Vancouver is more than just a metropolis — it’s a microcosm of vibrant traditions, proud legacies, and international cuisines, all reflecting the diverse backgrounds of its inhabitants. Because of this, the city has long been an attractive destination for travelers who want to get up close and personal with other cultures.
So, if you’d like to travel far and wide without leaving city limits, this guide will come in handy.
Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood — Gastown — is best known for its brick buildings, cobblestone streets, trendy shops, and impressive restaurants. But it’s also an important center for First Nations art and culture, providing yet another reason to visit. After all, exploring a few of the neighborhood’s galleries will let you wander beyond Vancouver and into the far corners of British Columbia.
You might enjoy a visit to the Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, which is packed with jewelry, pottery, sculptures, glasswork, and more by Indigenous artists. You could also head to the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, which houses both Inuit and Northwest Coast art. Alternatively, the collections at Silver Gallery and Artina’s Jewellery include thousands of pieces created by First Nations artists. And if you venture just outside of Gastown, you’ll find the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery, located in a building that also houses apartments for Indigenous people at risk for homelessness.
Given the craftsmanship and passion that goes into each piece of artwork, you shouldn’t leave Vancouver without witnessing at least some of the First Nations’ creations showcased in the city — even if galleries aren’t usually your thing. After all, you can learn a lot by taking a look at those pieces, and Gastown makes it all too easy to see them for yourself.
Neighborhood location: downtown, north of Chinatown.
Major thoroughfare: Water Street.
As one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, this district is home to everything from dim sum restaurants to specialty stores, apothecaries, open-air markets, and instantly recognizable Chinese architecture.
Vancouver’s Chinatown dates back to the 1890s, when the first major wave of Chinese immigrants settled in the city. Since then, their roots have settled in nicely, establishing a neighborhood that both travelers and locals love exploring. During your visit, make sure to stop by Millennium Gate (Chinatown’s main entryway) and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (a calm oasis in a busy city). And while most of the neighborhood’s restaurants boast delicious food, Bao Bei is one of the most popular choices for both dinner and drinks.
In mid-August, the neighborhood also hosts the Vancouver Chinatown Festival, where thousands of people come together for cultural events, carnival games, and live music. It’s a can’t-miss event in one of Vancouver’s can’t-miss neighborhoods.
Neighborhood Location: east of downtown core and south of Gastown, within walking distance from Marriott International’s downtown properties: Delta Hotels by Marriott Vancouver Downtown Suites, The Westin Grand, and JW Marriott Parq.
Major thoroughfares: East Pender Street, Carrall Street.
Although “Greektown” is an unofficial designation for just a few streets in the Kitsilano neighborhood, there’s no denying that this area has benefited from considerable Greek influence throughout the years — just head to Kitsilano and you’ll see.
The area features a high concentration of Greek restaurants, as well as a specialty market and Greek Orthodox cathedral. Spend some time exploring the cultural sites, and check out the hippie hotspots on nearby West Fourth Avenue while you’re at it. And when you’re ready for a bite to eat, try Maria’s Taverna. Between its white-and-blue exterior and authentic fare, this restaurant will have you daydreaming of Santorini (even though Vancouver itself is pretty dreamy, too). Alternatively, you could also stop in at Nuba, a Lebanese restaurant offering great food and several vegan options.
Every summer, Kitsilano hosts Greek Day, a festival that celebrates all things Hellenic. From food to live music, shopping, and more, it’s the perfect way to fête Vancouver’s Greek heritage.
Major thoroughfare: West Broadway.
Of all the neighborhoods in Vancouver, South Main is one of the city’s biggest hipster hangouts. Technically part of the larger Mount Pleasant neighborhood, South Main surrounds the central axis (Main Street) — and both locals and travelers love spending time in this area.
Main Street is lined with breweries, cafés, record stores, galleries, and locally owned shops, but you’ll also come across lots of international food here. And while it’s difficult to pinpoint which culture has influenced the neighborhood the most, it’s safe to say that people of all backgrounds are welcome here.
If you’d like to get away from downtown for a while, consider relaxing in South Main’s green spaces and strolling its streets. Feel free to pop into the businesses and look around, sample something, or make a purchase. When your stomach starts growling, you can choose from a wide variety of culinary traditions, with options that range from cheap eats to high-end dining. Head into a restaurant like Bob Likes Thai Food (bet you can’t guess what they serve) or Anh and Chi, and dig in!
Location: Mount Pleasant.
Major thoroughfare: Main Street.
Several waves of immigrants have shaped Commercial Drive and made it the diverse, exciting neighborhood that it is today. The street is 22 blocks long, but the best way to discover it is by choosing a smaller stretch and exploring on foot (with obligatory stops in any building or restaurant that catches your eye).
Like South Main, Commercial Drive is a melting pot of cultures. It’s home to Vancouver’s own Little Italy, and although you’ll find pizzerias, gelato shops, and espresso bars along the Drive, you’ll also encounter pieces of Caribbean, Portuguese, Nepalese, Salvadoran, and Mexican culture. From Havana Café to Gatley Lifestyle Store, Marcello Pizzeria, and Addis Café, this neighborhood has something for everyone. You’re bound to stumble upon something extraordinary!
Location: east of downtown, from Powell Street to the southwest corner of John Hendry Park.
Around the city
No matter where you go in Vancouver, there’s plenty of evidence of international influence. And with immigrants making up about 40 percent of Vancouver’s population, it’s no wonder that the city is so dynamic and diverse.
Take the city’s restaurants, which spoil locals and visitors for choice. In Davie Village, you’ll find Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Taverna. At several downtown locations, you can walk into Japadog for a Japanese-style hot dog, and on the waterfront, you can sample aburi sushi at Miku. And in Chinatown, surprisingly enough, you can enjoy coffee and a heartening breakfast in an Austrian-style café.
Although restaurants, pubs, and cafés are probably the most visible way that the city’s immigrants have made their mark, Vancouver is peppered with other reminders about its diversity and culture of inclusion. So start exploring, and see what you can find!
Did we miss any noteworthy international enclaves? Let us know in the comments!