Downtown Vancouver is home to the central shopping, entertainment, and business districts in Vancouver. For a long time, the downtown core was renowned primarily for these distinctions, and while tourists and visitors flocked to the area, it was not considered significantly residential. All that has changed in recent years; with the addition of gourmet markets and luxury residences, along with the continued growth of fine dining restaurants and high end boutiques in the neighbourhood, Downtown Vancouver has successfully integrated cosmopolitan chic and residential comforts.
Who Lives There
The residential population in Downtown Vancouver has been steadily increasing, and the last ten years exponentially so. Studies estimate over 100,000 people will live in the area by 2021. Most residents are professionals with a high level of education, and due to the large number of businesses in the neighbourhood, sales and service people also populate this area. Downtown Vancouver is a convenient location for those working close by, but families generally move away from the downtown core. The average age of residents is 40 and most are single and employed.
Things to Do
Downtown Vancouver is a hub of activity. Restaurants, nightclubs, theatres and shops abound. From Coast seafood restaurant on Alberni or Joe Fortes on Robson and Thurlow to a number of Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants on Robson there is no shortage of selection for dining out. Whether a casual stop for breakfast at Café Crepe on Granville St, lunch at the Cactus Club on Robson St, a cocktail at the Bacchus Lounge in the Wedgewood Hotel, or an Asian-Morrocan influenced dinner at Sanafir on Granville, diners can find something to suit any taste. The Vancouver Art Gallery has a substantial permanent collection and also exhibits various artists or art movements throughout the year. The heritage building itself, on Robson and Hornby, is worth seeing, and the patio at the cafe is a fabulous people watching spot and a great place for lunch or an afternoon snack.
Granville St. is known as Vancouver’s entertainment district. Here, clubs such as Barcelona and Ginger 62 offer djs, dancing, bottle service, and often feature special events. From Drake St. to Georgia St, Granville is busy on any given night, and the weekends are packed with people enjoying the nightlife. The Orpheum Theatre and the Vogue Theatre – where concerts and other events are held – also call Granville home, and The Commodore shines as one of Vancouver’s premier concert venues. With a large stage and a dance floor lined with tables, as well as a balcony, this venue holds varied events throughout the year to appeal to a variety of people. Eastward down Georgia St, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and The Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts host concerts, plays, musical theatre, and speeches. Movie theatres can also be found on Granville St, but the Scotiabank Theatre on Burrard and Smithe offers the most selection, and the best seats and screens.
Pacific Centre Shopping Mall is home to just about any store you can think of, including Holt Renfrew high end department store. For more shops hit up Granville St (more casual), Robson St (mainstream), or Alberni St. at Burrard (high end). No matter the time of year, the downtown shopping district has something for everyone.
New real estate developments in Downtown Vancouver have contributed to its growth. The construction of properties such as the Wall Centre and, more recently, the Shangri-La (Vancouver’s tallest building at 62 stories high) have brought to Vancouver the concept of luxury residences with the convenience and amenities of a hotel stay. The Shangri-La has a spa in house and a grocery store (Urban Fare) across the street. Condo prices are higher than average in the many new developments, but real estate growth continues in the neighbourhood.
Schools and Safety
The closest public schools are in the West End – Lord Roberts Elementary and King George Secondary, and there is a children’s centre at Library Square on Robson St. Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia both have campuses downtown – primarily business oriented – as does the British Columbia Institute of Technology, The Art Institute of Vancouver, and Vancouver Film School.
Downtown Vancouver is a central junction for most major transit routes. Waterfront Station is located at Granville and Cordova. From here, one can catch the Canada Line to South Cambie, Richmond, or the Vancouver International Airport; the Expo or Millennium SkyTrain going East; or the West Coast Express for rail travel even further east. The SeaBus to North Vancouver also leaves from Waterfront Station, and nearby West Coast Air and Harbour Air offer fast, convenient travel by sea plane to Richmond or Vancouver Island. The Canada Line services Vancouver City Centre Station in Pacific Centre, and the Expo and Millennium Lines from Burrard Station. Buses going every direction can be easily taken from the downtown core.
Drivers should be wary of traffic, especially along Robson St, Granville St. (which is often closed for events) and Georgia St. heading towards the Lions Gate Bridge. Parking can also be difficult and expensive downtown, but residents have permits or underground parking. There are numerous parkades, however, the largest of which is under Pacific Centre. A new two-way bike lane along Dunsmuir St. provides a safe and convenient route for cyclists.
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