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Downtown Vancouver: city of glass


Downtown Vancouver meets Coal Harbour at Canada Place
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Downtown Vancouver is wedged into an area framed by the West End and Stanley Park on one side and Yaletown and Gastown on the other. Author Douglas Coupland named his bestselling book on Vancouver, “City of Glass,” and not only has the nickname stuck, it gives an accurate visual of how downtown Vancouver has evolved, with glass skyscrapers gleaming on the cloudiest of days.

Downtown is the city core, where office towers and universities butt up against shopping malls and sports venues, such as Rogers Arena, where the Vancouver Canucks hockey team plays. Condo towers fronted by pocket-sized parks rise up next to theatres, and coffee shops and sushi spots are on every street corner. The city still boasts a backdrop of the spectacular North Shore mountains, where skiers, hikers and mountain bikers play on the slopes. But there’s plenty to entice people to pry their eyes away from the natural views to explore what lies within, like Vancouver’s tallest building — the 61-storey Shangri-La luxury hotel and residences, and one of its oldest — the Vancouver Art Gallery, which hosts touring exhibitions from both masters and modern artists.

New bikes lanes criss-cross through the downtown, providing a safe and fun way to explore the sites while getting some exercise. Cycle to see the 10-metre-high Olympic cauldron, which was lit during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Or seek out one of the new street carts, with vendors selling dim sum, crepes, organic smoothies and more (download the Vancouver Street Food iPhone app to find out where they are).

Robson, Burrard and Alberni streets offer shoppers Vancouver’s answer to L.A.’s Rodeo Drive and Robertson Boulevard, with big names like Lacoste, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. Granville Street has become downtown’s entertainment district, with bars and nightclubs open late. Parking can be crowded and costly downtown, but an extensive network of buses, plus the Seabus (a passenger ferry that takes people to and from the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver) and trains make it easy to get around.