A cosmopolitan destination that also affords stunning natural beauty, Vancouver is one of North America’s top vacation spots. It’s a city surrounded by towering mountains that are capped by snow throughout the year, yet it also is the site of beautiful beaches. With so much happening in every district, it can be difficult to decide where to stay in Vancouver. Rest assured that whatever you choose, you’ll enjoy a delightful experience.
Vancouver is a major seaport on Canada’s west coast. It boasts a diverse population of more than 630,000 people.
However, the city is just one part of the enormous Metro Vancouver area, which encompasses the neighboring cities of North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam and others.
Altogether, the region includes a population of approximately 2.5 million people, which ranks it third in terms of size in Canada.
The city has long been recognized for its quality of life, so it’s no surprise that visitors love it here. From the mountains to the beaches, there’s an incredible variety of outdoor activities.
Travelers also are drawn to the delights of the city, which include the Museum of Anthropology, the Vancouver Aquarium and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Rounded out by countless upscale shopping experiences and dining that ranges from down-home brewpubs to five-star delights, it’s clear that there’s something for everyone in this city.
Taking it all in would require a lifetime, which is why it’s important to select a hotel with care. The most vital part of this decision is choosing among the neighborhoods in Vancouver. They are plentiful and diverse.
Are there certain attractions that you want to be close to? Is ready access to the city’s nightlife important? Or, are you looking for a spot that’s off of the beaten path?
Once you understand more about Vancouver’s neighborhoods, you’ll be ready to make a good choice.
Where to Stay in Vancouver: Best Areas
1. Downtown, where to stay in Vancouver for first time visitors
The bustling downtown district is one of the best places to stay in Vancouver. It features top-tier attractions such as the Vancouver Art Gallery and Robson Square, the scene of ice skating in the winter and free dance classes in the summer.
Downtown also is the home of Canada Place, a massive cruise ship terminal and convention center that also features the Fly Over Canada ride, a can’t-miss attraction for those who don’t get motion sickness.
This is also the quarter in which you can get a bird’s eye view of the city from the Lookout at Harbour Centre. Shoppers can’t go wrong with strolls along Granville, West Georgia and Robson streets with their eclectic collections of brand-name shops.
A broad array of clubs, theaters, restaurants and pubs also is found here.
Perhaps Vancouver’s most famous attraction is Stanley Park. Situated in the midst of the Burrard Inlet between Vancouver’s downtown and North Vancouver, the 400-hectare park features 27 km of forest trails, an 8.8 km seawall, historic landmarks, gardens and more.
Some of the more popular activities in the park include riding the Stanley Park Train, playing tennis, enjoying a picnic or splashing in one of the water parks. As one of the city’s top attractions, it’s possible to reach Stanley Park by foot, car, bicycle and public transit.
Downtown is one of the most compact and walkable neighborhoods in Vancouver, but it also features excellent access to the SkyTrain, major bus lines and the SeaBus.
Most accommodations are sleek, high-rise hotels that include upscale amenities and spectacular views. Recognizable brand names like Four Seasons, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Fairmont, Westin, Hyatt and Marriott all are represented.
Distinctive boutique hotels similarly are located here, and many travelers love the historic hotels that have the authentic flavor of old Vancouver.
Visitors on a strict budget will be attracted to the many hostels that are located in the district. Since this is a favorite destination for visitors of every description, a tight lid is kept on crime, but it is nevertheless wise to use caution once the sun goes down.
2. Chinatown, economical stay close to Downtown
One of the most fascinating areas in Vancouver, Chinatown was established in the 19th century by Chinese laborers who were working on the Canadian Pacific Railway or in the local mines.
Thousands of Asian immigrants would follow their example, making Vancouver’s Chinatown the third largest such neighborhood in North America. Located to the east of downtown, Chinatown is a colorful and bustling warren of shops and restaurants.
Visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a must as is seeing the Sam Kee Building, which is billed as the narrowest commercial building in the world.
Visitors lucky enough to be here in August may enjoy the Vancouver Chinatown Festival.
Walking to Chinatown from downtown and other neighborhoods is easy. The community also is well-connected by the city’s mass transit system.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Vancouver, you’ll find that Chinatown is mainly served by smaller hotels, many of them historic.
This is a great choice for people who are looking for a more economical stay that still puts them close to Downtown, Gastown and other important neighborhoods in Vancouver.
3. Gastown, great place to stay in Vancouver for sightseeing and nightlife
Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood is also one of its most charming. Cobblestone streets, brick buildings and plenty of trees give this district a vintage air with which many people fall in love.
The main attractions in the area are the architecture, the many souvenir shops, the art galleries and the fantastic collection of restaurants and pubs.
By day, Gastown is a major draw for tourists and locals. Nighttime is hardly less bustling thanks to the neighborhoods many bars, clubs and restaurants.
It’s altogether charming, but be aware that this district borders on the east side of downtown, an area recognized for poverty and a concentrated population of people dealing with substance abuse issues and mental illness. If you are here at night, travel with caution.
As one of Vancouver’s top attractions, it’s easy to reach Gastown by foot or mass transit. Hotel choices include historic boutique properties with small rooms and loads of charm as well as modern high-rises.
This neighborhood features a good mix of affordable and expensive lodgings, so every traveler will find accommodations to suit their budget.
4. Yaletown, where to stay in Vancouver in a trendy area
Super-trendy Yaletown bears little resemblance to its rough-and-tumble, industrial beginnings. Sawmills and warehouses once dotted the landscape, and legends say that this is where the term “skid row” was coined because of the way logs were moved to the harbor on skids.
Many of the warehouse and sawmill buildings still exist today, but they serve different purposes. Now, they are chic lofts and upscale restaurants. This is mainly a residential district with art galleries, taverns and boutiques lining the streets.
People come here for a night at the theater or to relax in one of the green parks. Two of Vancouver’s best green spaces, David Lam Park and George Wainborn Park, sit along Yaletown’s southwest border.
This also is a good place to stay if visitors will be attending any sporting or other events at the adjacent BC Place stadium.
Yaletown is a small neighborhood that doesn’t have a lot of hotel choices within its borders. What is there is expensive, luxurious and divine. However, just outside of the bounds of Yaletown, visitors may find much more affordable places to stay in Vancouver.
5. Coal Harbour, one of the quietest areas in Downtown Vancouver
Bordered by Gastown, Downtown and the Vancouver Harbour, Coal Harbour stretches from Canada Place to Stanley Park. If you want to stay in one of the quietest areas in Vancouver, this is a great option that features both business and residential use.
The popular Seawall, with its trail, passes through this area, giving visitors a great way to get around from one waterfront neighborhood to the next. A marina is found here too as are several restaurants. Be sure to schedule a harbor cruise while here.
Coal Harbour is accessible by foot from several of Vancouver’s other neighborhoods. Its waterfront location means that the hotels in Coal Harbour proper are distinctly upscale.
If money is no option, this is a fantastic place to stay. Further away from the water, several more affordable lodging choices are available, including a few bed and breakfasts.
6. Granville Island, a cultural district
One of the smallest neighborhoods in Vancouver, Granville Island is located on a sandbar beneath the Granville Street Bridge.
It’s the erstwhile home of factories and sawmills, but underwent massive renovations in the 1970s after city leadership decided to make it a people-friendly place. They succeeded in spades.
Today, Granville Island boasts theaters, restaurants, pubs, an art school, galleries, a community center and a marina.
The centerpiece of the island is colorful and bustling Granville Island Public Market. It’s a marvelous place to pick up farm-fresh produce and tantalizing baked goods as well as handcrafted items.
It’s a wonderful place to enjoy a meal and some people watching. The Public Market is indoors, so it’s a good choice when the weather isn’t cooperating.
Another fantastic way to enjoy the island is by signing up for a tour via kayak or paddleboard. Experienced guides provide interesting details of the island’s history while visitors get a bit of exercise. On a sunny day, there’s no better way to enjoy Granville.
Granville Island is easy to get to. A favorite transportation mode with locals and visitors alike is the fleet of mini-tugboat ferries that take passengers back and forth across False Creek. This provides you an opportunity to enjoy a boat trip and a fantastic outing at the market.
Granville Island also is accessible by car and bus as well as foot and bike.
Only the posh Granville Island Hotel is actually located on the island itself. However, several more accommodation options are available just across the bridge on bustling Granville Street.
Some of these are actually quite affordable. Among them are several recognizable chain properties as well as some independently owned and operated hotels.
7. South Vancouver, best place to stay in Vancouver for a local experience
A mainly residential neighborhood that does not have much in the way of tourist attractions per se, South Vancouver is still a lovely, sprawling community. It is the ideal neighborhood for the visitor who wants to experience the city like the locals do.
During your stay in Montreal, you’ll be able to discover quiet, tree-lined streets as well as restaurants and pubs that are mainly frequented by people who actually live here.
Immediately to the south of this neighborhood is the city of Richmond. It is a favorite destination for people who love history and nature.
The simple yet fascinating museums in Richmond include the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site and the Steveston Museum & Visitor Centre.
The Richmond Museum also is found here as well as the Richmond Olympic Experience. Of the interactive Olympic museums located around the globe, this is the first one to be established in North America.
Richmond also is a fantastic place to discover nature. Parks in the city feature miles of trails, beautiful beaches, lakes and opportunities to observe wildlife. Richmond Nature Park, Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment, Iona Beach Regional Park and Minoru Park are probably the most popular.
As a mainly residential neighborhood, South Vancouver does not have a great deal of choice for places to stay in Vancouver. However, what is available is affordable, and visitors are unlikely to find any chain hotels here.
What they will find are one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast establishments and inns. Generally priced at less than $100 per night, these are an ideal choice for the traveler on a strict budget or for someone who doesn’t care for the large hotel experience.
A small inn or bed and breakfast allows for more opportunities to interact with locals and to find out what attractions they recommend, and many people prefer this way to travel.
8. Kitsilano, good place to stay in Vancouver for families
This neighborhood, which may be referred to as “Kits” by the locals, went through a difficult period in the 1960s. Most of the homes there were built in the 1920s, and the owners had converted them into cheap rooming houses.
This encouraged an influx of hippies. Kitsilano became sort of a Haight-Ashbury of the north for a good decade or beyond. The times have changed, and Kitsilano has changed with them.
Now, this is an extremely pricy neighborhood that boasts many upscale stores and restaurants. Kitsilano also is the neighborhood where young urban professionals and growing families are determined to settle.
Of all of the neighborhoods in Vancouver, this one definitely has an upscale vibe. After all, this is the birthplace of the lululemon athletica yoga brand.
Kitsilano is reached by crossing the Burrard Bridge from downtown. On its north side is the waterfront, and West 16th Avenue is its border to the south. Many condos and single-family homes are found here, but there also is a beach, numerous parks and two commercial districts.
When it comes to attractions, Kitsilano has some real headliners. Vanier Park is found here, and it includes the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Museum of Vancouver.
The Maritime Museum makes it possible to explore various historic vessels as well as interactive exhibits. At the MacMillan Space Centre, patrons can discover countless exhibits and the awe-inspiring Planetarium Star Theatre.
The Museum of Vancouver features fascinating displays concerning the city’s history as well as its natural surroundings. Exhibitions of First Nations art and artifacts are enormously popular.
Immediately to the west of the museums is Kitsilano Beach, a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon. The Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival happens here every summer.
If you don’t want to take a dip in the open water, opt for the Kitsilano Pool instead. It’s filled with saltwater and promises a refreshing swim for everyone.
Restaurants in the neighborhood definitely focus on healthy, farm-to-table foods. Seafood is another favorite, and Kitsilano boasts several bars and pubs.
This is also the neighborhood that features a large Greek population. Centered on West Broadway, this is the ideal place to go for Mediterranean cuisine.
One of the most popular neighborhoods In Vancouver, accommodations in Kitsilano trend toward quaint bed and breakfast inns located in historic homes. This is in keeping with the character of the neighborhood where a large high-rise hotel would be distinctly out of place.
Accordingly, a stay in Kitsilano typically involves a soft, luxurious bed with top-of-the-line linens, an elegant bath and a gourmet breakfast each morning. This is definitely a relaxed and genteel way to enjoy the city.
Kitsilano can easily be reached by car and bus.
9. North Vancouver
More a city of its own that an actual neighborhood, North Vancouver offers many of the best places to stay in Vancouver.
Located on the Burrard Inlet, this is a waterfront municipality that is highly urbanized. However, visitors only have to drive a few miles to find some spectacular natural attractions.
Many popular spots are found in this area. Grouse Mountain is one of the best. The highlight of a visit here is to take the Grouse Mountain Skyride to the top of the peak.
Year-round, the views of the city and the surrounding countryside are breathtaking. On top of Grouse Mountain, visitors discover shopping, dining and the Theatre in the Sky.
Active visitors will want to challenge themselves on the Grouse Grind trail, a 2.9 km path that gains 2,800 feet in elevation. This is a favorite summertime activity.
Other warm-weather attractions include birds of prey demonstrations, lumberjack shows and visiting the wildlife refuge. Skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing are the highlights in the winter.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is another favorite North Vancouver attraction. Not for those who are afraid of heights, the bridge sways 230 feet above the Capilano River. The attraction includes many trails, a museum, historical exhibits, a gift shop, restaurant and much more.
Other popular attractions in the area include the Lonsdale Quay Market with its Seabus terminal and more than 80 shops and restaurants and Maplewood Farm, where it’s possible to get up-close-and-personal with a variety of animals.
North Vancouver may be reached by car or bus via the Lions Gate Bridge to the west or the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to the east. The Seabus service also connects Vancouver to North Vancouver.
This is one of the areas in Vancouver that features a great variety of accommodation options including modern hotels and bed and breakfasts in historic homes.
In keeping with the neighborhood’s reputation for being a bit ritzy, many of these accommodations may seem pricey. However, there are more affordable options available, particularly in the vicinity of the Lions Gate Bridge.
With its many world-class attractions, gourmet restaurants and upscale accommodations, Vancouver is a memorable destination. The many charming and diverse neighborhoods in Vancouver promise a unique experience for everyone who ventures here.