Vancouver Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Vancouver

A bustling seaport on the west coast of Canada, Vancouver is one of the country's densest and most ethnically diverse metropolises. It is also among British Columbia's youngest cities. Prior to the Europeans, the "Vancouver" area had been inhabited by Aboriginal peoples – Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh (Burrard), etc. – for almost 10,000 years. The explorer Simon Fraser and his crew became the first-known Europeans to set foot on the site of the present-day Vancouver in 1808, yet the first European settlement in what is now Vancouver emerged only in 1862 at McCleery's Farm on the Fraser River.

The future city began as a settlement, named Gastown, which grew around the site of a makeshift tavern on the western edges of Hastings Mill built on July 1, 1867, and owned by proprietor Gassy Jack. The original site is now marked by the Gastown steam clock. In 1870, the colonial government surveyed the settlement and laid out a townsite, named "Granville" in honour of the then-British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Granville. Upon incorporation as a city, on April 6, 1886, it was renamed "Vancouver" after George Vancouver, who explored the inner harbour of Burrard Inlet in 1792, and whose family name originates from the Dutch "Van Coevorden", denoting somebody from the city of Coevorden, Netherlands.

The incorporation came through a deal with the Canadian Pacific Railway whose transcontinental railroad was extended to Vancouver by 1887 proving to be a vital link in the trade between Asia-Pacific, East Asia, Europe, and Eastern Canada, effectively transforming the city into a major natural seaport on the Pacific Ocean, largest in Canada and the most diversified in North America.

Surrounded by mountains, today's Vancouver is a popular filming location, nicknamed "Hollywood North", with the thriving art, theatre and music scenes. The local art gallery (Vancouver Art Gallery) is known worldwide for its works by regional artists. The city is also well known as an urban centre surrounded by nature, with tourism being its second-largest industry. Vancouver is consistently named as one of the top five cities in the world for livability and quality of life, and lends its name to the term “Vancouverism” standing for a specific urban planning design philosophy.

To explore the historical, cultural and other delights of Vancouver in more detail, follow this self-guided orientation walk!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play 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. FlyOver Canada
  • Vancouver Lookout
  • Gastown Steam Clock
  • Maple Tree Square and Deighton's Statue
  • Millennium Gate
  • Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden
  • East Pender Street
1
Robson Square

1) Robson Square

Robson Square is a landmark civic centre and public plaza, located in Downtown Vancouver. It is the site of the Provincial Law Courts, UBC Robson Square, government office buildings, and public space connecting the newer development to the Vancouver Art Gallery. The main component is the glass-covered Law Courts, which houses 35 courtrooms in the southern block. Above the central block, three cascading waterfalls throughout the complex provide natural air conditioning with 850,000 US gallons (3,218 m3; 707,773 imp gal) of water.

An outdoor skating rink is located at the lower level that extends below Robson Street and connects to the northern block with the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was renovated as part of the project. Robson Square provides the only public outdoor skating rink in Vancouver - and is free to use. The rink area is used in the milder months for various public events, including Ballroom & Salsa dancing, and is the hub for Vancouver's street-dance scene.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Vancouver Art Gallery

2) Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), adjacent to Robson Square, is the fifth-largest art gallery in Canada and the largest art museum in Western Canada, by building size. Its permanent collection comprises some 12,000 works by Canadian and international artists and includes, among others, more than 200 major pieces by Emily Carr, the Group of Seven, and illustrations by Marc Chagall. The VAG's 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 by several hundred works every year.

Designed by Francis Rattenbury, the museum building was originally opened as a provincial courthouse. As to the VAG itself, it was opened to the public in 1931 in a building designed by architectural firm Sharp and Johnston. The museum expanded its first building once in 1950, before a decision was taken to move it to the re-purposed provincial courthouse in 1983. The latter was designated National Historic Site of Canada in 1980.

Plans were undertaken by the museum in the late 2000s and 2010s to relocate the institution to a new facility in Larwill Park. In addition to exhibiting works from its collection, the museum regularly organizes, and hosts a number of travelling arts exhibitions.

Why You Should Visit:
High-quality artworks and superb exhibitions displayed in an open, airy and beautiful space.
There is everything here – from the bizarre to the terrifying, to more chilled-out areas, such as the ambient music room.

Tip:
When the line up is long, get on your phone and buy the tickets online; better yet, buy the tickets before you leave the house and show them upon entry to the gatekeeper.
Remember to visit the café and, weather permitting, take a table on the balcony / outside courtyard – very pleasant, with fine food, reasonable prices, and beautiful salads.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed-Sun: 10am-5pm; Thu: 10am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Robson Street

3) Robson Street (must see)

Robson Street is a major southeast-northwest thoroughfare in Downtown and West End of Vancouver. Its core commercial blocks from Burrard Street to Jervis were also known as Robsonstrasse. The name honors John Robson, a major figure in British Columbia's entry into the Canadian Confederation, and Premier of the province from 1889 to 1892.

Robson Street starts at BC Place Stadium near the north shore of False Creek, then runs northwest past Vancouver Library Square, Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery, coming to an end at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.

In 1895, train tracks were laid down the street, supporting a concentration of shops and restaurants. From the early to the middle-late 20th century, and especially after significant immigration from postwar Germany, the northwest end of Robson Street was known as a center of German culture and commerce in Vancouver, earning the nickname Robsonstrasse, even among non-Germans (this name lives on in the Robsonstrasse Hotel on the street). At one time, the city had placed street signs reading "Robsonstrasse", though these were placed after the German presence in the area had largely vanished.

Why You Should Visit:
Vibrant area in the heart of Downtown. No end of bars/restaurants and suchlike, as well as the odd quality supermarket.
The variety of (mostly Asian) restaurants available is impressive, with several having significant queues outside.
This is the heart of the city; a lovely place to wander on down.

Tip:
When hunting for a hotel, try to find one on or accessible to Robson Street for your first time in Vancouver.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Christ Church Cathedral

4) Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is one of Vancouver's heritage sites, and is the city's very first church.

It took a rather long time to make. The basement was constructed in 1889, but the cornerstone wasn't laid until 1894. The building shows a Gothic style constructed of stone, cedar, and fir, and features several complex and beautiful stained glass windows. In 1976, the lot that the church was located on was designated to be bulldozed so as to make way for a new skyscraper complex. Fortunately, lobbying by Vancouver's people saved the historic edifice, and gave it a place on Vancouver's list of heritage sites.

Christ Church Cathedral is adorned with very distinctive heraldic symbols. Its interior and exterior feature a Celtic cross design to show the Anglican church's British roots. The church's heraldry also features a whorl and three salmon in the artistic style employed by the native Salish people, one of the original inhabitants of Canada's west coast.

In addition to its historical look and beautiful stained glass, Christ Church Cathedral is also notable for being one of the churches in Canada to sanctify same sex unions. As of 2003, it officially blesses same sex marriages.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Canada Place. FlyOver Canada

5) Canada Place. FlyOver Canada (must see)

Canada Place is a building situated on the Burrard Inlet waterfront of Vancouver. It is the home of the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre, the Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver's World Trade Centre, and the world's first permanent IMAX 3D theater (which ceased operation on October 1st 2009). It is also the main cruise ship terminal for the region, where most of Vancouver's famous cruises to Alaska originate. Designed by architect Eberhard Zeidler, its construction began in 1983, finished in late 1985, and was open for Expo 86 as the pavilion for Canada, being the only venue for the fair that was not at the main site on the north shore of False Creek.

Canada Place is home to Vancouver's must-see attraction FlyOver Canada. Opened in 2013 at Canada Place, it is the first FlyOver flying theater attraction. The ride takes guests on a virtual flight across Canada, utilizing ride equipment that launches up to 61 people at a time into a 19m (62 foot) diameter spherical screen and employs wind, mist, and scents to enhance the experience.

Why You Should Visit:
This is the epicenter if you're cruising to or from Vancouver, and the walk along the seafront is particularly pretty.
Signage is good to get you to the right place and there are usually plenty of helpful staff around.
Lots of shops & bars in the area and the remainder of the Downtown area isn't too far away either – where there are even more bars & restaurants.

Tip:
At the Convention Center, you can see exhibits from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Take Christmas card-quality photos outside at the Olympic Cauldron with Stanley Park and the mountains in the background.
Watch the 'Fly Over Canada' movie, but be sure 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
6
Vancouver Lookout

6) Vancouver Lookout (must see)

The Vancouver Lookout is the place from which any sightseeing tour of Vancouver should really begin, as it offers visitors a full, beautiful panoramic view of the city, from 50 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 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 the city, then the Vancouver Lookout should definitely have a “must see” spot on your list!

The views offered by Vancouver Lookout cover all of the cosmopolitan metropolis to its historic Gastown area, the North Shore and Burnaby mountains, Bowen Island, Burrard Inlet, and more. Displays on the Lookout deck give visitors a 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.

Tip:
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
7
Gastown Steam Clock

7) Gastown Steam Clock

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

The 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 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.

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.

Tip:
Set your camera to video to catch the impressive display.
Difficult to photograph, but patience will be rewarded.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
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 a home to one of the most photographed and historic spots in the city, called Maple Tree Square. It dates back to the times when Vancouver was called Granville Townsite, and it gained popularity thanks to John Deighton, dubbed "Gassy Jack" for his talkative nature and penchant for storytelling, who opened the area’s first bar on the south side of Burrard Inlet in 1867 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, had 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 emerging city’s centre of trade and commerce, let alone drinking. Over the next four decades, some 300 bars had sprouted up within a 12 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 today, marking the exact spot of his former saloon.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Millennium Gate

9) Millennium Gate

Vancouver's Millennium Gate sits at the entrance of Chinatown, and was built to honour the people of China and the role they have played in Vancouver's long, colourful history. The name derives from the fact that the gate was constructed in 2002 to mark the turn of the millennium.

The four pillar-, three story tall gate is guarded by two stone foo lions, one male with a ball under his paw on the left side, and a female with cub on the right side. Images of Chinese people adorning the gates show different styles of clothing worn across China. One interesting feature of the Millennium Gate is its colour scheme, since it's a blend of traditional Eastern and modern Western motifs. The gates feature the traditional colours of red, yellow, and gold, as well as white and blue colours that are traditionally reserved for funerals.

Vancouver's Chinatown is a living symbol of its multicultural heritage. It serves as a place where people of every ethnicity gather to visit shops and restaurants, and its people are an integral part of the community. Nowhere is that more evident than in the design of the Millennium Gate.
10
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

10) Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden is a classical Chinese garden and the first of its kind to be built outside of China. It is located in Vancouver's Chinatown and is home to a public park and a garden that's accessible with an admission fee.

The Garden itself was created to serve as a liaison between Chinese and Canadian culture in Vancouver, and to act as the place where members of the community could gather. The garden portion is home to many specimen plants chosen for their blooming schedule, which causes the garden colors to change dramatically with every season. It also relies on the philosophical concepts of Taoism and Feng Shui for its layout and design, while the public park portion is similar to most Western parks and gardens.

The garden is named for Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the first president of the Republic of China. During his travels to further the cause of the Chinese nationalist movement, Sun Yat-Sen spent an extensive amount of time in Vancouver. This, coupled with the number of Chinese nationalists then living in Vancouver, led to the Garden being named in his honor.

Why You Should Visit:
The yin-yang of the white walls and black roof, the leak windows and hidden symbolism within the entire place is very interesting.
Part of the garden is free to the public; however, a guided tour is included with paid admission and adds a lot to the overall experience.
If unsure, you can always try the park first, as it is free, and has a little pond, bridges and beautiful views.

Tip:
Koi carp feeding happens once a day, at around 11:30am, 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.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-4:30pm (Oct-Apr); 10am-6pm (May-Jun 14); 9:30am-7pm (Jun 15-Aug); 10am-6pm (Sep)
Closed Mondays, between Nov 1 and Apr 30. Holiday closures Dec 25 & Jan 1.
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
East Pender Street

11) East Pender Street

Vancouver’s Chinatown is an exciting place where the old and modern collide. Shopping wise, the areas of East Pender Street and the rectangle formed by Pender, Main, Keefer and Gore are a true paradise for those keen on Asian stuff, perpetually teeming with long-time locals searching for specialty ingredients and Asian vegetables for dinner, much as by the young and hip crowd checking out independent boutiques. The variety of things found here is enormous, spanning from ginseng to green tea, fine embroidered linens, silk robes, exotic fresh produce, plus traditional Chinese tableware and cooking utensils.

Also adding to the area's appeal are the abundance of natural apothecaries and herbalists, as well as the numerous restaurants and Chinese food eateries serving freshly-made Asian delicacies, from moon cake to roasted duck. New Town Bakery - the best place to get steam buns in Chinatown. It has 13 different steam buns, ranging from $1.65 to $3.30, including pork, chicken, beef, sweet custard, and 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, specialized in all things bamboo - from furniture, paper lanterns, and worship supplies to Maoist memorabilia, Chinese folk art, and home decor.

The emerging neighbourhood of East Pender Street, 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

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
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Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles

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