WHERE Vancouver is Canada’s great western metropolis,where the Pacific meets British Columbia. It boasts a wonderful urban park and stunning views of the water, forest and mountains. Water is always close by – on one side of the peninsula comprising the city centre and Stanley Park is Burrard Inlet, on the other, False Creek. The hotels scene is thriving. Scheduled to open in November is the Loden Vancouver (001 604 669 5060; www.lodenvancouver.com). Doubles from C$393 (£185). Away from the centre, the Opus Hotel (001 604 642 6787; www.opus hotels.com) is in the city’s trendy warehouse district. Doubles From C$266 (£125). Prefer a B&B? The Corkscrew Inn (001 604 733 7276; www.corkscrewinn.com), on a quiet residential street in Kitsilano is a good choice: doubles from C$155 (£73).

WHY Vancouver is the city that celebrates the great outdoors with panache – thanks to its open spaces, beaches, bike paths, hiking trails, and, in winter, skiing. There is also a blossomming cultural scene, including performing arts, museums, galleries and festivals from Fringe to jazz. Come too for great shopping, bars and restaurants. Explore beyond downtown, visiting districts such as Yaletown and Kitsilano, and take the ferry (or cross the Lion’s Gate Bridge) to North Vancouver. For a different view, paddle a kayak in False Creek, or ski Grouse Mountain.

WHAT The best-known shopping track is Robson Street. On Granville Island, don’t miss the Public Market. Just across from the market building are a number of boutiques, workshops and mini-galleries. South Main Street is the city’s hottest new shopping district, and Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue hosts coffee shops and funky stores. The fine collection at the Vancouver Art Gallery (001 604 662 4700; www.vanartgallery.bc.ca) is housed in a former neo-Classical courthouse. The Museum of Anthropology at UBC (001 604 822 5087; www.moa. ubc.ca) has an excellent collection of First Nations culture, and the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art (001 604 682 3455; www.billreidfoundation.org) is due open in Spring 2008. Winter visitors can ski three local mountains all within 20 minutes of downtown and the city is also set to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Feeling hungry? Try Lift (001 604 689 5438; www.liftbarandgrill.com) for contemporary West Coast cuisine, or Metro Restaurant (001 1 604 662-3463; www.metrodining.ca) near Canada Place. Sandbar (001 604 669 9030; www.vancouverdine.com), on Granville Island under the bridge, is good for seafood. If you enjoy your meat, you won’t be disappointed by any of The Keg Steakhouse ( www.kegsteakhouse.com ) branches.

One of the city’s best live music venues is the 75-year-old Commodore Ballroom (001 604 739 7469; www.hob.com ) while The Yale Hotel (001 604 681 9253; www.theyale.ca) is tops for Rhythm & Blues.

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