15 Things Vancouver is Known For

Vancouver, the fifth most densely populated city in North America, is located on Canada’s western-most Pacific shores in the province of British Columbia.

What is Vancouver known for?

Vancouver is known for its high-rises surrounded by beautiful nature. It is also known for its diverse population who enjoy its unparalleled nature. Vancouver is known for its rain, its ancient forests, its ecologically-minded locals, and its seawall. Locals and tourists know Vancouver for its world-famous swimming, surfing and hiking along the Pacific Ocean.

vancouver port

Let’s find out what else Vancouver is known for!

1. Vancouverism

vancouver skyline

Vancouver may be densely populated, but its unique skyline of mixed high-rise buildings and nature is no mistake.

Vancouver is known for its unique urban development plan called “Vancouverism”. Vancouverism refers to high-rise buildings separated by low-level structures, parks, public spaces, and a sustainable public transportation system.

What is the result?

Plenty of sunlight and breeze moves in between the buildings, people can see out their windows and locals can flow easily and happily through the city’s social streets. Despite its dense population, a respect and appreciation for nature is still evident throughout Vancouver.

2. Chinese diaspora

chinatown night

Vancouver is known for having the largest Chinatown in Canada and the second-largest in North America.

Chinese immigrants originally migrated to the region as labourers, helping to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Although most Chinese immigrants come from Mainland China, recent migrants also include those arriving from Hong Kong, many of which live between the two cities. For some, Vancouver is actually known as “Hongcouver”.

Interestingly, in Vancouver’s Chinatown, you can find the world’s narrowest building, the Sam Kee Building, which is only six feet wide. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Chinese Cultural Centre to learn about Chinese culture and history, featuring art produced by the diaspora.

Last but certainly not least, Vancouver’s Chinatown is known for having some of the best Chinese food in the world. It is also possible to find many other East Asian cuisines in the area. Try some dim sum, delicious fish from the local waters, or visit local bakeries that serve tasty East Asian sweets.

3. Liveability

kayaking boats

Vancouver is known for being one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Vancouver has a perfect balance of nature and city life that makes it so liveable. The relatively small size of the city makes for minimal daily commutes, allowing even the most career-focused to have enjoy some leisure time.

A number of festivals bring culture to the city every summer, including the Queer Arts Festival, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival and Vancouver’s own Folk Music Festival, to name only a few.

Fresh produce, specialty goods and delicious meals await local food-lovers seven days a week at the Granville Island Public Market. There are plenty of fantastic places to eat in Vancouver as well.

Vancouver is also known for its wellness. Locals, inspired by the nature and blessed with a multitude of hiking trails in Vancouver, are active, fitness-focused, and nature-loving. This is evident especially in some of the wellness-focused brands that have come out of Vancouver, such as Lululemon fitness wear and Saje Natural Wellness products.

Locals truly embrace the laid-back life and make the most of their prime location on the stunning western coast of Canada.

4. World’s Greenest City

vancouver seawall

Local city officials have created a plan for Vancouver to become known as the greenest city in the world.  

This plan includes reducing CO2 emissions, reducing waste, increasing green jobs, constructing greener buildings, reducing traffic by promoting cycling, walking and public transportation use, increasing local food growth, improving the air quality and reducing water consumption.

Inspired by its nature, this eco-friendly city is on the road to serving as an example of how dense cities can promote urban development alongside ecological wellness.

5. Stanley Park

stanley park

Vancouver is known for its beautiful Stanley Park, heavily forested and surrounded by the English Bay and the Burrard Inlet. Some of the park’s half a million trees are hundreds of years old and nearly 300 feet high.

The longest non-interrupted seafront walkway in the world can be found in Stanley Park. This recreational path snakes along the Vancouver Seawall, which was built to prevent erosion of the park along the coast. You’ll find locals cycling, walking and rollerblading along this path throughout the year.   

Vancouver is known for its aquarium, which houses 58,000 animals. Built within the park grounds, this research facility and marine animal rehabilitation centre welcomes visitors from around the world. The Vancouver Aquarium’s galleries include fish and invertebrates from the Georgia Strait, which is an arm of the Pacific Ocean that spans Vancouver’s coast, as well as marine wildlife from across the globe.

6. English Bay

english bay

A great place to watch the sunset or go for a swim is Vancouver’s well-known English Bay. In fact, there is a beach called “Sunset Beach” famous for people who love to do just that. There are plenty of beaches to choose from along the bay, including the self-named English Bay beach.

After the sun sets, be sure to catch Vancouver’s famous fireworks festival, the Celebration of Light, which shows brilliant displays for two weeks every summer. This festival is the largest offshore fireworks display in the wold.

If you happen to travel to Vancouver during its colder winter months, join the brave at Vancouver’s famous Polar Bear Swim. Think nobody would want to plunge into the Bay’s icy depths at sub-zero temperatures? Guess again!

The annual plunge has been joined by up to 2,000 people annually since 1920! Lucky for them, thanks to the Pacific breeze, the English Bay is actually warmer than the rest of the city.

7. Ferries

ferry port

Vancouver is known by locals and tourists for its ferries. BC Ferries, a local private ferry company transporting individuals around the region, is the second largest ferry company in the world.

Some opt for a relaxing ferry ride around the islands in the Georgia Strait, while others take a ferry up to Vancouver’s Sunshine Coast to enjoy the beaches and hiking trails.

Vancouver is an easy point of access for ferries coming from and going to a number of nearby destinations. However, those looking to set sail to Alaska can also enjoy a cruise through Vancouver because this city offers the closest port to the Alaskan waters.

8. Palm trees

palm trees sunset

Most people don’t think of palm trees when they think of Canada; however, Vancouver is known for its windmill palms.

These palm trees grow especially well in Vancouver’s mild summers and winters. The city’s moderate temperatures really allow these palms to flourish.

The arctic air that chills the rest of the country can’t easily cross over the Rocky Mountains, making Vancouver the warmest city in Canada.  

9. Film industry

film school
Image credit: Vancouver Film School

Do you think all of those Hollywood films you love to watch are really all filmed in New York and L.A.?

Actually, some of them may have been filmed in Vancouver. Vancouver is known for being one of the third-largest Film and T.V. production locations in North America. The city contributes to an average of 65 movies and 55 T.V. series annually.

10. Rain

rain hoodie

How does Vancouver have so many large trees and such beautiful nature?

Don’t be surprised if you get stuck in the rain upon arrival. Better yet, embrace it because rain is a big part of the Vancouver lifestyle. Vancouver’s maritime climate, due to its location on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, means that the temperatures are quite mild.

It rains on average 165 days per year in Vancouver, so you won’t need your parka while visiting. Be sure to pack an umbrella and a windbreaker for the windy and rainy weather that Vancouver is known for.

11. Skytrain

skytrain black white

Do you want to know where to get the best city tour?

Try taking a ride on Vancouver’s Skytrain. The Vancouver Skytrain is the longest and oldest driverless rapid-transit system in the world. This means that if you can grab a spot in the front, you’ll have the best view on your tour around town!

12. Vancouver Island

surfer man

Vancouver is known for the beautiful Vancouver Island, located 60 miles off the coast, in the Pacific Ocean. Visitors arrive to the island by ferry from Seattle, located approximate 73 miles south, as well as several different locations by ferry, road or plane within the province of British Columbia itself.

Originally populated by the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, Tofino is an island destination to experience culture, nature, and surfing. Surfers gather in Tofino to ride the rough waves that Vancouver is known for. Hikers enjoy the ancient rainforests found in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. And budget-conscious travelers go camping in Tofino for some peace and quiet away from the city.

Taste candied smoked salmon at the Saturday Tofino Market, where you can also find plenty of artisanal treasures to take home. Finally, take a boat tour or floatplane to the nearby Hot Springs Cove to enjoy the natural beauty of the region.

Stop by Nanaimo to try the infamous and irresistible Nanaimo Bar made of chocolate, nuts, coconut, custard and ganache. Visit the very quirky nearby Coombs Market, famous for its buildings with grass roofs, well-climbed on by local goats.

13. Storm Watching

storm waves

Most people want to go whale watching when they head to the ocean. Whale watching is a popular activity on Vancouver’s coast. However, some people actually prefer to venture outside to go storm watching.

Aggressive winter waves along the coast of Vancouver Island serve as a rather unique tourist attraction. While some head to Chesterman Beach or the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Kwisitis Visitor Centre, some hotels actually advertise storm watching packages from the comfort of their hotel rooms and lobbies.

14. Cathedral Grove 

fir trees forest

MacMillan National Park is home to Vancouver’s famous Cathedral Grove. Here you’ll find Vancouver’s well-known and well-photographed Douglas Fir trees. Some of these trees are almost 800 years old, and some measure almost 30 feet in circumference.

Take a walk through this Vancouver Island park’s pathways to appreciate the ancient forest. Keep your eyes out for some of the amazing wildlife that populates the park, including owls, reptiles, deer, bears and even cougars.

Unfortunately, many trees were knocked down in Vancouver’s windstorms but regeneration is already visible.

15. Capilano Suspension Bridge

capilano bridge

Ready to face your fear of heights?

Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge is a 450-foot bridge, built in 1889 that would be strong enough to hold the weight of an airplane or even 96 elephants. The bridge hangs 230 feet above the Capilano River. Vancouver is known for attracting nature loving thrill-seekers who want to face their fears and cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Would you dare cross it?

Vancouver is a beautiful city that offers some of the best nature in the world. It is one of Canada’s coastal gems, home to a diverse eco-focused population and some very happy wildlife too. Vancouver is known as a great place to enjoy the sea, forests, and inner-city life with a laid-back attitude. Don’t miss your chance to travel to this urban paradise.

Now, hop over to read about other Canadian cities in this series:

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