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Things to Do in Vancouver's West End

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With its beaches and residential streets, the West End strikes a balance between modern trends and history. Visitors love the area's gay-friendly attitude (as well as the annual Pride Parade), the views from the sandy beaches, and the great diversity of restaurants. Rainbow flags brighten storefronts along Davie Street, the heart of Vancouver's Gay Village.

Geographically, the neighborhood sits on the waterfront near Downtown. It lies west from Burrard Street out to Stanley Park, and south of W. Georgia Street to the beaches.

History of the West End

When Vancouver became a city, the West End was mostly forest. Rich railway families built large homes along West Georgia, but later moved south to Shaughnessy. Many immigrants have settled in the neighborhood over the years, including a wave of Germans after WWII that gave Robson its Robsonstrasse nickname.

Today the area is filled with a mix of new and heritage buildings, gardens, and tree-lined streets. Many routes are traffic-calmed, and great for biking or walking.

Top Attractions in the West End

1. Robson Street Shopping

© Chloë Ernst
Most visitors to Vancouver will stroll along Robson Street. It's like an outdoor mall, with international brands, souvenir shops, and lots of fashionable locals. But as much as shopping is the focus, simply grabbing a coffee and people-watching is a cheaper (and more relaxed) alternative. Try the patio at Caffé Artigiano, on the corner of Robson and Thurlow streets.

2. The Seawall

© Chloë Ernst
Most famously the Seawall circumnavigates Stanley Park, but in the West End it is acts as a neighborhood stroll. This is where locals walk their dogs, chat with friends, catch some sun, and just generally get outside. The paved path runs along the beachfront and continues on to Yaletown and False Creek.

3. West End Beaches

© Chloë Ernst

Some of Vancouver's most popular beaches lie in the West End. English Bay Beach, at the corner of Denman and Davie streets, combines great views with activities like kayaking, sand volleyball, and swimming. Thousands come to the beach for annual events such as the New Year's Day Polar Bear Swim and summer Celebration of Light fireworks.

Second Beach is popular with families, thanks to the large outdoor swimming pool, children's playground, and proximity to Stanley Park.

Sunset Beach, on the east side of English Bay, is a more relaxed spot and is adjacent to an off-leash dog area.

4. Stanley Park

© Nicole Ernst
The West End is the best launching point to explore Stanley Park, and you can bike to the Seawall within minutes from anywhere in the neighborhood. The park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium, Klahowya Village, the Miniature Train, and the Malkin Bowl as well as and hiking trails, gardens, and a water park.

5. Pride Parade

© Chloë Ernst
The gay community is centered on Davie and Denman streets, and the neighborhood's grand event in early August is the annual Pride Parade. Festivities range from picnics to dances, but the colorful parade is the highlight.

6. Celebration of Light

© Chloë Ernst
Three-evenings of fireworks make the city seem magical during the Celebration of Light. Three countries compete to put on the most impressive pyrotechnic display, and it's all set to music.

7. Heritage Architecture

© Chloë Ernst
Some of Vancouver's oldest residential buildings are situated in the West End. Learn more about local history at the Roedde House Museum (1415 Barclay St.), or just admire buildings like the all-brick 1907 apartment complex, The Manhattan (784 Thurlow St.). Less pretty but still interesting are the concrete high-rises that swept into the neighborhood during the 1960s and mid-1970s.

8. West End Restaurants

© Chloë Ernst
Vancouverites like to eat, and the West End holds a bevy of the city's best dining options. These range from the very-budget ramen houses to upscale restaurants that serve fresh seafood platters. There are also tiny French bistros, spaghetti joints, and patios in Stanley Park.
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