If you don’t know where to stay in Vancouver you’re not alone.
I was born and raised in the city and I still don’t know which area I love best.
Don’t worry though.
From party precincts brimming with bars to rural regions in the middle of a forest you’ll find them on my list – so let’s take a quick tour around Vancouver.
Where Should I Stay in Vancouver?
It’s a city of millions yet tourists only stay in about 7 or 8 neighbourhoods due to an area’s:
- Proximity to Vancouver’s top attractions.
- Accessibility to the city’s transport.
- Nightlife options nearby.
- Vancouver beach/park/mountain convenience.
I’ll be breaking down where to stay for tourists based on this criteria.
Just keep in mind there are no rankings here as they’d only be an opinion based on my tastes.
This is about you 😉
Where to Stay in Vancouver
This blog is for visitors so let me begin with a warning.
If you’ve come to the site looking for where to stay in Vancouver without a car make sure it’s a downtown neighbourhood.
If you’re still unsure just ask me, or you can keep scrolling to the end to see my Vancouver neighbourhood map to clock the locations.
THE WEST END
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★★☆ Relax: ★★☆☆
You’re also a short walk to the seabus and Granville island, the many bars of bustling Davie Village, and virtually anywhere else downtown.
The ability to walk down to the beach in any season.
It’s one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in North America owing to a myriad of condo towers, yet there’s plenty of greenspace and still maintains a local feel.
It’s probably the least chaotic downtown neighbourhood.
Being referred to locally as the ‘Gaybourhood’ it’s definitely LGBT-friendly.
This is the furthest downtown neighbourhood from any of the major Skytrain stations. Buses are the main form of transport here.
Things get quite busy in the summer.
There’s a shortage on high end restaurants, so if you’re looking for something a little more upscale you should look elsewhere.
If you’re not a member of the LGBT community the nightlife may not be up your alley.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★☆ Nightlife: ★★★☆ Relax: ★★★★
Kitsilano (named after Squamish chief X̱ats’alanexw) came to prominence as a beachside hippy hangout in the 1960’s, though yuppies have slowly taken over.
Greenpeace was founded in a house in Kits, Ryan Reynolds was raised here, and Lulu Lemon’s Chip Wilson made the area famous almost 50 years later.
There are 17 parks in the area and it’s home to Vancouver’s most popular beach: Kitsilano Beach.
Many parts of it are right over Burrard Bridge on the other side of downtown, making it as central as possible for not being in the core.
It has a very residential and local feel, almost devoid of hustle and bustle.
The mountain views from most areas are outstanding.
It’s just a quick $10.00 taxi to the chaos of downtown.
There aren’t a lot of hotel properties here.
Most of it is not accessible to major Vancouver rapid transit lines so buses are probably going to be your main source of transport.
It’s one of the richest neighbourhoods in Vancouver so prices are high.
Attractions: ★★★☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★★☆ Relax: ★☆☆☆
If Vancouver had an answer to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills this would be it.
This long shopping street houses all the big chain shops, offers some of the best restaurants in downtown Vancouver, and even has a mini Koreatown at the end.
It’s posh. It’s where people go to people watch with shopping bags swinging in one hand and a freshly made Nutella crepe in the other.
Bring your wallet and a napkin.
The sheer amount of services on this street is unparalleled.
If you’re looking for retail therapy and/or souvenirs this is a great option.
You’re also gonna be equidistant from the beaches of the West End or the bars of Gastown. If you want to discover the city on foot this is the ideal location.
If you’re not up for pomp and circumstance, being seen, or being a big spender you’ll want to run far away.
It’s restaurant and shopping heavy and won’t offer a ton of unique Vancouver culture.
There is hardly any greenspace.
THE GRANVILLE STRIP
Attractions: ★★★☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★★★ Relax: ★☆☆☆
The famous throwback 1950’s neon lights, Vancouver’s top bars like the Roxy (yes, of the Roxy Flu), and even the odd pornography shop make this famous Vancouver street a meeting point for good time seekers.
It’s the middle of the action location-wise.
More recently it’s become more of a shopping destination with some big box shops like Best Buy and Winners opening up.
You’ll reach it easily from the airport getting off Skytrain at Vancouver City Centre – you can be checked into the hotel in less than an hour door to door.
If you’re looking to burn the candle at both ends it’s got endless nightlife.
When people ask where to stay in Vancouver on a budget this is the place – many of Vancouver’s top hostels are found on the street.
If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep it may be a tough one, unless you’re high above the street or with soundproof rooms.
There’s a lack of refinement (hey, it can’t always be Michelin!) and most of the food is pub grub or fast food chains.
If you’re not under 40 you may feel a sense of alienation.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★☆☆ Relax: ★★★☆
This residential neighbourhood is dominated by spiking condo towers flushed in Vancouver’s familiar aqua-green.
Young urban professionals dominate the area and so organic food shops, cigar stores, yoga studios, and all sorts of hipster hullabaloo reign supreme.
It’s also right by the stadium district and has one of my favourite portions of the Seawall for long walks and fresh air coming off the water.
It’s easily reachable from the airport at the Yaletown Skytrain station.
Yaletown can be described in three words: high quality standards.
If you’re a budget conscious traveller this won’t be your jam.
Things can get quite expensive whether you’re getting a hotel, going out to eat, or having a couple drinks.
Being one of Vancouver’s posher areas there have been complaints of Yaletown being a bit stuck up.
If you’re looking to meet friendly locals it probably won’t be the place.
Attractions: ★★★☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★★★ Relax: ★★☆☆
Vancouver’s oldest downtown neighbourhood actually came about when ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton offered some loggers all the whiskey they could drink in exchange for erecting a bar.
Modern Gastown is still a place you’d go for nice whiskey bars. It’s also full of live bars and the heart of Vancouver’s real nightlife.
Restaurants with patios looking over cobblestone streets and the famous Gastown Steamclock make this Vancouver’s postcard neighbourhood.
You’ve also got the Vancouver Lookout tower.
If you’re looking for a balance between nightlife and culture this is it.
The ‘historical centre‘ feel brings you back to pioneer times with the souvenir shops to match. The Coastal Peoples art gallery is a great place to start.
The area around Blood Alley is home to a concentration of the city’s best restaurants.
You’re also right on the doorstep of Chinatown.
You’re never more than a couple streets away from accidentally crossing into Vancouver’s skid row, AKA ‘the Downtown Eastside’.
The area is full of petty crime and the contrast between the tent cities and the highly gentrified areas is a huge surprise to people.
Safety is rarely an issue though.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★★
What was once home to a shipyard and train station terminus is now an affluent neighbourhood of office and residential towers jammed up against the water.
When I think of Coal Harbour I think of float planes landing, rollerbladers smashing the seawall, and tons of cool seaside restaurants.
It’s also home to Canada Place and its iconic sail shaped building.
Coal Harbour is all about Vancouver public transit. It’s the only downtown neighbourhood where two Skytrain lines intersect.
You’ve also got the Seabus to North Vancouver (if you’re skiing in Vancouver) and the West Coast Express to take you to far away suburbs like Coquitlam and Mission.
If you’re in town for a convention it’s right near the Vancouver Convention Centre.
You’re right near Stanley Park and also get an unspoiled mountain view.
There’s not much nightlife happening here.
Since massive Georgia Street barrels right through it, it’s not the best area to stay in Vancouver for peace and quiet – it’s prone to heavy traffic.
Attractions: ★☆☆☆ Central: ★★☆☆ Nightlife: ★★☆☆ Relax: ★★★★
When helping tourists pick out where to stay in Vancouver I often suggest this colourful neighbourhood designated as Vancouver’s Little Italy.
The espresso bars, gelato shops, and Neapolitan pizza joints are now being balanced with other ethnic cuisines from Mexico, the Caribbean, and El Salvador.
It’s also a great place to hit a brewery to sample the best of Vancouver’s craft beer scene and partake in a bohemian shopping spree.
It’s rare as a tourist to stay in a truly residential neighbourhood where you can see locals living their day to day.
There are some great Airbnb options in the area, and if you’re cooking in them this Eastside neighbourhood offers some of the cheapest produce, groceries, and baked goods in the city.
It’s served by Skytrain.
You won’t find a lot of tourist stuff here.
Since it’s quite urban you won’t get much of Vancouver’s nature.
It’s also not walking distance from downtown Vancouver. Expect to spend about 20 minutes on transport to get there.
THE NORTH SHORE
Attractions: ★☆☆☆ Central: ★☆☆☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★☆
Across the water from downtown you’ll find this string of three municipalities snuggled up against the North Shore Mountains. The city of North Vancouver would be the most tourist friendly of the three, particularly in the LoLo (lower Lonsdale) neighbourhood.
If any area was Vancouver’s playground this would be it.
It’s also famous for the Lonsdale Quay Market.
With access to three ski hills, tons of hiking trails like Quarry Rock, and the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise.
Even though you’re separated by a large body of water you can get downtown in just 15 minutes using the Seabus.
If you’re looking for where to stay in Vancouver on your way to Whistler this is great, as it bypasses the country’s nightmare bottleneck at Lion’s Gate Bridge.
It’s not accessible to any rapid transit system – renting a car may be almost mandatory.
Owing to the rain shadow effect it tends to rain much more on the North Shore, which in Vancouver weather terms means a lot!
Since part of the North Shore is one of the richest neighbourhoods in Canada, prices can get quite steep.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★☆☆☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★☆
This Vancouver suburb is arguably the least suburban feeling of them all – it’s actually the third biggest city in British Columbia.
It’s just east of the city and is served by both the Millenium and Expo lines of Skytrain. You can be downtown in just 25 minutes.
It’s got one of the highest parkland to resident ratios in North America.
It’s also home to the city’s biggest mall: Metropolis at Metrotown.
The 400 stores at Metropolis are a shopaholic’s dream and if that’s not enough, the surrounding area is full of some of the best bargain Asian restaurants in the city.
Prices all around will be much cheaper than downtown.
It’s also home to some of Vancouver’s top educational institutions like BCIT and Simon Fraser University.
It was voted Canada’s most efficient city by Maclean’s magazine.
Being a suburb it won’t be as walkable as downtown, though Central Park is big enough to tire out even the most seasoned walkers.
There’s an almost complete lack of tourist attractions, though if you’re going to a concert at Deer Lake Park this could be a great option.
Attractions: ★☆☆☆ Central: ★☆☆☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★☆
Richmond is actually Canada’s largest city by immigration percentage: over 50% of its citizens identify as Chinese and 60%+ are foreign born.
In many places you’ll find English taking a backseat to Mandarin and Cantonese.
Here you’ve also got Vancouverite staples like the River Rock Casino and the Richmond Night Market.
It’s much closer to the airport than downtown Vancouver, about 10 minutes maximum. At the same time you can be downtown in 25 minutes via Skytrain.
For this reason, when thinking about where to stay in Vancouver for one night only I usually suggest Richmond.
The Chinese food options are some of the best in the city. There’s also a salmon festival in nearby Steveston if you’re in town for Canada Day.
Even though it feels much like being in Asia there’s a distinct lack of local character as the city is made up of grid streets and strip malls.
If you’re a tourist in Vancouver you won’t get much of the mountain/sea vibe either, though the nearby Fraser River is interesting for the August salmon run.
Outside of No.3 road there isn’t much transport infrastructure and renting a car would be preferred.
Attractions: ☆☆☆☆ Central: ☆☆☆☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★☆
Locals would scoff at the idea of staying in Vancouver’s biggest suburb: there’s a stigma about the place being slightly less civilized than the rest of the GVRD.
Here it’s about low population density and suburban sprawl.
Surrey is also famous for its large and prominent south Asian community, with people from the Indian subcontinent making up 33% of the population.
Farms here are slowly giving way to massive planned town centres well served by public transport.
If you’re flying in/out of Abbotsford airport it’s got great proximity.
South Surrey is also very close to the US border if your next stop is going to Seattle.
It’s one of the cheapest suburbs.
If you want to do anything in Vancouver you’ll be quite far out of the city.
Since Surrey is so spread out there are very few parts of it that’ll be directly connected by transport, so you may have to rent a car.
It’s quite flat and almost exclusively landlocked, making it less ‘Vancouvery’.
Vancouver Neighbourhood Map
It’s tough to decide where to stay in Vancouver without some visuals.
Here you’ll be able to select your neighbourhood based on proximity to airport, mountains, sea, and much more!
Best Area to Stay in Vancouver FAQ
What’s the best area to stay in Vancouver?
It’s very subjective.
For visitors you should be selecting an area in close proximity to transit, near some top attractions, and close enough to some of Vancouver’s great nature.
For this reason I’d recommend the West End or Coal Harbour.
Where to stay in Vancouver on a budget?
You should be selecting outskirts like Richmond, Burnaby, or Surrey.
There are also urban areas with hostels or budget accomodations. For this reason the Granville Strip and its many hostels is a fine option.
The YWCA Hotel is also a great downtown budget hotel with three star amenities.
Where to stay in Vancouver with family?
You’re going to want proximity to downtown while at the same time having a little air to breathe for outdoor activities.
Kitsilano and its many parks and beaches and variety of healthy yet tasty food options is a fine candidate.
The North Shore is also fantastic for families going skiing or who would enjoy the boat ride on the Seabus to downtown.
Where to stay in Vancouver when going on a cruise?
Selecting the Coal Harbour area will allow you to get to the cruise terminal in short order.
You could also go for Gastown if you’re looking for a little nightlife at the same time, as it would still be walking distance.
Where to stay in Vancouver without a car?
Any downtown neighbourhood along the Canada Line would be preferable. The West End, Robson Street, Gastown, or Coal Harbour are top choices.
Where to stay in Vancouver for tourists?
Tourists should stay in the thick of things by selecting any of the downtown areas.
There’s also a fine option in Kitsilano if you came for an outdoors escape.
Where to stay in Vancouver for nightlife?
If you’re looking to pull an allnighter with no holds barred then the Granville Strip is the top choice.
That said, if you’re looking for something a little more refined then Gastown is the obvious choice.
Keep the Discussion Going, Eh?
You may now know where to stay in Vancouver, but maybe not. Maybe I totally overlooked something.
That’s where you come in – and why I encourage you to write.
If you need any custom advice on your upcoming vacation, conference week, night out, or anything else in Vancity then get at us in the comments below!