Heritage buildings, cobblestone streets, and souvenirs shops make Gastown a popular destination for visitors. You'll see city bus tours departing from the neighborhood, and groups waiting for the hissing chimes of the Steam Clock.
At night, crowds gather in the city's best restaurants, craft-beer pubs, and basement dance clubs.
History of GastownThe history of Vancouver is also the history of Gastown. With Hastings Mill at one end of Alexander Street in 1867, Gassy Jack Deighton opened a saloon for the mill workers at the street's other end. Houses, bars, and businesses built up into the Town of Granville, often called Gastown after the local barkeep.
By 1886, Granville had grown rapidly enough to become the City of Vancouver. But just months later the Great Fire razed the new city and prompted building regulations requiring the use of stone and brick. It's these heritage buildings that still stand today in the Gastown neighborhood.
Things to Do and See in Gastown:
1. Heritage Architecture
The cobbled streets, old-fashioned lampposts, and odd-angled streets make Gastown feel timeless. The neighborhood is the oldest part of the city, and there's lots of Vancouver history within this small area.
Some of the most interesting Gastown heritage buildings include:
- Hotel Europe, 43 Powell St.
- Byrnes Block, 8 Water St.
- Dominion Hotel, 210 Abbott St.
- Sun Tower, 128 W. Pender St.
But you'll find many more buildings just wandering Alexander, Carrall, and Water streets.
2. Steam Clock
3. Maple Tree Square
At Maple Tree Square, four streets (Water, Alexander, Powell, and Carrall) converge at odd angles. There are dozens of bars, pubs, and restaurants in the vicinity, but in the middle of the square stands a statue of the city's first barkeep: Gassy Jack.
It was here that Jack Deighton chose to set up his saloon, just down the road from Hastings Mill. Legend says he arrived with a barrel of whiskey and promised the mill workers they could drink their fill if they helped him build a saloon. The bar was open in 24 hours.
While his drinking hole is long-gone, Deighton (known as Gassy Jack for his tendency to talk a lot) is still remembered: his popularity gave name to the present-day neighborhood of Gastown.
History aside, many come to Gastown for the nightlife. There's not the frenzy of the Granville Street Entertainment District here. Instead you'll find great pubs (many double as good restaurants) and cool cocktail lounges.
For a lounge-like atmosphere and good wine or cocktails, visit:
- The Diamond, 6 Powell St.
- Salt Tasting Room, 45 Blood Alley
Some pubs and bars worth visiting include:
- Six Acres, 203 Carrall St.
- The Alibi Room, 157 Alexander St.
- The Portside Pub, 7 Alexander St.
- Irish Heather, 210 Carall St.
- Guilt & Co., 1 Alexander St.
- Chill Winston, 3 Alexander St.
- Lamplighter, 92 Water St.
5. Shopping for Souvenirs, Fashion, and Art
Whether you're looking for fine art or T-shirts, Gastown is one of the best shopping neighborhoods in Vancouver. Alongside the typical souvenir shops, the neighborhood has many independent stores and galleries. Canadian Maple Delights (385 Water St.) and the Mounted Police Gift Shop (767 W. Cordova St.) both sell classic Canadian souvenirs. Jade (375 Water St.) has excellent jade pieces mined from northern BC. For fine First Nations artworks, try Hill's Native Art (165 Water St.) and Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery (312 Water St.).
Gastown is also a haven for independent designers and off-beat clothing shops. Stop by Dream (311 W. Cordova St.), John Fluevog Shoes (65 Water St.), and deLuxe Junk (310 W. Cordova St.) for locally designed or consignment fashions. Or, find some of everything at clothing store Army & Navy (36 W. Cordova St.).
Gastown is also a great spot to shop for home décor items, furniture, and even cowboy boots.
Restaurants in Gastown are just as good as the bars. You'll find some of the best Vancouver restaurants in the neighborhood, including Incendio (103 Columbia St.) and L'Abattoir (217 Carrall St.).
For a more casual meal or snack, try Peckinpah (2 Water St.), the Revel Room (238 Abbott St.), or the Irish Heather (210 Carrall St.).