Vancouver’s West End is a perfect place to escape the crowds and tourist hordes of Downtown and areas like Gastown and Chinatown. This open and inclusive neighbourhood provides visitors with the perfect mix of beach casual and urban energy.
Plus it’s the home of world famous Stanley Park!
So come join me as we discuss all of this and more in our comprehensive West End neighbourhood guide.
Vancouver West End
The West End is one of Vancouver’s most vibrant and eclectic neighbourhoods. This predominantly residential area is most famous for housing the Davie Village “Gaybourhood” and serving as the gateway to Stanley Park.
To many its numerous parks and beaches may be considered the main draw. However, it’s also home to a diverse dining and nightlife scene, some of Vancouver’s biggest festivals and an easygoing charm that makes it a perfect escape from the nearby downtown core.
The West End is well served from downtown by an extensive network of bus routes that travel along the Davie and Robson Street corridors. The #5 Robson/Downtown and #6 Davie/Downtown should be sufficient should you require transit.
Be sure to check out our public transport mega guide before you attempt to navigate Vancouver’s public transit system.
Always keep in mind that the entire downtown peninsula is not that large in size. So if you’re staying relatively central you’re unlikely to ever be more than a 25-30 minute walk from your destination.
If you’re visiting Vancouver in summer you may find it preferable to take a casual stroll and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. After all, as any traveller knows, sometimes it’s about the journey.
Whenever I visit the West End I prefer the convenience and simplicity of taking what is perhaps the most prototypically Vancouver of transportation methods, the Seawall.
Whether you rent a bike or prefer walking, the world’s longest urban waterfront path is a great spot to sneak in a little exercise and catch a few rays while “commuting” to the West End.
Vancouver West End Things to Do
Lets get the obvious out of the way. Stanley Park is likely Vancouver’s number one attraction. This magnificent urban oasis contains over 400 hectares of old-growth forest, an abundance of local wildlife and postcard perfect views at every turn.
No visit is complete without a trip around the famous Stanley Park Seawall. But if you’d like to explore a little deeper you can take advantage of 27 kilometres of forest trails, check out some of the city’s finest beaches or simply enjoy a moment of quiet reflection.
The park also contains numerous historical and cultural landmarks, such as the stunning Totem Poles and the Brockton Point Lighthouse. While children are sure to enjoy a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium.
Explore the World Famous Seawall
Vancouver’s famous 28 kilometre long Seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. This pedestrian and cyclist greenway is equal parts transportation corridor and outdoor recreational hub.
The path is divided into two distinct sections, one for pedestrians and one for cyclists. This makes it the perfect spot to sneak in a little exercise as you enjoy the stunning views of the North Shore Mountains, the Salish Sea and Vancouver’s skyline.
My recommendation for visitors is to rent a bicycle so that they can cover as much ground as possible. There is simply no better way to explore Stanley Park and the rest of the West End.
Hit the Beach
If you’re visiting during the Summer you won’t want to sleep on the fact that the West End is home to four of Vancouver’s finest beaches. So no matter where you are in the downtown peninsula you’re never more than 10 minutes away from a soiree in the sand.
All of the beaches can be conveniently accessed via the Seawall. If you’re coming from downtown the first beach you’ll encounter is the aptly named Sunset Beach. This is where West Ender’s come to relax and enjoy a picnic or a cold drink on warm summer’s night.
As you continue West along the Seawall you’ll encounter the livelier English Bay Beach (or First Beach). Here you’ll find a younger crowd and a plethora of food and beverage options on nearby Denman Street.
If you’re looking for something a little quieter, you can continue into Stanley Park which contains the quaint Second and Third Beaches.
Visit Davie Village
The West End isn’t all about parks and beaches. No visit to the area is complete without a stop in Davie Village. This vibrant high-density residential neighbourhood is the beating heart of Vancouver’s LGTBQ community.
The area’s epicentre can be found along the stretch of Davie Street between Burrard and Jervis. Here you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, pubs, and boutiques catering to the neighbourhood’s eclectic mix of immigrants, students and LGTBQ members.
The Davie Village’s most famous landmark is the popular rainbow crosswalk, which can be found near Jim Deva Plaza at Davie and Bute.
Check out the Vancouver Aquarium
Situated in the heart of Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium is the one of the best rainy day and family friendly attractions in Vancouver. The facility contains over 9,500,000 litres of water throughout its 166 displays. This makes it the largest facility of its kind in Western Canada.
The Aquarium aims to demonstrate the incredible diversity found in habitats from all over the world. With this in mind you’ll find galleries representing everything from tropical rainforests and reefs to Canada’s Arctic and everything in between.
Helen the acrobatic Pacific white sided dolphin is worth the price of admission alone. While other popular animals include a variety of African penguins and seven lovable sea otters.
Vancouver West End Restaurants
Located on Robson Street inside the Listel Hotel, Forage is one of the few hotel restaurants that’s actually popular with locals. And why wouldn’t it be? There is perhaps no restaurant in town that is more dedicated to supporting local, small business farmers, fishers & foragers.
As a result, you’ll find only the very best that British Columbia has to offer on your plate. And this is to say nothing of their BC only collection of wine, beer and spirits.
To start try their award-winning BBQ duck chowder with Dungeness crab and shrimp toast. Then for a main I’d recommend the pan roasted Gindara sablefish with seared scallops, Walter Caesar and saffron nâge, baby greens. Wash it down with a lovely glass of Okanagan wine and your BC culinary experience is complete.
Related: The Best Vancouver Food Tours
The Western stretch of Robson Street between Bute and Denman has recently become known as ramen row. The area is now home to around a dozen purveyors of this delicious Japanese noodle soup.
But with so many choices how is one to pick?
Well when I’m in the neighbourhood I head straight for Marutama Ramen. This Japanese chain has been cranking out their famous creamy chicken broth (toripai tan) since 2001. Vancouver is fortunate to be the home of their only North American locations (3 as of this writing). So if you’re in town be sure to take advantage.
For my money there is no better way to recover from a night in Vancouver’s best bars. Simply grab a bowl of their rich Cha-Shu Ramen, with creamy chicken both, extra pork cha-shu, aosa seaweed and thin noodles. Your hangover will simply melt away.
After a day spent exploring Stanley Park or lounging on the beach I love to walk up Denman Street to this intimate Spanish-style tapas bar. Their firm commitment to authenticity while managing to incorporate locally sourced products is equal parts admirable pursuit and winning combination.
I like to grab a portion of jamon from their charcuteria to start things off. In true Spanish fashion they have 7 varieties of ham, including the prized jamon iberico de bellota. Paired with a nice manchego and a glass of vino tinto and you’re off to a great start.
You’ll then have a choice from around 20 different tapas in addition to daily tortillas and paellas. I like to stick with the classics, with the Spanish octopus conserva on toast and crispy roast pork belly with romesco sauce ranking amongst my faves.
Vancouver West End Bars
I’d recommend that travellers of all identities who’re looking to dance the night away stop asking questions and head straight for this Davie Street neighbourhood icon.
Celebrities offers chart topping electronic music enhanced by their state of the art sound and audio-visual systems. You simply never know what you’ll find, be it a local drag show or a set by a world famous international dj.
They’ve succeeded in becoming Vancouver’s most inclusive nightclub for members of the LGTBQ community, while remaining popular with mainstream revellers as well. This is not always an easy task.
So check out their website to see what’s happening while you’re in town. I assure you that you won’t regret it.
The Bayside Lounge
This iconic second floor retro cocktail lounge sits atop its perch right at the intersection of Davie and Denman. After a day on the beach I like to walk upstairs and grab a seat at their legendary sunken circular bar and enjoy the panoramic views of English Bay.
Every day from 3-6pm you’ll find fantastic happy hour drink deals starting at just four dollars as well as buck-a-shuck oysters. Once the sun sets cocktails become the name of the game, with an extensive collection of inventive creations that reflect the beach-casual nature of the neighbourhood below.
The Bayside’s fantastic location, delicious cocktails and fantastic service have made it a neighbourhood staple for decades. I can say that without a doubt it is my favourite West End watering hole.
I’m sure you’ll agree.
Stanley Park Brewing
After a day trekking around the Seawall or exploring Stanley Park my to do list tends to involve an ice cold beer on a local patio. Luckily one of the latest additions to Vancouver’s vibrant craft beer scene is now located on Beach Avenue, right at the entrance to Stanley Park.
Stanley Park Brewing offers a casual west coast-inspired menu, and a rotating selection of award-winning craft beers that are brewed on-site. Personally, once I’ve secured a seat on the patio I dive right in with a glass of the Sunsetter peach wheat ale. This fruity seasonal brew is the perfect elixir for a Vancouver Summers day.
How can you go wrong with an ice cold beer with Stanley Park and English Bay as your backdrop? This is what travelling is all about folks, so be sure to take advantage.
Vancouver West End Festivals
Date: August 2nd (2020)
The Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival is an annual event put on to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride. The event brings together members of the LGTBQ community along with thousands of their friends, allies and supporters to commend the unique inclusive spirit of the Davie Village neighbourhood.
Pride is the biggest festival of its kind in Western Canada, and one of the biggest in North America. It typically starts at noon at the intersection of Robson and Thurlow, before proceeding to Denman where it heads South towards Beach Avenue. From here it heads towards the Sunset Beach Festival area, where the parade concludes.
But trust me, the party is far from over! With well over half-a-million revellers in attendance the neighbourhoods many restaurants, bars and nightclubs continue rocking well into the night.
Celebration of Light
Dates: Late July-Early August (Wednesdays & Saturdays)
The Honda Celebration of Light has been an annual Summertime staple for Vancouverites since 1990, making it the world’s longest running annual fireworks competition. The festival regularly attracts upwards of 1.3 million people to view the three day event, which is spread over a two week period.
Every year there is three teams representing countries from all around the globe. Each gets their own night to shine with a 25-minute long display at around 10 o’clock. Afterwards there is typically a grand-finale where each team gets a shorter window before a winner is announced.
The teams rotate every year, so you never know who’ll be there. You may even get the opportunity to cheer on your own country.
Vancouver West End Tours
The Really Gay History Tour
Duration: 3 hours|Cost: $31.50
This unique walking tour provides visitors with a comprehensive history of Vancouver’s LGBTQ community. Perfect for LGBTQ and straight travellers a like, the tour includes a leisurely 3 hour stroll from City-Centre Station to the famous Davie Village.
Along the way you’ll stop at a variety of locations that are of vital importance to the movement; including the sight of protests, bookstore bombings and police raids. Learn about the community’s historical struggle for acceptance. Then be inspired by the activism and defiance that led to the creation of one of North America’s largest “gaybourhoods”.
This tour has extraordinarily high ratings on trip advisor, with very high marks assigned to the guide in particular. So it comes highly recommended.
- Knowledgeable professional guide
A walking tour of the Davie Village
The Vancouver Highlights Bike Tour
Duration: 5 Hours|Cost: $98.05
Discover the beauty and culture of Downtown Vancouver while getting a little exercise on the Vancouver Highlights Bike Tour. This fully guided tour will allow you to cycle to all of the city’s main attractions via the famous Seawall and a variety of dedicated bike-lanes.
I assure you that biking is truly one of the best ways to explore all that Vancouver has to offer. And there is no better way to do it then as part of an exciting group cycling tour.
After a quick bike and helmet fitting, you’ll begin your tour with a trip through the West End into Stanley Park, where you’ll check out one of the best urban parks in the world.
Then you and your new friends will take a quick ride along the Seawall before jumping on an Aquabus to Granville Island to explore the market. Once you’ve had a nice lunch (not included), it’s back onto the Seawall through Olympic Village towards Chinatown, where you’ll visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden.
Afterwards it’s off to historic Gastown, where you’ll pass all its main attraction’s before jumping back on the Seawall for your journey back to the bike shop.
This tour has fantastic reviews on all the major booking sites by travellers just like you, so it comes highly recommended.
- Use of a bike, helmet and lock
Optional E-bike upgrade (+$25)
Visit to Vancouver’s main attractions (Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown and Gastown)
Well that brings our West End visitors guide to a close. I hope I’ve convinced you to take the time to visit what I’d consider the downtown peninsula’s most chill neighbourhood.
And remember, this isn’t a goodbye, but a see you later. If there’s anything else you’d like to know you can always hit me up on the Vancouver Planner Facebook page or in the comments section below.
Enjoy your visit to the West End.