Vancouver is the 3rd largest city in Canada by urban area population rankings, with over 600,000 inhabitants. The Greater Vancouver District, which also encompasses surrounding suburbs, is home to over 2.4 million residents making it the most populated metropolitan area in Western Canada.
Located 45-minutes (drive) north of the United States border and 2½ hour’s drive to Seattle, Vancouver is one of Canada’s most ethnically-diverse cities with over half of the residents originating elsewhere and speaking English as their second language.
Known globally for its natural beauty and booming tourism industry, Vancouver is also an active centre for film and production and has been dubbed “Hollywood North.” Stunning scenery and a healthy economy keep Vancouver ranking among the five most desirable cities to live in around the world.10
With an abundance of parks, beaches and hiking trails, Vancouver offers plenty of outdoor leisure and fitness opportunities for the health-conscious. There are many hiking trails and mountains treks to explore in and around the city.
The city has a two main entertainment districts downtown: Granville and Gastown. The entertainment and shopping on Granville is mainly concentrated between West Georgia Street and Davie Street, including major brand name shops and luxury department stores such as Holt Renfrew. Granville Street is also home to the majority of Vancouver’s dance clubs, making it a hot spot for the university crowd.
A short 10-minute walk northeast from Granville Street will bring you to Gastown and its antique stores, second-hand consignment shops and small fashion boutiques featuring local designers, all scattered among a variety of pubs and friendly cafés.
In addition to great shopping and entertainment, Gastown also offers some of the city’s most infamous historical tourist attractions. In 1867, Gastown consisted of a local saw mill and a single pub named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton.11
The area was responsible for the city’s initial growth and pushed development south towards Granville. In 1884, the Granville Street area was chosen to become the site of the transcontinental railway to reap the benefits of the natural seaport, and businesses followed suit. Today, Granville Street is a bustling shopping area interspersed with restaurants.
Vancouver is also home to many beaches near campus, including Vancouver’s controversial and only clothing-optional beach called Wreck Beach. Spanish Banks, which is definitely a clothes-on, family-oriented beach, attracts many different people from all over the district. Its long stretches of sand make it the perfect place to swim and practice skim boarding. English Bay in the downtown district is also a very popular beach destination due to its location adjacent to the city centre.
Stanley Park is Vancouver’s most renowned landmark and is a 1,001-acre seawall-bordered green space surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. With winding trails, beaches, a large outdoor public pool and historic monuments, Stanley Park is typically one of the first areas visitors explore.
The Vancouver Aquarium is located within the park itself and draws crowds of visitors, as do the park’s Coast Salish Totem Poles dating back more than 3,000 years. The park is accessible by car, public transit and by foot via the city’s seawall trail. You can often watch birds near the park’s ponds and if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a seal or sea otter in the waters along the sea wall.
Vancouver’s climate is very mild compared to the rest of Canada and is actually the warmest of all the Canadian cities covered in our website. However, because the city is along the Pacific Ocean and at the foot of a mountain range, Vancouverites are well acquainted with rainy days.
Vancouver rarely sees snowfall and when it does, the snow mostly melts away within the first few days after snowfall. The winter months are condensed into December, January, and February but there can still the occasional sunny day even when it rains more than 20 days per a winter month.
Be prepared for the rain with a sturdy umbrella and a pair of durable waterproof shoes. Vancouverites tend to be quite forgiving when it comes to the rainfall from late fall to early spring because from May through September, Vancouver is mild and the natural surroundings are breathtaking.
The spring is a beautiful time of the year in Vancouver as all the cherry blossoms and coastal flowers begin blossoming. The average temperature is between 14° (57.2°F) and 17° (62.6°F), with an average rain fall of roughly 100 millimeters (5.9 inches) per month.
Autumn starts to show up around the beginning of October when the temperature dips below 10° (50°F) during the evenings and early mornings. The average temperature during autumn is 14° (57.2°F) with an average rainfall of 150 millimeters (1.77 inches) per month. Make sure to prepare for a wetter climate before moving and consider purchasing appropriate rain gear when you get to Vancouver.
The summers are warm and sunny with an average temperature of 23°C (73.4 °F) and an average rainfall of 45 millimeters (per month. The summer heat can sometimes spike above 30° (86 °F) which makes a perfect day for going to the beach.
In June, July and August, the beaches and outdoor restaurant and pub terraces are filled with students soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the summer break.