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.
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.
In addition to these ethnically defined zones, Vancouver has several other noteworthy 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 by 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.
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.
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 Today, however, the hippies have been replaced by yuppies, young urban professionals, but the neighborhood still retains a special sense of cultural diversity.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.
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.
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