotel. Most of these 5-star hotels have high-end residences attached to them with dedicated entrances and a 24-hour concierge. With upscale luxury residences (exclusively strata condos and townhomes), this area appeals to the trendy, fashionable, and ethnically diverse population who have been drawn by the lure of the downtown lifestyle. Residents here have chosen the Downtown area for its easy accessibility to their work environment, and because downtown is one of the most livable downtown cores while also offering its residents a truly urban lifestyle.
Downtown Vancouver has numerous beaches, including English Bay Beach, Sunset Beach, and 2nd and 3rd Beach. These beaches are all open year-round and attract notable events throughout the seasons, such as the Festival of Lights fireworks display and the annual Polar Bear swim.
Parks are plentiful throughout the downtown core, with the most notable being Stanley Park; however, many other parks can be found throughout downtown, such as Sunset Beach Park, David Lam Park, Harbour Green Park, and Nelson Park, to name just a few.
Downtown provides the hottest dining scene in Vancouver. Countess restaurants line the streets serving all types of cuisine. From high-end dining to food trucks and everything in between, you will never run out of dining options in the downtown core.
Home to Pacific Center and Robson Street your shopping options are limitless. You will find everything from the world’s top fashion brands to independent boutique stores, all at your fingertips and within walking distance.
For a downtown core it is surprising how many schools one will find here. There are numerous elementary schools here, including Lord Roberts, Lord Roberts Annex, and Elise Roy. King George Secondary School has a stellar reputation and offers many opportunities for older children in the family.
With the high density combined with the livability score in Downtown Vancouver, housing prices are some of the most stable in the country; you will sleep soundly knowing your equity is protected.
Through rezoning, revitalization, and excellent urban planning, Downtown Vancouver has become one of the world’s most livable downtown cores. Composed almost entirely of strata condos and townhomes, Downtown Vancouver is a dense, modern, safe oasis.
Depending on where you choose to live, you will find a large variety of condos from older 60’s apartments located in the West End, to the elegant and chic apartments found in the Hotel Georgia and Shangri-la residences in the Downtown West area.
Your Life After Work
Go to Gastown for dinner and unwind. After dinner, you will walk along the seawall past the convention center, where you will admire the sunset and the beautiful North Shore as you continue along on your way to Stanley Park.
Your Life On Weekends
Going to your favourite brunch spot, heading to the beach, running the seawall, or going to a concert, are just a few of the countless ways you will spend your weekend. After talking to other residents, you will learn that very few people own a car here, and you now realize why!
Dining and Entertainment
If you want to go to a nightclub there are numerous choices, with most being located along Granville Street, which shuts down entirely on Friday and Saturday nights. Music venues and concert halls are all abundant.
There is always something happening downtown for families; whether it is the spooky train in Stanley Park, the Christmas Market at Jack Poole Plaza, or the Festival of Lights in English Bay, you will never run out of activities for the little ones.
What You’ll Love
The endless dining and entertainment options, a walk score that’s off the charts, subways, and busses leaving every minute, you will likely never want to leave downtown. This area truly is the heart of the city, and you will feel the pulse of everything going on around you when you live here; the sense of excitement one gets from living downtown never fades.
What You May Not Like
If it is peace and quiet and sizable square footage you seek, downtown will not be the place for you. The hustle and bustle of the city are evident everywhere. New developments do their best to reduce noise, but even the latest and greatest in technology cannot completely drown out the city’s sounds. Downtown being almost exclusively townhomes and condos, makes trying to find a house with a backyard virtually impossible, so if you are looking for a place for a large family and you are not prepared to sacrifice space, you will have to look elsewhere.