1. The architecture.
The architecture in Vancouver, especially downtown, has an incredible mix of impressive modern buildings, well-preserved historical structures, and apartments and shopfronts that can only be classified as urban decay. The contrast in architecture makes each block captivating and different than every other. Brightly colored paint is also common–not every building is brown or brick, but rather there are interspersed yellows, blues, and greens to liven up the streets.
2. The water.
Vancouver is home to creeks, lakes, rivers, bays, and inlets, meaning that it’s easy to get close to water nearly anywhere in the city. The Seawall, where you can walk, bike, or rollerblade for miles (ahem, kilometers), surrounds English Bay and connects the Kitsilano, Jericho, Locarno, and Spanish Banks beaches. It’s a lovely way to spend a morning, afternoon, or evening.
3. Salmagundi West.
This little antiques store in Gastown is home to all sorts of bizarre and enticing collectibles. Upstairs there’s lots of natural light, but the day I went there was a power outage and the basement was pitch black except for a few candles that creepily illuminated a mirror and a mannequin. Even with only the few square feet of the main floor available for shopping, I fell in love with this store and all its oddities.
4. Feeling safe.
It can be nerve-wracking exploring a new city by yourself (especially when your focus is on your photos, not your wallet), but I never once felt unsafe in Vancouver. I’m sure there’s crime, but the city doesn’t seem to require an unusual amount of vigilance when traveling. People are generally friendly, and I would’ve felt entirely comfortable asking strangers for directions or other help.
5. The Vancouver Public Library.
Is that the Roman Coliseum? Nope, the Vancouver Public Library. It’s got seven floors and a handful of restaurants/cafes for a study break. Kinda made me wish I had a school assignment to do so I could hunker down in one of the many seating areas.
Seriously, look at that enormous skylight. All libraries need to look like that.
6. Graffiti/otherwise decorated walls.
Public art gets me every time, and Vancouver has plenty of it. Sanctioned art, like the classic postman engraved on the exterior of the Canada Post building, is just as plentiful as the striking and often thoughtful street art that decorates tons of walls throughout the city.
7. The Holy Rosary Cathedral.
I’m obsessed with this cathedral. It reminds me of the cathedrals I saw in Spain and Portugal. Although it’s simpler than many of those, it’s still stunning, and the stained glass inside is a lovely touch. I would’ve loved to see the interior of that gorgeous circular window, but I wouldn’t dare interrupt Mass.
Pro tip: the parking garage just down Richards Street has some of the cheapest all-day weekend parking I’ve ever seen. $6.50 for the whole day is an absolute steal and especially impressive for the downtown area.
8. Youth prices.
In British Columbia, since 19 is the drinking age, 18 is still considered “youth” at nearly every museum or attraction. Let’s just say I appreciated being able to take advantage of discounted admission, and nobody even demanded my ID as proof. Told you the Canadians are nice.
They’re both shortcuts to adjacent blocks and excellent fodder for photographers. Often they include awesome street art. What’s not to love?
10. Downtown at night.
Sometimes dubbed “the Poor Man’s Vegas,” downtown Vancouver is bustling with foodies, energetic barhoppers and clubgoers, and talented buskers. Between the lively atmosphere and the neon lights illuminating the street, it hardly feels like nighttime, even on a weeknight.