One of Canada's most cosmopolitan cities, eating out in Vancouver is something of an event and is a popular pastime for many local foodies. With eateries providing just about every kind of cuisine, you can be sure to find something to suit your taste while dining out in Vancouver. Many restaurants offer tapas-style tasting plates to share, so you can be adventurous.
With a strong emphasis on British, French, and Chinese cuisine, the food in Vancouver is generally quite international, with a few specialities waiting to be discovered. Fish like salmon, halibut, and Atlantic cod are popular, as well as wild game such as venison, which can be found on most menus.
Salt-cured fish, beef, and pork are also something to be experienced. Those with a sweet tooth should try the decadent Nanaimo bar, a local dessert which comprises a wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of custard or vanilla butter icing, covered in chocolate.
Most of Vancouver's best restaurants are situated around downtown, West End, Yaletown, and Gastown areas. Most restaurants require reservations and it is customary to tip waiters around 15 percent as no service charge is added to restaurant bills.
Shopping in Vancouver ensures a diverse range of products and quality, with everything from haute couture to laid-back flannels, as well as jewellery and home accessories available in malls and shopping areas throughout the city.
Commercial Drive is known as 'Little Italy' and has very trendy, quirky boutiques, while Davie Village in the West End is home to great bookshops. Chinatown, encompassing Main Street and Keefer, trades in ginseng, green tea, silks, weekend summer markets, and exotic fresh produce.
Another Main Street also offers a wide selection of antique and home accessory shops. Granville Island Market sells fresh produce, meats, fish, and baked goods, and there are a diverse range of shops, stalls, and galleries in the area.
Downtown Vancouver and Gastown have shops offering high fashion, jewellery, shoes, and homewares, while the Sinclair Centre has upmarket fashion and art shops. Royal Centre is made up of a variety of underground stores and the Pacific Centre is home to the famous Holt Renfrew shop. Nearby Water Street is home to art galleries, antique shops, and native art stores, as well as souvenirs in the many speciality shops.
Note that a Goods and Services Tax is levied on most things, but Canada no longer offers a refund scheme.
With the stunning mountain backdrop and pristine wilderness on the city's doorstep, visitors may think the locals are too preoccupied with outdoor entertainment to cultivate much of an after dark entertainment scene.
But the nightlife in Vancouver is actually second to none. With plenty of pubs, clubs, lounges, and everything else in between, there is no shortage of entertainment when the sun sets on this vibrant city. Until fairly recently, city regulations forced bars and pubs to masquerade as restaurants, so you'll find many watering holes with token menus.
Vancouver's British heritage plays a part in it being a pub paradise, the heart of which is downtown with its countless pubs and bars tucked away and nestled in between shops, businesses, and bistros. The Irish Heather, the Diamond, and Chambar are names to remember in Gastown's cobblestone streets, which are reminiscent of Amsterdam and bring tourists flocking here to imbibe and socialise.
Most of Vancouver's clubs and discos can be found downtown around Granville Street and Water and Pender streets in Gastown. The Roxy in Granville is a must and is one of Vancouver's top nightlife spots. Another busy entertainment district is Kitsilano, while a third is the up-and-coming nightlife district of Yaletown, which is a more upscale bar and lounge zone.
Vancouver also hosts several large festivals, including the Vancouver Fringe Festival, centred on Granville Island every September; the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Vancouver Jazz Festival, and the Vancouver Folk Festival.