Where is the first place you always bring people to when they visit Vancouver?
One of the things I love about Vancouver is the proximity of the mountains and the water to the city. A nice first impression of the city is from the Cypress Mountain lookout. Alternatively, there are lots of restaurants and bars by the water where it is nice to sit and enjoy the view.
The top three things to do there that don’t cost money are . . .
A great way to see the beauty of the city is by walking or cycling along the Seawall. The Seawall spans 22km, so I would recommend cycling (there are lots of bike rental places and it is not too expensive). The Seawall is the world's longest uninterrupted waterfront path and there is plenty to see on this route – the Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park, a number of beautiful beaches, Granville Island, Science World and much more.
Vancouver has 230 parks – ranging from small community greens to Stanley Park, which is the largest. One of my favourites is Queen Elizabeth Park. As the park is 152m above sea level it provides a wonderful view of the city. The cherry blossom trees draw a lot of visitors in the springtime but there are plenty of beautifully maintained gardens to enjoy all year round.
Take advantage of how close the mountains are and take a walk or a hike. Whatever your fitness level there is an option to suit you. If you walk around Deep Cove be sure to stop at Honey's and grab a doughnut. Lynn Canyon is an easy walk and the suspension bridge is free (this place can get busy so go early to avoid crowds). If you would like more of a challenge, but still want an easy day hike, then St Mark's Summit has some amazing views. For more of a challenge then try the Chief in Squamish.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Vancouver?
Vancouver is a place that draws people from all over the world and this is reflected in the restaurant and food truck options throughout the city. Narrowing down the options to one place is too difficult, but one meal that is extremely popular in Vancouver is brunch. You can get nice “eggs benny” and avocado toast, of course, but there are so many more options. People love Medina on Richards Street and for the vegetarians and vegans there are some great options such as Acorn or The Wallflower on Main Street.
A Vancouver brunch favourite is the Caesar. This is the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary and it contains clamato juice instead of tomato juice. Clamato is a commercial drink made of reconstituted tomato juice concentrate and sugar, flavoured with spices and clam juice. The garnishes with the cocktail range from the traditional celery stick to a cheeseburger and onion rings at Score on Davie. I have embraced a lot of Canadian things since I moved here but the Caesar is not one of them!
Where is the best place to get a sense of Vancouver’s place in history?
Gastown was the original downtown core of Vancouver and is a very popular spot for visitors. Gastown is home to a mix of restaurants, bars, places to shop and the famous steam-powered clock. There are several walking tours of the area, so you can learn about the Great Vancouver Fire, Depression-era riots and the origin of the name Gastown.
Vancouver is a relatively new city so if you want to get a wider sense of the history of the area then I would recommend a trip to the Museum of Anthropology [at UBC]. You will be able to see the long history of the area through the sculptures, artifacts and totem poles.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for for after a visit to Vancouver?
British Columbia has a lot of breweries and wineries, so I would leave room in your suitcase for your favourite BC brew. There are so many craft beers on offer it can be hard to know where to start. Most breweries and brew pubs offer a tasting flight and they are happy to explain the types, strengths and flavours on offer.
Many of the breweries are located near each other so a self-guided beer crawl is a nice way to sample the local flavour. If you find a beer you like, they do sell cans and bottles to take home. Some of my favourites are Faculty Brewing, Postmark Brewing and Yellow Dog (which is in Port Moody). Ask what saison beer is on offer and give it a try. The flavour combinations may sound strange but more often than not they turn out to be delicious!