the vancouver skyline as seen from granville island market square

11 Things to Know Before Visiting Vancouver

Before visiting Vancouver there’s a few things us locals would like you to know.

Taking these few things into consideration will help you understand the pleasure – and pain – of living in one of the most beautiful (and maddening) cities in the world.

As much as we want you to visit we won’t be pulling any punches here.

So get ready for a critique, an invitation, and a celebration all in one 🙂

a gold bracelet at the bill reid gallery vancouver bc

The City is on Unceded Land

The city of Vancouver is on the unceded Indigenous territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Reading up on these original settlements and the horrors of colonialism and the residential school system is just a small, important step in our nation-wide reconciliation effort.

As tourists though a great way to participate is by taking in the rich cultural offerings like the Bill Reid Gallery, Museum of Anthropology, or the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

stone rice bowl with chicken at kingyo izakaya vancouverIt’s a Foodie Town

It’s a bold move to put Vancouver right behind London in a list of the world’s top foodie cities but that’s exactly what glossy magazine moguls Condé Nast Traveler did – and we’re not going to argue.

Vancouver’s top restaurants explode with piles of fresh Pacific seafood, lip-smacking local delicacies, and an authentic Asian dining scene that makes the east feel not so far.

The consistent quality of restaurants in Gastown or Chinatown is something to behold.

Doesn’t convince you? We’ll leave you with Anthony Bourdain’s advice for other aspiring culinary cities: “be more like f****’n Vancouver!”

The view of Vancouver's skyline from Jericho BeachYou Can Swim and Ski on the Same Day (But Nobody Does)

Meet any Vancouverite abroad and it’ll be their elevator pitch of the city: the snow-capped mountains hosting Vancouver’s three ski hills slide gently down into a coastline littered with local beaches.

You can do it all in the same day they say – and have time for drinks before sundown.

Yes, on some freak weather day this could be possible but chances are you’ll be choosing one or the other (skiing between Nov-Mar and swimming between Jun-Sept) depending on what time of year you visit.

Marijuana is Legal

Don’t shoot the messenger but in Canada the devil’s herb is now legal and as easily bought as a can of lager – as if it wasn’t already with Vancouver’s reputation of being a cannabis capital of sorts.

While many of us grew up with the plant being nearly decriminalized, it’s still amazing to see perfectly legal and modernly decorated shops whether you’re in the downtown core or on funky Commercial Drive.

Expect to pay about $6.89 for a gram of dried cannabis at the government shops.

If you’re looking for cheaper stuff though with a variety of edibles head upstairs at the New Amsterdam Cafe in Gastown.

rain falls down on the granville strip in vancouver bc canadaIt’s Always Raining (Until it’s Not)

We’ve heard it all before.

We don’t actually need out of towners to point it out, but here it is:

There’s an average of 191 rainy days a year so you’ll probably need a jacket.

That said, those visiting Vancouver in summer will be happy to hear that rainy days occur about one in five. It’s also one of the mildest winters in Canada with temps rarely dipping below zero.

Especially in July and August, expect to be able to plan a great Vancouver itinerary involving all those amazing outdoor activities like the Sea to Sky Gondola or the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

a jogger jogs in a park in vancouver bc canadaWe’re Healthy and Active Wear is Always “in Style”

Especially in the shopping areas of the fitness-forward Kitsilano neighbourhood you’ll find people (sporty and non) decked out in active wear, most likely local brand Lululemon.

With so many fitness options you can’t blame Vancouverites for gearing up – there are over 200 outdoor activities in the city, it has a relatively low pollution score, and areas like Stanley Park are a playground for hikers and bikers.

The result? It’s the only city in North America ranked in the top 10 healthiest cities in the world.

In Vancouver Sushi is Life

If the world in general has a sushi obsession then Vancouver’s should probably be issued a restraining order from raw fish and rice – we’ve got more than 600 sushi restaurants in the city.

Eating sushi is one of the top things to do in Vancouver and it’s not just because we share an ocean with Japan – it’s because locals have seafood standards that are higher than Grouse Mountain.

Vancouver is actually the home of the california roll. You can still try the original at Tojo’s but be careful as more one tourist has told us that Vancouver’s quality has ruined sushi for them forever.

House Prices are Insane

Current Vancouver MLS stats indicate an average house price of $1,399,225.

For those who aren’t counting that’s approximately 29,372 years of work for us and everybody we know to be able to buy.

Jokes aside, Vancouver comes in at #4 on the list of the most expensive property cities behind Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore.

Sky high property prices especially in the top areas to stay make lodging more expensive than other Canadian cities, so you’ll have a bit less for the down payment after falling in love with the city 😉

The skytrain arrives at a stopTransit is King When Visiting Vancouver

Many North American cities were built around the car, but while most of them were mounting massive freeway systems that cut city cores in half Vancouver actively rejected one.

The result is the Vancouver transportation system consistently being ranked among the top three in North America, with one of the quickest airport connections in the world.

Grabbing a hotel or hostel along one of the city’s three Skytrain lines will make visiting a breeze – and besides, the traffic can get downright gross so please spare yourselves!

The entrance to Vancouver’s ChinatownIt’s More Asian than European

Waves of immigrants leave their mark on Vancouver but as European populations assimilate and immigration opens up to all parts of the world the demographics have changed rapidly.

Chinese Canadians are now the biggest ethnic group in the city and and over 40% of Vancouverites claim some sort of Asian ancestry.

Enclaves like Chinatown (or even better, Richmond’s Golden Village) and Punjabi Market (or even better, Payal Plaza in Surrey) are great places for authentic culture without the cost of a plane ticket overseas.

a tip jar in a vancouver bc canada restaurantTipping is Basically Mandatory

This one stings especially for my European friends visiting Vancouver.

I know you can’t quite get your head around the idea of leaving a bunch of money behind every time you eat and drink, but the going rate now for service in a bar or restaurant is now 15%.

For other services like taxis, hairdressers, hotel staff, and food delivery 10% is fine – though for any standard counter service like cafes and bakeries it’s not necessary.

Let Us Help You Visit Vancouver Better

That’s right – we’re here to help you whether you’re visiting Vancouver for just a weekend, shacking up for the summer, or moving here permanently.

Please drop us a line in the comments or get at us on our Facebook page if you need any help planning your visit.

Ash

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