Vancouver’s position on the Burrard Peninsula — bordered by the Fraser River to the south, Burrard Inlet to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the West — gives the city a uniquely scenic but also well confined geographical setting. And on this urban peninsula, you will find 23 different neighbourhoods of Vancouver, at least according to the official boundaries.
Notable Neighbourhoods of Vancouver
With nearly 2.5 million residents in the Greater Vancouver Area and about 600,000 of them squeezed into the bustling Burrand Peninsula, you’ll find that there are plenty of places to go and things to do in western Canada’s largest metropolis. Like much of Canada, rising levels of immigration have really reshaped the city’s demographics in the last 30 or 40 years. More than half of Vancouver’s population does not speak English as their first language, and about 30 percent of the city have Chinese heritage.
Today, Vancouver flourishes as a shining example of Canada’s informal motto, “Strength through Diversity.” A patchwork of culturally and ethnically distinct communities, here’s a quick guide to some city’s most notable neighbourhoods.
- Downtown, on the upper edge of the peninsula, is where you’ll find some of the most distinguished restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as the central business district.
- Yaletown is one the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. Once an area of industry and warehouses, it has now been revitalized with residential and mixed use developments.
- Among the most touristy parts of Vancouver is Gastown, where you’ll still find many cobblestone streets, and a number of historic relics, including the old Gastown Steam Clock.
- Beachside Kitsilano was once the hot spot for hippies and counterculture, back in the heyday of the 1960s. Today, however, the hippies have been replaced by yuppies, young urban professionals, but the neighborhood still retains a special sense of cultural diversity. You can find some of Vancouver’s best museums here, including the Museum of Vancouver, H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, and the Vancouver Maritime Museum; it’s also home to the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival.
- A former working-class neighbourhood near the center of the peninsula, Mount Pleasant, like most of Vancouver, has been gradually transforming after two decades of gentrification. Today it is home to a growing number of families and young professionals who are attracted by the relatively affordable housing.
- Scenically situated on north Vancouver’s waterfront, with remarkable views of the mountains in one direction and the downtown skyline in the other, Lower Lonsdale is one of the city’s most up-and-coming quarters. Once the heart of Vancouver’s historic shipbuilding industry, today you’ll find trendy restaurants, hip galleries, and charming boardwalks for those relaxing strolls along the water.
- The west Vancouver residential neighbourhood of Shaughnessy is characterized by large homes, tree line boulevards and colossal real estate prices. The older and more prestigious homes can be found in First Shaughnessy, but the most elite neighbourhood in all of Vancouver is probably Shaughnessy Heights.
- One area to avoid would be the Downtown Eastside. This rundown section of Vancouver is now home to some decrepit, low-income housing, as well as a growing homeless population.
International Flavour: Ethnic Neighbourhoods of Vancouver
Like all the major cities in Canada, Vancouver is something of a melting pot, where dozens of ethnicities come together, living side by side. And while these diverse populations mix peacefully and get along happily, the city is made up of many neighbourhoods, which are frequently divided along ethnic lines. In fact, Vancouver is often referred to as a “city of neighborhoods.”
Historically, British, Scottish and Irish have comprised the largest proportion of Vancouver’s inhabitants, and their legacy is particularly evident in the South Granville and Kerrisdale neighbourhoods.
Today, the Chinese represent the single largest ethnic group in the city. Vancouver happens to be the home of Canada’s largest Chinatown, an especially colorful neighbourhood teeming with commercial and cultural activities. Here you can listen in on several dialects of Chinese being spoken, including Mandarin, Cantonese, and a number of other variants.
Other distinctively ethnic neighbourhoods include Greektown, Little Italy, and Japantown. Stratchcona is considered the hub of Vancouver’s Jewish community. The West End is home to Davie Village, which is known to be the city’s most gay friendly neighbourhood.
The distinct style of modern urban planning adopted in the city has earned the catchy name of Vancouverism. This special approach has succeeded in making Vancouver one of the mostly highly ranked cities in the world for livability, characterized by high density occupancy with a strong mix of commercial and residential developments, along with a very good public transit system and lots of parks and green space, including Stanley Park, covering more than 400 hectares. Another interesting element is the use of “view corridors”, which allow for impressive views of the surrounding mountain ranges, even through the city’s dense cluster of high rises.
Housing in Vancouver
With all the charm and character that the city has to offer, you might not be surprised to learned that homes in Vancouver tend to come with a pretty steep price tag. Steep, however, does not begin to describe it. The fact is, real estate prices in Vancouver are downright astronomical, some of the very highest in the world, right up there with Hong Kong.
In recent years the market has been especially volatile. After soaring to record high prices in 206 and 2017, the market began showing signs of softening in 2018. Even so, the average sale price of a detached home in the Greater Vancouver Area (GVA) was about 1.3 million in October 2018. In Metro Vancouver, the volatility has been even more dramatic, for example in West Vancouver, the average price dropped from about $3.5 million in mid 2017 to about $2.5 million in mid 2018. So if you’re thinking of buying, you’ll definitely want to speak to an expert for the most up-to-date market conditions.
On average, condominiums sell for more than $500,000. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that averages do not tell the whole story. The numbers factor in bottom-of-the-line and top-of-the-line houses, and everything in between. There is always a range, so if you are planning on becoming a homeowner, you may see more listings excepted that cost more than this average (or less). Also keep in mind that prices fall when you look for a home outside the Greater Vancouver Area.
Whether you’re planning a move to Vancouver, or simply dropping in for a visit, I hope this overview of the city and its diverse neighbourhoods has helped you gain a better understanding of the lay of the land. As you can see, Vancouver promises a wide variety of local treasures and cultural experiences. So take time to peel back the many layers of this urban onion, and discover this city in all its splendor.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia