There’s only one true Vancouver in this world, and it’s located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Home to some 603,000 residents and millions more regionally, the city boasts a very vibrant and authentic culture that draws people from across the globe to visit, do business, and call it their own. A recent trip to the city reminded me why I keep coming back again and again for more. Here are 13 great things about Vancity:

1. Savior of History

Vancouver passionately preserves its history and finds unique ways to transform it into modern-day uses. The Roundhouse epitomizes this effort by acting as a neighborhood anchor of history and engagement. The building operates as a community center for residents to learn, play, and build relationships.

The Roundhouse in Yaletown.
The Roundhouse in Yaletown.

2. Living In Between

Vancouver is a wonderland of so many small spaces for people. Alleyways of all sizes and types line the blocks of Downtown Vancouver, many maintained with elaborate passageways and sometimes the main way for business access.

Private alleyway.
Private alleyway.

3. Pioneering Cycle Chic

Vancouver is a place where bicycling is a normal way of life. The City of Vancouver has made a concerted effort to make it easy for ages and abilities with cycletracks and bicycle infrastructure everywhere. One of the best examples of this is through innovative designs like the Hornby Cycletrack lined with planter boxes.

Downtown Vancouver cycletrack.
Downtown Vancouver cycletrack on Hornby.

4. Wayfinder

Vancouver knows that people need to get places and the city puts people first with high quality signage everywhere. A comprehensive program has been rolled out to use consistent kiosk types and maps to help people get the lay of the land.

Waterfront wayfinding sign.
Waterfront wayfinding sign.

5. Standing Tall

Vancouver is a city of very tall structures. Some of these are of an elegant past and some of these are of the modern skyscraping city. Regardless, the city recognizes that building up instead of building out is the best path forward.

A very English looking building off of Cambie St.
A very English looking building off of Cambie St.

6. Thinking and Being Big

Vancouver is not afraid to think big and act big. SkyTrain and the expansive bus network are proof that Vancouver is capable of doing very big things in a well planned manner. Visit any one of the dozens of SkyTrain stops and you will see a booming city. It is also a city willing to learn from global cities like London (note the signage).

Dreaming big, learning from the best.
Dreaming big, learning from the best.

7. Embracer of Oddities

Vancouver is a city full of little oddities like the one below. It is these types of temporary and random installations that make spaces so much more interesting than they would otherwise be.

Temporary art installation.
Temporary art installation.

8. Progressive Champion

Vancouver is willing to talk about things that are sometimes controversial instead of sweeping them under the rug. It’s long been a progressive city that wants to promote social cohesion and equity. Art is one way that Vancouver invites open discussion, but local organizations, individuals, and politicians are pushing forward inclusive dialogue.

A mural of the 1970s police attack on peaceful protestors.
A mural of the 1970s police attack on peaceful protestors.

9. Monumental In All Times

Vancouver has their monuments to bigger-than-life characters, too. Some of these are towers, others are plaques, but they serve to help the city remember that it has a very deep history.

he Sun Tower is building shrouded in an extraordinary history.
The Sun Tower is building shrouded in an extraordinary history due in large part to its commission by L. D. Taylor.

10. A Reinventer

Vancouver has had its share of ups and downs, but if there is any place that understand what it means to reinvent itself, Vancouver is it. Yaletown is one of many districts that have been revitalized through thoughtful efforts from city officials, locals, and developers and the results are outstanding.

The heart of Yaletown's commercial district.
The heart of Yaletown’s commercial district.

11. An Innovator of Systems

Vancouver is an innovator willing to adopt new ways of using dynamic technology and existing resources in different ways. It’s a place that is actively looking to make the most out of limited space for the benefit of all.

Car2Go spaces in Yaletown.
Car2Go spaces in Yaletown.

12. A Free Wall

Vancouver is happy to open up its walls for the beauty of masterpieces and the no-so-great attempts at art. It doesn’t see walls as barriers, but rather ways to communicate ideas, humanity, and place to all that can see them.

Wall art in Chinatown.
Wall art in Chinatown.

13. Something For Everybody

Vancouver is a region that recognizes that people have very different needs and their housing market is reflective of that. Some of that is single-family homes, some are rowhouses and townhouses, and other are tower blocks. Vancouver shows that these can coexist seamlessly.

Differing scales of development in New Westminster.
Differing scales of development in New Westminster.

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a non-profit that depends on donations from readers like you.

1 COMMENT

  1. Vancouver is actually terrible at architectural heritage. We had only three large art deco buildings, one was demolished. The fines for tearing down heritage buildings are so low as to be ineffectual, as was demonstrated when the Stuart building was torn down. Age is the primary factor in heritage designation, Modernist buildings haven’t been protected. The real estate market is beyond out of control, the cheapest house is $1 million. The city is run by and for developers and real estate agents. This is a fluff piece that paints a rosy picture that bears little resemblance to the Vancouver residents live in.

Comments are closed.