The goal of this series is to help people better comprehend Hostelling International’s mission, to see beyond the cheap sleeps and to understand the greater ideals behind hostelling.
Excerpted from HI’s book History of HI-Canada-Pacific Mountain Region- Celebrating 75 Years of Hostelling in Canada, by Jon Azpiri.
Vancouver’s City Hostels: HI-Vancouver Central and HI-Vancouver Downtown
While much of Vancouver's hostelling history focuses on HI-Vancouver Jericho Beach, there are two other hostels in the city centre. Vancouver's two downtown hostels complement each other perfectly. While HI-Vancouver Central remains a social hub in the heart of the city's nightlife district, HI-Vancouver Downtown provides a more laid-back facility that is still within walking distance of the beach, downtown West End area and Vancouver's bustling city centre.
In July 2002, HI-Vancouver Central opened its doors in the heart of Vancouver's nightlife district. Formerly known as the Royal, the building dates back to the 1920s. In its prime, it was one of the taller buildings in the area. Photos from the 1930s show The Royal towering over others in the neighbourhood.
Over the years, the Royal evolved into a meeting point for Vancouver's gay community. It served as one of the few gay-friendly hotels in the city while the lobby housed one of the city's most popular gay bars.
In 2002, Hostelling International bought the building and turned it into the HI-Vancouver Central. The hostel is in the middle of Vancouver's entertainment district and a magnet for travellers looking to enjoy Vancouver's vibrant nightlife. Many travellers looking for a good time out often don't make it past the lobby bar which is a social hub for travellers, a place to swap travel stories over a beer and music. The hostel is also active during the day, as many group activities such as tours and day hikes are based out of HI-Vancouver Central.
In its earliest incarnation, HI-Vancouver Downtown was known as Duke Residence, a seniors care facility operated by the Missionary Sisters of Christ the King. Duke Residence closed after government regulations changed regarding the number of square feet required per bed.
In May 1996, HI-Vancouver Downtown opened its doors. The hostel now sleeps 220 guests in private rooms and four-bed dorms. It also features a common guest kitchen and dining room, TV room, games room, library, and laundry. You may not notice them at first glance, but there are stained glass windows in the meeting rooms and other areas of the hostel, a subtle reminder of the building's past.
Perhaps the hostel's strongest feature is the outside garden and patio, which served as a respite for the elderly during its years as a seniors care facility. Today it provides a peaceful resting spot for travellers after a day exploring Western Canada's largest city.