Will and Kate might have missed these places, but you shouldn’t.
Will and Kate visited Vancouver yesterday! We’re not really ones for royal-watching, but we admire their choice in destination. Because, while Toronto will always be our hometown, we have a soft spot for the capital of Canadian West Coast culture. Vancouver is famous for the jaw-droppingly beautiful nature that surrounds it: ocean, mountains, beach, forest. And, honestly, that in itself is reason enough to visit. But there’s a whole lot more happening in Vancouver besides the great outdoors—and a whole lot of people happy to tell you about it. Even though the below would never have made the Will and Kate’s itineraries, these eating, drinking, shopping and exercising spots should totally make yours.
You might think Toronto is home to Canada’s best fashion labels, but the truth is that a lot of the coolest, most exciting Canadian fashion is coming out of Vancouver—and there’s good shopping to go along with it. On West 4th, the main drag of Kitsilano, stop by Reigning Champ’s (2119 W 4th Ave) flagship. The store is impressive in itself, with washed concrete floors and tiled walls, it’s full of the coolest streetwear you’ll find inside or outside Canada. In Gastown, skip the touristy stuff and go to One of A Few (354 Water St), which deals in cross-border hipster favorites like Apiece Apart, Nomia, and Rachel Comey. From there, it’s a quick 20 minute walk through the quickly gentrifying Downtown Eastside to Charlie & Lee (223 Union St) in Chinatown for locally-made, ethically-sourced clothing and home goods. If you’re visiting, make sure you save room in your suitcase for their sea salt soap and ceramic succulent planters. It would be considered disloyal not to pay tribute to the brand behemoths that were born in Vancouver—besides, the Lululemon and Aritzia stores are just nicer here; they also make up the uniform of most locals and are on every other street corner, so you can’t miss them.
Vancouver has some truly great dining options. It has its fair share of mass chains (avoid the Cactus Club, Earl’s, and Joey’s unless you’re on the hunt for overpriced fusion and the after work bro crowd), but it also has some of the best Asian food outside of the content itself because of the huge Asian immigrant population. Peaceful Restaurant isn’t fancy, but has some of the best Northern Chinese comfort food ever. You will not regret over-ordering. In fact, just go ahead and get everything—especially the ginger beef, the Dan-Dan noodles, and all the dumplings. For Japanese, the corner sushi place (and they are on every corner) is better and cheaper than anything you’ll get in almost any other North American city. Beyond Asian food, Nuba (multiple locations) serves yummy and healthy Lebanese; Pizzeria Farina (915 Main St) has great pizza (duh), but get it to go and eat it next door at The Boxcar (917 Main St), where they have a multitude of great beers on tap; Ask for Luigi (305 Alexander St) for Italian that’s not pizza; and AnnaLena (1809 W 1st Ave) for delicious “Canadian tapas” (otherwise known as dishes like confit radish, seared scallops, and chocolate-covered chicken skin). For lunch (or whenever you want avocado toast), go to Nelson and the Seagull (315 Carrall St)—they also have a great ploughman's plate.
Vancouver has a great burgeoning microbrewery scene—33 Acres (15 W 8th Ave), Brassneck (2148 Main St) and Main Street Beer (261 E 7th Ave) are all excellent places to spend a Saturday afternoon, and are all within a few blocks of each other (which, if anything, calls for a crawl). If you’re more about cocktails than beer, try The Diamond (6 Powell St) in Gastown or Chinatown’s The Keefer (135 Keefer St). For the latter, when you’ve had one too many, Juke (182 Keefer St) serves spot-on fried chicken and is right across the street. If you manage to leave the East Side and Gastown during a night out (and we suggest you do), go to Bayside Lounge (1755 Davie St), which is right on English Bay and has gobsmacking views to match. The Shameful Tiki Room (4362 Main St)—exactly what it sounds like—and The Black Lodge (630 Kingsway)—straight out of Twin Peaks—are perfect for a novelty night. If all else fails, go to the Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway), where you can get a beer and watch an old movie in peace (they’re currently screening Showgirls).
True to stereotype, Vancouver really is an active city. In fact, LA should probably cede its crown—it’s quite possibly the most active North American city. It’s a way of life: for better or for worse, Lululemon leggings are appropriate garb at all of the above establishments, and when the ocean, the mountains, the beach, and the forest beckon to you on all sides, there’s very little excuse not to be active. If you really want to get in with the locals, the Grouse Grind (6400 Nancy Greene Way) is a famous test of strength and endurance. Read: a rocky trail straight up the side of Grouse Mountain that takes about an hour if you’re running. Just stay out of the way of the sixty-year-old women sprinting past you. The other very *West Coast* workouts to get in on (that also happen to be free) are the stairs at Wreck Beach (just know that the beach itself tends to be more clothing-optional than anything) and Lululemon running groups. If you prefer your workouts inside (we get it), there are about a thousand options. The best include Lagree West (437 Hastings St) for hardcore reformer Pilates set to Drake; Tight Club Athletics (261 Union St) for every class you’ve ever wanted to take; Kondi Studio (1462 W 8th Ave) if you’re in the mood to have your ass handed to you via TRX. If there’s one thing you should do while you’re in Lululemon’s hometown, besides one of seemingly thousands of stunning hikes, is take a yoga class. YYoga’s studios are everywhere and reliably excellent.