Downtown Vancouver in British Columbia - Photos, Videos and Facts
Vancouver is a major tourist attraction for visitors to the province of British Columbia in Canada. The city is known for its attractive downtown area and its location next to the ocean, beaches and mountains. It's also popular for its beautiful parks and gardens, including the 400 hectare (988 acre) Stanley Park.
Vanouver is situated in the southwestern corner of mainland British Columbia, quite close to the border between Canada and the United States. It's surrounded on two sides by ocean. Burrard Inlet is located on its north side and the Strait of Georgia on its west side.
Bridges connect Vancouver to the cities on the other side of the inlet and to the North Shore Mountains. The mountains offer ski areas, hiking trails and wonderful views.
I live near Vancouver and often visit the city. I like to explore the area by walking, which I think is one of the best ways to get to know a place. This article contains photos taken during some of my walks in downtown Vancouver, as well as information about notable Vancouver landmarks and neighbourhoods.
A Map of Downtown Vancouver
Views of Vancouver From a Revolving Restaurant
West Georgia and Robson Streets
Georgia Street is a main road running through the centre of downtown Vancouver from east to west. It's a good place to start a tour of downtown Vancouver. Landmarks such as the Vancouver Public Library, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Hotel Vancouver and Christ Church Cathedral are all located on Georgia Street. The section of Georgia Street in the downtown core is known as West Georgia.
Robson Street runs parallel to West Georgia on its south side. Robson is a very popular, tree-lined road containing many interesting shops for tourists and residents alike. In summer, the section of Robson behind the art gallery is closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian area. There is seating available for people to eat their lunch or a snack and there are food carts present to provide tempting meals. Many of these carts sell ethnic foods, reflecting Vancouver's multicultural population.
The Vancouver Art Gallery
The building occupied by the art gallery used to be the location of the Vancouver Law Courts. The building has a rather dignified appearance to reflect its former use, complete with two stone lions guarding the steps up to the front entrance. This entrance is no longer used by the public, however. The current entrance is on the side of the building on Hornby Street and is shown in the photo above.
People like to sit on the steps found at both the front and the back of the art gallery as they eat their lunch, chat with friends or watch the world around them. The back steps are often used by speakers trying to rally support for a cause.
The art gallery displays historical and modern works which are both international and Canadian in origin. It offers a permanent collection of more than 10,000 pieces of art as well as special exhibitions.
Photos Taken in Front of the Art Gallery on West Georgia StreetClick thumbnail to view full-size
Photos Taken Behind the Art Gallery on Robson StreetClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Hotel Vancouver
The downtown core of Vancouver contains several luxury hotels, all of them located near the art gallery.
The Hotel Vancouver is famous for its height and its green roof, which contains oxidized copper. It's one of the famous "railway hotels", majestic buildings created by the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways in a bygone era.
The hotel is 17 stories high and 364 feet tell. It took eleven years to build. During five of these years the construction was at a standstill because of the Great Depression. The hotel was finally opened in 1939.
The exterior of the hotel is decorated with stone sculptures of mythical figures, including gargoyles, a griffin and Hermes, an Ancient Greek god who was considered to be the patron of travellers.
In the 1990s the hotel underwent a 70 million dollar renovation. Today it contains all the amenities expected in a luxury hotel, including a heath centre, spa, restaurants, lounges, meeting rooms, a ballroom and a business centre. Technically, the hotel is called the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, since it's been bought by the Fairmont hotel chain.
The Sound of the Cathedral Bells
Holy Rosary Cathedral
Holy Rosary Cathedral belongs to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver and is built in the French Gothic style. It faces Dunsmuir Street in downtown Vancouver.
The cathedral was opened on December 8th, 1900 - the day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. At first it had the status of a church, but it became a cathedral in 1916.
The cathedral has eight change-ringing bells. Each is tuned to a particular note, enabling the set of bells to play a complete octave. A set of change-ringing bells produces patterns of sounds called "changes" instead of conventional melodies. Each bell is controlled by one person by means of a rope and rotates 360° as it's rung.
The Change Ringers of Holy Rosary Cathedral
An Exterior and Interior View of Holy Rosary CathedralClick thumbnail to view full-size
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral belongs to the Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada. Externally, it isn't as architecturally imposing as Holy Rosary Cathedral, but it's just as important in the life of its parishioners and the community. The cathedral welcomes everyone, including LGBT people.
The cathedral was built on land acquired from the Canadian Pacific Railway. The present version of the cathedral was dedicated in 1895 and is built in the Gothic Style. There were once plans to add a bell tower, but new by-laws in 1943 restricted the use of church bells in the downtown area.
The interior of the cathedral is lovely, with 34 stained glass windows, a beautiful organ and lanterns. Some of the chairs are periodically removed to lay down a labyrinth. Walking a labyrinth can be a wonderful technique for meditation.
Photos of Vancouver CathedralsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Sound of the Heritage Horns
Canada Place in Vancouver
Canada Place is a large and attractive pier extending into Burrard Inlet. It has a promenade for walkers and berths for cruise ships going to Alaska. Canada Place can be identified from a distance by its five large, white sails which are illuminated at night.
Walking along the attractive promenade provides many interesting photo opportunitIes. Float planes can be seen taking off and landing, boats pass by and Stanley Park is visible. If cruise ships are docked, there are even more photo opportunities available.
The Pan Pacific Hotel is located very near to Canada Place. On the roof of this hotel are ten horns known as the Heritage Horns. They play the first four notes of the national anthem ("O Canada") every day at noon.
Photos of Canada Place and a Cruise ShipClick thumbnail to view full-size
Stanley Park isn't part of the downtown core of Vancouver, but it is located right next to it. The park is one of the city's gems.
A person with normal mobility can walk to Stanley Park from the downtown area. Any road heading west will reach the park. A more picturesque but slightly longer route is the walking and cycling path that starts at Canada Place. This path gives the traveller attractive views of Burrard Inlet. Buses also travel to the park.
Stanley Park contains a forest and a seawall path that gives lovely views of the ocean. There are also many other attractions in the park, including beaches, the Vancouver Aquarium, flower gardens, restaurants, totem poles, statues and monuments, recreational areas, trails and horse-drawn carriage rides. Another attraction is the Nine O'Clock Gun, a cannon that fires at 9 pm every day.
Stanley Park PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Map of Stanley Park and Vancouver
Gastown is a popular area with tourists. It's located on the east side of Canada Place. Gastown has a different atmosphere from the rest of downtown Vancouver, with cobbled streets, courtyards, trees, historic buildings, coffee houses, restaurants, interesting bars and many little shops. It's known for its large, steam-powered clock, an annual cycling race called the Gastown Grand Prix and a statue of Gassy Jack, after whom the area is named.
Gastown was originally the core of downtown Vancouver. John (or Jack) Deighton sailed to Gastown from New Westminster, which was then the capital of BC. He carried a barrel of whisky in his boat. Within twenty four hours of his arrival Deighton had created a bar called the Globe Saloon to sell liquor to loggers. He reportedly got mill workers to help him build the bar by telling them that he would give them all the whisky that they could drink.
The settlement that developed around the bar eventually became Vancouver. Deighton was sometimes known as "Gassy Jack" due to his fondness for talking. Deighton's statue in Gastown shows him standing on a whisky barrel. It's located near the site where his Globe Saloon once existed.
Other Vancouver LandmarksClick thumbnail to view full-size
Is a Social Mix the Best Way to Help People in the Downtown Eastside?
This is an interesting article that describes the disagreements that are arising about the best ways to help people in the downtown eastside region of Vancouver.
The Downtown Eastside Area in Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver is vibrant, attractive and well worth visiting. However, like many large cities, Vancouver has some problems.
The downtown core and west side of downtown are lovely areas. If a person travels towards the east side of downtown beyond Gastown, though, they may notice that some of the passers-by look like they are leading difficult lives. They may also notice that some of the buildings are old and look as though they aren't maintained very well.
If the traveller ventures further to the east and reaches what is known as the downtown eastside part of Vancouver, they may see people suffering from poverty, homelessness and addiction.
The boundaries of the downtown eastside are ill defined. In the broadest definition the region contains areas where people are living good lives. For example, Gastown borders the area traditionally known as the downtown eastside and is sometimes included in the area. However, there are specific areas in the east side of downtown Vanouver where people have serious problems.
Social agencies, church groups, individuals and some levels of government are working to help people in the downtown eastside area of Vancouver. Their efforts have improved the lives of some people but haven't yet solved the overall problem. It's a strange situation to have luxury hotels in the downtown core of a city while there are poor and homeless people nearby. A visitor to Vancouver need never see the downtown eastside region if they don't want to, however. They can enjoy exploring Gastown and then head back to their starting point by travelling in a westerly direction.
Getting to the downtown area of Vancouver from neighbouring areas isn't difficult. The Greater Vancouver area has a good transit system made of buses and SkyTrain, an LRT (Light Rapid Transit) system. One SkyTrain line travels from the Vancouver International Airport to downtown Vancouver.
The transit system is operated by Translink, which has a trip planner on their website. The planner tells a person how to get from point A to point B by public transit once they have entered their starting location and their destination.
Although someone needs to access the Internet to use the Translink trip planner, this is no problem in downtown Vancouver. Hotels and the numerous downtown coffee shops provide wireless Internet access. Visitors must make a purchase in order to use the Internet in a coffee shop. The Vancouver Public Library provides free Internet access as well as computers, however. The library is located at 350 West Georgia Street. Visitors can get a free Internet access card as long as they have personal ID. The card is good for one year.
There are a lot of lovely things to see in and around the city of Vancouver and a lot of interesting things to do. The city can be a wonderful travel destination in its own right or an enjoyable stopping place in an exploration of British Columbia or the Pacific Northwest Region of North America.
© 2013 Linda Crampton