Ranked one of the three most livable cities in the world, Vancouver tied with Vienna as having the third highest quality of living in the world and is consistently named as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Named after Captain George Vancouver, a British explorer, the city of Vancouver in Canada is ethnically diverse, with more than half of its residents having a first language other than English.
Vancouver is located between the Strait of Georgia and the Coast Mountains and was first settled in the 1860s because of the Gold Rush. Since then the city grew from a small lumber mill town to the bustling metropolitan it is now. The city itself forms part of the Burrard Peninsula, lying between Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south. Its port, the Port of Vancouver is the busiest seaport in Canada and is internationally significant because of the Panama Canal.
The city is the third-largest film production centre in North America earning it the sobriquet of Hollywood North. Vancouver is also renowned for its scenery and has one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park.
The climate here is temperate by Canadian standards and it has the fourth warmest winters when compared to other Canadian cities. Summer brings the sun with moderate temperatures but sea breezes give some relief. Summers are usually dry and in contrast, most of the winters there is measurable precipitation. On average, snow falls on only 11 days a year.
As o now, the city is gearing up for the 2010 Winter Olympics that will be held here and nearby Whistler.
According to archaeological data, Aboriginal tribes inhabited the Vancouver area as far back as 4,500 to 9,000 years ago.
1791 - The coastline of present-day Point Grey is first explored by Jose Maria Narvaez of Spain, followed by George Vancouver.
1792 - Captain George Vancouver spends only one day on the site which, almost 100 years later, would bear his name. He also explores the inner harbor of Burrard Inlet and gives various places British names.
1808 - Explorer and fur trader Simon Fraser reaches the Pacific overland by a river he mistakenly thinks is the Columbia. The river was later named after him.
1827 - The Hudson’s Bay Company sets up a fur trading post on the Fraser River and becomes the first settlement in the Vancouver area.
1858 - The Gold Rush on the Fraser brings about 25,000 prospectors, mostly from the United States, seeking riches.
1859 - New Westminster is named the capital of British Columbia.
1867 - “Gassy” Jack Deighton opens a tavern and the community known as Gastown grows around it.
1860 - Three Englishmen known as the "Three Greenhorns" build an unsuccessful brickyard in what is now the West End.
1861 - The Cariboo Gold Rush brings 25,000 men, mainly from California, to the mouth of the Fraser River and what would become Vancouver.
1862 - The first European settlement is established at McLeery's Farm on the Fraser River. A sawmill established at Moodyville helps set up the lumber trade.
1870 - The colonial government lays out a town, Granville, in honor of the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville. With its natural harbor it is selected as the terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway.
1886 - Granville is incorporated as the City of Vancouver; the first transcontinental train arrives; on June 13, the city is burned to the ground in less than 30 minutes. It is quickly rebuilt, and the Vancouver Fire Department is established.
1893 - Hudson’s Bay Company opens its first department store (it's still open today).
1897 - Klondike Gold Rush boosts a continent-wide depression; Vancouver merchants sell much equipment to prospectors.
1898 - The Nine o’clock Gun is placed at Brockton point signaling the time by being discharged every evening at 9 pm precisely.
1909 - The Dominion Trust Building, the first skyscraper, is built and is still standing. Ferry service begins to West Vancouver.
1913 - Depression lasts two years severely reducing trade a provincial mining boom.
1918 - Mary Ellen Smith, a Vancouver suffragist and prohibitionist, becomes the first woman elected to a provincial legislature in Canada.
1971 - A 10 km pedestrian seawall at Stanley Park officially opens; Gastown and Chinatown are designated as historic districts by the Provincial Government.
1985 - SkyTrain opens with much of its route being along that of the city's first public transit system.
1986 - Vancouver hosts Expo 86 to celebrate its centennial. It is the largest special category (Transportation) World Exposition ever staged in North America.
2003 - Vancouver is selected as the Host City for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Sights around town:
BC Place Stadium: It is the world's largest air-supported dome (60,000 seats) and home of the B.C. Lions football team. It opened in 1983 and was constructed with enough concrete to build a sidewalk from this city to Tacoma, Washington. It also hosts trade shows such as the Pacific International Auto Show and the BC Home and Garden Show, and major star concerts. The stadium houses the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
Bloedel Floral Conservatory: It is a miniature world of waterfalls and bamboo bridges. The triodetic dome is located at the top of Little Mountain in Queen Elizabeth Park guarantees stunning views. It is home to 50 species of birds and around 500 plant species in climate-controlled environments ranging from lush tropics to deserts.
Burnaby Village Museum: The 10-acre open-air museum is a recreation of an early 1900s community where you can try some hands-on activities and demonstrations. It was built as a memorial to British Columbia's centennial in 1958.
Canada Place: It was originally the Canadian Pavilion for Expo '86 but now has a luxury hotel, a cruise-ship terminal from where you can go for a cruise up to Alaska, and the Vancouver Trade & Convention Centre.
Capilano Suspension Bridge: The five-foot bridge is suspended 450 ft across and 230 ft above Capilano River and is quite a hair-raising experience to walk across it. Nearby is a large park with North America's largest private collection of First Nations story poles and the Treetops Adventure which is a series of bridges between trees as high as 30 m above the forest floor. The sheer granite cliffs of the Capilano Canyon were carved out more than a hundred centuries ago by natural water courses.
Cypress Mountain: Just 30 minutes from the city center the mountain is in the Cypress Provincial Park and offers a variety of activities year-round like skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing and tobogganing. The Recreation Area has good opportunities for downhill and cross-country skiing.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: This is the only authentic classical Chinese garden outside of China. Using ancient techniques of the Ming Dynasty, the park condenses the serenity of the mountain, streams, valleys and hills into an urban sanctuary.
Gastown: Named after ‘Gassy’ Jack Leighton, who opened the first bar here in 1867, the town was designated a Provincial heritage site in 1971. The cobbled streets, original architecture, a steam clock, shops and restaurants add to the charm. The unique steam powered clock, the world's first steam clock, plays the Westminster Chimes every hour and whistles every 15 minutes with a gush of steam. It was built by inventor and horologist Ray Saunders in 1977 to muffle steam from underground lines that were used to heat local buildings.
Granville Island: This farmers market is just five minutes from downtown and has attractions such as the Emily Carr College of Art, shops, restaurants, theatres, galleries, sculpture, performance art, history and the Kids' Market. Live theatre and a local brewery are also located here along with a water park which offers water sports. You could also sample excellent microbrews at the Granville Island Brewery.
Grouse Mountain: Standing tall at 11,278 m, it offers year-round recreation facility with superb downhill skiing. Ascending the mountainside on the gondola gives you breathtaking views of Vancouver, and the Strait of Georgia with Vancouver Island. You could even hike the 2.9 km trail or catch the Skyride tram. You could spot Grizzly bears and other wildlife at the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. In the winter months, ski and snowboard enthusiasts can enjoy the slopes with day and night skiing.
Harbor Center Tower Lookout: It is one of the city's tallest structures with an all-glass elevator that runs up the side tower to the 40th-floor's full 360 degree observation deck that has a fantastic 360-degree view of Vancouver and the majestic North Shore Mountains.
Stanley Park: Spanning 405 ha, it is the largest civic park in Canada and contains, among other things, the Vancouver Aquarium, a children's farmyard and miniature train, a cricket field, tennis courts, a pitch and putt golf course, bathing beaches, and the Theatre Under the Stars.
University of British Columbia Museum Of Anthropology: It is one of Vancouver's most impressive museums and has the world's largest collection of West Coast Native artifacts.
Vancouver Museum: Canada's largest civic museum contains artifacts and exhibitions of northwestern anthropology as well as information on the city. This museum is paired with the Macmillan Planetarium at the Pacific Space Centre and has been in operation since 1894.
Van Dusen Botanical Garden: It is an exquisite botanical garden spread over 22 ha with plants and trees collected from around. A Christmas light display goes up every December. It’s Flower and Garden Show attracts more than 250 exhibitors and is one of the largest shows of its kind in North America.
Beaches: The Wreck beach is a 7 mile clothing-optional beach; Jericho Beach is more family-oriented; Kitsilano Beach is a popular spot to jog, play tennis, soccer or basketball, or fly a kite. It is also the best place from where to watch the annual Fire Works Competition in July; White Rock Beach is the largest destination beach in Greater Vancouver.
International Buddhist Temple: This is the most authentic example of traditional palatial Chinese architecture in North America. It seems you have stepped into the past along the banks of the Yangtze River, where one of the world’s oldest civilizations originated. Here you get to explore traditional Chinese art, culture, and the Buddhist philosophy.
Canadian Memorial Church: Chaplain George Fallis arrived in Vancouver shortly after World War I and he solicited funds from all over the country to build this church which was finally completed in 1928. The church opened its doors in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (Memorial Day). The gothic structure’s main attraction is its masterfully crafted stained-glass windows portraying biblical scenes, provincial coat of arms and illustrations of historical events.
Cathedral Place: This relatively new cathedral, built in 1991, stands on the foundations of the historic Georgia Dental Medical Building. It is an award-winning 23-storey skyscraper and the architects incorporated pieces of the original building into the facade. Here you will also find the Canadian Craft Museum located on the north end of the site.
Chinese Cultural Centre Museum: This is the first museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Chinese community in Canada. It showcases the history of Chinese Canadians and often exhibits works of local and international artists. The building blends classical and modern architectural styles.
Holy Rosary Cathedral: The Cathedral is noted for its full ring of the bells. All eight hang in the 66-m east tower. This was the first church in Canada to ring a peal of Grandshire Triples to honor Dominion Day (now called Canada Day) in 1911.
Sam Kee Building: The Guinness Book of World Records lists this landmark as the world's narrowest building with the edifice just a meter and half wide, while its upper floor has less than two meters in available space with bay windows.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center: This is the biggest aquarium in North America with more than 8,000 aquatic animals.
Vancouver Art Gallery: Situated in a large heritage building, it is the fourth largest in Canada featuring four floors of major international works, as well as permanent collections of local artists such as Vancouver's famous Emily Carr. Its permanent collection of over 7,900 items is valued at over $100 million!
HSBC Celebration of Light - The largest fireworks competition in the world
Fringe Festival - Theatre groups and performers perform for 11 days
The Pacific National Exhibition - Western Canada's largest fair and exhibition
Jazz Festival –- One of the most renowned events
Vancouver Film Festival –- Around September and early October, the city is filled with celebrities for this event
Vancouver Zombie Walk –- People dress up and act as the living dead during this parade
Vancouver has the second largest trolley bus fleet in North America after San Francisco. Other modes of commuting include buses, a bicycle ferry service (SeaBus), a metro system (SkyTrain), and the commuter rail West Coast Express. Aquabus Ferries are small boats that are a great way to relax and enjoy the city scenery, as well as travel quickly across the Strait. Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport, Canada's second busiest airport.