Downtown Landmarks in Vancouver (Self Guided), Vancouver

Numerous amazing landmarks located all over the city make Vancouver a hot traveler's destination. Each unique landmark has a lot to offer visitors, be it cultural history or simple amusement. Take this walking tour to enjoy some of the best downtown landmarks.
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Downtown Landmarks in Vancouver Map

Guide Name: Downtown Landmarks in Vancouver
Guide Location: Canada » Vancouver (See other walking tours in Vancouver)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Marine Building
  • Vancouver Lookout
  • Gastown Steam Clock
  • Gaoler's Mews
  • Sam Kee Building
  • Chinatown
  • Victory Square Cenotaph
  • Vancouver Public Library
Marine Building

1) Marine Building (must see)

Vancouver's Marine Building might sound mundane at first blush, but in reality, it's anything but. This skyscraper, which houses offices like the management headquarters for One World, a restaurant, and formerly an observation deck, is twenty-two floors high and designed to evoke a craggy rock rising from the sea.

Aside from the building's unique shape, it's also noteworthy for the abundance of Art Deco details. The interior is inlaid with twelve different native Canadian hardwoods, and the walls and brass doors are covered with images of sea creatures, like snails, rays, crabs, sea turtles, sea horses, and more, while the floors present zodiac signs. Outside, the exterior of the building is adorned with depictions of ocean flora and fauna, tinted verdigris and gold. The building was designed by architects McCarter and Nairne and ended up costing nearly twice its original budget. When the Great Depression hit, it was sold for a fraction of its value.

This unique building has been used extensively in TV and film. It was the setting for part of the movies Timecop, Blade: Trinity, Fantastic Four, and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, as well as standing in for the Daily Planet's building in Smallville.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most beautiful and interesting buildings in Vancouver; it's amazing to think it first opened in 1930!
Truly needs to be explored and every small detail appreciated. The architecture, specifically the ceiling, is incredibly detailed – a work of art.

Take the stairs up to catch a closer look of the ceiling and for a great photo or two.
There's also a framed photo of what Burrard Street looked like back in the '30s.
Come with a guided walking tour to have all the history part explained.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Vancouver Lookout

2) Vancouver Lookout (must see)

The Lookout is the place from which any sightseeing tour of Vancouver should begin, as it offers visitors a full, beautiful panoramic view of the city, from fifty stories up. A glass elevator lifts visitors 167 meters up into the viewing area in only 40 seconds, where the Lookout's multilingual staff conduct city tours around the 360-degree, enclosed sightseeing space.

The Vancouver Lookout is located on top of the Harbour Centre Tower, Vancouver's tallest building that also houses the Vancouver Revolving Restaurant, several shops, and a food fair. If you're on a sightseeing day trip to Vancouver, then the Vancouver Lookout should definitely have a “must see” spot on your list!

The views offered by Vancouver Lookout cover all of cosmopolitan Vancouver to its historic Gastown area, and the North Shore and Burnaby mountains, Bowen Island, Burrard Inlet, and more. Displays on the Lookout deck give visitors the chance to go on self-guided visual tours of the city, learn about Vancouver's history, and test themselves on their ability to identify Vancouver's many sights and attractions.

Why You Should Visit:
Great way to see the Vancouver area and it is worth listening in on the free tour they provide.
Tickets are valid all day, so you can go in the morning and come back at sunset to see the city lights.

You can spend as little or as long as you like, but make sure you walk the whole lookout floor.
Make sure there isn't fog when you visit, or else you won't see a thing!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-10pm (May to mid-October); 9am-9pm (Nov-Apr)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Gastown Steam Clock

3) Gastown Steam Clock (must see)

Of all of Gastown's attractions, none are as well known as the Steam Clock. Though the clock certainly isn't the oldest attraction in Gastown, and steam clocks can be found in other towns, Gastown's steam clock is one of the few remaining steam clocks that is still steam-powered.

The steam clock was originally built over a steam grate, partly to hide the unsightly grate, partly to harness the power of the otherwise wasted steam, and partly to prevent transients from using it for warmth in cold weather. The steam itself is generated by Vancouver's distributed steam heating system.

The original mechanism that powered the clock failed after a period of time, and electricity was required to keep the landmark operational. Fortunately, with donations from Gastown businesses, the steam mechanism was repaired and replaced and continues to work to this day. As steam rises from the grate, it powers a small steam engine. This powers a chain lift, which moves steel balls upward until they roll onto a descending chain lift. The weight of the balls is what actually powers the clock's pendulum, allowing it to keep time without winding. Since the clock uses whistles to mark the time, the steam also powers the clock's chiming mechanism.

Why You Should Visit:
When it strikes (on the quarter but especially the full-hour, and more so at mid-day) it really does put on something of a show.
Lots of neat shops in the area to browse through while waiting, or you could sit across the street and enjoy it with a meal.

Set your camera to video to catch the impressive display.
Difficult to photograph, but patience will be rewarded.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Gaoler's Mews

4) Gaoler's Mews

Gastown's Gaoler's Mews is where Vancouver's first jail used to be. Over the years, this spot has seen the great Vancouver fire of 1886, a pub, and over forty public executions by hanging. Though it has the same old time appeal as the rest of Gastown, Gaoler's Mews is probably more famous for its unseen inhabitants.

Stories abound of the hauntings that supposedly take place in Gaoler's Mews. One of the contractors working on the Irish Heather pub discovered that his tools would regularly be moved, and one of the owners heard a woman calling her name when nobody else was there. Visitors have also seen a mysterious woman dressed in black, moving along the area near where Vancouver's scaffold used to be. Another spirit, a man in black, was seen multiple times by the Irish Heathers' staff, as well as the staff of the coffee house next door. When the building was renovated, the figure could be seen moving through a wall where a door used to be.

Though neither the Irish Heather nor Blake's Coffee Parlour are still in Gaoler's Mews, this building is still a popular destination for tourists. People from all over come with infra-red cameras, Geiger counters, and other paraphernalia to hopefully record some evidence of the area's famous hauntings
Sam Kee Building

5) Sam Kee Building

The Sam Kee Building has the rather odd distinction of being the shallowest commercial building in the world.

The building was originally built by one of Chinatown's wealthiest firms, the Sam Kee Company, in 1903. The basement level of the building was designed to hold public baths, while the ground floor held commercial buildings, and the top level was residential.

This arrangement worked for the next nine years, until the city of Vancouver widened the street the Sam Kee Building was situated on. This had the effect of seriously limiting the size of the commercial area of the Sam Kee Building. In response, the building was designed to have a ground floor that's only around four feet, eleven inches wide, with a second floor that's six feet wide. Despite its narrow size, the Sam Kee Building is still used as a commercial space.

According to both the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripleys Believe It or Not, this building is the shallowest commercial space in the world, despite being challenged by the Skinny Building in Pittsburgh. Though the Skinny Building is wider than the Sam Kee Building's ground floor, the Skinny Building is shallower than its top floor, making it the shallowest building from the ground floor, up.
Sight description based on wikipedia

6) Chinatown (must see)

Vancouver's Chinatown is Canada's largest. Centered on Pender Street, it is surrounded by Gastown and the Downtown Financial and Central Business Districts to the west, the Downtown Eastside to the north, the remnant of old Japantown to the northeast, and the residential neighborhood of Strathcona to the east. It attracts many tourists with its expressive culture, food, and traditional architecture. Chinatown is lined with numerous shops that sell herbs, sweets, clothing, and other items. Due to the large ethnic Chinese presence in Vancouver – especially represented by multi-generation Chinese Canadians and first-generation immigrants from Hong Kong – the city has been referred to as "Hongcouver" (a term considered derogatory by some Chinese).

Don't go after 6pm because most of the shops will be closed.
You will be approached by panhandlers at any time of day, but if you just say "no" firmly then they will not trouble you further.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Victory Square Cenotaph

7) Victory Square Cenotaph

Vancouver's Victory Square is a small urban park, located on the site of the old Vancouver courthouse. The park itself is notable for accidentally setting the great Vancouver fire- when the heavily forested land was cleared to make way for the courthouse, a pile of trees and branches built up. This wood pile acted as kindling for the great fire, which levelled much of Vancouver in 1886.

One of Victory Square's features is the Cenotaph. The Victory Square Cenotaph is a war memorial, carved from Nelson Island granite and standing roughly thirty feet in height. It is engraved with an image of a longsword, a wreath of laurels, and a wreath of poppies, both of which are entwined with maple leaves. Biblical inscriptions on the Cenotaph read “Their name liveth forevermore,” “Is it nothing to you,” and “All ye that pass by.”

The location of the Cenotaph is historically significant, since the monument was erected where the base of the steps of the old courthouse used to be. This was where men stood to sign up for World War I, and where the main presentations of royal visits to Vancouver took place. Every year, the Cenotaph is the center of Vancouver's Remembrance Day services.
Vancouver Public Library

8) Vancouver Public Library (must see)

The Vancouver Public Library is more than your average public library. When the city of Vancouver was looking to build a public library in 1990, they solicited several different designs to be voted on by the public. The winner was a somewhat nontraditional design by Moshe Safdie, which features a rectangular area for the library itself, surrounded by a dramatic, elliptical wall.

The library portion lies within a seven-story rectangle. This contains all of the actual library materials, including books, periodicals, and other references. It's encircled by a colonnaded wall, where study areas and reading rooms are connected by bridges punctuated with light wells. The building sits directly across the street from The Center in Vancouver for the Performing Arts, which Safdie was commissioned to design as a compliment to the library.

This building has been featured in several movies and TV shows over the years. The cloning company in The 6th Day was headquartered in the library's Central Branch. Scenes from The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus were filmed in the entrance hall of the Central Branch, too. Several scenes from the sci-fi shows Battlestar Galactica and Caprica were also filmed in various areas of the library.

Why You Should Visit:
If you're a library fan, an architectural fan, or appreciate sound urban design and community resources, you will love this library.
If you appreciate free activities and services, or simply seek out things to do on rainy days, you will love this library just as well.
In addition to the newly-opened rooftop garden, the two upper floors (8th/9th), which were previously leased out, have been tastefully renovated.

While escalators and elevators help deliver you quickly to your destination, the trip up the levels is worth it to see how the floor plans differ and merge into open spaces.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10am-9pm; Fri-Sat: 10am-6pm; Sun: 11am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Vancouver, Canada

Create Your Own Walk in Vancouver

Create Your Own Walk in Vancouver

Creating your own self-guided walk in Vancouver is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Walking Tour of Yaletown in Vancouver

Walking Tour of Yaletown in Vancouver

For many years Yaletown has been the thriving industrial heart of Vancouver. This area of the city looks unlike any other and is considered to be the home of Vancouver's "elite" society. This walking tour will take you to the most significant Yaletown spots.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Granville Island Walk in Vancouver

Granville Island Walk in Vancouver

Granville Island is a peninsula connected to Vancouver’s downtown area via the Granville Street Bridge. It is famous for being a popular shopping district and features attractions such as galleries, markets and a brewery. Don’t miss the chance to take this walking tour and see the best Granville Island has to offer.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles
Walking Tour of Vancouver's West End

Walking Tour of Vancouver's West End

The West End is a large residential area in Vancouver famous among tourists for Robson Street, the home of numerous trendy shops and hot boutiques. This district also features a number of parks, beaches and other fun attractions. This walking tour will guide you to the most significant attractions in the West End of Vancouver.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
Vancouver Walking Tour: Mount Pleasant

Vancouver Walking Tour: Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant was one of the very first neighborhood zones developed in the city of Vancouver. Here you can find lively coffee shops, bistros, trendy boutiques, galleries, and much more. Take this walking tour to discover all the great attractions of the Mount Pleasant area.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Vancouver Introduction Walk

Vancouver Introduction Walk

The third largest city in Canada, Vancouver is a dynamic and vibrant metropolis in British Columbia known for a variety of world-class attractions. Take this orientation walk and get familiar with the most popular spots of the city.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 Km or 3.5 Miles
Souvenir Shopping Part 2

Souvenir Shopping Part 2

It would be a pity to leave Vancouver without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Vancouver, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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