I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Canada. I blame American television for prejudicing me with their jokes on overly-polite behaviour and the choice to call a currency The Looney. But off we went to visit family, taking on the daunting 37 hour travel time to pretty much the furthest point from South Africa that we could think of.
I first begun to eat my proverbial hat when our plane announced it’s decent and I peered out the window to see a landscape of snow covered mountains leading to a steel blue lake surrounded by furry green trees and a bustling cityscape.
Vancouver caught me off guard in the best way. It’s a hop and a skip from Japan, China and Korea and has become home to a thriving Asian population. That means a wealth of ramen bars and Izakayas, blended into Canadian craft beer joints and boutique wineries. And the street style is brilliantly witty and fun.
The city is filled with a young, inspired energy – it made me think of Cape Town in so many ways. The skyline is a mix of sleek modern skyscrapers and historic buildings that reflect in the giant glass facades. Street art blossoms around every corner, and at nearly every turn you’ll discover a new creative shop or restaurant.
We spent four days in Vancouver and I feel we just scratched the surface on what the city has to offer. I would also love to head back in summer when the festival season is in full swing and the gardens in full bloom.
Either way, I would definitely recommend you put this city on your bucket list, especially if you’re a fan of Asian food.
Here are a few spots I can recommend:
Shop at Granville Island
This is a must for anyone interested in all things food. The market is a maze of stalls selling fresh produce, deli goods, confectionary, charcuterie and everything inbetween. I was in heaven.
Stroll through Stanley Park
Take an afternoon to get lost in Stanley Park and then stroll back along the Seawall. Between the towering trees and lush forest floor I felt like I’d been transported into a fairytale.
Head up the Vancouver Lookout
This can be a quick stop on your way to Downtown Vancouver – the heart of the tourist sights and some of the best restaurants. The Lookout gives you a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city, a great way to capture the full picture.
Try to stay as close to Downtown as possible when booking accommodation. It has a bunch of really cool shops, eateries, bars and tourist sights to explore.
Experience Science World
This is particularly great if you have kids. Science World is packed with fun things for kids aged around 3 years and up, with interactive games that will spark their love for science.
Eat Ramen at Jinya
We stumbled on this brand new restaurant in Downtown and it was fantastic. We later learned that most locals also thought so, with queues of people waiting to get in for dinner each night. Apart from the ramen, you have to try the Gyoza. You get these fried dumplings everywhere in Vancouver and they’re utterly moreish.
Grab a beer at the CRAFT Beer Market
Just around the corner from Science World, this spot serves a huge selection of craft beers and really good pub grub from sticky chicken wings to bang-on burgers.
Pop in at the Vancouver Urban Winery
On the outskirts of Downtown you’ll find the Vancouver Urban Winery, a fantastic spot for great wine, beer and bistro food. You have to navigate through East Hastings for about two blocks so take an uber if you’re not comfortable with this area. It’s definitely worth the trip though.
Indulge at David’s Tea
There’s tea, and then there is David’s Tea. Allow yourself to be lured by the intoxicating aromas of oolong, rooibos, matcha, black, herbal and more. My favourite blend is Mother’s Little Helper, a blend of chamomile, peppermint, lemongrass and valerian that will put you right to sleep at night.
Grab a burger at Five Guys
You might be familiar with this franchise, which we discovered on our last night in Vancouver. Five Guys absolutely nails it when it comes to burgers, offering you perfect patties smothered in toppings, folded between perfectly fluffy buns. Oh, and a world of fries. You have to try it at least once.
Shop at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet
Located right next to the airport, this designer outlet mall gives you access to high end brands like Armani, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Lipault, Ralph Lauren and more. Keep your eyes peeled for their massive discounts to grab luxury goods at a fraction of the price.
Do you have any spots in Vancouver that you can recommend? Pop your suggestions in the comments below, I would love to hear from you.