From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Vancouver (disambiguation).
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Flag of Vancouver
Coat of Arms of Vancouver
(Flag of Vancouver) (Coat of Arms)
Members of Parliament Libby Davies, Ujjal Dosanjh, David Emerson, Hedy Fry, Stephen Owen
Members of the Legislative Assembly Gordon Campbell, David Chudnovsky, Adrian Dix, Colin Hansen, Jenny Kwan, Lorne Mayencourt, Wally Oppal, Gregor Robertson, Shane Simpson, Carole Taylor
Mayor Larry Campbell
City Manager Judy Rogers
Governing Body Vancouver City Council
49°16′ N
123°7′ W
Land area (city) 114.67 km² (metropolitan) 2,878.52 km²
2004 est
Cdn. Mun. Rank:
Metropolitan Area:
2004 est:
Cdn. CMA Rank:

Ranked 8th

Ranked 3rd
Unemployment rate 5.4%

Vancouver (pronounced [væːnˈkʰuv̥ɚ]) is a Canadian city in the province of British Columbia. It is the largest metropolitan centre in western Canada and third largest in the country. The city's population is 545,671 and that of the metropolitan area is 2,186,965 (2001 census). [1] Vancouver is one of the cities of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and of the larger geographic region commonly known as the Lower Mainland of BC. The current mayor is Larry Campbell, Coalition of Progressive Electors (see List of Mayors of Vancouver). It has the North American West Coast's second largest Port after Los Angeles and is one of the world's major cruise ship terminals. It is also the second largest film production centre in North America after Los Angeles. Vancouver will be the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, 2005 Grey Cup, the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship, the 2006 United Nations World Urban Forum and the 2007 Memorial Cup.


Geography and location

Vancouver is situated at 49°16′ N 123°7′ W, in the Pacific Time Zone (UTC-8), and the Pacific Maritime Ecozone. It is adjacent to the Strait of Georgia, a body of water that is shielded from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island. The city itself forms part of the Burrard Peninsula, lying between Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south.

Some unfamiliar with the region find it disconcerting that Vancouver does not lie on Vancouver Island. However, both the city and the island (and their U.S. counterpart) are named after Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver of Great Britain, who explored the region in 1792.

Vancouver has an area of 114.67km² (44 sq. miles). Vancouver has both flat and hilly areas. While it is nearly surrounded by water, city lands are relatively free of open running water except for a few creeks. Early records show that there may have been as many as fifty creeks and streams in Vancouver. Due to urban developments, currently there are only four running creeks found within the city (see Bodies of water in Vancouver).


An aboriginal settlement called Xwméthkwyiem, ("Musqueam"—from masqui "an edible grass that grows in the sea"), near the mouth of the Fraser River dates back to at least 3,000 years ago. Vancouver's ecosystem, with its abundant plant and animal life, provides a wealth of food and materials that have likely supported people for over 10,000 years. At the time of first European contact, the Musqueam and Squamish peoples had villages in the areas around present-day Vancouver. There is also evidence of a third group, the Tsleil'wauthuth, ancestors of today's Burrard Band in North Vancouver. These were Coast Salish First Nations sharing cultural traits with people in the Fraser Valley and Northern Washington. Hun'qumi'num', the downriver dialect of the Halkomelem language was the common language of the native community at Musqueam on the Fraser River on the south side of today's city. The Squamish and their kin the Tsleil-Waututh or Burrard Band, spoke a different, though related language, Skwxwú7mesh, which is similar to Sechelt and also spoken at the Squamish Nation's other main population centre at the town of Squamish. The most famous member of Vancouver's native community is indubitably the late Chief Dan George of the Burrard Band.

The Native peoples of the Northwest Coast had achieved a very high level of cultural complexity for a food gathering base. As Bruce Macdonald notes in Vancouver: a visual history: "Their economic system encouraged hard work, the accumulation of wealth and status and the redistribution of wealth..." Winter villages, in what is now known as Vancouver, were comprised of large plankhouses made of Western Red Cedar wood. Gatherings called potlatches were common in the summer and winter months when the spirit powers were active. These ceremonies were an important part of the social and spiritual life of the people.

Spanish Captain Jose Maria Narvaez was the first European to explore the Strait of Georgia in 1791. In the following year, 1792, the British naval Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798) from King's Lynn in Norfolk joined the Spanish expedition based at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island's west coast and further explored the Strait of Georgia, as well as the Puget Sound in the present day Seattle area.

Lumbering was the early industry along Burrard Inlet, now the site of Vancouver's seaport. The first sawmill began operating in 1863 at Moodyville (in 1915, renamed "North Vancouver"). The first export of lumber took place in 1865; this lumber was shipped to Australia. In 1865, the first sawmill on the south shore of Burrard Inlet, Stamp's Mill, began operations in what would later become Vancouver.

A former river pilot, John (Jack) Deighton, set up a small (24' x 12')saloon on the beach about a mile west of the sawmill in 1867. His place was popular and a well-worn trail between the mill and saloon was soon established - this is today's Alexander Street. Deighton's nickname, Gassy Jack, came about because he was known as quite the talker or "gassy". A number of men began living near the saloon and the "settlement" quickly became known as Gassy's town. In 1870, the colonial government of British Columbia took notice of the growing settlement and sent a surveyor to lay out an official townsite known as Granville. Granville was named for the British Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Granville, though everyone still called it Gassy's Town, later shortened to Gastown.

The new town was situated on one of the best natural harbours in the world and for this reason it was selected by the Canadian Pacific Railway as their terminus. The transcontinental railway was commissioned by the government of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald and was a condition of British Columbia joining confederation in 1871. (The CPR president, William Van Horne, decided that Granville wasn't such a great name for the new terminus and strongly suggested "Vancouver" would be a better name in part because people in Toronto knew where Vancouver Island was but had no idea of where Granville was. Under its new name the city was incorporated on April 6, 1886. Three months later, On June 13, a spectacular blaze destroyed most of the city along the swampy shores of Burrard Inlet in twenty-five minutes.

Things recovered quickly after the fire. The first regular transcontinental train from Montreal arrived at a temporary terminus at Port Moody in July 1886, and service to Vancouver itself began in May 1887. That year Vancouver's population was 5,000, by 1892 it reached 15,000 and by 1900 it was 100,000.

The fire which destroyed the city was eventually considered to be beneficial, as the city was rebuilt with modern water, electricity and streetcar systems.


Vancouver is internationally renowned for preserving its natural beauty within the metropolis. Vancouver is home to one of North America's largest urban parks, Stanley Park. The city has all the urban amenities of a major city, as well as easy access to the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of the Pacific Coast Range. Real estate is largely limited by the surrounding mountains and water. The North Shore mountains dominate the city landscape, and on a clear day scenic vistas include the dormant snow-capped volcano Mount Baker in the State of Washington to the southeast; Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia to the west and southwest and the Sunshine Coast to the northwest. The breathtaking views of the city and its environment have made it renowned for its beauty.


When speaking of Vancouver's skyline, it is important to note that there are in fact three different skylines in Vancouver with substantial count of high-rise buildings. The two most prominent skylines, often featured in postcards, are perhaps the view of southern shore of Burrard Inlet and northern shore of False Creek. The skyline of southern shore of Burrard Inlet comprises buildings of Coal Harbour, and buildings along the Waterfront Road. It includes some of the city's most renowned architectural masterpieces such as Canada Place, Harbour Centre, the Marine Building, and Shaw Tower. The skyline of northern shore of False Creek include southern portion of West End, the three bridges connecting to Vancouver Downtown (Granville, Cambie and Burrard), Yaletown, Concord Pacific Place (North America's largest residential condominium project), and famous attractions like General Motors Place and Science World. The third and less commonly referred skyline in Vancouver includes buildings that line along the Broadway Corridor at False Creek south. This section of the city, although much more "mid-rise" than Downtown (average building height ranging from 50m-80m), contains some of the city's largest government buildings, such as Vancouver General Hospital (23rd tallest hospital in the world) and Vancouver City Hall. In the future, False Creek south should play a more important role in the city's skyline as the emptied industrial land in Southeast False Creek is developed in the coming years.

Although Vancouver, per capita, has more high-rises than any other city in North America, Vancouver's skyline is relatively "mid-rise" by Canadian standards. Most buildings in Downtown have a height of around 90m-130m, with the tallest skyscrapers around 150m tall. This is the result of a strict height restriction that is in place to protect mountain views.

The View Protection Guidelines were approved on December 12, 1989 and amended on December 11, 1990, establishing a number of view corridors in the downtown with height limits to protect views of the north shore mountains from a variety of locations south of the downtown peninsula. Over the year, the view protection guideline had succeeded in preserving mountain views; however, various people have commented that Vancouver's skyline is now flat and lacks visual interest. Many agreed that there is a need for some taller buildings that reflect Vancouver's contemporary image. Others are worried about proposals for much higher buildings. Many are concerned that the natural setting and, in particular, the north shore mountains may be compromised as tall buildings proliferate. In response to these concerns and the desire to a clear City policy for considering buildings that exceed current height limits, Council directed staff to undertake a Skyline Study.

In 1997, the Downtown Vancouver Skyline Study concluded that Vancouver's skyline would benefit from the addition of a handful of buildings exceeding current height limits to add visual interest to Vancouver's skyline. This led to the General Policy on Higher Buildings. The 1997 study noted that the opportunities for such buildings were restricted due to a limited number of large development sites in the downtown. There were at least five sites identified where buildings exceeding the 450 foot height limit are possible and at least two sites in the northwest corner of the Central Business District where heights up to 400 feet (exceeding the 300 foot limit) might be considered. Eight years later, five of the seven identified sites for higher buildings have been developed or are in the development application process.

Currently, an Urban Design Panel has been set up for the purpose of reviewing building proposals and rezoning applications in the downtown area (especially those that significantly exceed the current height limits).

Vancouver's urban skyline from Stanley Park.
Vancouver's urban skyline from Stanley Park.
Vancouver's evening skyline of False Creek North.
Vancouver's evening skyline of False Creek North.


Stanley Park in Vancouver rain.
Stanley Park in Vancouver rain.

Vancouver's climate is unusually temperate by Canadian standards; after Victoria, it is the second warmest major city in Canada during the winter, which explains why it is ranked as the second most desirable climate in Canada. Summer months are generally sunny and dry, temperatures moderate, with the daily maximum averaging 22°C in July and August, but this is due to the influence of the Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia, as the more easterly suburbs are hotter in the summer. Thunderstorms are very infrequent due to the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean, but they can occur at any time of the year. Spring and autumn are usually showery and cool. Rainfall is frequent in winter. Snow occurs in the surrounding mountains but less often at sea level, though there are winters in which the city receives enough snowfall to cause school closures. Blizzards are rare but can incapacitate much of the Lower Mainland. One in 1996 resulted in over 60 cm of snow in Vancouver. The system was responsible for millions dollars of damage.

Although Vancouver is popularly known as the rainy city, only 166 days per year have measurable precipitation on average, and 289 days per year have measurable sunshine. In fact, every major city from Quebec City eastward to St. John's gets more annual precipitation than Vancouver. For a few nights near the summer solstice each June, the northern sky remains slightly lit by the sun, and nighttime lasts only about 6 hours.

A wide range of plant species including many exotics can be found growing in Vancouver thanks to the mild climate. The increasingly popular Chinese Windmill Palm which can grow as high as 40 feet is a common sight in many areas, especially in the city's West End and beach neighbourhoods.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
EXTREME Daily Maximum °C 15.3 18.4 19.4 25.0 30.4 30.6 31.9 33.3 29.3 23.7 18.4 14.9
AVERAGE Daily Maximum °C 6.1 8.0 10.1 13.1 16.5 19.2 21.7 21.9 18.7 13.5 9.0 6.2
AVERAGE Daily Minimum °C 0.5 1.5 3.1 5.3 8.4 11.2 13.2 13.4 10.5 6.6 3.1 0.8
EXTREME Daily Minimum °C -17.8 -16.1 -9.4 -3.3 0.6 3.9 6.7 6.1 0.0 -5.9 -14.3 -17.8

AVERAGE Precipitation mm 154 123 114 84 68 55 40 39 54 113 181 176
AVERAGE Total Snow cm 17 10 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 16
AVERAGE Sunshine h 55 87 132 172 237 242 296 265 189 124 67 54
Data[2] is for Vancouver Airport (YVR), just south of the City of Vancouver

Air Pollution

There is never any shortage of opinion that air pollution is getting worse over any major city. However, air quality in the greater Vancouver area has improved over the last several decades, due largely to actions by various levels of government (e.g. improved automobile efficiency, cleaner fuels).

Despite such efforts, important challenges remain due to the significant population and economic growth that is forecasted for the region, as well as findings that health impacts occur even at current air quality levels (c.f. recent studies by the BC Lung Association ).

The Greater Vancouver Regional District makes available real-time air quality measurements through their Air Quality Index . Data from approximately 20 stations are updated each hour.


Vancouver is a relaxed city with many diversions and easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, boating, and skiing. There is a lively cultural scene. Some have called it a "city of neighbourhoods", each with its own distinctive character.

Vancouver can be an expensive city, as housing prices are the highest in Canada. Various strategies aim to lessen housing costs. These include cooperative housing, suites, increased density and smart growth. Nevertheless, as with many other cities on the west coast of North America, homelessness is a concern, as is the growing gap between rich and poor.

Vancouver's population density on the downtown peninsula is as high as 20,000 people per square kilometre. The density of the city itself is third highest of any metropolitan centre in North America, after New York City and San Francisco (it should be noted that a handful of cities in the New York Metropolitan Area are more densely populated than Vancouver). City planners in the late 1950s and 1960s deliberately encouraged the development of high-rise condominium towers in the West End downtown neighbourhood, which has resulted in a compact, walkable and transit/bike friendly urban core. A major downtown condominium construction boom throughout the late 1990s (mainly caused by the huge capital flow from Hong Kong immigrants prior to the hand-over) and early 2000s has resulted in real estate values gaining as much as 10-15% per year.

Vancouver was reported in 2004 to have the third-highest crime rate in Canada. The same report noted that Vancouver's violent-crime rate was low but its property-crime rate (partially a consequence of drug addiction centred in the Downtown Eastside) was second only to Tampa, Florida in North America. One of the most common property crimes in the Vancouver area is automobile break-in; thus visitors are advised to conceal all items left in their car, and to use auto-theft protection devices.

Ethnic groups

Vancouver is home to people of many ethnic backgrounds and religions. Chinese is by far, the largest visible ethnic minority group in the city. Vancouver contains the second largest Chinatown in North America (after San Francisco's), and many multicultural neighbourhoods such as the Punjabi Market, Little Italy, Greektown, Japantown, Commercial Drive, and Koreatown which is developing synergy around Robson and Denman Streets in the West End. Street signs bilingual in English and Chinese or Punjabi can be seen at these centres of ethnic concentration.

Many immigrants from Hong Kong made Vancouver their home. This continued a tradition of immigrants flocking from around the world, to call Vancouver home. Statistics Canada data shows that 17% of the approximately 2 million people living in the metropolitan area are ethnic Chinese. Other significant Asian ethnic groups in Vancouver are Vietnamese, Filipino, Cambodian, and Taiwanese.

Much of the European population consists of persons whose origins go back to the U.K. as it was the number one ancestry according to the 2001 Census, and until recently it was a truism that British Columbians with UK ancestry most likely have that directly from the British Isles, rather than via Ontario or the Maritime Provinces. Other European groups consist of German, Dutch, French [of both European and Canadian origin], Ukrainians, Italians, Yugoslavs, Greeks, and lately numerous Russians and Poles.

There is also a sizeable community of aboriginal people in Vancouver as well as in the surrounding metropolitan region, with the result that Vancouver constitutes the largest native community in the province, albeit an unincorporated one (i.e. not as a band government). There is an equally-large or larger Metis contingent, with these being a mix of traditional "real" Metis from the Prairies and others whose mixed native/non-native ancestry qualifies them legally as Metis.

Ethnic origin

About half the population is of Christian background, the vast majority of them being technically Protestant, although Vancouver, like the rest of British Columbia, has a very low rate of church attendance compared to the rest of the continent and the vast majority of the population does not practice religion seriously. The Sikh, Hindu, and Buddhist populations are also very large, and within the growing Muslim population there is a large contingent of Ismaili Muslims who have settled in the area following their expulsion from Uganda.


The city of Vancouver has developed a reputation as tolerant city that is open to social experimentation and alternative lifestyles as well as being willing to explore alternative drug policies. The city has adopted a Four Pillars Drug Strategy, which combines harm reduction (e.g. needle exchanges, supervised injection sites) with treatment, enforcement, and prevention. The strategy is largely a response to endemic HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users in the city's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The area is characterised by entrenched poverty, the commercial sex trade, and an AIDS epidemic that in the 1990s became the worst in the developed world. Some community and professional groups—such as From Grief to Action and Keeping the Door Open—are fostering public dialogue in the city about further alternatives to current drug policies. The present mayor, Larry Campbell, came to office in 2002 in part because of his willingness to champion alternative interventions for drug issues, such as supervised injection sites. Although it is technically illegal, Vancouver police generally do not enforce marijuana possession laws, allowing several "marijuana cafes" to open. This has prompted some to nickname Vancouver the Amsterdam of Canada, or Vansterdam.

Vancouver has a bustling music and art scene, and one of the largest gay communities in North America. The city is relatively free of racial tension; every ethnic group is represented in every social class. One result is a relatively high rate of intermarriage; trans-ethnic couples are unremarkable in any neighbourhood.

Only half of Vancouver's population report to be Christian, one of the lowest rates in the country. Around 5% are Sikh, 3.7% Buddhist, and 2.6% Muslim.


Satellite photo of Vancouver region
Satellite photo of Vancouver region
The Sun Tower.
The Sun Tower.

International Trade

International commerce and trade is a key sector for Vancouver's economy. The city has Canada's largest port and is one of North America's major gateways for Pan-Pacific trade. The Port of Vancouver ranks first in North America in total foreign exports and also first on the West Coast in total cargo volume. [3]


"Hollywood North," as the city has been called, hosts the production of approximately ten percent of Hollywood's movies. Many U.S. television and films series are shot exclusively in Vancouver. This has partly been because of the favourable Canadian dollar exchange rate.


Vancouver International Airport is the principal international port in Western Canada and is the second busiest in the nation. As the premier gateway to Asia, it hosts many airlines' regional offices and their flights daily to the Orient, Europe, and the United States. Vancouver is also served by the Abbotsford International Airport, fast becoming a reliever to YVR convenient for the Eastern suburbs and transborder United States. Several floatplane operators support both tourist scenic flights and practical transportation with extensive operations during daylight hours.

Natural Resources

As a major centre for the global forestry industry, Vancouver is host to many international forestry conferences and events, and the natural home of the massive BC forestry business. Companies such as Canfor and West Fraser Timber Co., the second and third largest lumber producers in the world, are headquartered in Vancouver.

Vancouver is also a major centre for the mining industry, with the former Vancouver Stock Exchange (now absorbed into the TSX Venture Exchange) notable as the largest market in the world for venture capital in small to medium sized mining ventures. The highly speculative Vancouver market was sometimes criticised as too risky and even scam-ridden, which somewhat tarnished its reputation, though the long term effect on business has been negligible. Vancouver is the primary western ship loading point for sulphur refined in Alberta.

Banking and Financial

The headquarters for HSBC Canada is located in the Financial District in downtown, as are financial services giants RBC and TD Waterhouse, Bentall Capital, and regional offices of the worlds' most noteable institutions. Canada's third largest commerical entity, Jim Pattison Group is also based in Vancouver.

International Relations

Downtown also plays host as a major centre for diplomacy and foreign relations. Most countries of the world have consulate or consulate general offices in the Central Business District. In fact, many major diplomatic conventions are hosted by the city - including the world famous G6 summit with President Clinton, APEC, and the World Trade Organization. While speaking of foreign diplomatic relations, Greenpeace has its world headquarters in the city just across the Burrard Street bridge from downtown.

High Tech

Because of its local universities and reputation for very high quality of life, Vancouver has a growing high-technology sector - including software development. Additionally, Vancouver is emerging as a world leader in fuel cell technology, accounting for 70 percent of Canadians employed in the industry. The headquarters of Ballard Power Systems and the National Research Council Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation are both located in Vancouver. [4]


Tourism is a vital industry to Vancouver. The Whistler-Blackcomb Resort, 126 kilometres north of Vancouver, is among the most popular skiing resorts in North America, and will be the site of the downhill events of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Cypress Mountain, each with a variety of summer and winter leisure activities, are within a 30 km drive of downtown and all have bird's-eye views of the city and the surrounding region. Vancouver's numerous beaches, parks, waterfronts, and mountain backdrops, combined with its cultural and multi-ethnic character, all contribute to its unique appeal and style. Over a million people annually pass through Vancouver en route to a cruise ship vacation, usually to Alaska.

Of special note, the 1986 World Exposition was held in Vancouver.


Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains
Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains

The mild climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreationists. The north shore mountains are home to three ski hills - Cypress Bowl, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour - each within 20 to 30 minutes of downtown. Mountain bikers have created world-renowned trails across the north shore. Three rivers - Capilano River, Lynn Creek, Seymour River - each within 20 minutes of downtown provide opportunities to whitewater enthusiasts during periods of rain and spring melt. Vancouver has over 2,700 acres (11 km²) of parks, with Stanley Park being the largest. Vancouver also attracts cannabis-oriented tourists because of the reputation of its indigenous drug culture and high-strength hydroponically-grown marijuana. Some coffee shops in Vancouver, in fact, allow marijuana to be smoked inside their walls.

Government and politics

Vancouver is governed by the ten-member Vancouver City Council, a nine-member School Board, and a seven-member Parks Board, all elected for three-year terms through an at-large system. The last elections were held in November 2002. The leftist Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) swept the elections, winning 8 of 10 Council seats, 7 of 9 School Board seats and 5 of 7 Parks Board seats. The centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA) was reduced to 2 Council seats, 1 School Board seat and 2 Parks Board seats. The Vancouver Green Party won 1 School Board Seat.

In the race for mayor, the COPE's Larry Campbell defeated Jennifer Clarke of the NPA by a margin of 58% to 30%. However, Campbell indicated in early 2005 that he would not run again in that fall's election, leaving the future of COPE and the current composition of the council in doubt.

In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Vancouver has ten constituencies: In the 2005 provincial election, the BC Liberal Party and the BC New Democratic Party each won five seats.

In the Canadian House of Commons, Vancouver has five constituencies: In the 2004 federal elections, the Liberal Party of Canada won four seats, while the New Democratic Party won one.

Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or centre-right lines while the working-class eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines. This was reaffirmed with the results of the 2005 provincial election,

Municipal election

A proposal to change Vancouver's council elections to run on a ward basis (like most major Canadian cities) rather than its current at-large system was rejected by the populace in a plebiscite on October 16, 2004, possibly due to the increased costs of the ward system. It should be noted that only 22% of city residents cast a ballot in this referendum. Similarly, the plebiscite on whether or not to hold the 2010 Olympic Winter Games only drew 30%.


Vancouver from space, August 1989
Vancouver from space, August 1989

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) operates a regional rapid transit system, under the auspices of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, known as TransLink, an organization which is responsible for all aspects of municipal transportation, including roads and ferries within the GVRD. There is frequent bus service throughout Greater Vancouver. A foot passenger and bicycle ferry service (known as SeaBus) crosses Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, while a two-line automated metro system, the SkyTrain, the world's longest automated light rapid transit system, links downtown to the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. Currently under construction is an underground/elevated SkyTrain line running from downtown Vancouver to Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport by 2010, (see Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Line) as well as an at-grade light rail transit to Coquitlam and Port Moody.

The West Coast Express, a commuter rail train serves Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Mission. These services have an integrated ticketing system, making public transport inexpensive and efficient. In addition, private companies operate leisure-oriented passenger ferry services, around False Creek. HarbourLynx provides passenger-only fast-ferry service from Vancouver harbour to Nanaimo harbour on Vancouver Island.

Zero-emission trolley bus, Stanley Park
Zero-emission trolley bus, Stanley Park

Bus service operates throughout the region. Most buses are wheelchair accessible and a large number carry bike racks, able to carry two wheelchairs and bicycles respectively. Some buses which operate from overhead electrical trolley wires do not carry bicycle racks. It is worth noting that Vancouver is among the last of a few cities in North America which still have trolley buses operating on their streets. Certain diesel commuter buses which travel to the suburbs have bicycle racks, wheelchair lifts, and comfortable high back Greyhound-style seats. Frequency in Greater Vancouver ranges from every few minutes within the City of Vancouver to two to three trips a day to Maple Ridge and Aldergrove.

There is an extensive network of bike paths that provide east/west and north/south routes from one end of the city to the other. Each of the major bike paths has signal control to permit cyclists easy crossing of major arterial roads. Some of the bike paths are on streets that have extensive traffic calming measures such as traffic circles. Neighbourhoods are encouraged to plant and care for the circles and boulevards and add public art along bike routes. The Stanley Park seawall is also a popular recreational bicycle route.

View of Lions' Gate Bridge and Vancouver from the West Vancouver shore.
View of Lions' Gate Bridge and Vancouver from the West Vancouver shore.

Municipal bylaws and geography have protected Vancouver from the spread of urban freeways, and the only freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the eastern edge of the city. All other limited-access routes entering the city (Highway 99, Knight Street, Grant MacConachie Way, the Lions' Gate Bridge, etc.) promptly cease being freeways once they enter Vancouver's city limits.

Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport, located on Sea Island in the City of Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver. The airport (YVR) the second busiest in nation and one of the busiest international airports on the West Coast of North America. Plans are currently underway to build a third SkyTrain rail line connecting Vancouver to Richmond and the airport (with future extension possibly to Tsawwassen) (the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Line, or RAV) in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to take place in Vancouver. A heliport and seaplane dock on Burrard Inlet link downtown directly to Victoria and YVR. Vancouver is also served by two B.C. Ferry terminals, one to the northwest near the village of Horseshoe Bay, and one to the south, at Tsawwassen (the flagship terminal), linking the mainland to Vancouver Island and other nearby islands.


West End, English Bay, Vancouver, BC
West End, English Bay, Vancouver, BC

Vancouver consistently ranks in the top five in worldwide rankings of quality of life. Most recently, the city ranked first (2002, 2005) in a worldwide quality of life survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In a similar survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Vancouver ranked second (2002, 2003) and third (2004). Vancouver has tied for first with the cities of Salzburg and Oslo among the UN chosen cities for highest living standards the last 4 years running. The city generally ranks first when compared to its Canadian and U.S. peers.

Sites of interest

Currently topping the list of tallest buildings in Vancouver is One Wall Centre at 150 m and 48 stories. This will be eclipsed by several new skyscrapers[5] in the coming years, including the 2nd phase of the Bentall-5 office tower as well as the new 196 m tall, 60 storey Living Shangri-La tower[6], both currently under construction.

Interesting places

Some well-known neighbourhoods and other interesting places within the city include the following:

The 9 O'Clock Gun at Stanley Park makes a loud report heard through the region every evening at exactly 9:00 PM
The 9 O'Clock Gun at Stanley Park makes a loud report heard through the region every evening at exactly 9:00 PM
  • the downtown peninsula, including:
    • Burrard Street is home to high fashion retail, posh hotels, and—interestingly enough—the Financial District. There is an underground SkyTrain station (Burrard Station) near the end of the street, in the middle of the Financial District.
    • Canada Place, a convention centre, cruise ship terminal, and an Imax theatre built over the harbour
    • Chinatown, including the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese garden, the Chinese Cultural Centre, shops, restaurants, and open-air markets. The Chinatown-Stadium SkyTrain station is located less than two blocks from Keefer Street in Chinatown
    • the Downtown Eastside
    • Gastown, with brick streets and original buildings reflecting Vancouver's history, home to Storyeum
    • Granville Mall, a pedestrian street, characterized by blazing neon signs and a 24/7 urban scene in the centre of downtown is a hip area of dance clubs, bars, theatres, concert halls, shops, and restaurants. It is also the main transfer area for many of the TransLink buses and has its own underground SkyTrain station.
    • The "pot block" of 300-block of West Hastings, home to the BC Marijuana Party, Pot-TV, the Urban Shaman, and the Museum of Psychoactive Substances.
    • Robson Street, a hip and fashionable shopping and dining district
    • Sports arenas BC Place Stadium and GM Place, home to major sports teams like the BC Lions and the Vancouver Canucks as well as major touring concerts and gatherings. The Chinatown-Stadium SkyTrain station is the closest rapid transit access.
    • the West End, one of the most densely populated areas of North America, including access to English Bay, Sunset Beach, and Stanley Park including the Vancouver Aquarium
    • Yaletown and Coal Harbour neighbourhoods (previously industrial areas, now reclaimed with high-end residential high-rises, dance clubs, restaurants, and bars)
  • False Creek, one of Vancouver's first planned condominium neighbourhoods, on the site of what was the largest lumber mill in the city.
  • Kitsilano, including Greektown, Kits Beach and the Planetarium
  • Kerrisdale, a cozy, relaxed neighbourhood in the southwest, with sushi-bars galore.
  • West Point Grey, the westernmost neighbourhood of Vancouver where you can relax on one of the many beaches.
  • Queen Elizabeth Park (the highest point in Vancouver) known as Little Mountain. The park was at one time a gravel quarry. The Bloedel Conservatory and the Quarry Garden are situated near the peak.
  • VanDusen Botanical Garden, a 22-hectare garden in the middle of the city with guided tours offered daily, major events include the yearly garden show and the winter Festival of Lights.
  • Granville Island, including artist galleries and a bustling fresh food market. Tiny passenger ferries known as the "Aquabus" connect Granville Island to the downtown core.
  • Commercial Drive ("The Drive") for Little Italy, arts, restaurants, cafes, and "multi-ethnic" shopping; also the nexus for the Millennium and Expo Skytrain lines (Commercial Drive Station and Broadway Station)
  • Dickens, a small community in East Vancouver that stradles Kingsway between Fraser and Knight Streets. The area is culturally diverse and is known for a cuisine that is equally varied, excellent and inexpensize (especially Vietnamese and Chinese).
  • Main Street from around 6th Ave to 14th Ave, and 25th Ave to 30th Ave are areas of coffee shops, vintage clothing stores, second-hand and antique shops, and artists' lofts, popular with Vancouver's hipster community.
  • the Punjabi Market/Little India along Main Street around 49th Ave, for South Asian savours and treasures
  • The University of British Columbia campus and adjacent parklands, including clothing-optional Wreck Beach, the huge Pacific Spirit Regional Park, the Museum of Anthropology, and the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. The University of British Columbia also operates the TRIUMF particle/nuclear physics laboratory.
  • The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) grounds, located in Hastings Park, is the site of the annual fair of the same name held at the end of August. It also has exhibition buildings and the Coliseum, used for concerts and where the Vancouver Giants play
  • Playland, sharing its location with the PNE, is the city's amusement park and operates from April to September every year
  • Science World, built for Expo 86. (now known as Telus Sphere)

Colleges and universities

Vancouver and its adjacent communities are the home of three major universities, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), as well as two community colleges and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). BCIT provides polytechnic education and grants degrees in several fields. Each of these institutions has a small campus in downtown Vancouver to complement their main facilities. Vancouver Community College (VCC) and Langara College also serve the region's post-secondary education needs with career, trade, and university-transfer programs. Vancouver is also home to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.

Professional sports teams

Club Sport League Stadium Logo
Vancouver Canucks Hockey National Hockey League General Motors Place Vancouver Canucks Logo
British Columbia Lions Football Canadian Football League BC Place Stadium British Columbia Lions Logo
Vancouver Canadians Baseball Northwest League Nat Bailey Stadium Vancouver Canadians Logo
Vancouver Giants Ice hockey Western Hockey League Pacific Coliseum Vancouver Giants Logo
Vancouver Whitecaps Soccer United Soccer Leagues (men's)
W-League (women's)
Swangard Stadium Vancouver Whitecaps Logo

Former sport teams

Club Sport League Stadium Logo Status
Vancouver Grizzlies (199502) Basketball National Basketball Association General Motors Place Vancouver Grizzlies Logo Memphis Grizzlies
Vancouver Millionaires (191126) Ice hockey Pacific Coast Hockey Association Denman Arena Vancouver Millionaires Logo Defunct
Vancouver Ravens (2001-04) Lacrosse National Lacrosse League General Motors Place Vancouver Ravens Logo Defunct
Vancouver Voodoo (199396) Roller hockey Roller Hockey International General Motors Place Vancouver Voodoo Logo Defunct


Miscellaneous topics

Other names

The City of Vancouver also has nicknames

  • Lower Mainland
  • Lotus Land
  • VanCity
  • Van
  • Hong Kouver
  • Vansterdam
  • Vandia
  • Republic of Vancouver
  • New Asia
  • The City
  • Paradise
  • The Couv
  • Terminal City
  • The Coast (in relation to the British Columbia Interior)

Sister cities

The City of Vancouver was one of the first cities to ever enter into an international twinning arrangement when, in 1944, it twinned with Odessa, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. This was based on aiding the then allied port city. Since then the City of Vancouver has created special arrangements for cultural, social and economic benefits with the following cities:

Nuclear weapons free zone

In 1983, the City of Vancouver was one of the first cities in the world to declare itself a "Nuclear Weapons Free Zone". City Council has amended its policies and erected signage to this effect [7]. This is mostly a symbolic declaration, as the City has no jurisdiction over visiting ships in the harbour.

Municipalities in Greater Vancouver

There are 21 municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). While each of these has a separate municipal government, the GVRD oversees common services within the metropolitan area such as water, sewage, housing, transportation, and regional parks.

Surrounding municipalities

Northwest: West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Squamish North: ,
City of North Vancouver,
District of North Vancouver
West: Strait of Georgia, Greater Vancouver A, Nanaimo Vancouver East: Burnaby, Port Moody, Anmore, Belcarra, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Mission
South: Richmond, Musqueam 2, Delta, Southeast: New Westminster, Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Abbotsford


  • Macdonald, B. 1992. Vancouver: a visual history. Vancouver: TALONBOOKS.

See also

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Personal tools