Vancouver Downtown Walking Tour, Vancouver

Vancouver Downtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Vancouver

Numerous historic and otherwise notable landmarks scattered around downtown Vancouver make it a hot traveler's destination. Each such landmark is unique in itself and has a great deal of story to tell their visitors, be it cultural history or simple amusement. Take this self-guided walking tour to enjoy some of the top sights of downtown Vancouver!
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Vancouver Downtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Vancouver Downtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Vancouver (See other walking tours in Vancouver)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Vancouver Lookout
  • Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery
  • Gastown Steam Clock
  • Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant
  • Hotel Europe (Flat Iron Building)
  • Maple Tree Square and Deighton's Statue
  • Gaoler's Mews
  • Victory Square Cenotaph
  • Holy Rosary Cathedral
  • Vancouver Public Library
  • BC Place Stadium
  • Yaletown Brewing Company
  • Canadian Pacific 374
  • Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre
  • False Creek
Vancouver Lookout

1) Vancouver Lookout (must see)

The Vancouver Lookout is the place without which no proper sightseeing of Vancouver is possible. If you're on a day trip to the city, this spot is a definite must!

Elevated 167 meters on top of the Harbour Centre Tower – which is Vancouver's tallest building – this observation deck offers visitors a truly magnificent, unobstructed view of the city; a glass elevator can lift you 50 stories up in just 40 seconds.

Here, the Lookout's multilingual staff will take you on a free city tour around the 360-degree, enclosed space. Spread out before you, in plain sight, you will find the cosmopolitan metropolis in its entirety extended toward the historic Gastown area, the North Shore and Burnaby mountains, Bowen Island, Burrard Inlet, and other places. Displays on the deck allow visitors to go on a self-guided visual tour as well, learning about Vancouver's history, and testing their ability to identify Vancouver's multiple landmarks.

Tickets are valid all day, so you can go in the morning and then come back at sunset to see the city lit up at night.

Apart from the viewing area, the building houses the Vancouver Revolving Restaurant, several shops, and a food fair.

You can spend as little or as long as you like, but make sure you walk the whole Lookout floor.
Also, check the weather forecast in advance, so there isn't any fog when you visit; otherwise, 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.
Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery

2) Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery

Coastal Peoples Gallery is a home to one of the largest commercial collections of Northwest Coast Native and Inuit Art. Founded in 1996, this gallery is focused on representing the unparalleled contemporary art of the First Nations, identifying the distinct styles and diverse artists who inhabit the Canadian Northwest coast and Arctic regions. As of 2017, Coastal Peoples has been ideally located in Gastown, by the waterfront, in a restored historic Le Magasin warehouse built in 1912.

Recognized for representing British Columbia’s master carvers, the gallery is reputed for discovering a new generation of gifted artists who push the boundaries of this legendary art form, and bringing together visitors and collectors anxious to experience their superb creations. The gallery's collections include gold and silver jewelry, glass-work, masks and sculptures.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm (May 1st – September 30th); After hours: Open by appointment only. Closed: Christmas Day; Boxing Day; New Year’s Day.
Gastown Steam Clock

3) Gastown Steam Clock

Of all Gastown's attractions, there is probably none as well-known as the Gastown Steam Clock. Although the clock itself is certainly not the oldest site in the neighborhood (and steam clocks, as such, can be found elsewhere), this one is among the few still functional steam-powered clocks left in the world.

The clock was originally built over a steam grate. It was done partly to hide the unsightly grate, partly to harness the steam power (generated by the local heating system) otherwise wasted, and partly to prevent transients from using it to keep themselves warm in cold weather.

As the steam rises from the grate, it powers a small engine that brings a chain lift into motion, which, in turn, 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.

After a period of time, the original clock mechanism failed and electricity was needed to keep it operational. At some point, with the help of donations from local businesses, the steam mechanism was repaired and today continues to work.

When the clock strikes – on the quarter, the full hour, and especially mid-day – it puts on a bit of a show, so you may want to set your camera to video to capture the moment. Summon your patience, it will be rewarded!
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant

4) Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant

The Old Spaghetti Factory is an Italian-style chain restaurant with many locations across the United States and Canada. The very first Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant opened its doors in Gastown, Vancouver in 1970, located in what used to be the headquarters of W.H. Malkin Co. Ltd. (grocery wholesalers). Today, this is a memorable place to take one's family for a night out and for many locals it has become a family tradition.

Apart from its cuisine, this particular restaurant is noted for its wonderful decor, featuring antiques and artifacts from yesteryear, such as chandeliers, brass headboards and footboards as bench backs for booths. Its most unique antique is definitely the trolley car parked inside the restaurant and containing dining tables. Built by the British Columbia Electric Railway Company in 1904, this car Number 53 once served as a public transit trolley, running between Main and Cambie, up until 1957 when it was decommissioned. In 1969, the car was loaned to The Old Spaghetti Factory and has remained here ever since. There is also a piece of stained glass, which was originally from the Queens Carriage.

Another key “attraction” of this place are the four ghosts in residence. The first and best known of them is the spirit of a tram conductor who frequents the old trolley car. It is unclear whether the conductor’s ghost came with the trolley itself or not. Some say, he may have died in a collision on an underground rail line below the restaurant, although Vancouver’s trolley cars all ran at street level.

Another ghost is a small, mischievous spirit with a ruddy face and bright red hair, commonly known as the Little Red Man or Looky-loo; his favorite prank is to startle female customers in the ladies’ room. The third ghost is that of a young boy, who is thought to be responsible for bending cutlery on tables in the back of the restaurant. As for the fourth ghost, it's that of a little girl who appears at a table in the front window. She sits and holds a balloon. Nobody knows who she is. A friend of the restaurant’s general manager once had a brief conversation with her during which she explained that she was looking for her mother and then disappeared. Spooky!!!
Hotel Europe (Flat Iron Building)

5) Hotel Europe (Flat Iron Building)

Hotel Europe is a six-story heritage building located at 43 Powell Street (at the convergence of Water, Alexander and Powell Streets) in the Gastown area of Vancouver. Situated on a triangular lot, the building is designed in the flatiron style. It was completed in 1909, becoming the first reinforced concrete structure in Canada and the earliest fireproof hotel in Western Canada.

The old hotel is also known as the Angelo Calori Building, named after the hotelier who had built it, and was purposefully situated close to the old steamship docks at the foot of Columbia Street. From there a bus would bring passengers to the hotel. To this day, the edifice has retained its original Italian tile floors and leaded-glass windows.

The Hotel Europe was one of the filming locations for the suspense movie The Changeling. In it, the building houses the Seattle Historical Society, but the hotel sign can be seen on the right side of the facade in some takes. Some scenes were set on its roof terrace. Hotel Europe was also a filming location in the 1994 epic drama film Legends of the Fall.

They say, the hotel houses one ghost for certain and possibly even two. The initial paranormal encounter here was reported in the 1980s and appeared in the form of scratching noises coming from behind the brick wall coupled with the feel of a bad presence in the otherwise empty building. That ghost had scattered around the floor the orderly placed tools left by one of the contractors.

The second spirit, which might as well be same as the first, is the apparition of a man dressed in a black coat with a flat cap. He appears in the poster shop on the street level, and was first spotted in the early 2000s. The apparition has been seen on several occasions since.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Maple Tree Square and Deighton's Statue

6) Maple Tree Square and Deighton's Statue

The intersection of Water, Powell, Alexander, and Carrall streets in Vancouver is home to one of the most photographed and historic spots in the city. Maple Tree Square dates back to the times when Vancouver was just a townsite called Granville. It gained popularity thanks to the first bar in the area, opened on the south side of Burrard Inlet in 1867 by John Deighton at the behest of his old buddy, Captain Edward Stamp, the owner of the Hastings Mill.

Legend has it that Deighton, native of England's Hull, dubbed "Gassy Jack" for his talkative nature and penchant for storytelling, paddled over from New Westminster and promised mill workers that they could have all the whiskey they could drink if they helped him build a saloon. Within 24 hours, the “watering hole” was up and running. The proud owner later named it the Globe Saloon.

Frequented by sailors and workers from the nearby sawmill, it soon proved to be the local epicenter of trade and commerce, let alone booze entertainment. Over the next four decades, some 300 bars had sprouted up within a twelve-block radius.

The legendary bar was demolished when the townsite of Granville was established, but the name stuck and the surrounding area is now known as Gastown. As for Gassy Jack himself, the statue erected in his honour adorns Maple Tree Square to this day, marking the exact spot of his famous joint.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Gaoler's Mews

7) 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 40 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.
Victory Square Cenotaph

8) 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 the square's key features is the Cenotaph. The Victory Square Cenotaph is a war memorial, carved from Nelson Island granite and standing roughly 30 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.
Holy Rosary Cathedral

9) Holy Rosary Cathedral

The Holy Rosary Cathedral is a French Gothic style Catholic temple that has graced Vancouver since the turn of the 20th century. Designed by T.E. Julien, it is considered one of Vancouver's Heritage Sites. The sandstone and granite building has the shape of a cross and features some very beautiful stained glass work and hang-rung cathedral bells.

The stained glass windows are adorned with scenes from the lives of saints and Jesus, including: the Holy Family Window, displaying Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Mary's parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne; the Baptism of the Lord Window, a 1940s design by Guido Nincheri; and the Jesus with Children window, also by Guido Nincheri.

The bells of Holy Rosary Cathedral are all rung live by bell ringers, and not played from a recording. The original bells were cast in France and shipped to Vancouver, but they weren't in tune. So, it was decided to ship the seven bells, named for the Seven Sacraments, to England to be recast and properly tuned. The result was a ring of eight bells, representing a full musical octave. The bells were finally hung for change ringing in 1906, and have remained so ever since.

Why You Should Visit:
Inspiring, located in the heart of the city, and very welcoming to travelers who want to unwind.
Not on the scale of some of the European cathedrals, but stained glass, statuary, pipe organ and full set of bells – it has it all.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Vancouver Public Library

10) Vancouver Public Library

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

The library portion lies within a seven-story rectangle which contains all of the actual library materials, including books, periodicals, and other references. Encircling it is 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 literature or architecture fan, and have a taste for sound urban design, you will love this place.
If you appreciate free activities and services, or simply seek out things to do on a rainy day, 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.
BC Place Stadium

11) BC Place Stadium

The BC Place Stadium is a sporting arena that has held several world records in its lifetime. In 1983, it opened as the world's largest air supported stadium. After closing for renovation in 2010, it then re-opened as the world's largest cable supported retractable roof stadium.

The BC Place Stadium currently serves as the home for the BC Lions Canadian football team and Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer team, and houses the BC Sports Hall of Fame. In the past, it served as the Olympic stadium for the 2010 Winter Olympics, was an eight time host for the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup, and was the venue at which Pope John Paul II gave an address as part of the papal visit to the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Michael Jackson performed several concerts with his brothers in BC Place Stadium during 1984, to a packed house every night. Later, in 2008, Madonna gave her first Vancouver performance at the venue as part of her Sticky & Sweet Tour. The arena hosts over 200 events each year, including trade shows, expos, concerts, community events, and motor sports. Fans of just about any kind of sport wouldn't want to miss a chance to visit the BC Place Arena, much as to take a tour of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Yaletown Brewing Company

12) Yaletown Brewing Company

Founded in 1994, the Yaletown Brewing Company was the first brewpub to open in Vancouver, and is the largest and most famous such pub in the city. Vancouver's original and best brewpub, it came into being just as the former warehouse district of Yaletown was beginning to emerge as a destination for businesses and residents.

Set in the extensively and beautifully renovated original red-brick warehouse, this pioneer of the city’s craft beer scene helped a great deal in the revitalization of Yaletown. In essence, the YBC is the materialized vision of a true neighborhood pub - a welcoming gathering place, whether you arrived dressed in a suit or flip-flops.

Alongside a lively pub section with TVs, pool tables and a fireplace, where you can enjoy some great local beer, it has a 160-seat restaurant section, where you can sample some high quality food together with the same tasty beer. All of this makes the YBC a one-stop destination for everything, from large corporate events to quick after-work beers with the regulars. Sitting outside on its huge patios (converted original loading docks) are ideal to eat, drink and take in the neighborhood's atmosphere throughout the warmer season.
Canadian Pacific 374

13) Canadian Pacific 374

Engine No. 374 is the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) locomotive that pulled the first transcontinental passenger train to Vancouver, arriving on May 23, 1887. This was a year after sister Engine No. 371 brought the first train to cross Canada into Port Moody, roughly 20 miles (32 km) to the east.

No. 374 was built in 1886 and was one of eight similar steam locomotives manufactured that year in the CPR Montreal shops. While No. 371 was scrapped in 1915, No. 374 was completely rebuilt in 1914 and remained in service until 1945. Because of its historical significance, it was donated to the City of Vancouver upon its retirement, which placed it on display in Kitsilano Beach Park.

Sadly, the machine suffered greatly from exposure to the elements and a lack of upkeep there. It remained in the park until 1983, when a group of railway enthusiasts launched an effort to restore the engine in time for Expo 86. They moved it from the beach and placed it in different warehouses around Vancouver for the next few years, while a crew of volunteers undertook the task of restoring the engine. Completed in time for Expo, No. 374 was put on display on the turntable at the renovated former CPR Drake Street Roundhouse, where it became a prime attraction.

Now a central feature of the Yaletown area redevelopment, the Engine 374 Pavilion is open daily for public viewing from 10 am to 4 pm.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre

14) Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre

Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre is a fusion of history and arts, crafts, and leisure spaces located in a historic railway building in the heart of downtown Vancouver, on Pacific Blvd between Davie and Drake. Built in 1888, this complex represents one of the oldest structures in the city which still stands in its original location.

Once the end-line facility for the national railway, today this exciting and unique centre serves the local community. Among its amenities there are after-school child care; dance, pottery, and woodworking studios; a gymnasium; multi-purpose rooms; exhibition hall; and a 200-seat black box theatre. Additionally, the center houses Engine 374, the restored historic steam locomotive, which pulled the first trans-continental passenger train across Canada into Vancouver in 1887.

The center is open 7 days a week, and is always hopping!
False Creek

15) False Creek (must see)

False Creek is a short inlet in the heart of Vancouver that separates downtown from the rest of the city. It was named so by George Henry Richards during his hydro-graphic survey of the coast in 1856-63. While traveling along the south side of the Burrard Inlet, Richards thought he was traversing a creek; upon discovering his error, he gave the waterway its current name.

Science World is located at its eastern end, with the Granville, Cambie, and the Burrard (which is furthest west) Street bridges crossing False Creek. The Canada Line rapid transit tunnel crosses underneath False Creek just west of the Cambie Bridge. The creek is one of the four major bodies of water bordering Vancouver along with English Bay, Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River. In 1986 it was the location of the Expo 86 World's Fair.

False Creek is a very popular boating area for many different activities, including dragon boating, canoeing, kayaking, public ferries, charter ships, and visiting pleasure boats. It has 10 marinas with berths for 1500 watercraft and several paddling clubs or boat rental facilities. Since 1986, the creek has been the venue for the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival and other paddling events.
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.
Downtown Churches

Downtown Churches

Vancouver's churches, cathedrals and chapels are as numerous as they are diverse, reflecting the nation's religious history and the cultural heritage of the city. This self-guided walking tour will take you to some of the most sacred places of worship in downtown Vancouver.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Vancouver Chinatown Walking Tour

Vancouver Chinatown Walking Tour

Vancouver's Chinatown is North America's second largest Chinese-centered area, and it has long attracted hordes of tourists with its expressive culture, inexpensive but delicious food, and fabulous traditional architecture. Take this self-guided walking tour to explore some of the most magnificent attractions of Vancouver's Chinatown.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Granville Island Walking Tour

Granville Island Walking Tour

Successfully transformed from an industrial wasteland to one of the most beloved public spaces in Vancouver back in the 1970s, Granville Island is now viewed as a premier artistic and cultural hub, famous for its balance of functionality and flare, much as for being a popular shopping destination with plethora of attractions, such as galleries, markets and a brewery. Don’t miss the chance to...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Gastown Walking Tour

Gastown Walking Tour

To get the feel of authentic Vancouver, head for the Gastown district. This is where the city was born: an ex-sailor turned gold prospector built an inn here in the late 19th century and a small settlement, mostly of mill workers, dockhands and merchants, sprang up around it. Many of the streets in Gastown are still cobblestoned and you will find lovely examples of Victorian buildings that have...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Vancouver Yaletown Walking Tour

Vancouver Yaletown Walking Tour

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

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Vancouver Introduction Walking Tour

Vancouver Introduction Walking Tour

A bustling seaport on the west coast of Canada, Vancouver is among the country's densest and most ethnically diverse cities. It is also one of British Columbia's youngest cities. Prior to the Europeans, the Vancouver area had been inhabited – for almost 10,000 years – by Aboriginal tribes: Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh (Burrard). The explorer Simon Fraser and his crew were...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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