The best Vancouver hangouts, from locals who know…
Vancouver, our friends from the North. Roughly 3o miles from the American border and dubbed Canada’s number one destination spot, this city is home to two Free People stores and endless adventure. We reached out to five Free People employees to give us all in the in’s and out’s of this must-see place.
Kerry Balfour: Western Canada Senior Visual Manager
Le Marche St. George’s – 4393 St George St, Vancouver, BC V5V 4A3
This French-style cafe is one of my very favorite coffee shops in Vancouver. Situated in the middle of a quiet neighborhood, Le March is a lifestyle store (you can find groceries, textiles, ceramics and even housewares from local vendors) slash cafe. There’s seating outside year-round, and you can cozy up in the colder months with old wool blankets and a warm chai!
Sea to Sky Highway – highway 99 Vancouver to Whistler
It doesn’t sound like much, but this is one of the most beautiful 45-minute drives you’ll ever lay eyes on. The drive takes you right above the ocean, with countless small islands on the horizon and mountains hovering in the distance. There are countless opportunities to make a pit stop for cliff jumping, hiking, or just to take it all in.
Capilano Suspension Bridge – 3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4J1
One of my absolute favorite winter activities… For all of December, the bridge is lit with twinkle lights, making it one of the most magical places! Along with the main bridge, there are 7 smaller bridges throughout the treetops, a cliff walk where there are glass platforms and walkways you travel along right above the river. This is one place in Vancouver you don’t want to miss!
Nelson The Seagull – 315 Carrall St, Vancouver, BC V6A 0A7
The best avocado toast you’ll ever have. Need I even say more?? This quaint little coffeehouse/bakery is located in Gastown and is my go-to for weekend coffee and brunch. It has original tiles, long communal tables, tall ceilings, and the constant smell of bread baking (they make their own sourdough everyday!). You’ll find breakfast, breads, pastries, sandwiches and picnic boards. This is an absolute Vancouver must!
Granville Island Market – 1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9
Need something to do on a weekend day? Granville Island Market has everything from a fresh produce market, imported textiles and paints, coffee shops and bakeries, art galleries, breweries, live theaters, flower shops and restaurants. What else do you need?! It’s located right on the water; a little man-made peninsula which can be accessed by walking over the bridge from downtown, driving, or by seabus!
Krystina Simes: Granville Stylist
Dharma Temple – 3283 Main Street Vancouver, British Columbia
A one-of-a-kind yoga studio & boutique in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, Dharma offers classes taught by some of Vancouver’s top teachers. Check out the shop after class and pick up some hand-made goods by local artists!
East is East – 4433 Main St Vancouver, British Columbia
Hands down the best Middle Eastern restaurant in the city. Adorned with Himalayan salt lamps, Persian rugs and colorful paintings, take your journey down the Silk Road with dishes from all over the Indian subcontinent while you sip on some chai.
Bloom Room – 621 Kingsway Vancouver, British Columbia
A plant lovers’ paradise! The Bloom Room resides in the up-and-coming Fraser neighborhood. Some of the healthiest and happiest plants you’ll find in the city!
Banyen Books – 3608 West 4th Avenue Vancouver, British Columbia
The metaphysical gal’s place of refuge — this large bookstore nestled in west Kitsilano has everything from books on yoga, natural medicine and poetry to an abundance of crystals and meditation cushions. The best place to cozy up on a Sunday afternoon and find a new book to dive into!
Gaia Garden – 2672 West Broadway Vancouver, British Columbia
An herbalist’s best friend! Gaia boasts an array of bulk teas, herbs, clays, waxes and essential oils for all your blending and DIY needs!
Michelle Young: Assistant Visual Manager Park Royal
Birds & The Beets – 55 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1E9
An amazing space in the Gastown neighborhood, Birds & The Beets is relatively new to the cafe scene, and are doing things right. A great place to go for Sunday brunch (coffee from local roaster @bxafraser) or for a happy hour brew with your girlfriends. They are networking with the surrounding community to host dinners featuring local chefs, latte art competitions, and have partnered with local florist, @the_wildbunch, selling their beautiful bouquets at the front of their space. They have a small menu that is modified with the seasons and focuses on featuring ingredients that are as local and as fresh as they can get.
Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe – 2150 Fir Street, Vancouver, BC
Best. Croissant. Ever. What more is there to say?!? Also, try the peanut butter cookie.
A small shop just off the beaten path, just a few blocks from tourist laden Granville Island, Beaucoup serves up the best croissant in Vancouver, hands down. The owner, Jackie Kai Ellis, studied and trained in Paris and her love of quality is obvious in every bite. They usually have three other croissant options besides the original, piled high in beautiful baskets, along with other delightful treats….might I also recommend the peanut butter cookie? Sounds so simple, but it is SO. good. She has a passion for supporting local and using quality ingredients. They also serve coffee from local roaster @49th and use organic milk from local Dairy Farm @avalondairybc
Aubade Coffee – 230 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3
Located in Chinatown, Aubade is a one-man show — community-focused coffee bar in a space shared with an antiques collector and a barber shop. Expect an exceptional cup of coffee, made to order; deconstructed and then reconstructed using an aeropress with filters he himself invented. Don’t come here if you want to hide away with your laptop in the corder. The intimate setting allows for unavoidable great conversation and meeting new people around you!
Oh, and P.S. vegan friendly treats here!
If you happen to be visiting Beautiful BC in the month of April, you are in luck! It is prime tulip blooming season and there are festivals to celebrate! I honestly think these tulip fields are reason enough to make the trek up and visit!
Revolver Coffee – 325 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7
Also located in Gastown, Revolver is one of the best coffee shops in the city. Their coffee menu, which boasts selections from both local and intercontinental roasters, is ever-changing…hence the name Revolver! Your coffee will always be made to order on their beautiful bar lined with Chemex, and your espresso expertly pulled to deliver the best quality experience each and every time.
Nicki Ridsdale: Granville Stylist
Eastside Flea – 1024 main street Vancouver, BC
This bi-monthly event runs Friday night as the shop n bop (think shopping with music and drinks), and Saturday and Sunday as a daytime flea market. The flea is self-described as “curated vintage clothing, collectibles, handmade goods, artisan eats, food trucks and more”, along with eclectic and friendly individuals who make the flea what it is. The shop n bop is my favourite time to attend as it’s perfect to have a cocktail and mingle before going out to the best local haunts which happen to be within a few blocks’ radius.
Joffre Lakes – located at Duffey lake rd, Mount Currie, just outside Pemberton BC
For the hiking-obsessed, this is a must-see. It’s about a 3-hour drive north of Vancouver on the beautiful sea-to-sky highway. This intermediate, year-round hike takes about 3 hours round-trip (10 km with a 370 m elevation gain). (If you would prefer to sleep under the stars there is onsite camping available.) There are 3 stunning lakes along the way, each unique in its own right — from bright turquoise to crystal clear; the last two lakes have an incredible glacier view serving as the backdrop for the perfect picnic spot. If you visit in the winter be sure to bundle up, and bring some snowshoes. For those summer wanderers, there is a rope swing at the second lake (if you are brave enough to take a dip in this glacier-fed body of water!). This is the perfect day trip to escape the bustling city on a sunny day. Be sure to leave early, as it can get congested in the afternoon!
BC Ferries – two locations depending on what islands you wish to visit
– Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, located at 1 Ferry Causeway, Delta, BC (about 45 minutes south of Vancouver). Service to the southern end of Vancouver Island (Victoria) and the southern Gulf Islands.
– Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, located at 6750 Keith Rd, West Vancouver. Service to northern Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Bowen Island.
Vancouver is a fast-paced city. So if you’re in need of slowing down, take one of our ferries to the islands. The Gulf Islands are small and are populated with artists and creatives, not to mention the friendliest people around. Vancouver Island is large and differs from end to end. While there are many cities and towns, there are some more notable than others. On the south end is Victoria, a beautiful old city with our Parliament buildings and a young university student vibe to it. On the northwest side of the island is Tofino, a magical surfers’ paradise. It is a tiny town with many romantic cabins and abodes to rent, and beaches with rolling waves and a rugged coastline. The ferry rides are something to experience in and of themselves — cruising the Pacific while catching views of passing islands and, if you are lucky, you may have a few orca whales accompany you!
The Naam – 2724 w 4th Ave Vancouver,
This vegetarian/vegan restaurant is a Vancouver staple — a heritage home which was renovated in 1968 with a funky atmosphere and laid back vibe. The walls are decked with local art for sale and the patio is great with vines overhanging the entire space. They serve deliciously large portions that don’t break the bank and there is something for everyone. Located in Kitsilano near several beaches that overlook the city, Naam is just a hop away from lots of local shops. My personal favorite is the chai milkshake (try it vegan!). Did I mention it’s open 24 hours?
Brandywine Falls – located just before Whistler Village on the Sea to Sky Highway
This is a great half-day adventure that is about 1 hour, 15 minutes north of Vancouver. The breathtaking waterfall is an easy 10-minute walk from the parking lot. For the more daring, keep walking past the waterfall view point until the fence ends, and take that trail to the boulder field. Carefully make your way down the rocks and continue on the lefthand side where the trail picks up again. Through the forest you will wander until you meet the river. Follow it right until you arrive at the base of the waterfall. This takes about 30 minutes one-way. Bring your hiking shoes and prepare to get wet from the mist of the falls! This experience is hard to beat.
Romy Cheaib: Assistant Store Manager
Quarry Rock – Baden Powell Trail, North Vancouver, BC V7G 1V6
Quarry Rock in Deep Cove is my all-time favorite place in Vancouver. Rain or shine, it’s the most serene, ethereal place Mother Nature has to offer. It’s a beginner’s day hike, about up 3.8k to the rock which overlooks all of Deep Cove.
Honeys Doughnuts in Deep Cove – 4373 Gallant Ave, North Vancouver, BC V7G 1L1
After working up a sweat, it’s only tradition to hike back down Quarry Rock and walk into Honeys for some breakfast, especially their donuts, homemade and fresh every day. Locals attest to their “melt in your mouth” quality — these doughnuts are a must! (Photo opps are rare since I usually can’t wait to take a bite.)
Seymour Mountain – 1700 Mt Seymour Rd, North Vancouver, BC, V731L3
One of my winter go-to’s. If you’re a snowboarder, skier, tuber or if you’re in to snowshoeing like myself, it’s one of the biggest mountains on the north shore with amazing views.
Ambleside Park – 1133–1141 Argyle Ave, West Vancouver, BC, Canada
Ambleside has a lot to offer. In summer you can lay on the beach ,relax and enjoy yourself… you can pack a picnic or take advantage of the concession stand available. There’s a pitch and putt golf course for anyone who doesn’t like to sit still. On the other side of the park sits a dog park, always full of cute little dogs running around and jumping into the water. I have taken my dog here hundreds of times and we love everything about it!
Lonesdale Quay Market – 123 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver, V7M 3K7
A tourist attraction in the north shore, Lonesdale Quay Markets has over 80 shops, with everything from fresh local produce, specialty chocolates to jewelry and a flower market! Lonesdale hosts family events all summer long — live music and food trucks take over the strip. Book a stay at the hotel that overlooks all of downtown Vancouver.
Have you booked your ticket yet? Canada here we come…
+ Have any Vancouver favorites of your own? Let us know what we missed in the comments below!
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