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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
A mural by Johnnie Christmas in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Vancouver, B.C.

A mural by Johnnie Christmas in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
  • By Eagranie Yuh
  • Photos by Jackie Dives
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Vancouver, B.C., is often touted as one of the world’s most livable cities, but while residents were busy being smug, a funny thing happened. Skyrocketing real estate prices and questionable politics transformed the city into a haven for the uber-affluent. A collective hangover has the locals wondering: Now what?

Now we focus on what we love about this place. We bask in the feeling of each neighborhood — exuberant West End, tony South Granville, up-and-coming Fraserhood — and how each spawns unique businesses. We hunker down in the rainy winter (but still run five miles on the seawall each morning) and emerge in the spring, cameras poised to document every single cherry blossom.

And we eat. We know our dim sum from our pierogies, our jianbing from our dosas. And despite being notoriously reserved, we love visitors — especially when we get to share our secrets about the city. So stay awhile. And don’t forget your umbrella.

Meet Eagranie Yuh

Eagranie’s a born-and-raised Vancouverite, aside from the five years she lived in Ontario. She’s married to an Australian, which mostly means eating a lot of Vegemite and spending a month each year in Tasmania.

Want to get in touch?

Email bytheway@washpost.com
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IN THE ACTION
Yaletown
Yaletown was converted in the 1990s from industrial warehouses to a nightclub-and-restaurant district. You probably won’t need a car here, with easy access to the Canada Line, SkyTrain and major bus lines — and you should definitely have a walk on the water. Hop a mini-ferry across the water to Granville Island, or take a wee tour of False Creek. Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
Mount Pleasant
Stay here if you like your beer crafty, your clothing ethical and your food sustainable. Main Street is the central drag: Between Fifth and 19th avenues it’s younger and grittier, and between 20th and 33rd it’s slower and more family-friendly. Limited hotels mean you’re probably looking at an Airbnb — a topic that’s a lightning rod in the city, where housing affordability is one of our favorite things to complain about, second only to the rain. Find this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods

Explore more of Vancouver, B.C.

Eat

BREAKFAST
Livia
On Commercial Drive, soccer is a religion and grabbing food in an Italian cafe is a legitimate vocation. You won’t get soccer at Livia, but you will want to spend all day in the bakery-cafe, which radiates butter and love. Co-owners Claire Livia Lassam and Jordan Pires (she’s the baker, he runs the front of the house) sourced most of the vintage furniture from Craigslist, and the vintage flatware was repurposed after their wedding. Come for the blistered, tangy sourdough or the Danish, tarts and cakes plush with seasonal fruit; stay for the bar menu and crafty cocktails after 3 p.m.
BTW: Full-on breakfast is available starting at 7 a.m. Polenta with mushrooms and an egg is popular, but it’s hard to beat the pasta carbonara.
Livia, 1399 Commercial Dr. Vancouver, B.C. V5L 3X5
BREAKFAST
Forage
Forage is the rare hotel restaurant that’s popular with locals. The menu looks like standard fare — pancakes, granola, eggs with bacon — but when the food arrives, it’s definitely something you couldn’t make at home. And despite the fact that Forage was sourcing locally and sustainably way before that was cool, you won’t get a side order of moral smugness with your eggs. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on weekends. If you’re winging it, get there before 9 a.m. Forage opens at basically dawn.
BTW: The scones with honey butter are excellent. Ask nicely and you’ll also get a dish of seasonal preserves.
Forage, 1300 Robson St. Vancouver, B.C. V6E 1C5
LUNCH
Chau Veggie Express
Here’s the gist: Vietnamese street food, updated with local ingredients, served in a family-run cafe. Oh, and one more thing: Everything is plant-based. In lesser hands, that might mean facsimiles of meals that leave you hungry, but here the food is vibrant, satisfying and delicious. A local favorite is Golden Temple Soup — bright yellow from turmeric and jammed full of vegetables in coconut curry. Don’t miss the taro chips — crispy, salty and the perfect vehicle for a surprisingly addictive paprika-laced tofu dip. Leave room for the plant-based desserts, inspired by classic North American comfort flavors.
BTW: There’s also a Chau outpost at Granville Island, in the Public Market building.
Chau Veggie Express, 5052 Victoria Dr. Vancouver, B.C. V5P 3T8
LUNCH
Kirin
It’s no secret that Vancouver, along with its neighboring suburb of Richmond, has some of the best dim sum in North America. Upmarket and frenetic Kirin has done away with the pushcarts but still trades in real-deal dumplings and small dishes, plus larger orders like congee (rice porridge) and all manner of rice and noodles. Many dim sum places order their wares frozen, but Kirin’s is made in-house. Classics include steamed prawn dumplings, sticky rice and barbecue-pork buns; aim for two dishes per person.
BTW: Bring a sweater, as dim sum restaurants are notorious for cranking the AC.
Kirin, Unit 201, 555 W. 12th Ave. Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 3X7
DINNER
The Fish Counter
If you order seafood anywhere reputable in the city, you’ll come across the Ocean Wise designation, Canada’s standard for sustainable seafood. Its founders, chef Robert Clark and Mike McDermid, run this Main Street fish market and eatery. There are soups and sandwiches and, of course, fish and chips — your choice of halibut, Pacific cod, wild salmon or lingcod. You can ask for gluten-free batter, which is cooked in a dedicated fryer; the Kennebec french fries are also fried separately. Seating is limited.
BTW: In Clark’s words, the best time to visit is a rainy Monday night. Otherwise, come in the magic hour after 7 p.m. but before its 8 p.m. close.
The Fish Counter, 3825 Main St. Vancouver, B.C. V5V 3P1
DINNER
Osteria Savio Volpe
There are two kinds of Vancouverites: those who love lining up at restaurants and those who don’t. You’ll find both at Savio Volpe, queued outside the 12-foot-tall wooden door with the NBA-height brass knocker. Inside it buzzes with the sound of people in their happy place — happy with house-made pastas, happy with meats from the grill, happy with expert service. The nicest way to dine here is alla famiglia, a multi-course, family-style meal format ($55 Canadian per person). Put yourself in the expert hands of the kitchen, choose something from the quirky wine list and enjoy.
BTW: The bar is reserved for walk-ins and offers a terrific view of the charcuterie station and its Ferrari-red meat slicer.
Osteria Savio Volpe, 615 Kingsway Vancouver, B.C. V5T 3K5
LATE-NIGHT
The Irish Heather
The city’s full of cookie-cutter Irish pubs, emphasis on the “-ish.” The Irish Heather is the real deal, a slightly upscale, self-proclaimed gastropub that pours a proper pint and serves proper food. (It helps that owner Sean Heather is actually Irish.) Alongside the Guinness and Kilkenny, you’ll find local craft beers and ciders on tap and some international favorites for fun. And if you like whisky, you’re in for a treat: They have a serious selection of all things casked.
BTW: Their whiskey flights are broken up by classes — economy, first class and private jet.
The Irish Heather, 248 E Georgia St, Vancouver, B.C. V6A 1Z6, Canada
(Vancouver illustrator Ben Didier for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. Although many places accept U.S. dollars, we do have our own currency in Canada — one that doesn’t include pennies. Your total gets rounded to the nearest nickel if you’re paying cash (and stays as-is if you’re using plastic).
  2. Canada’s two official languages are English and French, but you won’t hear much of the latter in Vancouver. You’re more likely to hear Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi — a reflection of the larger immigrant groups who have settled and shaped the city.
  3. Yes, marijuana is legal here. Driving while high is not. And trying to take weed home with you — on an airplane, across a border — is not a good idea.
(Vancouver illustrator Ben Didier for The Washington Post)

Do

Richmond Night Market
Bring cash and an empty stomach and eat your way across hundreds of cuisines. “Tornado” (swirl-cut) potatoes, octopus on a stick, curried fish balls — you name it, it’s here. The “dragon beard” booth is a crowd favorite as people watch sugar pulled into gossamer threads then folded into tiny pillows, often with peanuts, coconut or sesame inside. While the food is the main draw, there are also stalls hawking everything from phone charms to socks, plus live entertainment. Season dates vary, but the night market is typically open weekend nights in the warmer months.
BTW: The best way to get here is via the Canada Line. Get off at Bridgeport Station and follow the signs one block to the market.
Richmond Night Market, 8351 River Rd. Richmond, B.C. V6X 1Y4
Guilt & Co.
Technically, Guilt & Co. is in a basement, but that doesn’t do it justice. Think of it as a cavern/ grotto/secret cellar of hot tunes and cold drinks. There’s a decent selection of British Columbia wine and beer, excellent cocktails and a smattering of snacks to go with them. There’s live music every night — from multilingual rap to hip-hop, fiddlers to cowboy surfers. And it’s all pay-what-you-can, with no cover at the door.
BTW: Despite its address, the entrance is on Carrall Street; head down the small alley next to the restaurant Local and look for the short flight of stairs.
Guilt & Co., 1 Alexander St. Vancouver, B.C. V6A 1B2
Queen Elizabeth Park
For that perfect panorama, head to Queen Elizabeth Park, the highest point in the city. Much of the 130-acre park sits on top of an old rock quarry that was excavated for city roads at the turn of the 20th century. Today the grounds are popular with garden geeks, especially in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. Up top, the fountain and plaza make for great people-watching — on busy weekends, you’re likely to see blissful couples taking wedding or engagement photos.
BTW: The domed Bloedel Conservatory is home to more than 500 tropical plants and 120 exotic birds — including Art, a blue-and-gold macaw who is disposed to dancing.
Queen Elizabeth Park, 4600 Cambie St. Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 2Z1
Lynn Canyon Park
Capilano Suspension Bridge is fun, but the locals go to Lynn Canyon Park. There’s a smaller but still spine-tingling suspension bridge, and trails for all experience levels. If you want to get away from the crowds, try the Twin Falls Bridge loop trail (0.6 miles out and back) or trek to Rice Lake (3.3 miles out and back), which is popular for trout fishing. And remember hiking etiquette: Dress for the weather, let someone know where you’re going and leave no trace — there are no garbage cans in the park, so pack your litter with you.
BTW: The 30 Foot Pool is a popular swimming hole. Be warned: The water’s, ahem, brisk.
Lynn Canyon Park, 3690 Park Rd. North Vancouver, B.C. V7J 3K2
The Improv Centre
Quick: Name a country, a situation in which you’d call the cops and a movie action hero. You’ve got yourself the start of a The Improv Centre skit. Shows run every night but Monday, with a 7:30 show each night and later shows Thursday through Saturday. Aside from the adults-only late shows, the improvised performances are family-friendly. And although audience participation is essential, onstage humiliation is optional. Arrive early to grab a drink in the lounge, and in warmer weather, enjoy one of the best patios on Granville Island.
BTW: If you really love improv, try a drop-in class. They run most Saturday afternoons.
The Improv Centre, 1502 Duranleau St. Vancouver, B.C. V6H 3S4
Museum of Anthropology
On the western point of the University of British Columbia, the Museum of Anthropology shares the art and history of the province’s First Nations groups. The Great Hall is closed for seismic upgrades until 2020, but there’s still lots to see. The Bill Reid Rotunda highlights the artist’s work, including “The Raven and the First Men,” an immense sculpture depicting the Haida people’s story of how a raven coaxed man out of a clamshell and into the world. The Elspeth McConnell Gallery displays intricate artistry in wood, metal and stone, and the museum’s general collection includes artifacts from around the world.
BTW: Look for the tiny boxwood version of “The Raven and the First Men” in the cases lining the rotunda.
Museum of Anthropology, 6393 NW Marine Dr. Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z2
Eagranie Yuh
Eagranie’s a born-and-raised Vancouverite, aside from the five years she lived in Ontario. She’s married to an Australian, which mostly means eating a lot of Vegemite and spending a month each year in Tasmania.
Jackie Dives
Jackie is a photographer whose work has been published in Canadian Geographic, the Walrus, Bloomberg Business, the Globe and Mail and Maclean’s Magazine. Whenever she returns from an assignment abroad, the first thing she does is ride her bike around the Stanley Park Seawall: She says it’s Vancouver’s best asset.

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