A few weeks ago, I departed on the adventure of a lifetime. Having waited six months from booking the holiday of my dreams, my boyfriend and I excitedly drove to Heathrow Airport and embarked on our 10 hour flight to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. Alright, so it’s not exactly the destination that springs to mind when you think about booking your annual blowout vacation, but trust me, you need to add the province of BC to your travel bucket list.
I only looked into visiting Vancouver after a friend of mine moved there. Whilst we met at university in England, he’s Canadian and moved from Ontario to the West Coast a few years ago. I’ve always thought about visiting Toronto, which is where he’s originally from, but I’d never even looked into travelling to the west of Canada. Well, I’m so glad that I did. As soon as I started researching holidays in Vancouver, I was besotted with the location: just imagine a green city that’s surrounded by beautiful beaches and set against a backdrop of breathtakingly beautiful mountains. Staring at the landscape online was one thing, but nothing prepared me for how beautiful Vancouver is in person.
Words can’t describe how beautiful Vancouver is, but I hope some of the moments I captured for my Instagram travel diary will do the city justice.
I mean, it’s just beautiful, isn’t it? Looking back at these photos geniunely makes me so happy; I used to think New York City was my favourite place on earth, but Canada has definitely stolen my heart. I’m not going to lie, it definitely helped that my boyfriend and I got upgraded to first class though, courtesy of his mum who works for British Airways! If you think you might be interested in visiting British Columbia, here’s my top tips for making the most out of your time there, including where to go in Vancouver, where to eat in Vancouver and where to sleep in Vancouver.
— WHERE TO SLEEP —
I was originally planning on staying in world-famous The Fairmont Hotel, but I ended up opting for the Hyatt Regency hotel on Burrard Street. The Fairmont is absolutely beautiful and it reminds me of the hotels that line New York’s Fifth Avenue (think Gucci and Tiffany stores in the lobby, but you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy your stay in Vancouver. Honestly, I am quite picky with the hotels I stay in, so despite being cheaper, the Hyatt Regency is rated more highly on TripAdvisor and is also classed as a 5-star location, so it really was a no-brainer.
The Hyatt Regency hotel is perfectly located on Burrard Street in Downtown Vancouver and it’s steps away from Canada Place. It’s right next to Robson Street and also Granville Street, both famed for their luxury shopping outlets (including the Pacific Centre Mall). I was definitely happy about this, especially as Canadian brand Aritzia has stores here (and I was dying to visit one).
The staff are so friendly, the hotel is elegant and well-maintained and the rooms are nothing short of luxury. The views are just incredible, too. I honestly can’t recommend this hotel enough.
— WHERE TO GO —
OK, if you’re visiting Vancouver for a city break, you’re missing the point. Don’t get me wrong, this is an incredible city – it’s friendly, warm and green – but there’s so much more on offer here than coffee and clothes. You need to be able to hire a car, or have a friend that drives, or book an excursion through your hotel, as public transport doesn’t venture far enough in to BC to get you all the way to Whistler – and trust me, Whistler is a must-see. There’s Whistler Village and Whistler Blackcomb, which is the famed ski resort, and that’s where I was headed. Walking around the alpine resort and trying my first Dairy Queen ice cream was so magical, but it was walking down to The Lost Lake which totally threw me: I’ve never been somewhere so beautiful in my life. Ever.
The Lost Lake is everything you imagine Canada to be, and more. A landscape so serene, peaceful and calm, I was absolutely mesmerised. Lined with tall, dense woodland trees and buzzing with the sound of nature, the only thing that could possibly interrupt you would be a Grizzly bear. And yes, we saw two of them…
No, we didn’t meet wild bears, although that would’ve been quite the story! We visited the amazing Grouse Mountain on the North Shore, which is accessible by bus (including Vancouver’s AquaBus, which takes you from Downtown Vancouver to North Vancouver), and saw the two bears that live atop the mountain. Travelling up the mountain in the Grouse Mountain Skyride was just bliss, but it didn’t quite beat the Sea-to-Sky Gondola we travelled up the mountains in Squamish in. Looking over The Chief Mountain was a view I could only have dreamed about seeing; I geniunely will never forget how incredible that sight was.
There’s endless potential for hikes, outdoor activities and general adventures in BC but the city offers some great must-visits too. Firstly, Stanley Park is the most beautiful park in the world, and the two-hour cycle around the perimeter is one to tick off the bucket list. For a totally different experience, visit Gastown, which is much like New York or London’s Soho, for gorgeous interiors shops, exquisite coffee and trendy boutiques. Granville Island Market is unlike anywhere I’ve been before, and you must stop here for antiques, fresh food and drink and gift ideas. The Vancouver Aquarium is one of the best in the world, and a trip to BC Place, the home of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, is worth a visit.
The University of British Columbia might sound like a weird holiday stop, but the grounds are some of the most beautiful in the world, and the campus is home to the beautiful Nitobe Japanese Memorial Garden, which is absolutely stunning. Kitsilano Beach is just breathtaking. In fact, how Vancouver manages to flaunt a beautiful city, a mountainous backdrop and a sprinkling of pretty beaches is just beyond me. It’s incredible
— WHERE TO EAT —
My boyfriend and I have a bit of a penchant for a good burger, and if you like them too, you have to stop at Joey Burrard and Vera’s. They’re wildly different: Vera’s is your prototypical North American diner, whereas Joey’s is quite an upmarket chain of restaurants in Canada. Their one similarity? Amazing food. Both chains offer my food obsession, Yam fries, which are basically sweet potato fries that taste so much better than those we have in Britain!
Poutine. Poutine is the Canadian equivalent of your 3am kebab. Instead of having streets lined with kebab shops on busy downtown spots, they have vendors which sell poutine – chips, gravy and curdled cheese that’s all mixed together. I know, it sounds horrendous, but it’s not actually that bad. And importantly, you can’t visit Canada without trying it. Another spot you can’t miss is Tim Horton’s, which is Canada’s answer to our Costa or America’s Starbucks. They’re famed for their coffee, but it’s the pretzel bagels that got me. Yum.
My absolute number one dining spot to visit, though, is Trees Organic Coffee and Roasting House. Home to the world’s greatest cheesecake – no, really – this café is not to be missed.
— WHERE TO BOOK —
We booked our trip to Vancouver through British Airways. Flights and a five-star hotel for 9 nights in April is doable on around £1000. Prices increase a lot throughout the summer months (May-September), so try the shoulder season if you want a good deal – we had beautiful sunshine throughout our whole trip.
So there you have it. Vancouver is a (very small) nutshell. I hope you liked learning a little more about this wonderful city and I hope you liked my photos. Leave a comment if you have any questions and definitely look into visiting this city one day. I’m always looking for more travel insipiration, so if there’s somewhere you couldn’t recommend enough, please let me know in the comments below!