Downtown Vancouver

July 13, 2011

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1. The Railway Club dates back to 1931, when it was a members-only pub for Canadian Pacific Railway workers. Though it bears little resemblance to the original, it’s still laid out like a series of train cars—and about as wide—with the stage at the front, bar in the middle, and tables and booths in the caboose. Live music nightly. 579 Dunsmuir St. (second floor), 604-681-1625.

2. Conclude your visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery with lunch in the Gallery Cafe. No pretence, just fresh salads, panini, and quiche, and Mission Hill wines by the glass, all ordered cafeteria-style. If weather permits, sit on the lovely patio overlooking Robson Square and watch the city go by. 750 Hornby St., 24-hour info line: 604-662-4719.

3. Cibo is a glamorous restaurant off the lobby of the Moda Hotel: white marble accents, chartreuse-and-grey-striped upholstery, and 100-year-old timber beams. The food is elegant, too: locally influenced Italian from British chef Neil Taylor, formerly of London’s famed River Café. 900 Seymour St., 604-602-9570.

4. The private-club atmosphere at Gotham Steakhouse is popular with visiting NHL teams and celebrities (recently spotted: Nickelback, Michael Bublé, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the cast of Twilight). 615 Seymour St., 604-605-8282.

5. At Leone Café, you can do as Italian fashionistas do: start your retail escapade with a frothy cappuccino and light-as-air pastry. Brava! 757 W. Hastings St., 604-683-1133

6. Fritz European Fry House: A food review probably isn't top-of-mind during a 3 a.m. poutine run, but we're endorsing this blink-and-you'll-miss-it joint anyway. The traditional frites served in the Québécois fashion, or dipped in chipotle mayo, are worth the late-night lineups. 718 Davie St., 604-684-0811.

7. The Ascot Lounge: With its thoughtfully restored interior and secret greenery-filled rear patio, opened its doors just in time for summer. Think kitchen sink comfort food-metaloaf and penne-with a strong draft selection and impressive espresso. 420 W. Pender St., 604-566-9599.

 8. Finch's Tea and Coffee House: An eccentric little cafe sporting lace curtains and a set of cozy reading lamps. Settle into a mismatched chair and prepared to be amazed by the ample baguette sandwiches with fillings like prosciutto, blue brie, walnuts, and grapes. 352 W. Pender St., 604-899-4040.

9. Hawksworth Restaurant: Hotshot chef David Hawksworth has found a home in the refined Georgia Hotel. Its posh setting is reflected in curvaceous white furniture and a twinkling chandelier. Th sharp menu is long on local delicacies like pan-seared Sooke River trout and Yarrow Meadows duck. 801 W. Georgia St., 604-682-5566.

10. Guu Garden Izakaya: An elevataed oasis of tranquility where staff greet you like old friends. Let Guu introduce you to oden—boiled savouries in miso broth—and make sure not to miss the best grilled mackerel in the city. Finish with smooth, innovative sake-and-sea-salt ice cream. 888 Nelson St., 604-899-0855.



1. Shopping options are plentiful on the 800 block of Granville Street. Look for statement art deco footware by Canadian designer John Fluevog or limited-edition casual kicks at Zelen. Nearby hipster spots Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Spank, and Aldo make this a a destination for stylish, budget-conscious young things (who likely frequent the clubs further down the street). Keep an eye out for Puma and Adidas Originals as well.

2. Birks was the official jewellery supplier to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and its complete collection of pendants, charm bracelets, cufflinks, and other logo-imprinted gifts is available at its historic Hastings St. store. 698 W. Hastings St., 604-669-3333. Close by find Cartier, Chanel, and Palladio.

3. The labyrinthine Pacific Centre runs between Granville and Howe streets and is bookended by Robson and Pender streets. Many of the franchises here have locations on nearby Robson St., so focus your attention on Level 3, entering via the doors on Georgia and Howe. There’s La Swiss’s vast selection of watches from the likes of Oris, Breitling, and Fendi; TeenFlo has a smart collection of stylish, beautifully made women’s clothing from lines like Twenty8Twelve and Rory Beca, plus its own line of well-made pieces that are perfect for work; and Harry Rosen, the men’s department store, which is renowned for impeccable service and high-quality brands. Be sure to stop by the just-opened Michael Kors for for classic, upscale sportswear. Swing next door to another newcomer, stiletto legend Stuart Weitzman. Nearby Sephora houses luxe cosmetics and skin care. All roads lead to Holt Renfrew: start with the entry-level brands—Marc by Marc Jacobs, Vince, Theory, American Vintage—before hitting the heavyweights (Prada, Armani, Chanel, Philip Lim, et al.) and the massive selection of luxury cosmetics and skin-care lines downstairs. 737 Dunsmuir St., 604-681-3121.

4. Sinclair Centre is a federally designated heritage building, incorporating the Federal Building, the Winch Building, and the Customs Examining warehouse, all built between 1910 and 1937. Restored in the ’80s, it’s now a striking retail centre housing ultra-luxe stores like Escada and Leone. 757 W. Hastings St.

5. The epicentre of downtown’s luxury retail renaissance is the intersection of Burrard and Alberni—steps from the cruise-ship terminals and hotel lobbies, naturally. Look for: Agent Provocateur, Hermès, Wolford, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, St. John, Gucci, and Burberry on the ground floor of the Shangri-La Hotel. Find a well-edited selection of women and men’s ready-to-wear from the Burberry Prorsum and Burberry London collections, and all the trademark accessories. 1101 Alberni St., 604-974-1110

6. Accessory enthusiasts were over-joyed when Austrian jeweller Frey Willie opened its first Canadian location. The 60-year old Vienna-based designer house creates rings, bangles, and necklaces in 24-karat gold or palladium with hand-painted enamel details. The boutique also stocks scarves for women, cuff links, belts, and Italian silk ties for men. 511 Howe St., 604-569-0814.



1. The Bill Reid Gallery hosts its inaugural exhibition from May to October, a showing of some of the eponymous Haida artist's masterworks. Outside, the courtyard, with its angular benches and manicured lawns, offers a civilized retreat from the bustle of nearby Georgia Street. 639 Hornby St., 604-682-3455. 

2. Drop by Christ Church Cathedral to eavesdrop on the evening Gregorian chant. Built in 1889, the cedar and douglas fir interior helps the massive organ resonate. If the acoustics aren't enough, get satisfaction knowing it's the church the British Royal Family attends when in town. 690 Burrard St., 604-682-3848.

3. Civic centre Robson Square (between Horby and Howe streets) was set to be the tallest building in town until visionary architect Arthur Erickson suggested laying it on its back. As a result, you can walk all over this three block monument, from the glass enclosed law courts to the public ice rink. 




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