Where to stay in Vancouver: 5 great neighbourhoods for visitors

December 6, 2016

by Nancy Baye

Vancouver, B.C. is home to great mix of neighbourhoods; from the bustling downtown core to the chilled-out beach vibe in Kitsilano to the mountainous playground of the North Shore, this world-class city attracts millions of tourists from across the globe each year. If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver and trying to decide where to stay, check out these five distinct neighbourhoods, each of which offers a range of accommodations and activities for all sorts of travellers. [Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel Vancouver]

Where to stay in Vancouver: 5 great neighbourhoods for visitors

Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive (aka The Drive) blends its Italian heritage with East Van hip and a family-friendly atmosphere. Sidewalk cafes serve some of the best gelato, baked goods and espresso in the city, while produce stands overflow with fruit and vegetables and independent bookstores are great for getting lost in. Italian delis are also plentiful, which is no surprise since this has long been a hub for Italian-Canadians. If you’re looking for international flavours, sample Spanish small plates at Cabrito Tapas Bar or step into Harambe Restaurant’s vibrant interior to enjoy an authentic Ethiopian meal. Afterwards, visit Havana for a Caribbean cocktail and to check out their gallery space and theatre.

Take advantage of the lovely heritage homes on the surrounding tree-lined streets just off Commercial Drive by staying in a historic bed and breakfast. Parker Heritage B&B is more than 100 years old and features spacious rooms and welcoming common areas. At The Strathcona Suite, a picturesque carriage house, you can enjoy a private patio or second floor balcony overlooking parkland. Or check in at the Bee & Thistle; built in 1908, this B&B is full of historic details like vintage stained glass windows and antique woodwork, plus most rooms feature a fireplace and modern en-suite bathrooms with heated floors.

The North Shore

Head over the Lion’s Gate Bridge and discover Vancouver’s North Shore, a quieter suburb with shops and restaurants, lavish homes and incredible scenery. Mountains, forests and the shoreline make this area a natural place for outdoor pursuits: skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, hiking, golf, tennis, kayaking and more! The awe-inspiring trails and exhibits at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park are a must see.

West Van has a lot to offer in the way of shopping (head to Park Royal Shopping Centre for designer duds) and swanky spots for a meal – pasta lovers will love the sumptuous Italian dishes at Carmelo’s on Marine Drive. If you’d like something more casual, stroll the quaint local boutiques in Deep Cove and grab a melt-in-your-mouth doughnut at Honey’s Doughnuts, or head to Horseshoe Bay and visit Olive and Anchor where you can gaze over the water and while enjoying fresh, sustainable and reasonably priced fare.

When looking for a place to stay, try one of the North Shore’s fabulous B&Bs. Lighthouse Park B&B offers peaceful romantic suites and is perfectly located for those who want to venture along rugged shores and hiking trails in Lighthouse Park. Do keep in mind that this sprawling suburb is best explored with a car.

The West End

Bordering the downtown core, Vancouver’s West End is an inclusive neighbourhood that offers the natural beauty of Stanley Park and English Bay, the chic shops of Robson Street, and the nightlife of Davie Village – a trendy and LGBTQ-friendly area rife with eateries, bars and nightclubs. Check out the Inukshuk that dot the shores of English Bay, rent a bike and cycle along the Seawall, and visit Denman Street for beachside eats, global cuisine, farm-to-table restaurants and more. Be sure to try sangria and tapas at Espana, just look for the bright red door and friendly face of owner Ed Perrow.

The West End’s tree-lined residential streets feature heritage homes and older high-rise apartment buildings. To get a true taste of the neighbourhood, check in at the West End Guest House on Haro Street. Open for 30 years and consistently ranked as one of the top places to stay in Vancouver, this welcoming B&B is known for its attention to detail, fabulous food, and historic touches – plus an afternoon sherry service.

Downtown Vancouver

The West End spills into downtown Vancouver, home to big business and soaring glass towers that offer sweeping views of Coal Harbour on one side and False Creek on the other. There’s a high concentration of hotels here, with options ranging from budget-friendly chains to high-end luxury accommodations to unique boutique hotels. Favourites include the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel (offering fine dining and unbeatable waterfront views), the chic Loden Hotel in Coal Harbour, and The Burrard – a quirky converted motor hotel with retro details and plenty of character.

You’ll find shopping, restaurants, theaters, galleries, sports stadiums and more in Vancouver’s bustling core. Elbow your way through the corporate crowds to the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), which houses rotating exhibits from around the world in its marbled interior. Always a gathering place, the steps at the VAG lead to one of the city’s hidden gems: The Gallery Café. This rooftop patio has one of the city’s best views for the cost of a healthy snack or glass of wine.


For a true taste of West Coast living, join the locals in Kitsilano. With its world-famous beach, parks, shops, bars and restaurants, and plenty of yoga studios and gyms, it’s easy to see why Kits is one of the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods. You’ll notice a surprising number of coffee shops for such a laid back area; be sure to look for the bright yellow exterior of Culprit Coffee on Vine at West 4th and treat yourself to artisanal coffees, sandwiches and baked goods, with gluten-free options. Want to get a sweat going? Nearby fitness options include a vibrating workout at Pure Vibe Studio on West Broadway, spinning at Method Indoor Cycling Studio, or paddleboarding off Kits Beach. Just a block up from the sandy shoreline, Yew Street is a perfect place to snack, dine or enjoy a cocktail. Grab a table at Nook for delicious Italian fare like antipasto, pizza and pasta.

Walk off dinner and check in at Greystone Bed and Breakfast, a 1910 Craftsman-style home on a quiet residential street. At this Kitsilano B&B, traditional decor and antique furnishings mix with modern conveniences. Join owners Lee and Graham Laxton by the fireplace or in the garden for daily cocktail hour.

No matter where you choose to stay, sightsee, dine or shop in Vancouver, you’re sure to have a world-class experience. Don’t worry if you can’t do it all in one visit, chances are high that you’ll want to return.

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