a window of a shop on a vancouver shopping street

The Best Shopping in Vancouver: Malls, Districts, & Boutiques

Shopping Vancouver is a great way to counterbalance all of our nature (as bad as that may sound).

Whether it’s American-style mega-malls, high-end fashion boutiques, antique shops, or vintage clothing the Vancouver shopping experience has it all.

Here are the 10 best places to shop in Vancouver for a little retail therapy – and what to buy if you’re visiting.

  1. Granville Island: Best for locally made products & gifts
  2. Metrotown: Best mall in Vancouver
  3. Main Street: Best for boutique shopping
  4. Robson Street: Best Vancouver shopping street
  5. Gastown: Best for souvenirs and jewellery
  6. Chinatown: Best bargain shopping
  7. Commercial Drive: Best for unique stores
  8. West 4th Avenue: Best clothing stores in Vancouver
  9. Richmond Centre: Best shopping for international chains
  10. Pacific Centre: Best Vancouver department stores

Best Vancouver Shopping

The view of Granville Island Market

Granville Island Public Market

When visitors ask me where to shop in Vancouver this is the first thing that comes to mind.

Granville Island Public Market and its many artisan shopping spaces is famous for studio-blown glass, blacksmiths, broom makers, and local Vancouver clothing stores. In other words, unique stores and unique products.

In all, expect a wide variety of shops ranging from arts and crafts to food and drink. There is also a lively atmosphere, with street performers and buskers adding their unique touches to the ambiance.

I always come here for the candied salmon and artisan cheeses, but the first stop I take visitors is the Eagle Spirit Gallery for some amazing Northwest Coast Native art.

The entrance to Metropolis at Metrotown, Burnaby BC
Courtesy: Metropolis at Metrotown

Metrotown Centre

Metrotown Centre is the largest shopping mall in Vancouver.

With over 450 stores, it’s a great place to find everything from clothing stores to electronics. Major shops include Hudson’s Bay Company, Oomomo Japan, Uniqlo, Zara, and H&M.

If you need a break from all these Vancouver shops, there are also plenty of other things to do like catching a movie at the cinema or taking a stroll in the beautiful garden.

The mall is located in the suburb of Burnaby, about 20 minutes east of Vancouver. So you’ll need to take Vancouver public transit to visit from downtown.

A bike in front of a restaurant, Main Street Vancouver

Main Street

It’s fitting that this main Vancouver shopping street is named, well, Main Street. You’ll find this hipstery area just a 10 minute drive from downtown Vancouver.

The vibe here is much more quirky and antiquey than designer.

As a result, this historic shopping district is home to an eclectic mix of shops, ranging from vintage clothing stores to art galleries. It’s also famous for some of Vancouver’s best cafes.

You’ll find the majority of the best shops between 33rd and 16th. The Bohemia Gallery is a great stop for vintage clothes, while 49th Parallel Cafe and their hand crafted donuts is the best spot to quench caffeine cravings.

People shopping along Vancouver’s Robson Street

Robson Street

Shopping areas in Vancouver are in ample supply, but Robson Street is the only one that would dare challenge Rodeo Drive, 5th Avenue, or Oxford Street.

Of course, this downtown Vancouver street isn’t as prestigious but it houses a variety of large international chains. You can also venture to neighbouring Alberni Street for premium European brands such as Gucci, Prada and Burberry.

When you’re finished shopping, you can refuel at one of this shopping street’s many cafes and eateries. Fans of Korean food or ramen in particular will want to venture to the strips Westernmost edge towards Denman Street.

the gastown steam clock chiming in gastown vancouver bc canada

Gastown

If you’re looking for the best shopping in Vancouver head to Gastown. This historic neighbourhood is home to a wide variety of shops, from high-end boutiques to local art galleries.

Gastown is that Vancouver shopping district for unique gifts and souvenirs. The Coastal People’s Gallery is fantastic for aboriginal art, local British Columbia gem jade jewellery is on offer at the Jade Store, and John Fluevog is a fantastic local shoe shop.

And if you need a break from shopping, there are plenty of Gastown restaurants to get your fix – the area is home to some of the most creative, envelope pushing restaurants in the city.

Items outside a Chinatown Apothecary

Chinatown

Shopping in Vancouver’s Chinatown is a unique cultural experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the city. You can find everything from traditional Chinese goods to ancient herbal remedies and knockoff designer handbags.

These downtown Vancouver shops are often crowded and chaotic, but that’s part of the charm. Bargaining is expected, so don’t be afraid to haggle.

Also sure to try some of the delicious street food: stir fried sticky rice cakes at Bao Bei are a good start, while the apple tarts at Boss Bakery offer a sweet shopping companion.

The intersection of 1st and Commercial, Little Italy Vancouver
Instagram: @commerciald

Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive was once the city’s Little Italy. Today it’s more a hub for the LGTBQ+ and hipster communities – let’s call it the perfect blend of modernity and old world tradition.

In all, this eclectic neighbourhood is home to a variety of unique stores in Vancouver, ones that offer rare treasures far from typical international chains.

The Found and the Freed is a great Vancouver antique shopping space, Exposure Home goes rustic-chic on home decorating, and Kalena’s Shoes is the best Italian-made shoe shop in the city.

Take a walk along ‘the Drive’ between 1st Avenue and Venables and you’ll find all sorts of vintage clothing shops, artsy giftables, and some of the city’s best ethnic restaurants.

A sign along the shopping district of West 4th, Kitsilano
Instagram: @shopwest4th

West 4th Avenue

Vancouver’s answer to Haight-Asbury in the 60’s and 70’s, West 4th Avenue now offers a relaxed, beachy vibe contrasting the hustle of nearby downtown. Walk it from Fir Street to Balsam street for the meat of it.

If you’re looking for shopping in Vancouver this is the place to be for quality. Think sustainable active wear, ski and snowboard shops, and unique clothing stores – then thrown in some spas, salons, and even a Whole Foods.

This Kitsilano street is best known as the birthplace of Lululemon.  That said,  I prefer the ubiquitous Canadian clothing shop Roots or the contemporary boutique clothing at Gravitypope.

People shopping at Richmond Centre, Richmond BC
Instagram: @cfrichmondcentre

Richmond Centre

Richmond Centre offers some of the best shopping in Vancouver if you just want a solid mall experience.

The mall is home to over 200 stores, including major retailers like Hudson’s Bay, H&M and Japanese retailer Muji. Richmond Centre is also a popular destination for dining and entertainment, with a wide variety of restaurants and cafes, as well as a Cineplex cinema.

The mall is located in the heart of Richmond, right near Vancouver International Airport. It’s just a short trip on the Skytrain from downtown Vancouver. It also makes it a good pairing with a visit to Steveston or the nearby Golden Village, to sample the best Asian cuisine in North America.

The entrance to Pacific Centre, Vancouver BC
Instagram: @cfpacificcentre

Pacific Centre

This is where to go shopping in Vancouver if you’re kind of locked to downtown.

The Pacific Centre Mall reall delivers, especially if you’re looking for department stores. Consider this a bit more high end than the other Vancouver shopping malls on this list.

Located at the prime intersection of Granville Street and Robson Street, the mall houses Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay, and Canadian luxury department store Holt Renfrew.

Among the 120+ stores you’ll find international staples like H&M, Harry Rosen, Michael Kors, and the Apple Store.

What to Buy in Vancouver

A Nuuchahnuth hummingbird panel at Eagle Spirit Gallery
Instagram: @eaglespiritgallery

Local First Nations Art

There’s no better place to find unique, handmade items than at a local First Nations art market. These can usually be found around popular tourist areas, such as Granville Island, Gastown and Stanley Park.

Popular local stores that focus on this niche include Hill’s Native Art, Cheryl’s Trading Post, and the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery.

Also, you’ll find some pretty amazing pieces at the gift shops of the Bill Reid Gallery, Gulf of Georgia Cannery, or Museum of Anthropology.

Expect wide variety of art including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, pottery, and more. You can even find every day household and kitchen items done up in the local indigenous-style.

The products are all sourced from artists from local First Nations communities, so their work is deeply rooted in tradition.

The art markets are a great way to support local artists, and they’re also a lot of fun to browse.

Coffee mugs at District Factory Outlet, Vancouver BC
Courtesy: District Factory Outlet

Vancouver Themed Souvenirs

Whether it’s a mug with a scenic photo of the city, a t-shirt or a keychain with the Vancouver skyline, there are plenty of great gift options for those who love Vancouver.

When people ask me where to shop in Vancouver for souvenirs I tell them to hit Gastown, Chinatown and Robson Street.

If you’re looking for something a little less tacky yet equally ‘Vancouvery’ then I’d check out Vancity Original clothing.

Sports fans can also get Vancouver Canucks fan wear from the official Canucks team store.

Fashionistas (sorry for the term!) may also enjoy a piece of Lululemon yoga wear, a brand which originated in the city. While local clothing retailer Aritzia has been recently cosigned by celebrities such as J-Lo and Kendall Jenner.

The Maple Syrup vendor at Granville Island Market

Vancouver Maple Syrup

I’m gonna be completely honest, maple syrup is not in any way, shape or form representative of the city of Vancouver. In fact, if you’re from virtually anywhere else in North America the odds are you live much closer to a syrup producing region than we do.

In spite of this fact, virtually every time I host a visitor from another country they insist on going home with a jug of the stuff.

Made from the sap of maple trees, maple syrup is a taste sweet and unique deliciousness that is guaranteed to please. And to many, it is the most prototypically Canadian of treats. So why not bring some home with you?

You can find it at many Vancouver-area shops, at Granville Island. Maple syrup is a great way to show your loved ones how much you care about them, and a tasty reminder of all the amazing things that Vancouver (Quebec :P) has to offer.

Smoked salmon at the Granville Island Market

British Columbia Smoked Salmon

Looking for the truly perfect Vancouver food gift?

Look no further than wild smoked salmon. This lip-smacking delicacy is a local favorite, and it makes a great gift for any occasion. It actually travels well too, since the process was actually used for centuries to preserve the fish.

There are many different ways to prepare smoked salmon, so you can find a recipe that suits your taste.

Local indigenous peoples usually prefer a heavier double smoked variety. However, typical European or Asian palettes may find it a little strong. So if you’re looking for something a little milder and moister, than you may want to opt for a cold smoked variety.

Got a sweet tooth? Than you’ll love a few nuggets of candied salmon.  This candied variety of smoked salmon is tossed in sugar, salt and maple syrup to create a flavour explosion. That said, choose wisely. The deep red flesh and high oil content of the local wild sockeye salmon blows any farmed impostors out of the water.

The Vancouver stores for this delicious gift are found in Steveston, Granville Island or the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. But any high end grocery store or fish monger will also suffice.

Whether you prefer it cold or hot, smoked salmon is sure to please. And what’s more, it’s a healthy option that is full of nutrients and Omega-3 fatty acids.

A unique Cowichan Sweater
Courtesy: Cheryl’s Trading Post

Cowichan Sweaters

Fashioned by Coast Salish knitters on Vancouver Island, these bulky weighted-yarn sweaters are the ultimate tool to help defeat a cold Canadian Winter. Each sweater possesses a unique, hand-knit design.

The local popularity of the sweaters in the mid 1900’s led to appropriation of the style by a myriad of international designers. However, Canada’s West Coast is the only true home of the real thing.

A great Vancouver option is Cheryl’s Trading Post, an independent aboriginal-owned, operated, and staffed business specializing in authentic handmade Native art.

While actually originating from the Cowichan region just North of Victoria, these popular sweaters are one of the few internationally renown items truly unique to British Columbia.

Looking Forward to Shopping Vancouver?

That should take care of all your Vancouver shopping needs.

Whether you’re looking for the finest designer clothing or just a local trinket, the city should more than meet your needs.

Still a bit puzzled? Don’t be afraid to use us in the comment section below. Or you can holler at us on the Vancouver Planner Facebook page. We answer every question!

Julian

I've used online guides on five continents to find the world's greatest travel spots and this is my chance to give back - with insider info on my home, the mighty Vancouver BC!

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