Vancouver is a great city, but even better is that it is set in the mountains of British Columbia. Any panoramic view of downtown is likely to be backed by the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. A trip to Vancouver can be combined by an easy trip into the Rockies, such as a drive through the sounds to Whistler, which while a fantastic ski resort is also a great place to visit outside the ski season for some summer time in the mountains.

The city is consistently voted one of the most liveable cities in the world, but its popularity has made it one of the most densely populated cities in Canada. Also it has some traffic problems due to the way it is layed out and has some small bridges not originally designed for the current quantity of traffic. It is now an expensive city to live in due its desirability.

While it has a waterfront, the city isn’t directly next to the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver Island sits across the straight the city is situated on, and on the other side of Vancouver Island is the ocean. The ocean can however be reached directly by boat from the city through the Haro Strait, and it is around 200km to the ocean through this route.

To the east is Calgary some distance away over 1000 km, but Seattle is closer across the US border to the south.

The whole area has a number of national parks and national forests. The closest to the city being the Golden Ears Provincial Park and the Garibaldi Provincial Park by Whistler. The city has two large urban parks right by it – the Stanley Park between downtown and the Lion’s Gate Bridge on the north side of the city, and the Pacific Spirit Regional Park on the west of the downtown area.

This wealth of open space, mountains, parkland, water fronts and ocean access is what makes the city such a tourist draw and the combination of modern city with scenic outdoors make it one of the most popular places in Canada.

The city – like many US cities, is made up of neighbourhoods, each with distinct characteristics. There are populations of German, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Greek, Japanese, British and Irish and these tend to be located in specific areas. The city is becoming more ethnically diverse due to high immigration since the 80’s. This is good for tourism in that there is a wide choice of eateries and some cool ethnic parts of the city to visit such as Chinatown, Little Italy and Greektown.

Vancouver has a relatively mild winter climate for Canada due to its position close to the Pacific Ocean and has an almost Mediterranean climate in summer. Winter months tend to be quite wet, but the warmer summer months have low rainfall, and this might be the best time to plan a trip unless you want to do winter sports in the mountains.

The city is strong in the arts and culture and has theatre, dance, film and tv shows produced in the city. There are several major museums for wet days and a history of visual art in the city, so you may be able to catch a photography or art exhibition while in town.

The city, like its neighbour Seattle, has produced some notable punk and alternative bands, and current bands such as Japandroids and the New Pornographers keep the city on the musical map. There is a good choice of bands to go and see each weekend as well as music festivals such as the Westward Music Festival in September in downtown Vancouver. This is held over three days at venues such as the Vogue Theatre, Biltmore Cabaret and the Imperial Theatre and could be a good way to catch some new acts.

Main image (cc) @JamesZ_Flickr

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