- Download our Moving to Vancouver Guide (PDF)
Vancouver is considered one of the best places to live in the world, and with good reason. It is a city where the ocean meets the mountains, offering natural beauty, a mild climate and a vast array of outdoor activities. Add to that a thriving local music scene, world-class events and great dining options, and it’s easy to see why Vancouver’s an increasingly tantalising option for expats.
Shopping in Vancouver
Shopping in Vancouver is characterised by a broad range of quality products that will satisfy even the most discerning of shoppers. Shopping malls can be found across Vancouver, with popular ones including Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver, Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby and Richmond Centre Mall.
Downtown is also full of famous and popular chain stores. Expats looking for boutique shops will find these in either the pricey establishments of Yaletown or Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue. Alternatively, Commercial Drive in East Vancouver is home to counter-culture shopping.
Eating out in Vancouver
Both fine-dining restaurants and inexpensive eateries abound in Vancouver. Thanks to the ethnic diversity, expats will find all types of cuisines here. Chain restaurants are particularly popular among Vancouverites, with Cactus Club, Earl’s Kitchen and Milestones being the most prominent.
Sushi restaurants are also plentiful across Vancouver, and these often prove more popular than chain restaurants for their deals. Upscale dining in Vancouver is mostly found in the downtown area, as well as Coal Harbour and Yaletown. The old district of Gastown is a touristy area where the prices are high but the quality pales relative to eateries in other areas.
The West End, along Davie and Denman Streets, is where expats will find good-value food. Outside of downtown, the Commercial Drive in East Van also offers some really noteworthy deals. Other popular dining areas with a mixture of price points include Main Street (around Broadway) and Kitsilano’s West 4th Ave.
Nightlife in Vancouver
Nightlife in Vancouver has been affected by the city’s strict liquor legislation, noise bylaws and history of riots following major sporting events. Many expats may consider this a downside to living in Vancouver, but things are changing.
The local music scene has taken off in recent years and excellent venues attract musical superstars from around the globe. Old liquor laws are being rewritten and noise bylaws are being relaxed to allow more outdoor patio establishments to open.
Nightclubs are concentrated in Granville Street, while bars can be found all around town and along West Broadway. Outside of these two areas, it is rare to find a true nightclub or bar. Most drinking spots are more like casual restaurants where locals go for dinner and a drink.
See and do in Vancouver
Vancouver has plenty to offer in terms of its rich history, culture and lifestyle attractions. It has an exquisite culinary scene as well as markets, boutiques and galleries. Below is a selection of the best things to see and do in Vancouver for expats.
Vancouver Art Gallery
Located in downtown Vancouver, this well-established gallery offers an extensive library and showcases the works of local and international artists, including Emily Carr, Andy Warhol, Picasso and Rodin.
Adventure-loving expats can visit the famous Vancouver Lookout to indulge in breathtaking bird’s-eye views of the city accompanied by amenities such as the Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant serving scrumptious continental cuisine.
Museum of Anthropology
Totem poles on the Point Grey cliffs mark the way to the Museum of Anthropology, an institution displaying fine must-see examples of Northwest Coast art, and architecture by acclaimed artists, including Haida artist, Bill Reid.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park is perfect for expats and families looking to enjoy the great outdoors. The park is home to more than 100 tropical bird species, as well as abundant flower gardens, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, a Pitch and Putt course, and a lovely restaurant.
Vancouver Aquarium and Greater Vancouver Zoo
Dedicated to conservation and education, the Vancouver Aquarium and Greater Vancouver Zoo are wonderful places for children to experience exotic sea and wildlife.
What's on in Vancouver
There are many exciting festivals and celebrations in Vancouver for expats to enjoy. Below are some of our favourite annual events in the city.
Vaisakhi Parade (April)
Vaisakhi is the traditional Indian celebration of the Harvest. The Indian communities of Vancouver and Surrey share homemade food and hold colourful parades that draw in thousands of people.
Vancouver International Jazz Festival (June/July)
The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is one of the best musical celebrations in the world, hosting more than 1,000 blues- and jazz performers at concert theatres and open-air venues throughout the city.
Celebration of Light (July/August)
The Celebration of Light's musical fireworks are a great attraction for adults and children alike and can be enjoyed from multiple viewpoints throughout the city.
Vancouver Pride Parade (August)
This colourful parade showcases Vancouver’s diversity and support of the LGBTQIA+ community. It draws tens of thousands of people to the West End to watch floats sponsored by civil society organisations, including churches, political parties and nightclubs.
Where to meet people and make friends in Vancouver
Meeting new people can be unnerving for expats moving to a new city. Below are a few organisations that might ease the process of making friends in Vancouver.
YES! Vancouver is an inclusive networking group for professional women looking to further their careers and find mentorship while giving back to their communities.
This club is a great way to meet fellow fitness enthusiasts from all over Vancouver. North Shore Hikers hosts weekly outdoor activities, including hiking, backcountry skiing, biking and snowshoeing.
The local chapter of this international association is where people of all ages can come together to engage in wide-ranging activities and build life-long friendships.
The BGC can be found across 11 neighbourhoods in Vancouver and serves as an incredible after-school activity that allows children to broaden their social circles.
►For an overview of life in Vancouver see Moving to Vancouver
"Vancouver is an incredible city that has something to offer everyone. There is a tremendous amount of outdoor activities available, clean air, great restaurants, friendly people and safe neighbourhoods."
Read more about American expat Cyrus's experiences in Vancouver.
Are you an expat living in Vancouver?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Vancouver. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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