Perfect day in Vancouver

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Vancouver needs more than a day, but its bite-sized neighborhoods – easily reached by metro or bus – allow plenty of experience with a single day to explore. Just give yourself time to look up – even long-time locals are swooned by the glimpse of snow-capped mountains peeking between downtown skyscrapers.

COFFEE & BREAKFAST. Vancouver’s a big coffee town. West of the center, Commercial Drive, is the epicenter of java, but opt for arty Granville Island to start the day. Just south of downtown (and reachable by bus), Agro Café (tel 604-669-0724; 1363 Railspur Alley) is a tucked-away place loved by locals for its heaping and hearty Organic Brekkie.

GRANVILLE SHOPPING. Shopping’s good around the area, and a seaside promenade rimmed with houseboats circles the small island. One stop is the covered Public Market, heaving with artisinal goodies. Galleries line Cartwright Street, while backstreet Railspur Alley is named after an old train line still embedded in its sidewalk.

SOMA SHOPPING. Walk or bus south a couple blocks into South Granville and take Bus No 84 into South Main (SoMa), the city’s hippest indie shopping scene – start around the intersection of Main St and 20th Ave. Smoking Lily (3634 Main St) goes for an art-school cool clothes, while Twigg & Hottie (3671 Main St) fancies its fashions as distinctly BC in style.

DOWNTOWN LUNCH & ART. Head northwest into downtown, grabbing an organic burger at downtown’s favorite counter-stool, jukebox-at-the-table diner Templeton (tel 604-685-4612; 1087 Granville St), then walk a couple blocks north to see the Vancouver Art Gallery, the city’s leading art space. The space hosts blockbuster shows, plus many innovative exhibits from its own 10,000 artworks – and has a great alfresco café as well. Notable is its quarterly late-night party called FUSE.

CHINATOWN DINNER. Vancouver’s Chinatown is Canada’s best – thus North America’s best. It’s great on weekend nights for the night market along Keefer St, a tight bazaar with live music, noodles and bubble tea – great for a quick, cheap meal. If you want something more sit-down and formal, Hon’s Wun-Tun House (tel 604-688-0871; 268 E Keefer St) is a Chinatown legend for 300 menu items including dim sum, dumplings and congee rice porridge.

GASTOWN PUB CRAWL. Just northwest of Chinatown, Gastown is a historic, cobblestone-street area east of downtown that’s undergoing a long-awaited comeback and is now home to Vancouver’s best watering holes. The landmark Steamworks Brewing Company – made from a converted warehouse – is one of the city’s few brewpubs, and the only subterreanean one. Smaller-scale (and hipper) is the patio seating at Six Acres, a couple blocks east at Maple Leaf Square, by the neighborhood’s first bar owner ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton.

This article was refreshed in June 2012