A Local's Guide to Vancouver

HI staff member and frequent blog contributor Lydia Simpson is a real live Vancouverite.

So you’ve rocked into town and you want to go beyond the guidebook. Sure, you’re going to go to Stanley Park and Granville Island and that, but you’d also like to see some non-tourist sights, go where the locals go. No problem- we’ve got some ideas for you.

First of all, forget the rental car. Our public transit is a cinch and parking meter rates are insane here anyway. Buy a daypass or a book of tickets (we sell them at the hostel) and you’re good to go.


“Wait a second,” I can hear you crying, “That’s in my guidebook and it seems super touristy. Steam clock and souvenir shops, right?” Right, but wait, there’s more! Gastown is now home to stylish interior design shops, barista-approved cafes, and restaurants worth lining up for.

Where is Gastown? The main strip is Water Street, from about Seymour to Columbia, but walk up to Cordova too.

Where to (window) shop: Old Faithful, Parliament, One of a Few

Where to get caffeinated: Nelson the Seagull, Revolver

Where to eat: Peckinpah, Save on Meats, Salt

Where should I go after Gastown? Walk a few blocks east on Powell or Alexander to the just-made-up Railtown neighbourhood for pulled pork and pancakes at Deacon’s Corner, or pick up a sandwich at Big Lou’s Butcher Shop and eat it at the scenic-but-hard-to-find CRAB Park.

Mount Pleasant / SoMa

We can’t quite agree on what to call Main Street, but we can agree that we love it, despite all the hipsters. Grab a coffee and explore. You’ll find quirky boutiques full of locally designed crafts and clothes, antique shops, and enough restaurants to keep a foodie busy for days.

Where is Mount Pleasant / SoMa / what have you? Main Street, starting around Broadway and fizzling out around 33rd.

Where to (window) shop: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France, Eugene Choo, Regional Assembly of Text

Where to get caffeinated:  JJ Bean, Marche St. George, Bean Around the World

Where to eat: Lucy’s Eastside Diner, Burgoo, Zipang Sushi if the line at Toshi is too long

Where should I go after Main Street? Stroll the leafy residential streets a few blocks west to Cambie Street between around 12th to 20th Street. Poke around shops like Walrus, have a porchetta sandwich at Pronto Caffe , or relax and take in a film at the independent Park Theatre. You could also continue up Main St. to Little India or walk over to Queen Elizabeth Park.


If you are after a taste of Asia but have already been to Chinatown, then head to Richmond where you will find hundreds of Asian restaurants and a vast array of shops. Take the Canada Line Skytrain to Aberdeen Station, then walk half a block east to Aberdeen Centre. Shop your heart out at the $2 Japanese superstore Daiso and feast on multicultural delights in the astonishing Asian food court. Don’t miss the musical fountain show.

Where (else) to eat: Yaohan Centre’s food court has plenty of cheap eats and the best laksa in town (in my opinion) at the Curry House. For dim sum, take your pick. Sun Sui Wah always gets good reviews.

Where to both eat and shop: The Richmond Summer Night Market runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday between June and September.  

Where to skate like an Olympian: Head to the Richmond Olympic Oval, which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics skating events. Now a top notch sporting facility, you can drop in for some ice time.

Where should I go after Richmond? It is well worth taking the 30 minute bus ride to Steveston.  This quaint, historic village is located at the mouth of the Fraser River. Take a stroll along the wharf and check out the day’s catch. Learn about the history of salmon fishing in this area at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and grab some fish and chips al fresco at Pajos on the wharf.

Deep Cove, North Vancouver

Holy cow, this place is far. Maybe you should have rented that car after all. Take bus 212 all the way to the end of the line. Then enjoy a fresh, warm, sticky doughnut at Honey Doughnuts. You may have to wait a while but they’re worth it. Afterwards, browse around Gallant Ave, the short main drag, a bit. Definitely go into Room6 if you like gorgeous, design-y things. And then maybe rent a canoe? It is very beautiful out on the water. Since you came so far out, stop at Lonsdale Quay on your way back and walk around Lonsdale Ave a bit. It’s nice there.

This is obviously a subjective opinion, so we’d like to know where other locals would go off the guidebooks! Get arguing in the comments.

Author: HI-Membership


Local resident's picture
Commercial Drive is better then all those places with it's unpretentiousness and total cultural diversity, also burnaby mountain has spectacular views of the whole city, beautiful forests, spectacular sunsetse and can be accessed by bus, and wreck beach, especially at this time of year with no people, is one of the most beautiful places in the city.
HI-Membership's picture
Thanks for your comments!

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