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Vancouver is home to some world-class shopping opportunities. While a lot of shopping exists in the downtown core, the shopping opportunities increase once you extend a bit further. Listed below are brief descriptions of some of Vancouver's major shopping districts, in addition to their locations, what to expect, and some of the stores you may find.
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Located in Burnaby, 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver via skytrain. BC's largest shopping mall - Shop at 450 stores, lots of restaurants and food court, movie theatres. Animal Grossology exhibit on now until August 22 - great fun for kids!! Forever 21 and Sephora are new stores. If you're travelling from out of town, go to one of the Customer Service Desks, show your out of town ID to receive the free visitor metrocard - provides 5% to 20% discount at participating retailers. Also have a gift with purchase program. Great place to shop and people watch.
Robson Street is often promoted as "Vancouver's Rodeo Drive", which is pushing it a little, but is definitely the most popular shopping street in the downtown core. Robson Street has many large chain stores that you can find in malls all over North America, except that Robson is the flagship location. The storefronts are generally larger and some shops even have two to three floors. Some of these shops include The Gap, Guess, Aldo, Banana Republic, Roots, HMV, Fruits & Passion, The Body Shop, Club Monaco, Nike, American Eagle, Zara, French Connection UK, Armani Exchange, Tommy Hilfiger, Roots, Godiva Chocolates, MAC, Lush Cosmetics, and about a dozen shoe stores alone. These chain stores can only be found on Robson between Burrard and Bute - 2 large blocks - a fraction of Robson Street's length.
On Robson and Howe is the three-storey Chapters bookstore, the Vancouver Art Gallery (with a fantastic gift shop) and the Sears department store, (which Americans tend to say reminds them of Macy's, as it used to be the Canadian department store Eaton's before it went bankrupt). If you walk into Sears and go downstairs, you will enter Pacific Centre Mall. On Robson and Granville is Winners (a gigantic discount designer clothing store) and Future Shop (electronics). Pacific Centre Mall is the largest shopping mall in downtown Vancouver. The Bay, Sears, and Holt Renfrew are the major department stores there. While a lot of the stores in Pacific Centre are identical to what you'll find on Robson Street, there is a major food court in the mall, in addition to some high end stores that don't exist on Robson, like Max Mara, Tristan & America, and Harry Rosen. There are a few independent boutiques thrown in on Robson that are unique, such as Plen+y and El Kartel. There are also a few Canadian chains unavailable outside of Canada, such as Jacob, RW & Co, Aritzia, or Le Chateau. And for the most part, the restaurants and cafes along Robson are great - with a few exceptions to the Red Robin and Starbucks, it's really lacking North American chain restaurants. Most of the restaurants aren't actually chains at all, and those that are (like Milestones, Earls, Moxies, and the Bread Garden) are only found in western Canada. There are many highly rated restaurants on Vancouver, such as Hapa Izakaya and Guu With Garlic (Japanese izakaya food), Zin Restaurant & Lounge (good fusion cuisine in 60's retro decor) and Cin Cin (high end Italian). The cuisine offered is diverse - lots of ethnicities: Japanese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc. You will also see a diverse range of atmospheres, from take out to formal.
Just south of Robson you will find the Granville Pedestrian Mall, a trendy downtown shopping area filled with edgy, urban, funky and stylish boutiques in and amongst the tattoo parlors and scads of entertainment venues.
Granville Street, south of Robson, north of Drake, used to be really edgy and alternative, but has sort of adopted a bunch of club culture stores such. Not so much locally owned, but certainly funkier than what you'd find on Robson. John Fluevog has a shoe store there. David Gordon is another locally-owned shoe shop on Granville and is worth a look. There is a discount Aldo store here, in addition to an American Apparel store. Cherry Bomb is another store on this part of Robson that features iron-on decal shirts. If you're looking for second-hand CD's or video games, Charlie's Music City is worth a browse, although sometimes overwhelming!
Located south of downtown Vancouver between the Granville Street Bridge and W 16th Avenue along Granville Street is an upscale shopping district called "South Granville". You will find trendy, high end boutiques, art galleries and designer clothing shops, but shine up your credit cards because the price tag down here is a little higher than some other areas.Many shops at the base of the Granville Street Bridge tend to be high end antique and furniture stores. Further up Granville, you'll find interior decorating shops like Urban Barn, Restoration Hardware, The Bombay Company, and Pottery Barn.
Recently a lot of shops have opened up on this stretch of Granville that you can also find elsewhere in Vancouver.
Tourism Vancouver's website has some more information: Explore South Granville - Shopping & Eating on Vancouver’s Gallery Row
Yaletown is a high end neighbourhood and shopping district in the south-east corner of downtown Vancouver. Predominantly located south of Nelson Street and north of Pacific Blvd, west of Homer Street are a collection of high end clothing boutiques, nail salons, hair salons, pet clothing boutiques, shoe shops, and high end lounges and restaurants. Needless to say, it is very unlike Robson Street as there is a major lack of chain stores here.
Atomic Model, Vasanji, and Brooklyn are examples of high end clothing boutiques found in Yaletown, although there are some fantastic gift shops like The Cross and Fine Finds.
If you are a foodie, take a peek into Urban Fare - a large, high end grocer featuring a lot of specialty and hard-to-get foods.
If you are driving, parking in Yaletown is difficult and is often limited to street meter parking, although there are a few parkades if you know where to look.
If you are taking public transit, you can take any bus down Howe Street or Granville Street and get off at Davie or Nelson, and simply walk a few blocks east.
Kitsilano is a trendy beachside neighbourhood located south-west of downtown Vancouver. In the 60's it was known for its hippy bohemian culture but has shed most of that atmosphere in recent decades. Regardless, Kits tends to reflect a local community spirit and offers a more laid back atmosphere than downtown.
Kitsilano has two main shopping districts: West 4th Avenue and West Broadway.
This part of Kits is known for its great restaurants, cafes, bookstores, fashionable boutiques, music shops, and sports stores.
Located around 4th and Burrard are half a dozen sporting stores, many of which are popular snowboarding, skateboarding, and cycling shops. Some of these shops include West Coast Sports (located at 4th and Pine), West Beach, Pacific Boarder, Boarding House, dub, Dizzy Cycles, Mark's Work Wearhouse, and Coast Mountain Sports.
Zulu Records is a very famous independent record store selling a wide arangement of CD's and vinyl of the new and second-hand variety. They also sell many tickets to music events going on in the city.
This part of Kits is located 5 blocks south of W 4th and starts approximately at Broadway and Macdonald, heading westwards. Traditionally been known for its Greek community. Still to this day are some Greek bakeries, restaurants, and delis (such as the excellent Parthenon).
Notte's Bon Ton is a local institution and one of the oldest old fashioned European bakeries and tea house in Vancouver. It's famous for its butter cream pastries called "bon tons" of which there are dozens of varieties. It's especially a treat to visit around holidays like Christmas and Easter.
Plen+y, a local clothing company, has their flagship location on the corner of Broadway and Macdonald - great if you're looking for higher end independent designers for both men and women's fashion.
Mark James - a local entrepreneur has his store which features haute couture and high end men's fashion - both of the casual and formal variety.
If you are looking for antiques, there is no better place to visit than Antique Row, along Main Street, between 16th and 25th avenues. However, this area has been undergoing a shift in identity in recent years and is more commonly called South Main these days. South Main spans Main Street between Broadway and approximately E 33rd Avenue. It's most famous for its artsy, independent clothing boutiques, artist-run centres, vintage clothing stores, and funky dining opportunities. Antique stores do exist, but are not the sole purpose for visiting this neighbourhood.
Located in the north-east corner of downtown Vancouver, east of Richards Street along Water Street and W Cordova, is Gastown. Gastown is the oldest part of Vancouver and is generally not thought of as a major shopping destination by locals, yet, if you explore the side streets, there's a lot of great finds!
Water Street has predominantly touristy (and sometimes tacky) souvenir shops selling mainly stereotypical Canadian souvenirs. If you're looking for maple syrup, plastic totem poles and Canada t-shirts, you'll find it here. However, interspliced with these shops are some cafes, restaurants, one-of-a-king speciality shops, and native art galleries. Once you get off of Water Street, Gastown becomes less touristy.
W Cordova Street, for example, has some really interesting independent fashion boutiques like New World Designs. There are also some great vintage clothing stores here too, like Deluxe Junk (where even celebrities can be spotted!). Cambie Street has a lot of hole-in-the-wall boutiques, including Venus and Mars - a shop that specializes in medieval and gothic clothing. And Carrall Street has been revitalized recently, with several locally-owned contemporary clothing boutiques opening up.
For something completely bizarre, go to Dressew at 337 W Hastings Street. This is two-storey fabric store which sells every single odd-and-end you can think of. Even if you don't sew, it's a hoot to explore, especially when you go downstairs!
Located east of downtown Vancouver along Commerial Drive (north of Broadway, south of Venables) is Commercial Drive. Though once an Italian neighbourhood, it has since diversified over the decades and has become one of Vancouver's most ecclectic and bohemian neighbourhoods.
Almost everything on Commercial Drive is independently owned. There are many great Italian espresso bars, European delis, in addition to organic grocers, bistros, and casual restaurants. Many unique shops also exist along Commercial Drive, such as Beckwoman's, which can often be described as a "hippy" store full of jewellery, beaded curtains, and incense. There are a few clothing boutiques and interior design shops as well.
If you drive, there is meter parking along Commercial Drive, or you may be lucky and find a free spot along the side streets. Please respect the "residents only" parking spots, for ticketing is notorious here!
If you're taking public transit, Commercial Drive is easily accessed by the Skytrain. Simply get off at the Broadway station and walk north (towards the mountains) along Commercial Drive.
Located underneath the Granville Street Bridge just south of downtown is Granvile Island. It's most famous for the Granville Island Public Market which features vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, fish, meat, poultry, chocolates, baked goods, cheese, pasta, etc. It's all under one roof and will make your mouth water!
Aside from the public market, Granville Island has dozens of interesting boutiques. For example, there is one store that only sells umbrellas. Another shop sells all things whimsical, from statues of dragons to books on fairies. Kids Market is a two-storey shopping center full of toy shops - a must if you have young kids. There is a store that only sells hats, while another store that only sells artsy postcards. Paper-Ya! is a beautiful stationery store.
In addition to the the boutiques, Granville Island is a haven of artisans and art galleries. All kinds of art is produced here, from painting and pottery, to metal-working and wood-working. Almost all art studios are open to the public, and many shops feature locally-produced art. It's therefore not surprising to find Opus - one of Vancouver's best art supply shops - conveniently located on Granville Island next door to the prestigious art college, the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.
There are also shops that aren't like anything else in Vancouver. Mr. Lobster Man comes to mind - a store that sells fresh live shellfish and seafood in large tanks. Going with the maritime theme, you'll also find shops selling kayak, scuba, and surf equipment on Granville Island.
If you are driving, there are free and paid parking lots located all over Granville Island, but traffic is often very congested, especially on weekend. Even if you have a car, it is often suggested to leave it and take public transit to Granville Island, just for your own sanity.
If you're taking public transit, the #50 bus goes to Granville Island from downtown Vancouver. You can also take a False Creek Ferry or Aquabus from their stops along False Creek to Granville Island.
Located in the south-western part of Vancouver along W 41st Avenue immediately west of Arbutus Street is Kerrisdale. While not a prime shopping district, it is the low density commercial heart of this hundred year old upper class residential neighbourhood and might be fun to explore if you find yourself wanting to seek out different neighbourhoods outside of downtown. Kerrisdale has a few high end clothing boutiques, like Hill's of Kerrisdale (contemporary and trendy designer labels), in addition to high end florists like Thomas Hobbs. There are many independent coffee shops, in addition to casual restaurants, and local services. Some unique shops include Oscar's - an art book shop, and Forster's - a small shop devoted to fine cheese.
It seems that recently Kerrisdale has been experiencing a tiny bit of gentrification along W 41st, where Nike and Baby Gap have opened up. However, for the most part Kerrisdale lacks the big name stores.
If you have a car, you can park for free in Kerrisdale for two hours. There is also meter parking.
If you're taking public transit from downtown Vancouver, you can take the "98-B-Line" bus southbound (approx 20-30 minutes) and get off at Granville and 41st. Then, take any bus heading west along W 41st, whether it be the #480, the #41, or another west-bound bus. Kerrisdale is only about a 5 minute drive further west down W 41st.
Located in the southern end of Vancouver along Main Street at W 49th Avenue is the Punjabi Market, home to Vancouver's Punjabi community. Many casual restaurants and sweets shops are found here, in addition to Indian sari/fabric stores, Indian video rental shops, and other Indian businesses. Note that this neighbourhood only represents a fraction of Vancouver's Indian demographic - there is a larger Indian community in Surrey.
If you are driving, free parking can easily be found on the streets, or there is meter parking.
If you are taking public transit, the #3 Main Street is the only bus that drives down this far along Main Street. You can pick the #3 bus from downtown Vancouver.
The Village at Park Royal is in West Vancouver, just a short drive over the Lions Gate Bridge from downown. There are boutique stores such as Oliver Barret , which offers exclusive fashion forward shopping, to a must stop, and the Kiss & Makeup beauty bar, which is filled with trinkets & beauty supplies. There are also restaurants with covered and heated patios.