Airbnb is becoming increasingly popular among independent travellers. The website pairs travellers with apartment and private room rentals all over the world. For some the idea is foreign and begs the question, "Why are people opting to stay in other people's homes anyway?" Three main reasons: to experience life as a local, the benefits of an entire suite (think kitchen, living room and balcony), and competitive pricing. With over 3,000 Airbnb rentals in the Vancouver area we thought we'd assemble a quick guide to Vancouver's downtown neighborhoods and list city highlights for two to three day itineraries.
Vancouver, BC Best Airbnb Neighborhoods
Pros: charming gentrified neighborhood with a historic feel. Brickwork and soft string lights create a romantic after dark ambiance. Tons of boutiques, cafes, trendy restaurants, lounges, and a low key nightlife scene (still buzzing though) relative to Granville Street entertainment district. At Gastown's northwest corner, Waterfront Station offers travellers an easy entry point into the area.
Cons: the further east you travel the more 'fringe' the area becomes which may test the comfort of some travellers.
Pros: ultra trendy neighborhood with high end and casual dining, niche boutiques, fitness studios and spas. On Mainland and Hamilton Streets former loading docks have been converted into wide restaurant patios. Easy access to the neighborhood via Yaletown-Roundhouse Station (SkyTrain's Canada Line connects to YVR airport.) Close proximity to False Creek, the Seawall and David Lam Park.
Cons: a 'yuppie' stereotype may not suit all.
The West End
Pros: leafy, relaxed and residential. The West End offers reprieve from the frantic pace of the city. Lots of heritage homes, parks and access to the Seawall. Includes English Bay (a popular beach), close proximity to Stanley Park, and Davie Street village.
Cons: no SkyTrain station, must rely on the bus for public transit or walk.
Pros: picturesque views of the North Shore Mountains, Stanley Park and Burrard Inlet. Access to the Seawall, fine dining and cafes.
Cons: the culture lover may find this squeeky clean, glass neighborhood sterile. Little to no nightlife. Close proximity to central financial districts means the area is nearly vacated on the weekends.
Pros: tons of boutique dining options, small cafes, ultra trendy pop-up shops and unique clothing and gift stores. Includes Rogers Arena, BC Place Stadium, International Village (home to a food court, movie theatre and a hodge podge assortment of shops), the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Serviced by the Chinatown-Stadium SkyTrain station.
Cons: while considered safe by Vancouverites, Chinatown can have a slight 'fringe' feel due to its close proximity to East Hastings Street. One can easily unintentionally wander into the area known for homelessness and prostitution. Conservative visitors may feel more comfortable in a more central downtown location whereas culture lovers will love Chinatown's charm.
Pros: central access to transit and all the highlights the city has to offer. Real sense of the city's pulse and the urban lifestyle. Includes the Vancouver Art Gallery, Pacific Centre Mall, Vancouver Library, Robson shopping street, and more. Everything one can want is simply within walking distance.
Cons: the hubbub of the city may be a bit frantic for those who prefer a more curated neighborhood experience.
Pros: beachy, laid back neighborhood with relaxed vibes. West 4th is lined with restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops and the odd night club. Residential area with a mix of heritage homes and low rise apartment buildings. Close to beaches and looking north, has a great view of downtown Vancouver. Includes Jericho Beach, HR MacMillan Space Centre and the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.
Cons: serviced only by bus and slightly out of the downtown core.
AirBnb: Things for Guests to Consider
Do you need parking? Parking costs in Vancouver can represent a considerable expense if your host doesn't have a space to offer. $15-$20 is an average 24 hour rate.
Travelling with kids? Don't assume that all apartments are baby or infant-proof. Units with less clutter and personal items mean fewer opportunities for accidental damage.
Travelling with pets? Vancouver is notorious for no pet condos. It is imperative that you enquire with a host before showing up with Fluffy or Rover.
Mobility. Most apartment buildings in Vancouver have elevators but it's always best to ask in advance how mobile friendly a unit/building/neighborhood is.
Is the second bed a sofa bed? Not all pull out sofas are built equal. To avoid a duzy, ask questions like age, brand and what size mattress it has. It might be a good idea to steer clear of decade old, no name sofa beds.
Travel Tips for Airbnb Guests in Vancouver, BC
- Will you be driving in the city? Unless you want to carry a ton of change, download the Easypark app Pay by Phone to pay with your smartphone.
- Check out Groupon for deals on dining, attractions and more.
- Plan your route into the city ahead of time. Downtown Vancouver has many one way streets and some roads are more congested than others. Hornby Street is a quick moving northbound one-way street while Thurlow is a quick moving southbound one-way street.
- Will you be travelling on public transit during your trip? Save money by purchasing day passes (available at any SkyTrain station kiosk) or books of tickets. Most drugstores carry bus tickets (try London Drugs or Shopper's Drugmart) and note that day passes can not be purchased on a bus.
Must-See Vancouver Highlights
The Seawall - the Seawall is a 22 kilometre recreational path that skirts along Vancouver's waterfront, and is extremely popular with both locals and tourists. During the day it is teeming with people cycling, walking, jogging and rollerblading. Rent a bicycle from one of many rental shops in the city or grab a coffee and take a stroll. The summer sees a lot of traffic and consciously sharing the paved path is appreciated by all. (That means sticking to the right hand side and passing on the left!)
Stanley Park - voted the best park in the world by TripAdvisor.com, Stanley Park is what Central Park is to New York City. The park contains the Vancouver Aquarium, Totem poles, multiple restaurants and trails. If you are a geocaching enthusiast you will be pleased to hear that the park has many caches. During the summer a free outdoor movie series runs near Second Beach. Movies start at dusk and are extremely well attended.
Granville Island - tucked under the Granville Street bridge, Granville Island is an artsy little community. It houses a fantastic market that has an attractive food court, theatre, brewery, and a wealth of boutiques and restaurants. To really appreciate Granville Island go hungry and arrive via one of the zippy water taxis that service False Creek.
Gassy Jack Square - the crowning jewel of Gastown is located at the convergence of Carrol, Water and Powell Street. Charming pubs and restaurants line the streets, and string lights strung along the tree tops create a romantic ambiance. The Square is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and people watch. Stroll two blocks west along Water Street to see the infamous and beloved (although possibly overrated) Steam Clock.
Telus World of Science - a great family outing that kids and parents alike will enjoy. The Omnimax Theatre has surround sound and a screen that measures 5 stories high and 27 metres wide. Omnimax shows daily matinee documentaries.
Grouse Mountain - overlooking Metro Vancouver, Grouse Mountain provides sweeping views of Burrard Inlet and Georgia Straight. Take the gondola to the top or hike the notorious Grouse Grind trail and take the gondola back down. Tourists should note that the Grind is comparable to an intense, one hour StairMaster workout. The trail demands a minimum level of fitness. Pack appropriate footwear and wear athletic clothing (and possibly bring a change of cloths!) The lodge at the top has a gift shop, cafeteria and a fine dining restaurant.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park - located in North Vancouver, just a short drive over the iconic Lions Gate Bridge, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a staple highlight on Vancouver's tourist circuit (and for good reason!) A free, first-come-first-serve shuttle runs from Canada Place to the park. Click here for a schedule.
Vancouver Art Gallery - click here for exhibits, hours and rates. Note that entry is by donation on Tuesdays after 6PM.
City walking tours - compared to Europe and Asia, Western Canada has only a short modern history and enjoying Vancouver largely involves simply experiencing its neighborhoods. Tour Guys combines some interesting local history and lore with guided city walks. They offer free Vancouver tours year round and private (paid) special interest tours. In the month preceding Halloween the Murders, Mysteries and Mayhem tour is not to be missed.
Granville Street entertainment district - lined with neon signs, music and arts venues, nightclubs and endless dining options, Granville Street is always buzzing. On weekend evenings police cordon off the portion from Smithe to Davie and the street becomes a pedestrian zone.
Main Street - home to distilleries and breweries, Main Street is a trendy and eclectic area perfect for shopping and dining. Well curated boutiques are sure to please, especially if you're seeking vintage items. Cruise between East 16th and East 29th Avenues to experience the best of what Main Street has to offer.
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