Vancouver on Two Wheels
Vancouver is an active city, filled with kayakers, hikers, rock climbers and yoga mat-toting fitness fanatics. So it’s no surprise that one of the best ways to tour the city is on two wheels. Rent a bicycle and cruise through Vancouver’s hottest neighborhoods, making stops at the city’s eclectic collection of stylish restaurants, industrial chic cafes, cutting-edge boutiques and trendy bars. Here’s a guide to getting the most out of Vancouver on your own steam.
Begin at Spokes, a nifty bike shop at the entrance to Stanley Park that rents bikes by the day. Pick up a city cruiser (with the option of adding a basket) and hit the road. The first stop is an energizing breakfast at Nelson the Seagull, a stylish café in trendy Gastown that’s run by a South African brother-and-sister team. Try the poached eggs on sourdough (the bread is baked in-house) and add a side of avocado, making sure to admire the café’s tiled floors and long wooden tables. Afterwards, take a quick stroll around Gastown’s charming cobblestone streets. You can even take in a bit of local history while you’re here: numerous plaques detail the story of the neighborhood and its beautiful buildings.
Hop back on your bike and ride a couple of blocks towards the newly hip Downtown East Side area. Stop for a caffeine injection at Musette Caffe, which is a cyclists’ paradise with its collection of biking memorabilia, but is hip enough for those on two legs, too. The locally roasted coffee shop, 49th Parallel, is excellent. Fans of local design will want to stroll over, once fully caffeinated, to Erin Templeton to pick up handmade leather bags by the eponymous designer, who constructs each piece to be easily wearable while riding a bike. Turn north and walk up to Water St. to check out Secret Location, a chic combination concept store and restaurant where you can pick up carefully curated housewares, clothing and accessories from designers like Simone Rocha, Louis Leeman and House of Holland. Further along Water St., pop into the Kit and Ace flagship store, which sells decadent, luxurious cashmere shirts. The brand is owned by the wife and son of Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon Athletica, which also launched in Vancouver.
SALTED CARAMEL AND CANADIAN WHISKEY BACON
Tuck your purchases into your bike basket and, before heading south, make a sneaky stop at Cartems Donuterie, nearby on Pender St., where freshly-made donuts in flavours like maple walnut, salted caramel and Canadian whiskey bacon will give you a burst of energy that will carry you all the way to South Granville. This neighborhood is packed with enough design shops, antique stores and clothing boutiques to entertain visitors for days, but the best part is Gallery Row, a stretch of art galleries on both sides of Granville St. between 5th Avenue and Broadway. Check out the Ian Tan Gallery for contemporary Canadian art, the Douglas Reynolds Gallery for the best in native art from the Northwest Coast, and the Marion Scott Gallery for contemporary work by Inuit artists.
From South Granville, turn your bike northeast and ride back over the Granville Street Bridge towards the water and the excellent bike lanes that run around and through Stanley Park. Spend a couple of hours cruising the coastline and taking in the incredible views of English Bay. Once you’ve had your fill of fresh air, turn west and ride back to Spokes, which is situated across the street from the seawall, and – finally – relinquish your bike.
Stretch your legs with a mile-long stroll down Georgia St. through the financial district to Rosewood Hotel Georgia. This hotel is a Vancouver landmark, famous for its 1920s grandeur and roster of A-list guests. Have dinner at Hawksworth (book ahead), one of the shining stars on the city’s high-profile dining scene (it’s claimed the title of Vancouver Magazine’s Best Upscale Restaurant three times and counting). Chef David Hawksworth’s menu of Pacific Northwest fare displays locally-sourced ingredients to stellar effect in dishes like the Instagram-worthy Yarrow Meadows duck breast with sea buckthorne just.
Save your legs by remaining in the hotel for post-dinner drinks at the newly-opened Prohibition, a subterranean bar that pays tribute to the hotel’s Roaring Twenties roots with period details and glitzy Jazz Age glamour. Tuck yourself into a dimly-lit corner with a well-deserved Fitzgerald Fizz (grapefruit-peel-infused Aperol, cinnamon syrup, fresh lemon and bubbles), or gather around the absinthe fountain to sample two different varieties, each properly filtered through a sugar cube.
Spokes Bicycle Rentals: 1798 W. Georgia St.; 604-688-5141
Nelson the Seagull: 315 Carrall St.; 604-681-5776
Musette Caffe: 75 E. Pender St.; 1 604-336-4171
Erin Templeton: 511 Carrall St.; 604-682-2451
Secret Location: 1 Water St.; 604- 685-0090
Kit and Ace: 151 Water St.; 844-548-6223
Cartems Donuterie: 534 West Pender St.; 778-708-0996
Ian Tan Gallery: 2202 Granville St.; 604-738-1077
Douglas Reynolds Gallery: 2335 Granville St.; 604-731-9292
Marion Scott Gallery: 2423 Granville St.; 604-685-1934
Hawksworth: Rosewood Hotel Georgia, 801 W. Georgia St.; 604-673-7000
Prohibition: Rosewood Hotel Georgia, 801 W. Georgia St.; 604-673-7088