Not every Vancouver neighbourhood is ideal for every visitor to the city. There is a lot to take into account, such as the proximity to attractions, access to public transportation and the costs of each area. This Vancouver neighbourhood guide is designed to help you decide which popular area might be best suited to your needs, according to a local.
Downtown – City Centre
Downtown Vancouver is a great location if you want easy access to everything via the skytrain, seabus, or public transit busses. Though Vancouver’s downtown core includes Coal Harbour, Yaletown, and the West End, the city centre is generally considered to be the area surrounding the Granville Street & Georgia Street intersection. It has tons of shops and restaurants and is also extremely easy to get around on foot or with a bike.
Popular sights & attractions nearby:
Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada Place, Vancouver Convention Centre.
Pros & cons:
As mentioned above, this is a great location for easy access to public transit within the downtown core, as well as outside the city centre. There are also tons of dining & shopping options for every budget. If you’re looking for nightlife, Granville Street is always lively with many bars and clubs open till late.
Though this a great area, the convenience of staying in the centre of Vancouver also comes with its famous high prices. Hotels can be quite expensive. If you plan to stay at one of the Granville Street hostels, be prepared for premium prices and lots of noise from the surrounding bars & clubs.
Canada Line and Expo/Millenium Line skytrain stations are both located near the Georgia & Granville intersection. Transit to the airport takes about 25 minutes via the Canada Line, and there are express busses that run along Georgia Street to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver. Other busses run frequently to Kitsilano, East Vancouver, South Vancouver, Burnaby, and the North Shore.
Uber and Lyft both operate within Vancouver, though fares can fluctuate drastically and traffic congestion in Vancouver can be pretty horrible, especially during rush hour. There are also local taxi options like Black Top Cabs, Yellow Cabs, and Vancouver Taxi.
Vancouver’s city centre is both walkable and easy to get around by bike. There are many rental companies within the city that offer road bikes, electric bikes, or scooters.
Downtown – Coal Harbour
Coal Harbour is a lovely area at the edge of the city centre and still located within a stone’s throw from everything. Located on the Burrard Inlet, it’s a beautiful place to take a stroll along the seawall and admire the views of Stanley Park and North Vancouver across the water. The area is still relatively new, with most residential construction having started in the early 1990’s. It has several restaurants, many with waterfront patios, and is close to the cruise ship terminal, seaplane terminal, and public transit stations.
Popular sights & attractions near Coal Harbour:
Stanley Park, Vancouver Convention Center, Canada Place, Harbour Cruises, Vancouver Aquarium.
Pros & cons:
Coal Harbour is a beautiful part of the city with its amazing views and proximity to Stanley Park. It is within walking distance of most downtown attractions, as well as skytrain & seabus stations.
The one major downside to staying in Coal Harbour is the price. There are no budget options here.
It takes around 35 minutes to get from Coal Harbour to the Vancouver Airport by car, or around 25 minutes via the Canada Line from Waterfront Station. The Westcoast Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours depart from Canada Place and stop at all major attractions, or you can opt for a public bus route. Busses to Stanley Park run frequently.
Harbour Air seaplanes are located in Coal Harbour and offer regular scheduled routes to Vancouver Island, Seattle, and Whistler.
Downtown – West End
Vancouver’s West End is a beautiful residential area beside the city center. Apartments, condos and heritage houses sit quietly on tree-lined streets, though main streets like Davie and Denman are always buzzing with activity. It’s one of the most densely populated and sought-after Vancouver neighbourhoods, and for good reason – the downtown area is a short walk away, as are the lovely West End Beaches that stretch into beautiful Stanley Park.
Popular sights & attractions near the West End:
Stanley Park, Vancouver Aquarium, West End Beaches, Davie Village.
Pros & cons:
The West End is a lovely part of the city to stay, and is a much quieter option than the city centre. It’s close to Vancouver’s popular beaches and the natural beauty of Stanley Park. Davie street offers lots of restaurants and nightlife.
Though there are many bus routes around the West End, there are unfortunately no skytrain stations located in this neighbourhood. This means a trip to the airport and most of the main attractions will take a little longer than other downtown areas if you’re taking public transit.
As previously mentioned, public transit is a bit more limited here than other areas of the downtown core; however, this area offers a lot to anyone keen to explore by foot or bike. The West End has lots of bike lanes, so cycling is a great way to get around. The attractions in Vanier Park are also conveniently located across the Burrard Bridge.
Downtown – Yaletown
This Vancouver neighbourhood was merely a warehouse district until its transformation as the center of the 1986 World Expo. Many of the old warehouses are now converted into trendy shops and condos. There are many great boutiques and cafes here, and visitors can enjoy lovely views of South Vancouver from the False Creek Seawall and David Lam Park.
Popular sights & attractions near Yaletown:
False Creek Seawall, Rogers Arena, BC Place Stadium.
Pros & cons:
Yaletown is one of the best neighbourhoods for tourists to stay in Vancouver. Transit is convenient and the area has lots of green space with beautiful views of False Creek. However, like most other areas of downtown Vancouver, the prices can be very high.
The Canada Line station at Yaletown-Roundhouse can get you to the airport in around 20 minutes, and Waterfront Station is just 2 stops in the other direction. There are many busses that run in and out of the city via the Cambie Bridge.
False Creek Ferries and the Aquabus both connect Yaletown to different areas around False Creek, including Science World, Granville Island, Vanier Park, and the West End.
Downtown – Gastown
Gastown, located east of the City Center, is the oldest of downtown Vancouver’s neighbourhoods. It was the center of the city’s rebuild after the Great Vancouver Fire destroyed most of the city in 1886. Though it may seem a bit rough around the edges, it’s easy to find Gastown’s charm in its cobblestone streets, trendy cafes and beautiful boutique shops.
Popular sights & attractions near Gastown:
Gastown Steam Clock, Vancouver Lookout, Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver Police Museum.
Pros & cons:
Gastown is an interesting part of the city with lots of bars, cafes and nightlife. It is a convenient location for visiting downtown attractions and it’s located close to the seabus & skytrain lines at Waterfront Station. It is also rich with history so walking tours around this area are recommended.
Despite how much it has to offer, Gastown is not a popular place for tourists to stay in Vancouver due to its proximity to the infamous Downtown Eastside (this area is explained in more detail below). You may feel uncomfortable walking around at night, especially in areas close to Main Street. Dining and shopping at the trendy cafes and boutiques can also be quite expensive.
Waterfront Station is a major transit hub, with connections to the Canada Line, Expo & Millennium Lines, and the North Vancouver seabus, as well as many bus routes. Transit to and from the airport via the Canada Line is very easy and takes around 25 minutes.
I suggest avoiding any accommodation within the Downtown Eastside. Though historically more unpleasant than dangerous, this area has been getting more unsafe in recent years and is not a comfortable area for tourists to stay. There is a lot of visible drug use and prostitution here, and many buildings are badly maintained.
This large neighbourhood located on False Creek’s south shore stretches from the Burrard Bridge all the way to Cambie Street. Many of its quiet tree-lined streets are home to rows of beautiful heritage houses, and its larger roads such as Granville and Broadway are home to great restaurants, shops and bars. Transit to Downtown and YVR Airport is easy from areas close its two Canada Line skytrain stations, and water taxis stop at multiple locations along the creek.
Popular sights & attractions near Fairview:
False Creek, Granville Island, VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Pros & cons:
Fairview is a more affordable alternative to staying in the downtown core, with easy transit options to the city centre. The area has been quickly developing and is home to many restaurants, cafes, and shops. However, the North Shore attractions are more difficult to get to from here.
There are busses along broadway that will take you to Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant or Commercial Drive. The Canada Line skytrain from Broadway-City Hall or Olympic Village stations will take you north into the city centre within 10 minutes, or south to the airport in around 20 minutes. Driving distance to YVR airport is about 25 minutes. This area is easily walkable and bikeable.
Technically part of Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood, this area under the Granville Bridge is more of a sandspit than a true island, making it easy to access by foot, car, bike or bus. What was once an industrial area is now a hub for tourists and art-lovers, loaded with galleries, studios, theaters and a lively Public Market. Ferries run throughout the day to shuttle guests across False Creek to several points around the city.
Popular sights & attractions on Granville Island:
Granville Island Market, The Arts Club Granville Island Stage, False Creek.
Pros & cons:
This area is a great location for families and art lovers. Water taxis run frequently to Yaletown, West End, Kitsilano and Olympic Village. There are activities and events through the summer months and theatre productions run year round.
Because there are limited options on Granville Island, prices can be quite high. There is one hotel here and rates can as much as triple during popular summer months. Transit to the airport may also be difficult unless taking a car or taxi.
There are a few bus routes that drop off at the foot of the Granville Street bridge, with a short walk to the island. False Creek Ferries and the Aquabus are an alternative to public transit from downtown. Travel time to YVR Airport is around 30 minutes by car, or 45 minutes by public transit.
The Granville Island Hotel is the only accommodation on Granville Island. Rooms start around $200, though prices are usually much higher during the summer months.
Kitsilano & Point Grey
Kitsilano and Point Grey are two neighbourhoods located on Vancouver’s West Side, separated from the city center by English Bay. The main streets here are home to yoga studios, health food stores and some of the city’s best restaurants; beyond them are quiet roads lined with low-rise residential buildings and Victorian-style heritage houses. There are also several beaches and parks along English Bay from Kitsilano to the University of British Columbia in Point Grey.
Popular sights & attractions in Point Grey & Kitsilano:
Museum of Vancouver, Maritime Museum, HR MacMillan Space Centre, Kitsilano Beach, UBC Botanical Gardens, Museum of Anthropology.
Pros & cons:
This is a lovely residential area with beaches, parks, shopping and many food & drink options. The major downside of this area is the lack of skytrain access. Many busses service this area, but it can take much longer to get around. There are also limited options for accommodation in this area.
As mentioned above, there are many bus routes here but no rapid transit options for this area. Busses to and from UBC can be quite full during peak commuting hours. Water taxis run from the Vanier Park museums to downtown, Science World, Granville Island, and Olympic Village. Travel time to the airport depends on where in the Kitsilano or Point Grey area you stay, but is usually around 30-45 minutes by car, or 45+ minutes by public transit.
The East Village is an up-and-coming Vancouver neighbourhood made up of two areas previously known as Hastings-Sunrise and Grandview-Woodland. This ethnically diverse location east of the city is home to many cheap but delicious restaurants, cafes and breweries.
Popular sights & attractions near the East Village:
Pacific National Exhibition/Playland, Pacific Coliseum, Hastings Racecourse.
Pros & cons:
The East Village is located fairly close to the city center. There are plenty of food & drink options here as well. Though this area has a lot to offer, it may not be ideal for families. Transit into the city may take you through the Downtown Eastside, which may be uncomfortable for some travellers (see ‘Downtown Eastside’ section above).
Busses run west to downtown and to North Vancouver via the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge. Distance to the airport is around 30 minutes by car, or 1 hour by public transit.
North Vancouver is the best Vancouver neighbourhood for anyone who loves outdoor activities like skiing and hiking. Its close proximity to the city make it a great option for those wanting to enjoy everything Vancouver has to offer.
Popular sights & attractions near North Vancouver:
Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, Lynn Canyon Park, Lighthouse Park, Horseshoe Bay, Mount Seymour.
Pros & cons:
This is a great base for those who want to head up to Squamish or Whistler, and those planning to take the ferry to Vancouver Island or the Sunshine Coast. Main streets like Lonsdale Avenue and Marine Drive have plenty of shopping & dining options, and the three North Shore ski hills are just a few minutes’ drive away. Traffic is the biggest con for this area, especially crossing the Lions Gate Bridge into Vancouver during peak hours.
Public transit to downtown Vancouver runs via the Lions Gate Bridge and the Lonsdale Quay Seabus. Transit via the Seabus is ideal as it runs frequently and can be faster than travelling over the Lions Gate Bridge. Travelling within North Vancouver is easy and many busses run along Lonsdale Avenue and Marine Drive, connecting with other routes at Lonsdale Quay or Phibbs Exchange. Traveling to the airport can take an take about an hour via car or public transit. Busses to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal run from Park Royal Mall.
Home to the Vancouver International Airport, Richmond is one of the most culturally diverse areas in Greater Vancouver. Around 60% of the population is of Asian decent, and it really is the best part of Vancouver to indulge in some amazing Chinese, Japanese and Korean food. The Canada Line Skytrain makes it easy to get to the airport and downtown Vancouver, and busses run to historic Steveston Village, Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and Lulu Island Winery.
Popular sights & attractions in Richmond:
Richmond Olympic Experience, Richmond Night Market, Steveston Village, River Rock Casino, Britannia Shipyards.
Pros & cons:
This is where you’ll find the closest hotels to the Vancouver International Airport. Most accommodation is cheaper than central Vancouver, and Richmond is an easy 30 minute skytrain ride to downtown Vancouver. There are many affordable food & drink options, including lots of great Asian cuisine. However, if you’re planning to spend most of your time enjoying the attractions downtown or on the North Shore, you might want to consider options closer to the city.
The Canada Line Skytrain runs from central Richmond and the Vancouver Airport to downtown Vancouver. There are many bus routes that service Richmond, and busses to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal run from Bridgeport Station.
Ready for your trip?
Be sure to check out my guide on how to choose the best hotel for your trip. I’ve compiled a list of tips based on my own experiences as a tourist, flight attendant, and hotel front desk clerk. Once you’ve found your perfect accommodation, you can read my advice on how to stay safe and healthy at your hotel.
If you’re looking for ideas on unique things to do during your time in Vancouver, check out my off-the-beaten-path Vancouver travel guide. It details interesting events, sights, hikes, and attractions that will let you experience the city like a local.
I’ve also created a printable travel planner that is designed to make trip planning a breeze. This 7-page PDF has spots to fill in hotel and flight details, emergency info, must-do activities and more. It is available as an instant digital download in the Onwards + Upwards shop.