48 Hours In Vancouver

A cosmopolitan city in a spectacular coastal setting, British Columbia's largest urban centre boasts some of Canada's greatest views and its most highly-rated cuisine. Anthony Lambert revels in the delights of Vancouver


WHY GO NOW?

WHY GO NOW?

In September the heat in Vancouver dwindles and air fares and hotel prices fall, too. The 20th Vancouver Fringe Festival (001 604 257 0350; www.vancouverfringe.com), 9-19 September, has 500-plus off-beat theatre performances at venues around Granville Island.

TOUCH DOWN

From Heathrow, Air Canada (0871 220 1111; www.aircanada.ca) has two return flights a day, and British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) has one. Through discount agents, you can expect to pay around £535 return in the second half of September. From Gatwick, the options are Zoom (0870 240 0055, www.flyzoom.com) or Canadian Affair (08700 753 000; www.canadian-affair.com). The Airporter shuttle bus runs from Vancouver airport every 15 minutes from 6.30am to 2.30am and costs C$12 (£5.20) one-way or C$18 (£7.80) return, and stops at downtown hotels, the cruise-ship terminal at Canada Place and the main bus terminal. Taxis take about 30 minutes and cost C$20-30 (£8.70-13). Getting around Vancouver by public transport is easy, with interchangeable tickets between buses, the Skytrain and the SeaBus across Burrard Inlet. Day-passes for unlimited travel are available from machines at the SeaBus terminals at Waterfront and Lonsdale Quay and at Skytrain stations for C$8 (£3.50).

GET YOUR BEARINGS

The city is named after the British naval captain George Vancouver, who spent a day here in 1792. A Hudson's Bay trading post followed 40 years later and it has now become one of Canada's most cosmopolitan cities. The largest city in British Columbia, it enjoys one of the world's most spectacular settings on a large well-sheltered natural harbour with the Coast Mountain range as a backdrop. Many visitors don't venture off the peninsula occupied by downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park other than to visit Granville Island. Across Burrard Inlet is North Vancouver, a popular stop fpr those en route to Grouse Mountain. The main tourist information centre is at the Waterfront Centre at 200 Burrard Street (001 604 683 2000; www.tourismvancouver.com), open 8.30am-6pm.

CHECK IN

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver at 900 West Georgia Street (001 604 684 3131; www.fairmont.com) was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway and opened in 1939. Its grand interior and 556 rooms were renovated in 1996. Besides a spa and swimming pool, it has a golden labrador that guests can take for a walk. Doubles cost C$233 (£100). The Listel at 1300 Robson Street (001 604 684 8461; www.listel-vancouver.com) is one of Vancouver's newest hotels and offers an entirely smoke-free environment. Doubles cost C$281 (£120). The Comfort Inn at 654 Nelson Street (001 604 605 4333; www.comfortinndowntown.com) has a new interior within a 1912 shell and good value with doubles from C$104 (£45). All these rates include taxes but not breakfast.

TAKE A VIEW

From Cloud 9, a revolving 360-degree bar/restaurant on the 42nd floor of the Empire Landmark Hotel at 1400 Robson Street (001 604 687 0511; www.asiastandard.com). Or take the glass elevators up the side of BC's tallest building to Vancouver Lookout! (001 604 689 0421; www.vancouverlookout.com) at Harbour Centre on West Hastings Street. The observation deck on the 581ft-tall building is open daily from 8.30am-10pm; admission is C$10 (£4.50).

TAKE A HIKE

The view from the promenade around the fourth level of the cruise terminal at Canada Place takes in the constantly busy harbour and North Vancouver. Passing the adjacent CN IMAX Theatre (001 604 682 4629; www.imax.com/vancouver), walk along Waterfront Road past the Waterfront SeaBus Terminal located in the fine former Canadian Pacific Railway station, towards Gastown, an area of cobbled streets and brick-built shops and commercial buildings largely erected after the fire of 1886. Pause to listen to the hissing of the world's first steam clock, built in 1977 to an 1875 design. At 142 Water Street is the recently opened Storyeum (001 604 687 8142; www.storyeum.com), which offers a 70-minute multi-media "theatrical experience" about the origins and development of Vancouver and BC. It opens 11am-7pm daily, admission C$22 (£9.50). At the intersection of Water Street and Carrall Street is the old Hotel Europe of 1908 and a statue of "Gassy Jack" Deighton from Hull who gave his nickname to the district. Carrall Street leads into Chinatown, location for the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, modelled on a 14th-century Ming-dynasty garden from Suzhou (001 604 662 3207; www.vancouverchinesegarden.com). It opens 10am-6pm daily; admission is C$8.25 (£3.60), including tour and tea. Head south along Abbott Street to Cross Pacific Boulevard to reach the Seawall Walk that runs beside False Creek, then go west to pick up one of the stubby Aquabuses from Yaletown pier, at the foot of Davie Street or David Lam Park pier, to reach Granville Island. Aquabus fares cost from C$2-5 (85p-£2) or day passes for C$10 (£4.50).

LUNCH ON THE RUN

On Granville Island. Visit one of the mouth-watering stalls in the market, or choose one of the cafés or restaurants: Sandbar (001 604 669 9030) is housed in an old warehouse overlooking Burrard Bridge and False Creek. It serves local seafood and the products of the neighbouring Granville Island Brewing.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

The strikingly designed Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (001 604 822 3825; www.moa.ubc.ca) has an outstanding collection of First Nation artefacts, from totem poles and house-posts to canoes and ceramics. Take a 4, 17 or 44 bus from downtown for a pleasant journey through the Pacific Spirit Regional Park to the UBC bus terminal, which is a five-minute walk from the museum. It opens 10am-5pm daily; admission is C$9 (£4). Alternatively, try a theatre matinee: Vancouver has more than 30 professional drama groups and 21 venues.

WINDOW SHOPPING

The principal retail streets are Robson, Burrard, Dunsmuir, Georgia and Howe. For boutiques, try Kitsilano and Yaletown. Lululemon high-quality sportswear is made in Vancouver; the yoga-inspired clothing company has several branches including one at 1148 Robson Street. CDs and facials are but two of Vancouver's bargains for visiting Brits. For arts and crafts, head for Granville Island with its host of galleries and unusual shops: in the market, L'Atelier de Poterie has attractive stoneware dishes and jugs; Maiwa Handprints sells ethnic-inspired clothing; and Wickaninnish Gallery offers West Coast native art.

AN APERITIF

The tasting bar at the Lumiere at 2551 West Broadway (001 604 739 8185; www.lumiere.ca) serves such dangerous-sounding concoctions as Salvador Dali's Casanova Cocktail. Meals are served at the bar as well as the restaurant (both closed Monday).

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

Vancouverites enjoy arguably the best restaurant cuisine in Canada, helped by the freshness and variety of seafood. The Blue Water Café is situated in a converted Yaletown warehouse at 1095 Hamilton Street, (001 604 688 8078; www.toptable.ca); its selection of local oysters is hard to beat.At 1154 Robson Street, CinCin (001 604 688 7338; www.toptable.ca) has the feel of a cool Mediterranean taverna and a balcony terrace shaded by trees. It serves Italian-style cuisine with such starters as Salt Spring Island mussels steamed with white wine garlic and tomato for C$13.50 (£6); among the desserts are cherries roasted in olive oil with Tahitian vanilla ice-cream (C$10/£4.50).

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

The Douglas-fir floors and hammerbeam roof of Christ Church Cathedral at 690 Burrard Street, dating from 1895, have just been refurbished and a new organ installed. Choral Eucharist is at 10.30am.

OUT TO BRUNCH

Close to popular Kitsilano beach is Cafe Zen at 1631 Yew Street (001 604 731 4018), serving classic eggs benedict or huevos rancheros (refried beans, fried eggs, rice and hot sauce), for C$9.95/£4.50.

A WALK IN THE PARK

The most popular walk in Vancouver is the six-mile circumnavigation of Stanley Park, Canada's largest city park. The perimeter path is seldom more than a few feet from the shore and has spectacular views of the harbour. Alternatively, rent bikes or rollerblades from Bikes N'Blades (001 604 602 9899), close to the start of the path at 718 Denman Street.

TAKE A RIDE

Grouse Mountain offers the best views for miles around. Take the SeaBus from Waterfront to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver for a 236 bus to the cable car station for Grouse Mountain; the fare of C$26.95 (£12) includes admission to two films at the summit (001 604 980 9311; www.grousemountain.com). The area is great for forest walks, and is home to two orphaned grizzly bears. The 236 bus also stops near the 450ft-span pedestrian Capilano Suspension Bridge, which sways 230ft above a spectacular canyon flanked by cedars and Douglas fir (001 604 985 7474; www.capbridge.com). The bridge is open from 8.30/9am-5/8pm depending on the time of year; admission is C$21.95 (£9.50).

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