Vancouver

vancouver

Vancouver, with 2.5 million inhabitants, is the third largest in Canada and the second largest city on the Pacific Northwest. Because of geography, Vancouver is squished between mountains on one side and ocean on the other, and the city is packed into a narrow river delta. As a result, Vancouver is the most densely populated city in Canada, with 5,249 people per square kilometer. This doesn’t take away from the fact that Vancouver is consistently rated as the single best city in the world to live!

Vancouver sprawls across both banks of the Frasier River, as well as several tributaries, and occupies the mouth of the river delta as it flows out into the Pacific ocean. Downtown Vancouver is located on a large island in the middle of this delta, and a series of bridges, tunnels and ferries take people to the north (North Vancouver), south (Richmond) and east (Burnaby).

Vancouver Metro Area Map

vancouver_

Vancouver sprung up around a logging town called “Gastown” (now an historic part of central Vancouver) in 1864. Gastown eventually enlarged to take over the neighboring town of “Granville”, and the growing community was given the name “Vancouver”, after the Captain Vancouver, the British captain who sailed the west coast. By 1870 Vancouver  had become the largest shipping port on the Pacific north of San Francisco, and that year the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completed, going from the Vancouver docks to the Halifax port. The railroad brought in a wave of immigrants and the small logging and fishing industries of the area boomed. More than 130 years later, Vancouver has become the largest and busiest shipping port in Canada, and the most diversified in North America, with more than $1 billion in trade passing through each day.

Gastown, circa 1890

Gastown, circa 1890

Today, Gastown is an historic part of downtown Vancouver, and boasts the world's only remaining steam clock!

Today, Gastown is an historic part of downtown Vancouver, and boasts the world’s only remaining steam clock!

One of the diverse array of docks in Vancouver. From containers to commercial fish to cruise liners, Vancouver is the most diversified port in North America.

One of the diverse array of docks in Vancouver. From containers to commercial fish to cruise liners, Vancouver is the most diversified port in North America.

The Canadian Pacific Railroad reaches its final destination, Vancouver, in 1887.

The Canadian Pacific Railroad reaches its final destination, Vancouver, in 1887.

While shipping, logging and commercial fishing remain the largest industries fueling Vancouver, in the past few decades Vancouver has become a hub of the I.T. sector, animation studios and film production. The lower taxes and cheaper costs of doing business in Vancouver has earned the city the nickname “Hollywood North”. The popular X-Files were filmed in Vancouver, as well as:

  • The A-Team
  • Alien vs Predator
  • Along Came A Spider
  • Battle in Seattle
  • Blade: Trinity
  • The Butterfly Effect
  • Final Destination 1, 2, 3 & 4
  • Godzilla (2014)
  • Hot Tub Time Machine
  • I, Robot
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • Jumanji
  • Liar, Liar
  • Robocop
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • The Never Ending Story
  • 21 Jump Street (TV show and movie)
  • Battlestar Galactica (TV show)
  • The L Word (TV series)
  • Smallville (TV show)
Filming "Superman: Man of Steel" in Gastown

Filming “Superman: Man of Steel” in Gastown

Vancouver hosts more than 100 I.T. companies, either startups or established giants, making the city the third biggest I.T. hub in the world.

Vancouver hosts more than 100 I.T. companies, either startups or established giants, making the city the third biggest I.T. hub in the world.

The $1.7 billion Pixar studios in Vancouver.

The $1.7 billion Pixar studios in Vancouver.

With so much filming and producing and creating going on, it’s no wonder that Vancouver has become a magnet for tourism. By 2000 tourism made up the second biggest industry in Vancouver, giving rise to an explosion of restaurants, hotels, galleries, concert venues and other tourist-friendly amenities. The whale-watching industry boomed, as the ocean was one of the Vancouver’s biggest natural attractions.

The Orca whale (aka Killer Whale) has become the unofficial symbol of Vancouver. Several large pods live year-round in the surrounding waters, and residents and whales have learned to live relatively well with each other.

The Orca whale (aka Killer Whale) has become the unofficial symbol of Vancouver. Several large pods live year-round in the surrounding waters, and residents and whales have learned to live relatively well with each other.

The Vancouver Canucks NHL team sports an Orca as its logo, creating a strong identity to this wonderful city.

The Vancouver Canucks NHL team sports an Orca as its logo, creating a strong identity to this wonderful city.

Vancouver is a mecca for tourism. The large and beautiful Stanley Park, an island adjacent to the downtown core, is free for all and one of the most diverse urban parklands in North America.

Stanley Park is a huge island next to the downtown core. It is easily accessible by bridge.

Stanley Park is a huge island next to the downtown core. It is easily accessible by bridge.

From beaches to tranquil forest, Stanley Park provides serenity to all.

From beaches to tranquil forest, Stanley Park provides serenity to all.

Stanley Park has fully-functioning beaches during the warm summer months.

Stanley Park has fully-functioning beaches during the warm summer months.

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Stanley Park, Vancouver

The Vancouver Aquarium is another big tourist draw. The largest aquarium on North America’s Pacific coast, the Vancouver Aquarium houses thousands of live species of ocean life. While the aquarium is open to the public, it is also a center of marine science and research. Valuable data about the state of the ocean is studied here, and the aquarium employs the top marine biologists from around the world. The Aquarium also undertakes animal rescue duties for the entire Cascadia region (BC, Oregon and Washington state). Marine mammals that are in distress, injured or diseased are picked up by Vancouver Aquarium personnel and taken back to Vancouver to be treated.

The Vancouver Aquarium is North America's largest Pacific aquarium.

The Vancouver Aquarium is North America’s largest Pacific aquarium.

The Aquarium is guaranteed to dazzle every visitor of any age.

The Aquarium is guaranteed to dazzle every visitor of any age.

Live shows take place in the summer months.

Live shows take place in the summer months.

Biological research is a key function of the Vancouver Aquarium.

Biological research is a key function of the Vancouver Aquarium.

Another of Vancouver’s big draws for tourists and people wishing to emigrate alike is its weather. Snow is a very, very rare occurrence in Vancouver, with winter temperatures hovering around the +7 C mark. Likewise, the heat and humidity of other parts of the world are absent during the summer, with temperatures rarely going above +30 C and cool ocean breezes keeping the humidity at bay. Rain is a problem in Vancouver. The lush sub-tropical rainforests of the area exist for a reason. Vancouver is one of the wettest cities in North America, averaging 1600 mm of rain every year (70 inches). While spring and summer are generally beautiful and dry, autumn and winter can rain for months without letup, creating a seemingly depressing atmosphere.

Nevertheless, despite the months of never-ending rain, Vancouver continues to draw people in from all over the world, and for a decade straight the city was named as the #1 place to live in the world for quality of life (losing out in 2008 but hovering around the #3 position since then) by the United Nations and Forbes Magazine alike! The rankings are based on criteria such as quality of infrastructure, crime and safety, access to education and health care, cost of living, average salaries, corruption levels, environment, parkland, etc etc.

Vancouver’s infrastructure is first class. A lack of snow means roads stay in good shape, and the city has done what it can with controlling traffic, including building a $7 billion elevated rail system, the “SkyTrain” which becomes a subway system in the downtown core. The SkyTrain is under constant expansion, as the transit authority hopes to have it reach all points of the city in the future. Until then, a well-managed bus fleet and even a ferry system convey passengers around the metro area, while several large bridges and a large tunnel under the Frasier River help keep the flow of traffic moving.

The SkyTrain is completely automated, with no drivers, and runs on pure clean energy.

The SkyTrain is completely automated, with no drivers, and runs on pure clean energy.

In the downtown core the SkyTrain turns into a full metro system.

In the downtown core the SkyTrain turns into a full metro system.

The famous Lion's Gate Bridge, from Stanley Park to North Vancouver.

The famous Lion’s Gate Bridge, from Stanley Park to North Vancouver.

For those without a car, the Seabus will take people from North Vancouver to the city center.

For those without a car, the Seabus will take people from North Vancouver to the city center.

Vancouver has the second biggest bus system in Canada.

Vancouver has the second biggest bus system in Canada.

The Massey Tunnel takes drivers under the Frasier River.

The Massey Tunnel takes drivers under the Frasier River.

Vancouver is an extremely pedestrian-friendly city. It is often easier to get around without a car.

Vancouver is an extremely pedestrian-friendly city. It is often easier to get around without a car.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is ranked among the best airports in the world by Conde Nast!

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is ranked among the best airports in the world by Conde Nast!

 

One of the biggest problems Vancouver faces today is the price of housing. Housing has soared in past years due to limited availability and overseas speculation. Hundreds of newly-built condos on Vancouver’s skyline sit empty, as their owners live in primarily Hong Kong or Bombay, and purchased the units simply to flip them for a profit. This has created skyrocketing prices, with the average starter bungalow in Vancouver selling for around a million dollars, and a downtown condo going for several million. Vancouver has recently joined the club of the most expensive cities in the world, along with Tokyo, Moscow, New York and London.

This scourge of international speculation has helped to create an alarming homeless problem in Vancouver. While Vancouver has always been a mecca for Canada’s drug addicts and homeless escaping freezing winter temperatures in other cities, the high housing prices has created a new class of homeless, the “working homeless”, or people working in low-income jobs but who can’t find affordable housing. With the prices of purchasing so high, rents are incredibly high as well. Limited land resources means that governments can only offer so much rent-controlled space. This has created a crisis in a small part of downtown Vancouver, called the Lower-East Side (also called “East Van”). This area is a rough part of town, and boarded-up windows, graffiti, prostitutes, homeless and police are regular sites along East Van’s streets.

A relatively new problem that is growing in Vancouver is the presence of Asian gangs and an ongoing gang war. In 2009 Vancouver had the dubious honour of being Canada’s shooting capital, due to a rash of brazen inter-gang shootings. With a fast-growing Asian population, largely from mainland China, violent members of China’s mafias have infiltrated into the population and an epidemic of violent crime, unusual for a Canadian city, has been ongoing in Vancouver for several years.

In 1994 the Vancouver Canucks, the city’s pro-hockey team, made it to the Stanley Cup championships and lost to the New York Rangers. A large riot broke out which burned down several downtown buildings, cars and buses and resulted in several injuries and arrests. In 2011 the Canucks again went to the Stanley Cup, this time against the Boston Bruins, and lost in Game 7. Again, a riot broke out downtown, this one even larger and this time with much more video coverage. The ensuing riots destroyed a large section of the downtown core and resulted in several injuries and one death. As a testament to the love people have for their city, the day after the riot large groups of volunteers, on their own initiative, appeared to clean up the mess.

Vancouver's Lower East Side is plagued by poverty and drug use.

Vancouver’s Lower East Side is plagued by poverty and drug use.

Homelessness is another problem plaguing East Van.

Homelessness is another problem plaguing East Van.

With poverty comes drug use and prostitution. Vancouver has Canada's highest rate of AIDS/HIV.

With poverty comes drug use and prostitution. Vancouver has Canada’s highest rate of AIDS/HIV.

Metro Vancouver has been suffering through a crime wave caused by Asian gangs in recent years.

Metro Vancouver has been suffering through a crime wave caused by Asian gangs in recent years.

Several high-profile daytime hits on busy streets have caused public outrage.

Several high-profile daytime hits on busy streets have caused public outrage.

Vancouver police have created a task force and have managed to arrest several key members of these Asian gangs.

Vancouver police have created a task force and have managed to arrest several key members of these Asian gangs.

With Asian gangs, drug use in East Van, hockey riots and regular policing duties, Vancouver police have their hands full.

With Asian gangs, drug use in East Van, hockey riots and regular policing duties, Vancouver police have their hands full.

The 2011 Stanley Cup Riots destroyed a large section of downtown Vancouver.

The 2011 Stanley Cup Riots destroyed a large section of downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver police were completely outnumbered during the riots, and instead attempted to contain the destruction to a limited area.

Vancouver police were completely outnumbered during the riots, and instead attempted to contain the destruction to a limited area.

This photo, known simply as "The Kiss", went viral around the world following the 2011 Vancouver Riots.

This photo, known simply as “The Kiss”, went viral around the world following the 2011 Vancouver Riots.

The day after the riots thousands of people turned out on their own initiative to clean up the damage.

The day after the riots thousands of people turned out on their own initiative to clean up the damage.

Despite the poverty of the Lower East Side, the wave of Asian gangs and the occasional hockey riot, Vancouver generally remains a happy and peaceful place to live. With so much to see and do, and only one lifetime to do it all in, it is no wonder that nearly 3 million people call Vancouver “home”!

Grouse Mountain, a popular ski hill, is only a few minutes drive from downtown Vancouver.

Grouse Mountain, a popular ski hill, is only a few minutes drive from downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver is the only city in Canada where you can golf in the morning and ski in the afternoon!

Vancouver is the only city in Canada where you can golf in the morning and ski in the afternoon!

With towering mountains and calm ocean, Vancouver has one of the most awe-inspiring skylines in the world!

With towering mountains and calm ocean, Vancouver has one of the most awe-inspiring skylines in the world!

The mountains make Vancouver's skyscrapers look like toys.

The mountains make Vancouver’s skyscrapers look like toys.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, in North Vancouver, is fun for all ages!

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, in North Vancouver, is fun for all ages!

The Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer team is among a long line of the city's sports history.

The Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer team is among a long line of the city’s sports history.

Vancouver is home to year-round nightlife

Vancouver is home to year-round nightlife

Hundreds of nightclubs provide entertainment for people of all tastes.

Hundreds of nightclubs provide entertainment for people of all tastes.

Gordon Ramsay's restaurant in Vancouver.

Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Vancouver.

Cuisine is a booming industry in Vancouver, and some of the world's top chefs call Vancouver home.

Cuisine is a booming industry in Vancouver, and some of the world’s top chefs call Vancouver home.

Vancouver's skyline is instantly recognizable

Vancouver’s skyline is instantly recognizable

Oprah Winfrey keeps an extravagant home in Vancouver.

Oprah Winfrey keeps an extravagant home in Vancouver.

Downtown Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver

The weather in Vancouver can be spectacular at times.

The weather in Vancouver can be spectacular at times.

UBC (University of British Columbia) is one of 4 major universities in Vancouver.

UBC (University of British Columbia) is one of 4 major universities in Vancouver.

Simon Fraser University is a world-leading center of research and innovation. The human genome was first mapped here!

Simon Fraser University is a world-leading center of research and innovation. The DNA strand was first fully mapped here!

In 2010 Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics.

In 2010 Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics.

The 2010 Winter Olympics brought millions of dollars into the city and showcased Vancouver to the world.

The 2010 Winter Olympics brought millions of dollars into the city and showcased Vancouver to the world.

Granville Island, in the center of the city, is a bustling place with quaint markets, shops and micro-breweries.

Granville Island, in the center of the city, is a bustling place with quaint markets, shops and micro-breweries.

Robson St is the main "strip", filled with shops, bars and restaurants.

Robson St is the main “strip”, filled with shops, bars and restaurants.

Vancouver is a shopper's paradise!

Vancouver is a shopper’s paradise!

North Vancouver has less crime and traffic but is the more expensive area of town.

North Vancouver has less crime and traffic but is the more expensive area of town.

Most people, however, live in the suburbs of Richmond, Burnaby, etc.

Most people, however, live in the suburbs of Richmond, Burnaby, etc.

Come visit Vancouver, one of the best cities in the world!

Come visit Vancouver, one of the best cities in the world!

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4 thoughts on “Vancouver

    • Oprah, Bruce Willis, Will Smith, David Dukovni and Slash (from Guns ‘n Roses) all have homes in North Vancouver, along with a bunch of other celebrities I can’t remember. No wonder real estate is unaffordable!

  1. I’m going to Vancouver next month for an Indian wedding (3 days event)…thanks for this terrific post so I know the back ground and what to do there. do you have any recommendation for good place to eat?

    • Shabusen Yakiniku, at 202-755 Burrard St, is the most authentic Korean food I’ve had outside of Korea (I lived in Seoul for 2 1/2 years and know Korean food very well). Some of the best Japanese, including sushi, is at the same restaurant. I highly recommend it!

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