THE BEST OF VANCOUVER
Our favourite hot spots on the West Coast.
For a casual-cool dinner
The French-Asian food at Pidgin in Gastown is delicious but not fussy. The flavours and plating are reminiscent of French or Italian haute cuisine (case in point: the divine Parisienne gnocchi)—but then you’re sitting on wooden benches drinking Tiger Beer out of a can. – Aliyah Shamsher
For a kitschy trip back in time
Even if the sun is blazing outside, the Shameful Tiki Room’s blacked-out windows ensure that it’s always midnight in Polynesia. This Main Street mainstay is a truly loving homage to the Tiki-lounge scene, a time when swizzle sticks were cherished and Trader Vic’s was king. The Zombie is fantastic—it’s the original 1934 recipe—but for pure theatrics, the Volcano Bowl, a four-person drink that comes complete with thunder, is the ticket. Take a cab home. – Guy Saddy
For the best dinner and drinks combo
Although other excellent new restaurants have made inroads into still-edgy Chinatown, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie remains the standard. They don’t take reservations, so locals go early, put their name down and wait for a call—while sipping a fabulous cocktail at the always-hip Keefer Bar just down the street. Order an Opium Sour at the Keefer and then chow down on Shao Bing, one of Bao Bei’s signature dishes: cumin-spiced lamb sirloin, cilantro, green pepper and chilies on sesame flatbread. Amazing! – G.S. h
For the best new hotel-lobby bar
In a city full of great hotel bars, the lobby lounge in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s dark and atmospheric Notch8 is the latest heavyweight contender downtown. It’s great to see the hotel claw its way back from irrelevance. With Notch8, the city’s grande dame is once again drawing locals. – G.S.
For the quintessential local adventure
Whether you walk, run or bike, the best way to feel like a Vancouverite is to join the locals in Stanley Park, the city’s iconic natural landmark. If you are visiting and without wheels, stop by Cycle City Tours near the park entrance to pick up a rental or join a three-hour guided cycling tour. My Vancouver must-do is a bike ride around the seawall. I like to go in the morning—the ocean air is so invigorating, and it’s such a great way to start the day. – Christina Reynolds
For a laid-back luxe visit
Book a suite at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. (Ask for a room overlooking the harbour with a view of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s verdant green roof.) This hotel is so tech-savvy—the “spa” lighting setting in the bathroom is perfect—but so understated and comfortable. And I love that there’s live music every night in the Lobby Lounge. Even if you don’t stay for a drink, you feel like you’re part of something cool. – C.R.
For an unexpected shopping spree
Sleekly retro Sahn bicycle helmets? Check. Outerwear from Danish clothing manufacturer Rains? You bet. From gorgeous hand-carved hardwood cheese slicers to classic Sheffield wristwatches and cocktail syrups, the dependably eclectic Walrus Design on Cambie Street is a classic cabinet of wonders. I’ve never been to Walrus and not come away with at least something. Usually two somethings. – G.S.
For a look at the Canadian landscape
Head to the Vancouver Art Gallery for Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven (from October 30 to January 17), a wide-ranging look at 19th- and 20th-century Canadian artistic inspiration. If it’s a sunny day, take a moment to sit on the museum’s mammoth front steps and take in the vibe in the surrounding square—it’s great for people-watching, and there’s always something going on. – C.R.
For two zen moments
Escape the bustle of Chinatown and slip into Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden before heading to see the contemporary art at the nearby Rennie Collection in the historic Wing Sang building. Despite how busy it can sometimes be on the surrounding streets, I’m always shocked by how quiet it is when I visit this peaceful garden oasis. At Rennie, head to the rooftop deck for an up-close look at a neon sign by artist Martin Creed that says “Everything is going to be alright.” – C.R.
For a local designer fave
Vancouver staple Nicole Bridger recently moved her flagship shop from Kitsilano to Gastown. Every time I’m in Vancouver, I pick up her newest take on a sweater wrap or a drapey top. I love the brand’s efforts to be socially conscious in everything from its fabric selection to its manufacturing processes. – C.R. n