Downtown & West End in detail

Self-guided Tours

Walking Tour: Downtown Grand Tour

  • Start Olympic Cauldron
  • End Marine Building
  • Length 3km; one hour

Start at the Olympic Cauldron, a shiny reminder of the 2010 Winter Games, then continue southeast to the adjacent Convention Centre West Building. Peruse the dramatic outdoor artworks around its shoreline perimeter, then head to next door's landmark Canada Place. It's outer promenade is a great place to watch floatplanes diving onto the water, and there's often a giant cruise ship or two parked alongside.

Next, head southwest along Howe St, turn left onto W Hastings St and then right onto bustling Granville St. Follow this uphill thoroughfare, one of Vancouver's most important commercial streets. You'll pass coffee shops, clothing stores and the Pacific Centre, downtown's biggest mall. There's a large food court inside.

Get your bearings at the busy intersection of Granville & W Georgia Sts, the heart of the downtown core. Check out the shops around here or nip across one block to the Vancouver Art Gallery for a culture fix. The expansive plaza on the gallery's north side is the city's main alfresco gathering space. It's studded with seating and is typically served by several food trucks.

From here, stroll southeast a couple of blocks to the magnificent, Colosseum-like Vancouver Public Library. The glass-enclosed atrium is a handy coffeeshop pit stop, or you can pop inside and hit the elevators to level 9; the lofty, recently opened Rooftop Garden here offers great cityscape views.

Head northwest from here along Robson St, the city's mainstream shopping strip, where you can browse to your credit card's content at boutiques, sports stores and shoe shops. There are also many restaurants here, so make note of a few dinner options.

Take a breather at the busy intersection of Robson & Burrard Sts, then turn right and head along Burrard toward the mountains glinting ahead of you. Duck into the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to view the luxury lobby, then return to Burrard and continue downhill to Christ Church Cathedral. You'll soon be back at Canada Place. But before you close the loop, check out the Marine Building, the city's art-deco skyscraper masterpiece.

Walking Tour: West End 'Hood & Heritage Stroll

  • Start Corner of W Georgia & Denman Sts
  • End Sunset Beach
  • Length 2km; one hour

This urban walk takes you through one of Vancouver's most attractive residential areas, combining clapboard houses with vintage, immaculately preserved apartment buildings.

Start at the corner of W Georgia and Denman Sts and head south along Denman St. You'll pass dozens of mid-priced restaurants – choose one to return to for dinner – and plenty of enticing shops to attract your wallet.

Turn left on Barclay St and stroll the residential heart of Vancouver's vibrant gay community. There are some smashing old heritage apartment buildings and wooden arts-and-crafts homes here. Recent years have also seen barred owls colonizing the area, so keep your eyes peeled for sightings. It's a great neighbourhood for photos, especially if the trees are in their finest fall colors.

Continue to the well-preserved plaza of historic houses at Barclay Heritage Square, an evocative reminder of yesteryear Vancouver life. Duck inside the best of the bunch: lovely, antique-lined Roedde House Museum.

From here, head southwest along Nicola St, ducking into Greenhorn Cafe for coffee and treats en route. You'll soon reach the lovely brick-built 1907 Firehall No 6. It's still in use but has the feel (and look) of a museum. There's often a shiny firetruck basking in the sun outside.

Continue to Davie St, a teeming shop- and cafe-lined area that's also the social and commercial hub of the city's LGBTIQ+ community. It's a popular place at night as it has many bars and clubs. If it's time to eat, turn left along Davie to Mumbai Local, where a brilliant Indian street-food menu awaits.

After eating, backtrack a little and continue northwest along Davie to English Bay beach, snapping a few photos of the delightful A-maze-ing Laughter public artwork of chuckling bronze figures, then turn left and stroll along Beach Ave. This becomes the main promenade for Sunset Beach, where you can sit on a grassy bank and watch the locals jog and skate by, or you can catch a mini-ferry to Granville Island which is winking at you just across the water.