Every Vancouverite (myself included) has thought about moving to Kitsilano at least once.
The snug seaside neighbourhood named after local medicine man Jack Khatsalano has epic beaches, riveting restaurants, and even Ryan Reynolds.
Hippy counterculture (Greenpeace) and yuppie consumer culture (Lululemon) were born here yet somehow neither manages to define the area completely – so let’s dig a little deeper.
Here’s your VP neighbourhood guide on becoming a Kitsilano pro.
THINGS TO DO IN KITSILANO
CATCH A BOAT FROM DOWNTOWN
I grew up on the water so it might admittedly be a bit cheeky putting this at the top of the list. However, in my opinion the best way to discover Vancouver is by water.
The cheapest way to do this is via False Creek Ferries.
You’ll get the wind in your hair, see the harbour, and maybe even spot a few sea lions. To purchase your day pass click the button below.
KILL SOME CLASSIC KITS COFFEE
Coffee drinkers, I’ve got a concoction for you:
- One part bad Vancouver weather
- One dash of high to medium income
- Top it off with a teensy sprinkle of snobbery
This is what makes Kitsilano a coffee hotspot. In fact, supping back a couple coffees is one of the best Vancouver winter activities going.
Bel Cafe offers a unique experience with their blue lavender latte but it’s no gimmick, it tastes amazing.
The best value is found with the in-house roasted coffee at Sweet Barrell Creamery. You’ll want to try the syphon brew. It’s also a nice spot if you want some ice cream: their Japanese trio (especially the red bean) is a hit.
However, my personal favourite is the cosy Broadway hideaway Platform 7. This French railway station themed cafe serves premium Stumpdown Coffee Beans that produce what is quite possibly one of the best cortados in the city.
GO TO KITSILANO BEACH
You’ll find two of Vancouver’s top beaches in Kitsilano, both of which are located along the city’s iconic Seawall, the world’s longest urban waterfront path.
The aptly named Kits Beach is arguably the most fashionable of them all: ideal for people watching, volleyball, and basketball.
You can swim in the ocean from about May to September but there’s also Canada’s longest swimming pool along the shore.
You’ll also find Jericho Beach which is much more laidback, decidedly wider, and with a much better view of the mountains, English Bay and Stanley Park.
If you’re looking to BBQ this is the spot to do it.
CHECK OUT THE H.R. MACMILLAN SPACE CENTRE
Before being sponsored Vancouver’s astronomy museum was simply called ‘The Planetarium’ and most people with any memory of the 90’s still use the name.
The UFO-shaped building and its famous crab statue are home to the Planetarium Star Theatre, a great place to watch presentations on deep space.
The live science shows at Ground Station Canada are super educational while the Cosmic Courtyard is a hit with kids, especially the touchable meteorites and moon rocks.
GO SHOPPING ON WEST 4TH AVENUE
This shopping district between Fir and Balsam has been called ‘8 blocks of fabulousness‘ and who am I to disagree? And with international chains at a minimum it’s a great place to support local business.
Don’t forget Zulu Records if you want a throwback record store to find obscure releases, vinyl, and independent records.
Looking for local, ethical, and sustainable clothing? Head to Two of Hearts.
HAVE A PICNIC IN VANIER PARK
Kitsilano has 15 beautiful parks but Vanier Park is perhaps the most well known one of the bunch. This vast expanse of grass and beach offers a beautiful view of the harbour, skyline, and mountains.
It's also the site of some major Vancouver festivals (but more about that later) but when they're not on you'll have plenty of space to roam!
Grab some supplies from the nearby Granville Island Market and head on over.
The park is located a brisk 15 minute walk along the Seawall, which offers lovely views of the Vancouver skyline and False Creek.
I like setting up shop near the Gate to the Northwest Passage sculpture, this twisted paperclip-like monument commemorates George Vancouver's arrival in Burrard Inlet.
HIT THE MUSEUM OF VANCOUVER
It may sound a bit odd but the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) can actually be found in the same building as the Planetarium.
It's actually the biggest civic history museum in Canada and the oldest museum in Vancouver dating back to 1894.
The following permanent exhibitions offer a great understanding of Vancouver city history:
- Neon Vancouver + Ugly Vancouver
- 1900s – 1920s: Gateway to the Pacific
- 1930s – 1940s: Boom, Bust, and War
- 1950s: Vancouver in The Fifties
- 1960s – 1970s: You Say You Want A Revolution
There's also a prominent First Nations collection, including a basket and bracelet received by Captain George Vancouver on his first Pacific voyage.
These local gems are topped off with some fantastic Asian, European and Egyptian antiquities. To purchase your tickets click on the button below:
WHERE TO EAT IN KITSILANO
I lived for a year in Italy and can tell you this is the most authentic Italian restaurant in town. Don't let anybody trick you into going to Trattoria across the street.
Most of the ingredients are sourced directly from Italy and the owner is from Milan.
The Neapolitan wood-burning pizzeria takes you to the origins of the dish - get the basic margherita. The weird thing? Their Nutella dessert pizza may be the best of them all!
There's also homemade pasta dishes like gnocchi fantasia or beef ravioli.
Related: The Best Vancouver Food Tours
GREEN LEAF SUSHI CAFE
We mentioned it in our post on things to know before visiting Vancouver - our city is sushi mad! When I want to kick things up a notch though I head straight to this west side aburi institution.
You may know aburi as one of my essential Vancouver foods.
This unique style of sushi is flame seared in order to enhance its flavours and textures. Look no further than the seared sockeye salmon oshi (pressed with a rectangular presentation) topped with japanese mayo and jalapeño.
They've also got all the classic nigiri and rolls, some healthy poke-like salads, and donburi bowls.
The price-quality ratio here is incredibly high.
If you want creative Canadian fare then you need to look no further. At most restaurants you have to accept a few misses along with the hits. But definitely not at AnnaLena.
Most people like to go for the 4 or 7 course tasting menus.
But if you’re dining a la carte, the mussels with cream and preserved lemon and confit duck and agnolotti were two of my favourites, though the menu will likely change by the time you're there.
This Modern Canadian themed restaurant is simply perfect for a romantic night out or any celebration.
SOPHIE'S COSMIC CAFE
If you're looking for an eclectic dining room with an atmosphere to match the tastes then head to this popular cafe that's been serving since 1988.
The local artwork on the wall will likely be the first thing that sticks out. But that's only because you can't get the delicious brunch and breakfast food (served until 5 pm) right away.
Their eggs benedict with smoked salmon is my go to for a Westcoast style brunch. However, you'll can also opt for pancakes/french toast, burgers, salads, or a choice from their substantial gluten free menu.
MR. RED CAFE
When it's one of those typical rainy soup days (we have about 366 a year) I like to head on over to this award winning restaurant that acts as a culinary bridge between Vancouver and Northern Vietnam.
Simply put the pho bo (a noodle soup with thin sliced steak) here is spectacular. And with a reasonable $13.00 price tag it's one of the best value meals on Vancouver's West side.
You'll also get some great fried rice and noodle dishes and a classic bahn mi - a shredded meat sandwich piled high with veggies and fried shallots.
In summer I like to get wash it down with a Vietnamese iced coffee, dripped over ice and sweetened with condensed milk.
Regardless what you choose you’ll quickly understand why they are perennially ranked as the best Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver.
RAIN OR SHINE
OK, I realize this seasonal organic ice cream parlour isn't exactly a restaurant. However, I'm gonna list it anyway - because delicious is delicious.
First of all there's no corn syrup, no modified milk ingredients, and nothing artificial. It's all organic - every scoop comes from the same 120 cows in nearby Abbotsford, BC.
So go on and top your house made waffle cone (or taco on Tuesdays!) with favourites like malted milk chocolate with honeycomb, salted coconut fudge, or cracked mint.
How many samples are permitted? The girl said 'as many as it takes'!
SHOPPING IN KITSILANO
This area is all about local boutiques specializing in active wear, high fashion, and health products - making shopping one of the best things to do in Kitsilano.
There area has two main shopping streets (4th Ave. and West Broadway). You're more likely to find 4th Avenue to be the more interesting of the two, particularly the stretch between Fir and Balsam streets.
The area contains numerous fashionable local boutiques as well as the largest collection outdoor and active lifestyle retailers in the city.
Here's a look at a few of the top shops.
I've probably mentioned the rain a bunch of times.
But there is no denying that due to the city's notoriously wet winters Vancouverites need to kit up well - and local high end brand Arc’teryx helps.
This popular local outerwear chain has recently spread overseas to London and beyond due to their reputation for quality and high performance outerwear, hiking shoes and climbing gear.
Each of their 500 products have a lifetime warranty. How often do you hear that?
They're even made in nearby New Westminster, BC.
My shoe addict friend has called this 4th Avenue boutique "a temple of shoes" and "the best footwear store she has ever been to".
High praise indeed, but with over 200 brands of shoes on site she may very well be right.
Gravity Pope is not all about quantity though.
With luxurious high end Italian leather and classic English loafers right out of the top drawer. Nevertheless, you can also find some playful casuals here that fit perfectly into Kitsilano's beach-casual vibe.
KIT & ACE
Yes, I'm well aware that Lululemon was founded and perfected in Kits. I could go on about that but I'd be the fiftieth person to say it - so instead here's Kit & Ace.
This clothing brand was actually founded by Lululemon's head designer.
Here it's all about technical apparel for the modern commuter - especially if you're commuting by bike.
If you want to ride your bike to work in clothes that are appropriate yet sporty, then get that credit card ready!
BEST BARS IN KITSILANO
'Keep good company' is the slogan at this casual yet upscale neighbourhood bar that's famous for local craft beer and some pretty ridiculous drink specials.
I always make sure to head down for 'Tapped Out Tuesday' because three dollar draft beer and highballs is arguably the best deal in the city.
There's also a great Trivia Night on Wednesdays hosted by IQ2000 which gives away amazing prizes from local breweries.
They also have Ricky Gervais' favourite beer: Ruby Tears.
Tip: drinking at any of the bars along Broadway is one of the top things to do in Kitsilano and it's the best place for locals not wanting the hassle of downtown prices and long cab waits.
If you're looking for a post beach potable this 'Local' place should right at the top of your list right alongside aloe vera.
This "Cali-cool" bar is renown for its small town beach atmosphere and friendly service. However, its massive patio is truly fit for the big city and is universally considered the best in the neighbourhood.
You'll get 18 taps of local craft beer, big screens to watch the Canucks and Whitecaps, and a legendary crispy chicken sandwich.
They also make a dynamite Caesar, a cocktail created and consumed mostly in Canada. It's made with vodka and Clamato juice (clam and tomato) - don't shoot the messenger!
Let's kick things up a notch with a switch to this chic Italian wine bar that's the perfect place for superior snacks while you wet the whistle.
You can choose from around a hundred Italian wines to be paired with some gourmet antipasti and stuzzichini from neighbouring La Quercia: one of the city's most prized Italian restaurants.
Homemade pasta and charcuterie plates rule the land here but if you want to go a little off the board try the grilled octopus and white beans.
I'm not sure Pacific Northwest comfort food was ever a thing. However, it seems that The Ellis and their reimagined pub fare has done everything in their power to make it so.
The wild BC salmon bowl is a great way to try our region's favourite dish. Hit entrees include hella good hickory smoked ribs while handhelds hold it down with the medium rare beef cheek burger - all made with locally sourced stuff.
There's also a great brunch menu featuring eggs benny on house made buttermilk biscuits.
If you want to get really crazy then go for the Double Double (a shout out to Canadian fast food chain Tim Horton's most famous drink) - Canadian rye, Montenegro, coconut cream, cold brew coffee, and lavender bitters.
While the Ellis closes a little early, its the perfect place to head for a more subdued post-beach drink or snack then you'll find at the Local.
Fun food and serious drinks is the motto of this sports-themed bar that's light on the wallet and a great casual cruise to tipsiness and a full stomach.
The organic bison burger is as Canadian as it gets. If you like free range wings ($8.99 a pound on Wednesdays) with your beer they've got some amazing house made sauces, the jerk sauce topping them all.
They also make their own BBQ with classics like brisket, pulled pork, and smoked turkey.
There's a $5.25 beer special every night and Jagermeister (they call it Yagger) is just $5.50. So a couple shots should be added to your repertoire.
KHATSALANO STREET PARTY
Date: 2022 date TBA (typically mid July)
Vancouver was formerly notorious for being a so called 'no fun city'. But thankfully spectacular festivals such as the Khatsalano Street Party (the original name of the area, more later) are doing a lot to change this.
The party was originally a one off to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and pay homage to Kitsilano's hippy past of head shops, vegetarian food, record stores, and vintage clothes.
Today it has evolved into Vancouver's largest free music and arts festival, with over 50 bands, 40 food trucks, and 100's of vendors.
Date: 2022 date TBA (typically early July)
Though you'll find most other ethnic enclaves like Little Italy or Punjabi Market on the city's east side, the Greeks set up shop in Kits along West Broadway.
For this reason it has been the centre of Greek culture for decades. Never does this become more apparent than in late June when 100,000+ people head to Kits and the souvlaki begins to sizzle (pardon the reference).
At Greek Day you'll get all sorts of authentic Greek (and non) food tents, live music, a market, Greek dancing, cooking demonstrations, and much more.
The best part of all? It's along a stretch of Broadway that contains some of Vancouver's best bars.
CELEBRATION OF LIGHT
Dates: Wednesdays & Saturdays in late July/August - 2022 dates TBA.
The barges that launch the light for this massive fireworks festival are found right in front of Kitsilano Vancouver, so it's great to grab a spot at Kits beach - though you also can't miss with one of the top places nearby like the West End.
Every year three countries are tasked with outdoing each other in a battle royal of blaze. Each country gets one dedicated night to make it happen before they compete in a thrilling grand finale to close out the show.
The shows are synchronized to music and starting in 2018 had to be centred around a certain theme. The first theme? Love.
It's British Columbia's largest outdoor event - so get a spot early!
VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S FESTIVAL
Dates: May 31-June 5th 2022.
I faintly remember going to the Children's Festival as a kid. But my most distinct memory is trying 'rainbow' ice cream for the first time - artificially delicious!
The festival's goal of inspiring young minds through artistic experiences may have fallen short in my case, but my friends with children assure me that if you're visiting Vancouver with kids there's no better option.
Some of the top activities here include circus skills, face painting, and origami.
You'll also get plenty of live music and kid-friendly performances.
BARD ON THE BEACH
Dates: 2022 dates TBA.
Western Canada's largest Shakespeare festival has run every year from June until September since 1989.
The 729 seat capacity main stage tent in Vanier Park has an open ended stage with a Vancouver's skyline and mountains serving as a spectacular backdrop.
There's also a smaller, more intimate stage for performances of Shakespeare's lesser known plays.
Bard is well known for its educational programs and community outreach with heavy emphasis on local arts. So if you want to give back to the city there are worse things you can do!
WHERE IS KITSILANO IN VANCOUVER?
You'll find Kitsilano ('Kits' to us locals) on the south shore of English Bay on Vancouver's west side.
Its boundaries are marked by Alma Street to the west, Burrard Street to the East, and 15th Avenue to the south.
The area is home to some 45,000 residents spread out over 5.46 km2.
HOW TO GET TO KITSILANO
Expect to pay about $12.00 to get there with a Vancouver taxi from downtown.
Unfortunately Kitsilano isn’t served by Skytrain, with the closest station 40 minutes away at Olympic Village.
But there's still an easy solution.
99-B LINE BUS
To take it grab the Canada Line from downtown to Broadway-City Hall Station.
Exit the station and board the bus on the Northwest corner of Broadway and Cambie (outside the Blenz Coffee). Your initial fare is still good.
Stay aboard for three stops and you’ll find three stops serving Kits (Arbutus, Macdonald and Alma).
The entire journey should take about 20 minutes.
#2 MACDONALD BUS
If you’re heading to the beach or any of the Vanier Park museums you can take the #2 (Macdonald) bus.
This line offers service along Burrard Street in Downtown Vancouver and travels along Cornwall and Macdonald Streets before terminating at the Dunbar Loop.
The same route runs after midnight as the N22 Night Bus.
KITSILANO GENERAL INFORMATION
Kitsilano is a trendy district located on the west side of Vancouver just across the Burrard Street Bridge from Downtown Vancouver.
With approximately 40% of its 45,000 residents aged between 20-39, the neighbourhood has a very young demographic that have been attracted by its free spirited and active character.
THE HISTORY OF KITSILANO
Modern Kitsilano stands on lands that have been traditional to the Coast Salish people for thousands of years. It was a particularly prosperous area to set up fish traps, sustaining the communities over the winter.
In fact, the name 'Kitsilano' is an anglicization of the surname of Squamish Chief August Jack Khatsahlano - a local medicine man who liaised with settlers and was instrumental in conserving aboriginal oral histories.
The suffix 'lan-oug' means 'man' in the local indigenous language Sḵwx̱wú7mesh snichim.
After being turned into an Indian Reserve for some time most of the valuable land was 'unsettled' illegally by the Federal Government for city development.
It was only in 2002 that a portion of this land (below the Burrard Street Bridge) was returned to the original inhabitants.
The 1960's welcomed a counterculture of grass smoking, draft dodging hippies - it was here that Greenpeace was founded in 1969.
More recently the area had been invaded by young urban professionals due to its high quality shops, amenities, and proximity to parks and beaches.
Where is Kitsilano?
Kitsilano ('Kits' to locals) is situated on the south shore of English Bay on the west side of Vancouver.
It is bordered by Alma Street to the west, Burrard Street to the East, and 15th Avenue to the south.
How far is Kitsilano from downtown Vancouver?
The heart of Kitsilano is 3.7 km from Vancouver City Centre station in the downtown core.
It's just a 7 minute drive or 40 minute walk over the Burrard Street Bridge.
Is Kitsilano safe?
Kitsilano is an extremely safe neighbourhood where violent crime is a rarity. Especially compared to places like the downtown Eastside, there is also very little petty crime owing to the area's general prosperity.
How do you pronounce 'Kitsilano'?
Locals pronounce it kit-suh-LAH-noh.
How do you get to Kitsilano beach by Skytrain?
Unfortunately Kitsilano Beach is not served by Skytrain. However, you can jump on the #2 Macdonald bus from along Burrard Street downtown which will take you right there in less than 10 minutes.
KEEP THE KITS BALL ROLLING
I've given it my all on Kitsilano but maybe it wasn't enough? If something isn't clear or you need some custom advice then get at me ASAP.
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Enjoy Kits 🙂