Follow the cobblestone road into a land of boutiques, artisan flavours, and historic ambience. This land is called Gastown.
It may be a Vancouver hot spot for tourists, but this cozy, artsy neighbourhood is just as great of a local getaway for long-time locals. The streets are overlooked by (literal) brick and mortar businesses, with big, popular brands outnumbered by small, upscale boutiques and speckled with tourist shops and small business collectives. Aside from shopping, this part of town is also known for artisan goods, art galleries, and great Instagram photo locations.
There's plenty to see and do in this part of the city besides take photos of the Gastown Steam Clock, and if you aren't sure where to go, here is your ultimate guide to this unique neighbourhood.
Of course, a morning in Gastown starts with coffee (like in any other part of Vancouver, but more so here), and there are a number of cafes worth visiting.
Start the day off strong with coffee and pastries from any of several cafes, like Kafka's, Nemesis, or the Japanese-inspired Parisian import Kitsune. Birds & the Beets is another worthy spot, with great cafe bites (think avocado toast) as is Nelson the Seagull - also home to some of the best bread in Vancouver.
Need breakfast? Twisted Fork has you covered, though you can find brunch menus at several neighbourhood spots that are also great for lunch, dinner, or cocktails.
Once you're caffeinated and ready for the day, stroll through the cobblestone streets past the many eye-catching window displays of art, clothing and other goods. Start wherever you please, but shopping and perusing Gastown's art galleries are a must.
Art lovers will delight at this news: Gastown has not one, nor two, but four art galleries with various collections to admire.
For a taste of contemporary art, stop by the non-profit artist-run Artspeak gallery. A visit to Choboter Fine Art gallery will give a glimpse into the figurative abstract paintings made by local artist Don Choboter and a stop by Goldmoss Studio will reveal a display of handmade art inspired by the Pacific Northwest created by artist couple Lee and Bon Roberts. Coastal Peoples gallery boasts a collection of fine First Nations and Inuit artwork.
As for Gastown's shopping, goods range from upscale boutiques and a few streetwear stores to consignment, thrift, and locally-made goods.
For modern, stylish pieces, hit up some of Gastown's cute boutiques such as The Latest Scoop, Little Mountain, The Block, Artemisia, One Of A Few. Oak + Fort also recently revamped their Gastown location, turning the once small shop into 5,000 square feet minimalist trove. If you're shopping for home goods, Old Faithful Shop is a must if minimalist and modern styles are your things.
Seekers of unique finds and hand-picked selects should add Community Thrift and Vintage to their itinerary, and set aside some time to see all of the Dominion Building's small consignment stores, such as Y2K-esque Muzi, designer heaven Collective Will, and fashion-apothecary-lifestyle shop Siista.
For a truly one-of-a-kind shopping experience, seek out custom-made and hand-crafted gems at John Fluevog (shoes you will surely find nowhere else), Cappelleria Bertacchi (hand-crafted Italian hats), and Make Vancouver (custom-made printing, embroidery and engraving, from shirts to wallets to wine glasses.)
Hypebeasts of Vancouver won't be disappointed either. NFS Shoes and Heat Vault's combined store is a go-to for sneakers like Air Jordan and Yeezy (they sell both new and used shoes as well as streetwear items) while Faulkner specializes in designer resale for men and women. Stüssy, a well-known label, is also nestled in Gastown as a brick-and-mortar store.
You can also explore a handful of small, local businesses at The Nooks where you can peruse neatly stacked shelves of hand-crafted and locally-made Vancouverite goods.
Gastown is hands down one of the best neighbourhoods in Vancouver for food and drink.
Global cuisine shines in Gastown. Eat your way around the world within blocks, enjoying Ukrainian (Kozak), Korean (Zoomak), Italian (Robba da Matti), or French (Jules), and Lebanese (Nuba) to name a few. Tacos and casual Mexican eats are in steady supply thanks to Tacofino, Gringo, and La Taqueria - the latter boasts two off-shoots worth noting: a seasonal shipping container cocktail spot with small plates around back called Chupito, and next door's Cantina 189 bar.
Tuck into decadent burgers and stiff drinks at Pourhouse, west coast fare at Water St Cafe, and slurp oysters at Rodney's. Vancouver's OG trendy sandwich shop Meat & Bread calls Gastown home, and it's steps from one of the city's best bakeshops, Purebread.
Go from day to day at Italian cafe/restaurant DiBeppe and indulge your deepest cravings for epic fried chicken sandwiches at The Frying Pan. Vegans and vegetarians will meet you at MeeT's Gastown branch, while beer fans will want to see you at the Alibi Room - it's a Vancouver classic.
Save room for dessert from Cadeaux or soft serve from Soft Peaks. If you're looking to imbibe, The Diamond is one of Vancouver's top cocktail bars, while wine lovers will want to slip into Is That French for some sips. It's hard to beat Guilt & Co for drinks and live entertainment, but those imbibing on a budget will love the dive bar vibes of The Cambie. There's the Clough Club for more sophisticated sippers, and Greta is where you can drink, eat, and play arcade games.
If you're looking to end the night with some partying, the neighbourhood has a fun selection of nightclubs (after all, Vancouver does have the best nightclubs). A night at Alexander or The Red Room are a great way to dance away into the night (maybe even into the morning).