Take a look at Gastown’s old-fashioned bricks, uneven cobblestones, and Victorian architecture, and you might pick up on the fact that you’re in Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood. Gastown celebrated its 150th birthday in 2017, and it’s come a long way since local legend John (“Gassy Jack”) Deighton opened the first tavern in the area.
As you poke around the neighborhood today, you’ll spot everything from trendy shops to cool restaurants, iconic Vancouver landmarks, and lively bars and pubs. In recent years, Gastown has become one of the most interesting areas in Vancouver, and it’s just waiting for you to drop by and explore.
In that light, here are a few of our favorite places in Gastown.
If any neighborhood understands the importance of taking frequent caffeine breaks, it’s Gastown. Here, several coffee shops serve good, strong cups of joe, as well as delicious snacks; one of the best options is undoubtedly Nemesis Coffee. Thanks to its beakers, stoppers, and cards explaining the brewing process, the central bar almost feels like a chemistry lab, and with the café’s natural lighting and quiet buzz, it’s the perfect place to work, read, or catch up with friends.
Some of our other favorites include Revolver (home to an amazing drip coffee), Nelson the Seagull (where you can pick up a picnic board to go), and Finch’s Tea House (a corner café decorated with vines and old wooden chairs).
In Gastown, you’ll find a huge assortment of stores that sell almost everything under the sun. Whether you’re looking for books, thrifted clothing, knick-knacks, or something else entirely, there’s a good chance that you can find what you need in this neighborhood.
If you’re a bookworm, head to Book Row — the stretch of West Pender Street between Richards and Homer — that’s home to Vancouver’s highest concentration of bookstores. One must-visit spot along the row is The Paper Hound, where you’ll find rare, used, and new books. Spend some time exploring the shop’s quirky genre sections, which include everything from Wanderlust to Books with Bears, and one-of-a-kind oddities, like a banned books box, poem dispensary, and postcard tree.
Next, set out to find a few of the neighborhood’s other gems. At Old Faithful Shop, you can browse high-quality, long-lasting products that range from housewares to personal items, and at Beat Street Records, you can peruse the store’s huge stock of vinyl. Meanwhile, at The Good Spirit, you can meet with a psychic for a tarot reading, and at Community Thrift and Vintage, you can find the secondhand outfit of your dreams. To round out your shopping trip, stop in at Neighbour, a clothing shop with separate storefronts for menswear and womenswear.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, don’t worry! Gastown has more than its fair share of Vancouver’s finest restaurants, serving everything from tacos to moules frites — the hard part is just choosing the perfect lunch or dinner spot.
For sandwiches, salads, or even hearty breakfasts, head to the Birds & The Beets, and for traditional Belgian food, check out Chambar Restaurant. MEAT & BREAD makes sandwiches that are as straightforward as the restaurant’s name is, but everything on the menu is delicious. And Tacofino’s Gastown location serves traditional al pastor, steak, and fish tacos, but also offers creative dishes like octopus tostadas. Another one of our favorite local restaurants is MeeT, where we like to order the K-town poutine, the lovely bowl, and the double-double burger (made with plant-based bacon). As far as drinks go, we love the hibiscus lemonade, and for dessert, we can’t speak highly enough of the cronut. Finally, for exceptional vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free fare, try Nuba (a Lebanese restaurant that boasts delicious flavors and a farm-to-table approach).
No matter which restaurant you choose, we’re willing to bet that you’ll have a new favorite place by the time you take your last bite. Bon appétit!
Bars and Pubs
On top of everything else, Gastown is also a great neighborhood for grabbing a drink with new and old friends.
Here, you’ll find plenty of inviting bars and pubs, like The Diamond (serving cocktails and dinner), Pub 340 (complete with a dive bar atmosphere), and The Blarney Stone (dedicated to all things Ireland).
One of our other favorites is Cambie Hostel, which boasts a street corner location, an outdoor patio, a brick exterior, and live music every Thursday. Alternatively, Back and Forth Bar is another great choice, especially if you’d like to play pingpong or board games with your friends. Cheers!
Other Points of Interest
And, of course, Gastown is home to a few must-see attractions.
Take the steam clock at the corner of Water Street and Cambie Street. It’s probably the most famous sight in the neighborhood, and it draws quite a crowd, especially when it begins whistling every quarter of an hour. The clock is only about 40 years old, built as a tourist attraction to convince the former mayor not to demolish Gastown for highway construction, but it looks like a Victorian antique. Many locals gripe that only the clock’s whistles are powered by steam, or that its antique design is deceptive — but even so, there’s no way to deny that the clock served an important purpose in the neighborhood’s history.
After checking out the steam clock, you can pay your respects to “Gassy Jack”— the old tavern owner — at his statue on Water Street. And just a little farther down the road, you’ll find the Flatiron, an iconic building that’s one of Vancouver’s most Instagrammable sights.
While there are plenty of other interesting things to spot around the neighborhood, you’ll just have to find them for yourself. After all, that’s half the fun!
Have you been to Gastown? If not, tell us what you’d like to see first. And if you’ve already explored this neighborhood, share a few of your favorite stops in the comments!
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