Ex­plor­ing Van­cou­ver’s Neigh­bour­hoods


Van­cou­ver is a vi­brant city that has long been cel­e­brated for its cul­tural diver­sity. Since the city was founded in 1888, it has be­come home to myr­iad im­mi­grant groups that have gone on to shape the unique char­ac­ter of the city. While peo­ple of ev­ery eth­nic­ity and re­li­gion will greet you on a walk down any ur­ban street, over time dif­fer­ent im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties have set­tled into Van­cou­ver’s neigh­bour­hoods and truly made them­selves at home.

A visit to Van­cou­ver’s eth­nic neigh­bour­hoods will make you feel like you have trav­elled to the far cor­ners of the globe – Chi­na­town, Lit­tle Italy, Lit­tle Saigon, the Pun­jabi Mar­ket and Greektown are all uniquely Van­cou­ver lo­cales. They are at once ex­otic and com­pletely Cana­dian, and all part of a dy­namic cul­tural mo­saic that is sure to in­trigue any vis­i­tor and lo­cal alike.

Van­cou­ver’s Chi­na­town, the sec­ond largest in North America (af­ter San Fran­cisco’s), is le­gendary. Orig­i­nally founded by a marginal­ized com­mu­nity of Chi­nese rail­way work­ers in the 1880s, the area is steeped in a com­plex his­tory that is sure to fas­ci­nate any vis­i­tor. This area can be dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate on one’s own, so hir­ing the ser­vices of a guide or join­ing a walk­ing tour are great ways to en­sure that you see the sights with­out miss­ing hid­den trea­sures.

A great place to start your visit to Chi­na­town is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gar­dens, the only au­then­tic Ming Dy­nasty-era walled gar­den out­side of China. Re­lax by the calm­ing re­flec­tion pool, the sculpted gar­dens and en­joy the care­fully plot­ted yin and yang, or par­take in a tea cer­e­mony in the pagoda. Near the gar­dens, do not miss a photo op­por­tu­nity at the world’s skin­ni­est place of busi­ness, the Sam Kee Build­ing, near the Chi­na­town Gates. Built in 1913 to take ad­van­tage of a small slice of land left be­hind by city plan­ners when they widened the road, the build­ing is not much wider than a man’s out­stretched arms, yet it still houses a thriv­ing in­sur­ance busi­ness. Stroll down East Pender Street and stop by the New Sun Bak­ery, lauded by the New York Times for hav­ing the best Hong Kong-style ap­ple tarts in the world.

The area known as “Lit­tle Italy” is a large one, stretch­ing from the edge of Chi­na­town all the way to Hast­ings Park in Burn­aby with its cen­tre on Com­mer­cial Drive and Vic­to­ria Drive in East Van­cou­ver. A wan­der through the area is like tak­ing a step straight onto the streets of Cal­abria, the re­gion of ori­gin for the vast ma­jor­ity of Van­cou­ver’s early Ital­ian set­tlers. En­joy au­then­tic re­gional cui­sine at one of the many Ital­ian delis and restau­rants along the way, ex­pe­ri­ence some of the best in­de­pen­dent Ital­ian es­presso bars in the city and sam­ple tra­di­tional pas­tries at the Fratelli Bak­ery. The Ital­ian Cul­tural Cen­tre is a des­ti­na­tion in it­self for lively com­mu­nity and cul­tural events.

To ex­pe­ri­ence South Asian cul­ture, do not miss a visit to the Pun­jabi Mar­ket (“Lit­tle In­dia”). A neigh­bour­hood filled with a riot of vi­brant colours, the ex­otic scent of tra­di­tional cur­ries and the pump­ing beats of the lat­est Bol­ly­wood hits trans­port you to the streets of Am­rit­sar, In­dia. Lo­cated along Main and Fraser streets, the core be­tween East 48th and East 54th av­enues, this is as close as one can get to the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent in North America, the re­sult of many gen­er­a­tions of proud Indo-Cana­di­ans cel­e­brat­ing their cul­ture. Savoury samosas, sweet barfi, gu­lab ja­mun and smooth las­sis – the food here is divine, as is the shop­ping! Gor­geous silks, in­tri­cate saris and sparkly ban­gles make this a shop­per’s heaven.

If you are in search of a bowl of phở ( Vietnamese noo­dle soup) or want to lis­ten to some South­east Asian pop mu­sic, then head to the area af­fec­tion­ately known as “Lit­tle Saigon,” or the “Phở Trail.” The re­sult of a mas­sive wave of im­mi­gra­tion in the 1980s and 1990s, the area around Kingsway be­tween Fraser and Knight streets is packed with video shops, karaoke bars, au­then­tic bánh mì (baguette sand­wiches on crispy bread made of wheat and rice flour) and phở noo­dle soup cafes. Known for some of the best Vietnamese food in Greater Van­cou­ver, it is one of the city’s best kept se­crets.

Greektown, the area around 4th Av­enue, West Broad­way and Bal­a­clava Street in the heart of Kit­si­lano, his­tor­i­cally has been home to a large Greek com­mu­nity and has a high num­ber of del­i­catessens, tav­er­nas and Greek su­per­mar­kets that sell mouth­wa­ter­ing spanako­pita, sou­vlaki, gy­ros and baklava. Visit the unas­sum­ing, fam­ily-run Ser­ano Greek Pas­try for tra­di­tional Greek treats and desserts. A neigh­bour­hood favourite, they are well known for their flavoured, rain­bow-coloured meringues. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit touris­m­van­cou­ or in­sid­e­van­cou­


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