Vancouver CityGuide: West End
Where to shop, eat and play in Vancouver's beautiful beachside 'hood.
August 2, 2018
The West End was named the city’s most livable neighbourhood in VanMag’s recent survey, and with good cause: despite its high density, its tree-lined streets, plentiful parks and popular beaches make it a destination all summer long. It’s home to the annual Pride Parade (the rainbow-painted crosswalks and fuchsia bus stops highlight that this is the city’s original gay neighbourhood), but it’s also an ideal home base for seniors and international students (the most westerly stretch of Robson Street features a robust selection of Japanese and Korean restaurants and groceries).
The West End’s Best Walking Trail
Sure, the seawall is pretty, but it’s often packed. Find some peace, quiet, and natural beauty on the next sunny day by instead venturing deep into Stanley Park—not to the usual manicured gardens, but down the Beaver Lake trail, which leads you to a lush, tranquil, lily-pad-strewn pond. Local experts assumed for decades that beavers had all left the area, until someone spotted one in 2008. Maybe you’ll see another?
Where to Shop in the West End
Laurence and Chico
Parsons-educated co-founding partners Laurence Li and Chico Wang are fusing fashion with food for a concept “fashion café,” which will be decorated with wild fashion pieces and feature a menu that changes with the sartorial season. 833 Bute St., laurenceandchico.com
The cult-favourite Japanese lifestyle store keeps things chill with relaxing music, mists of soothing fragrance and plenty of comfy seating. Come for minimalist clothing staples, quality home goods or the brand’s ever-popular pens, but stay because browsing here is a pure joy. 1125 Robson St., muji.com
State of Mind
Early-2000s revival is all over contemporary runways. State of Mind, an unassuming men’s boutique in the Davie Village, is worth a visit by virtue of being chockablock full with aughts-staple Euro streetwear brands like Diesel and G-Star Raw. 1100 Davie St., 604-682-7116
Essential West End Restaurants
A neighbourhood fixture since 1990, this previously staid Italian haunt earned a boost with the 2011 addition of chef Andrew Richardson (formerly of Cioppino’s) and a high-heat, wood-fired oven that’s now used in the preparation of nearly every dish. The branzino, grilled with a faint smokiness and served with crispy potatoes and caramelized lemon, is a local favourite that wears its fiery provenance on its sleeve. 1154 Robson St., cincin.net
Authentic Spanish tapas arrive as they’re fired—go for the crispy-skin pork belly or the addictive deep-fried olives stuffed with anchovies—a casual touch that combined with the cozy, dim room makes for a fun dining experience. Their sherry is the bomb, but we’re also partial to their bourbon vanilla sours. 1118 Denman St., espanarestaurant.ca
New West End Development
What was for decades a low-rise strip along Davie Street (with a Safeway and a liquor store), has made way for Mirabel, side-by-side 18- and 19-storey buildings that will have 149 suites at 400 to 2,600-plus square feet. The suites feature luxe touches from Sub-Zero refrigerators to free-standing soaker tubs by Victoria and Albert, but most stunning are the walls of glass that open onto large decks, blurring the divide between indoors and out. While Coal Harbour and Yaletown are well accustomed to high-end digs, the Mirabel marks a major shift for the West End, which has traditionally lagged behind other red-hot markets.
A Local’s West End Picks
Ivan Decker, Comedian
Best Night Out: The Comedy Mix
“For me? I can usually go on stage and tell jokes. For you? You will usually get to see some of Vancouver’s absolute best comedians for a very reasonable price.” 1015 Burrard St., thecomedymix.com
Best After-Work Cocktail: Joey on Burrard
“It’s got a great menu and staff. Plus, I usually get off work at midnight so they’re one of the only places still open!” 820 Burrard St., joeyrestaurants.com
West End Fun Fact
The Lions Gate Bridge was built with beer money. The Guinness family of Irish beer barons owned a ton of land on the North Shore back in the 1930s and wanted to turn a profit on it, but nobody could get there. So they built the bridge. The toll in 1938 was $1.25 per car (about $20 today).