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Vancouver Neighbourhoods: West End

Welcome to the tranquil West End. (Tourism Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic)

Tucked up against Vancouver’s downtown core, the West End is a gateway to Stanley Park, English Bay, Granville Street and Robson Street. The district is also home to the city’s gay community, centred around Davie Village; as well as character-filled heritage homes, high-rise apartments and plenty of green spaces. Parks and beaches are the main attractions here, though the sheer variety of multicultural cuisine, and excellent people-watching, come in close behind.

History

Like the rest of Vancouver, the West End was once forested wilderness. In 1862, the land was bought by three British men called John Morton, Samuel Brighouse and William Hailstone – they were known as the Three Greenhorns, as the general consensus was they had paid too much for it.

The Three Greenhorns planned to mine the land for porcelain clays, but the clay they found was low-grade. Discouraged, they sold part of the area to investors.

Later, with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway – and rich railroad families – the West End evolved into the city’s first upscale neighbourhood. Many of these new arrivals lived along Georgia Street, which was dubbed “Blue Blood Alley”. Soon, however, the nearby Shaughnessy neighbourhood started drawing the attentions of posh landowners, and middle-class housing began to fill the West End.

As Vancouver grew, new residents from Canada, the UK and other countries set up roots in the West End, contributing to the neighbourhood’s diverse personality. Today, the area is home to a wide span of demographics: old and young, Canadians and immigrants, longstanding homeowners and transient residents. All gravitate to the West End’s welcoming environment, bustling culinary scene and spectacular oceanside location.

Dining and Nightlife

Pull up a chair at one of the West End’s spunky eateries. (courtesy The Three Brits)

Culinary fans, head straight to Denman Street! Here, you’ll find a diverse selection of cuisines, including farm-to-table bistros, taco joints, pubs and brew-houses, multicultural flavours and clubs.

Let’s start with your morning coffee – already, you’re spoiled for choice in the West End. Greenhorn Espresso Bar boasts tasty flat whites and French press coffees with sidewalk seating scattered under leafy trees. Family-owned Delany’s Coffee House specializes in dark roasting with blends hand-toasted in wood- and gas-fired roasters. Red Umbrella Café is a local favourite whose hearty breakfasts are perfectly paired with cozy lattes.

This is also the perfect area to fire up your palate with globally influenced flavours. Verre features a jewel-box design where diners can sample French- and Mediterranean fare enhanced by innovative cocktails. Pasture to Plate is a casual eatery dishing up organic ramen with handmade noodles, grilled sausages and hearty drinking broths. La Catrina plates Mexican street food starring authentic tacos topped by locally sourced ingredients.

Keen to continue the night? Head to The Three Brits Public House, whose beachside location is ideal for catching the sunset over English Bay. Celebrities Nightclub is regularly packed with revelers enjoying live performances by notable names like David Guetta and Tiesto, as well as outstanding under-the-radar DJs. For a quieter night, settle in at the beachside Sylvia Restaurant & Lounge, situated in the historic Sylvia Hotel, and try the signature Vancouver Cocktail, which was created there during the early ‘60s.

Shopping

Stroll Denman Street to shop for West End souvenirs. (Tourism Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic)

You’ll have no trouble finding traditional souvenir shops in the West End, particularly along Denman Street. Still, most retail stores cater to locals, including unique bookstores (Paper Hand is ideal for browsing), and gourmet food and wine markets (Marquis Wine Cellars sells premium wines at all price points).

Things to See and Do

Explore the West End’s natural beauty by cruising the Stanley Park seawall (The Nickersons Photography)

The West End is ideal for beginning or ending your explorations of Stanley Park, the crown jewel of Vancouver’s green spaces – of course, that could take up most of the day given the 400-hectare (1,000-acre) haven’s myriad touring delights, including the Vancouver Aquarium, tranquil Beaver Lake, the heated outdoor Second Beach Pool, and hikes through temperate rainforest. If you’re craving even more outdoor adventure, head for English Bay and rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.

Biking through the West End, along the seawall and into Stanley Park is a popular local activity; there are plenty of bike rental venues along Denman Street, and navigating is easy thanks to dedicated bike lanes criss-crossing the neighbourhood. Continuing east along the seawall, you’ll come across Vancouver’s famous Inukshuk statue, which inspired the logo for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The West End is also home to striking public art installations, a legacy of the Vancouver Biennale, including the laughing statues that comprise A-maze-ing Laughter (English Bay) and Engagement, a pair of giant interlocked wedding rings (Sunset Beach). To learn more about the West End’s historical roots, pay a visit to the charming Roedde House Museum, situated in a Victorian-era home that often hosts intimate music performances in addition to regularly scheduled tours with tea.

Source: Inside Vancouver

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