Vancouver Introduction Walking Tour, Vancouver

Vancouver Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Vancouver

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 the first known white men to set foot on the site of today's Vancouver, in 1808. Yet the first European settlement in the area – McCleery's Farm on the Fraser River – appeared only in 1862.

The future city stemmed from the spot called Gastown, which grew around a makeshift tavern on the western edges of Hastings Mill, built in 1867 by one “Gassy Jack”. This site is now marked by the Gastown steam clock. By 1870, the settlement had evolved into a townsite and was named "Granville" in honour of the then-British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Granville. Upon its incorporation as a city, in 1886, the place was renamed "Vancouver" after George Vancouver, who explored the inner harbour of Burrard Inlet in 1792.

The Canadian Pacific Railway transcontinental railroad, extended to Vancouver in 1887, proved to be a vital trade link between Asia, Eastern Canada, and Europe, and effectively transformed the city into a major port on the Pacific, becoming the largest in Canada and most diversified in North America.

Today, Vancouver is also a popular film destination, nicknamed "Hollywood North", with thriving art-, theatre-, and music scenes. The Vancouver Art Gallery is known worldwide for its works by regional artists. Surrounded by mountains, the city is also famous for tourism, its second-largest industry. Vancouver is consistently named among the top five cities in the world for quality of life, which in turn gave rise to the term “Vancouverism” denoting a specific urban planning philosophy.

To explore Vancouver's historical, cultural, and other delights in more detail, take this self-guided introductory walk!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Vancouver Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Vancouver Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Canada » Vancouver (See other walking tours in Vancouver)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Robson Square
  • Vancouver Art Gallery
  • Robson Street
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Canada Place
  • Vancouver Lookout
  • Gastown Steam Clock
  • Maple Tree Square and Deighton's Statue
  • Millennium Gate
  • Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden
  • East Pender Street
Robson Square

1) Robson Square

Robson Square is a landmark civic centre and public plaza in Downtown Vancouver which encompasses three city blocks and covers 1.3 million square feet. Designed by the renowned local architect Arthur Erickson, the development was completed in 1983, consisting primarily of a covered underground area.

The square's main component is the glass-covered Law Courts, housing 35 courtrooms in the southern block. The central block contains provincial government offices and, more recently, portions of the University of British Columbia's downtown satellite campus housed on the lower level.

Typical of Erickson's designs, Robson Square is constructed primarily out of concrete but softened by environmental features. There are lots of steps to sit on, open spaces, and a tiny area with a few trees and other vegetation. The open design allows for relatively unobstructed natural light and fresh air, with three cascading waterfalls – above the central block – diverting the noise of downtown traffic and providing natural air conditioning throughout the complex with over 3,000 m3 of water.

An outdoor skating rink at the lower level extends below Robson Street and connects to the northern block with the Vancouver Art Gallery. This is the only public outdoor skating rink in the city; admission is free. During the warmer months, the rink area is used for various public events, including Ballroom & Salsa dancing, and is the hub for Vancouver's street dance scene.

Especially in the summer, it is pretty common to see at Robson Street an odd entertainer, small groups of people practicing their dance moves, an occasional person protesting something or other, and artists selling their wares or people just wandering around.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Vancouver Art Gallery

2) Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery, adjacent to Robson Square, is the fifth-largest art gallery in Canada and the largest art museum, in terms of size, in Western Canada. Its permanent collection comprises some 12,000 works by Canadian and international artists and includes, among other exhibits, more than 200 major pieces by Emily Carr, the Group of Seven, and illustrations by Marc Chagall. Displayed in an open, airy, and beautiful space, the artworks range in manner from conventional to bizarre to sometimes a little bit terrifying even.

The museum collection serves as a principal repository of art for the Lower Mainland region, and represents the most comprehensive resource for visual culture in British Columbia, growing annually by several hundred works. Complementing visual arts on the premises are a number of chill-out areas, such as the ambient music room.

Designed by Francis Rattenbury, the museum building was originally opened as a provincial courthouse and was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980. As for the Gallery, it first opened to the public in 1931 and was initially housed in a different location. A decision to move it to the present – re-purposed provincial courthouse – was made in 1983.

In addition to its own permanent collection, the museum regularly hosts travelling exhibitions.

When the lineup is long, get on your phone and buy the tickets online; better yet, buy them before you leave the house and show them upon entry to the gatekeeper.
Remember to visit the on-site café – delightful, with fine food, reasonable prices, and beautiful salads. If weather permits, take a table on the balcony or outside the courtyard.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed-Sun: 10 am-5 pm; Thu: 10 am-9 pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Robson Street

3) Robson Street (must see)

Robson Street is a major thoroughfare that extends from Downtown Vancouver through West End. The street starts at BC Place Stadium, near the north shore of False Creek, and runs northwest past Vancouver Library Square, Robson Square, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, coming to an end at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.

The name “Robson” honors John Robson, a major figure in British Columbia's entry into the Canadian Confederation, who served as the province's Premier from 1889 to 1892.

Throughout most of the 20th century, especially after significant immigration from post-WWII Germany, the northwest end of Robson Street was known as the center of German culture and commerce in Vancouver. The core commercial blocks between intersections with Burrard and Jervis streets were nicknamed "Robsonstrasse". Remarkably, even after the German presence had largely vanished, there were Robsonstrasse street signs still found in the area. Today, the nickname lives on in the Robsonstrasse Hotel located on the street.

This part of Downtown is also teeming with eateries (bars, restaurants, and suchlike), which are nowadays mostly Asian, with long queues outside, and a number of supermarkets.

For your first-time visit to Vancouver, consider staying at the hotel on or near Robson Street as the most convenient location.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Christ Church Cathedral

4) Christ Church Cathedral

The Christ Church Cathedral is one of Vancouver's heritage sites. As the city's very first church, it took a rather long time to build: the basement was constructed in 1889, but the cornerstone of the main building was laid only in 1894. The Gothic-style temple represents a solid piece of stonework with several elaborate stained glass windows.

Shocking as it may sound today, in 1976, the plot of land on which the church stands was designated to be bulldozed to make room for a new skyscraper complex. Fortunately, thanks to the active campaigning by locals, the historic building was saved and is now placed on Vancouver's list of heritage sites.

The Cathedral is adorned with very distinctive heraldic symbols. Both, its exterior and interior feature a Celtic cross design to indicate its affiliation with the Anglican church. The heraldry also features a whorl and three salmon in reference to the native Salish people, one of the aboriginal inhabitants of Canada's west coast.

In addition to its historical heritage and architectural beauty, the Christ Church Cathedral is also noted lately for being one of the few temples in Canada to sanctify same-sex unions. As of 2003, it officially blesses same-sex marriages.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Canada Place

5) Canada Place (must see)

The Canada Place building on the Burrard Inlet waterfront is home to the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre, the Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver's World Trade Centre, and formerly the world's first permanent IMAX 3D theater (now closed since 2009). It is also the main cruise ship terminal serving the majority of sea cruises to Alaska. In fact, this place is the epicenter of all cruises to and from Vancouver, and a lovely spot to walk along and enjoy the seafront.

Designed by architect Eberhard Zeidler, the building was completed in 1985 as the Canada pavilion for the upcoming Expo 86, being the only venue outside the fair's main site on the north shore of False Creek.

Another key attraction associated with Canada Place is the FlyOver Canada theater, which opened in 2013. Here, visitors can go on a virtual flight across the country; a single ride can take up to 61 people at a time into a 19-metre (62-foot) diameter spherical screen with simulated effects of wind, mist, and various scents to enhance the experience.

At the Convention Centre, you can see exhibits from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics or take Christmas card-quality photos outside the Olympic Cauldron with Stanley Park and the mountains in the background.

Signage is good and there are usually plenty of staff members around to help you get to the right place.

For the 'Fly Over Canada' movie, it's a good idea to pay for your timed tickets in advance over the Internet to avoid lines.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-12am (Canadian Trail & promenades)
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Vancouver Lookout

6) 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.
Gastown Steam Clock

7) 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.
Maple Tree Square and Deighton's Statue

8) 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.
Millennium Gate

9) Millennium Gate

Straddling West Pender Street near the intersection with Taylor Street is an awe-inspiring feat of architecture called the Millennium Gate. This four-pillar-, three-story-tall structure marks the entrance to Vancouver's famed Chinatown and was built in 2002 to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium.

But most importantly, it honours the role of Chinese settlers in the long and eventful history of the city. This includes both the early migrants from China, in the late 19th century, and those ethnic Chinese who came from Latin America later on.

The piece was designed to commentate a journey in time as well as to represent both the past and the future. With tall poles appearing to precariously hold up the orange roof, three large rectangular gray slabs, and ornate carvings on the top edges, the Millennium Gate makes an interesting sight in which new art forms occur within a very traditional setting.

The two stone foo lions, guarding the gate, include one male – on the left – with a ball under his paw, and one female – on the right – holding a cub. The images of people depicted in the upper portion of the gate show different styles of clothing typical for various parts of China. Another interesting feature is the colour scheme, a blend of traditional Eastern and modern Western-inspired motifs.

Many plaques and dedications to those involved in the project adorn the lower portion of the gate.

Vancouver's Chinatown is a living symbol of multiculturalism. It serves as a place where people of every ethnicity gather to partake in the sampling of delicacies from the local restaurants and shops and to interact with the locals that are an integral part of Vancouver society.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

10) Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Vancouver is the first Chinese or "scholars" garden built outside of China. It was created in 1985–1986, in time for Expo 86, and was funded by the Chinese and Canadian governments together with Vancouver's Chinese community and other public and private donors.

The garden is named in honour of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the first president of the Republic of China who is considered the "father" of the modern Chinese nation. During his travels to further the cause of the Chinese nationalist movement in the early 20th century, Sun Yat-Sen stayed in Vancouver on three occasions for extended periods.

The venue incorporates a public park and a classical Chinese garden which are two separate entities, linked by an artificial pond. The outer park was designed by local architects, while the inner garden was conceived with the help of experts from Suzhou, China.

The classical garden relies on the philosophical concepts of Taoism and Feng Shui, striving to achieve harmony and a balance of opposites, while the public park portion is similar to the Western parks built in Chinese style, with mostly North American materials. While the park is free to enter, the garden is accessed for a fee. The paid admission includes a guided tour which adds a great deal to the overall experience.

Because the winter climate in Vancouver is similar to that of Suzhou, many of the plant varieties featured in the garden are identical to those commonly found in Suzhou. The plants were chosen for their blooming schedule, to emphasize seasonal changes, especially the "awakening" in spring. They are used sparingly, in contrast to western gardens, and provide colour throughout the whole year.

Koi carp feeding happens once a day, at around 11:30 am, from May-October, so if you're there, be sure to watch it. Otherwise, try the tea and explore whatever exhibit is showing at the time.

If you're unsure about the fee, you can always try the free public park first, as it also has a little pond, bridges, and beautiful views.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10 am-4:30 pm (Oct-Apr); 10 am-6 pm (May-Jun 14); 9:30 am-7 pm (Jun 15-Aug); 10 am-6 pm (Sep)
Closed Mondays, between Nov 1 and Apr 30. Holiday closures Dec 25 & Jan 1.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
East Pender Street

11) East Pender Street

Vancouver’s Chinatown is an exciting place where the old and modern come together. The areas of East Pender Street and the rectangle formed by Pender, Main, Keefer, and Gore streets are a true paradise for shoppers keen on all things Asian. Here, alongside locals perpetually searching for specialty ingredients for dinner, you will find the young and hip crowd checking out independent stores. The variety of things on offer is enormous, spanning from ginseng to green teas, fine embroidered linen, silk robes, exotic fresh produce, plus traditional Chinese tableware and cooking utensils.

The area is also noted for the abundance of natural pharmacies and herbalists, as well as numerous restaurants and smaller eateries serving freshly-made Asian delicacies: from moon cake to roasted duck. When it comes to steam buns, the best place to get them in Chinatown is New Town Bakery. The joint serves a variety of 13 different steam buns, ranging from $1.65 to $3.30 apiece, filled with pork, chicken, beef, sweet custard, sweet lotus paste, and egg yolk.

Speaking of modern, a number of cool new stores lining East Pender Street, west of Main, really break the Chinatown mold, offering skateboard decks, vintage clothing, cocktail sets, and club wear. A special mention deserves the something-for-everyone Bamboo Village, at 135 East Pender Street. The shop is specialized in all things bamboo – from furniture, paper lanterns, and worship supplies to Maoist memorabilia, Chinese folk art, and home decor.

The emerging neighbourhood between Main Street and Carrall Street is also home to many notable businesses, such as Kissa Tanto, Umaluma, Propaganda Coffee, Bao Bei, Aubade Coffee, and others. Paired with a bunch of mixed-use development projects completed in recent years, this creates one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic neighborhoods in Vancouver.

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.
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 Downtown Walking Tour

Vancouver Downtown Walking Tour

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!

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

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