Orientation

Vancouver, often referred to as North America’s most beautiful city, is situated in the southwest corner of British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province. It is 40km (25 miles) north of the US border and 190 km (118 miles) from Seattle, Washington.

The city is blessed with a stunning geography, with the Coast Mountains rising majestically to the north and the Strait of Georgia stretching out to the west. Numerous beaches ring the coastline and green spaces abound, providing countless recreational opportunities for the city’s residents.

In addition to its natural attractions, Vancouver can lay claim to being one of the world’s truly great cosmopolitan cities. The city itself is home to about 560,000 residents while the entire Greater Vancouver region, made up of 18 municipalities, has in excess of 2 million residents of all nationalities. The mix of immigrants that has populated Vancouver over the past 100 years or so has created an eclectic atmosphere where one can be walking on a downtown street and hear any number of languages or sample a variety of foods from around the world.

Downtown

The downtown core of Vancouver is a densely populated peninsula with English Bay and the Strait of Georgia to the west, Burrard Inlet on the north boundary, and False Creek to the south.

On the westernmost tip of the downtown peninsula is Stanley Park, a 400ha (900 ac) park which is one of the most famous attractions of the city. There is a 10km (6 mile) trail encircling the park where you will find an assortment of walkers, joggers, and cyclists. Stanley Park also has a number of walking and biking trails winding through its interior and is home to the world-renowned Vancouver Aquarium.

Just east of Stanley Park are the downtown residential and business districts. Unlike many North American cities, Vancouver’s downtown has a mix of residential and commercial buildings which allows the area to maintain a vibrant feel even during non-business hours. The attraction of living on the water has led to a recent boom in residential construction along False Creek and Burrard Inlet, with restaurants and shops to service the new residents.

As you travel east from the downtown business district along Burrard Inlet, you come to Gastown, the oldest section of Vancouver. Walking along Water Street you will find boutiques and galleries housed in nineteenth century office buildings, mixed with restaurants and bars. Near the west end of Water Street tourists assemble around “Gassy Jack”, the world’s oldest steam clock, to hear the sound of its whistle every 15 minutes.

Activities

There are three main mountain recreation areas visible from downtown Vancouver: Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mt. Seymour. Each has skiing and you can see the lights from ski runs at night in the winter. They all offer a number of other excellent recreation options, from mountain biking in the summer to cross-country skiing in the winter. At any time of year you can take a tram up Grouse Mountain and enjoy the wonderful views of the city below while sipping a beer or enjoying a meal at the restaurant on top.

Vancouver residents love to spend time on the city’s many beaches. Beach volleyball and soccer leagues abound, while others pursue more individual interests like jogging or tai chi. Beautiful cycling and jogging trails are found all along the shores of the city and inline skating is also popular.

While Vancouver is best known for its spectacular scenery and outdoor activities, there are also plenty of options on the cultural side. The Vancouver Art Gallery, in the heart of downtown, is one of the many excellent galleries and museums. Vancouver’s jazz festival, held annually in June, is recognized as one of the top such events in North America.

On the other end of the cultural spectrum, spend an afternoon taking in the sights and smells of the Chinatown district, home to 36,000 residents of Chinese descent. In addition to a traditional Chinese market, you can visit the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the most extensive traditional Chinese garden found outside China.

Trips From Vancouver

Vancouver is in close proximity to many places which make for great day or weekend trips.

Two ferry terminals, one at Horseshoe Bay just north of the city and the other at Tsawassen in the south, provide access to the islands in the Straight of Georgia and beyond.

Vancouver Island is a two-hour ferry trip away and has many worthwhile recreational opportunities and sites. Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, is located on Vancouver Island. Many people make the trip all the way to the west coast of the Island to visit the town of Tofino and take advantage of the wild, beautiful coastline in this area. For ferry info and times, visit www.bcferries.com.

Whistler is one of the world’s premier ski resorts and lies 120km (75 miles) north of Vancouver. It has the greatest vertical drop and most usable ski terrain of any ski area in North America. For more information about Whistler, visit www.whistler-blackcomb.com.

For other ideas on trips from Vancouver, visit www.tourismbc.com.

Housing And Transportation

Vancouver is an easy city to get around in. Most students live either downtown (Yaletown and the West End are popular) or in neighbourhoods situated within easy striking distance of downtown. The city has a good bus system in addition to the Skytrain, an above-ground public transport train line which runs east from downtown.

The popular rental neighbourhoods include Kitisilano, Main Street, Commercial Drive, Yaletown, and the West End. From any of these areas you can reach the School easily (generally within 15 minutes) using public transportation or by bike.

In order to get a feel for the apartment rental market, we suggest you check out the Vancouver Sun newspaper’s classified ads or on www.craigslist.com.

If you have any questions about the rental market, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will try to assist you as much as possible.

Cover photo by Stephen Chung.