The Saturday City: Vancouver

Located in British Columbia, Vancouver is the largest city in Western Canada and the third-largest in all of Canada. It is known for its natural beauty, as it is nestled between the mountains and the ocean. Vancouver is one of my top ten favorite cities in the world.

Vancouver’s proximity to the ocean and the mountains provides for an excellent location: within minutes, you can get from downtown to the mountains or the beach. Vancouver is a dream for city-dwellers who need some fresh air but can’t quite move into a rural area.

Vancouver is just over 100 years old, and its namesake, Captain George Vancouver, sailed through the First Narrows in 1792. The first settlement on the downtown peninsula was Granville, located on the spot of today’s Gastown. Its location and harbor made it an excellent spot for a port, and Vancouver soon became the biggest port in the region. Today, it is still Canada’s main western port and the launching ground for most cruises up the Inside Passage.

Vancouver is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty and the opportunities afforded by its natural environment. Surrounded by water on three sides and crowned by the North Shore mountains, Vancouver is a great starting point for discovering the area’s many outdoor activities. In less than an hour, I went from downtown to the mountains, exploring the Capilano area, overcoming my fear of heights on the Capilano bridge, hiking across rivers, and ending up in random sea ports because I forgot what bus stop I needed to get off at.

Vancouver’s true appeal comes from this blend of nature and man — from city to mountain and back all in one day.

Vancouver’s main park is a gem among city parks worldwide. It may not be the biggest, but Stanley Park is second to none. Perched on the edge of the city, this park is an oasis of calm in an already relaxed city. The park has an aquarium, beaches, and miles of trails that let you dissolve into nature while still being a stone’s throw away from the city. It makes for a great mid-day break location, a place to walk or hike, or a spot to just relax. In the park, you hear none of the sounds of the city. It’s easy to relax here, without the crowds you see in Central Park or Hyde Park.

For foodies, Vancouver represents a delight for those who love Asian cuisine. As Canada’s major western port, immigrants from the Far East have long called Vancouver home. This has lead to a city with a high Asian population and Asian food on every corner. Sushi, Chinese, and some amazing Korean food can all be found here. Vancouver is home to the second-largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco.

Vancouver is a hip city — it reminds me a lot of Seattle, and a cross between Melbourne and Sydney. Walking around, everyone is relaxed, friendly, and very “cool.” The buildings are ultra modern, and there are cafes everywhere and outdoor restaurants when the weather is nice. And there’s also the wonderful Granville Park, a collection of eclectic shops and eateries for the yuppy liberal in all of us. I found some amazing food while I was there and even stumbled across a great local artist. I watched her set for half an hour. Good food, good music, and good wine is a lovely way to spend a weekend afternoon.

I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Vancouver, and I suspect I probably never will. With so much to like here — from its food to its atmosphere to its location — there’s little bad you can really say.

There are many cities I like in the world, but few I would move to. Vancouver is one that I would move to. It’s that great.