This guide to where to stay in Vancouver is part 2 of our 5-Part Not Your Ordinary Vancouver Series. Don’t miss the links to the other four parts at the bottom of this post.
You Can’t Stay at Our Parents’ House…
When Kim and I visit, our decision on where to stay in Vancouver has an easy answer:
We stay with our parents.
Sorry, dear reader, but our parents said that you can’t stay with them. you’re going to have to look elsewhere.
To lighten the blow we’re going to help you find a nice place with this guide to where to stay in Vancouver. It lists our picks for the best neighborhoods and ranks them across various criteria. All you have to do is pick the criteria that matter most to you and you have it: the perfect spot for you.
It may turn out even better for you than staying with our parents.
Need-to-Know Basic Info
It’s crucial to know the following info about Vancouver before deciding where to stay within it.
We’re going to keep this short to not repeat the tips and info in our other Vancouver guides: Dos and Don’ts for Getting Around, Travel Tips to Know Before You Go, and 11 Vital Q&As. You’re obviously going to rush to read after finishing this one on where to stay.
Because of all these darn mountains, bays, creeks, and rivers, there’s precious little space for poor Vancouverites to live on. We’re squished (by Canadian standards).
This means that no matter where you decide to stay in Vancouver, it won’t take you long to get anywhere. For instance, you can walk from any corner of downtown to the other in less than 45 minutes.
Since Vancouver has so little space, parking sucks and so can traffic, so renting a car’s a bad idea while you’re in town. Only consider renting one if you’re planning a day trip, like up the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
You Best Be Car-less
And since Vancouver doesn’t have Uber, your best bet to get around is A) Walk B) Bike and C) Take public transit like everyone else.
The number of homeless people and drug addicts in Vancouver may shock you, especially the closer you get to the Downtown Eastside epicenter along East Hastings, but don’t let that shock turn to fear.
You can safely walk anywhere at any time of day or night in Vancouver.
Vancouver Neighborhood Map
We’ve colored the best Vancouver neighborhoods and put the others we don’t recommend as much in grey. Click the icon on the top left to see the legend.
Note that these aren’t the official neighborhood boundaries, but roughly where we’d recommend staying within each of them.
Save this map to your phone’s Google Maps in just two clicks by following the steps in our guide to Our Favorite Google Maps Tips and Tricks.
Vancouver Neighborhood Scorecard
Pick the categories you care about and this tool will pick the best place to stay for you by adding up the respective scores for each of our favorite Vancouver neighborhoods, which we’ll explain in detail below.
The Best Vancouver Neighborhoods
In alphabetical order, here are our top-recommended Vancouver neighborhoods with ratings, pros and cons, highlights, and top picks for where to stay each.
For a Real Local Experience
Commercial Drive doesn’t deserve its name because it’s not particularly commercial. The neighborhood has stuck to its roots more than any other Vancouver neighborhood listed here.
As for what those roots are… well, they’re varied.
Commercial Drive had the most eclectic mix of cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds of any Vancouver neighborhood.
- Very few tourists.
- Eccentricity. Nowhere in Vancouver has a wider variety of people, restaurants, and shops.
- Bad base. Since it’s a few kilometers east of all of Vancouver’s attractions, it’s not the best base for exploring the whole city.
- Powell Street brewery district (here’s a self-guided beer crawl)
- The Rio Theatre. Check their calendar for what live performances and classic movies are scheduled during your visit.
- Trout Lake, especially for the weekend farmers market but even maybe for Vancouver’s only freshwater beach
Where to Stay
Airbnb’s your best bet because there are little to no hotels around Commercial Drive. Try to stay near the Broadway and Commercial SkyTrain station
- Rent a Whole Apartment: A wide variety of 5-star-rated apartments, suites, and houses on Airbnb.
- Rent a Room: Private rooms in shared apartments start at $30 a night on Airbnb
For a discount on your first ever Airbnb stay, click this link.
Strictly Business (and Tourists)
On a cloudy day when you can’t see the mountains, you’d have a hard time distinguishing Vancouver’s downtown center from that of many other cities. It’s a bunch of business towers, brand name hotels, restaurants, cars, and people.
But every direction from downtown is the rest of Vancouver, which definitely isn’t like any other city, even on a cloudy day.
- Location. It’s the center of the city, the hub of all transport, and full of restaurants and shopping.
- Franticness. Traffic, people, noise all day long.
- Expense. Being the easiest place to stay in Vancouver makes it the most expensive too.
- Nobody lives here. It’s a land of office workers, tourists, and mall shoppers.
- Robson Street and Pacific Centre Mall for big-brand shopping
- Cultural centers like the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and Orpheum Theatre.
- The Waterfront. Here at tourist central, you can watch the cruise ships come in and seaplanes take off with the North Shore mountains as a backdrop.
Where to Stay
- Classic Vancouver: Before all the modern skyscrapers overshadowed it, copper-topped Hotel Vancouver stood head and shoulders above the city. The hotel still stands out as a classy place to stay.
- Top-of-the-Line: L’Hermitage Hotel is the #1-rated hotel no matter which hotel review site you check.
- Budget: You’re better off keeping to your budget in the West End unless you find an amazing one-time deal or get something on points.
- Hostel: The Urban Hideaway Guesthouse lives up to its name. It’s located in a heritage home surrounded by downtown towers, kind of like the house in the movie, Up!
The Vibrant Old Quarter
Gastown is more of a quarter than a neighborhood. It’s Vancouver’s historical quarter.
Not many people live in the old buildings. Those that do are mostly work-at-home artists and designers and their cats. And homeless people.
There aren’t many places to stay here either but if you find and choose one you’ll have plenty of designer and souvenir shops, art galleries, and some of Vancouver’s best pubs and restaurants at your doorstep. And homeless people.
- Character. Even though Gastown was Disneyfied to appeal to tourists (as revealed in our Vancouver Travel Tips), its old buildings and cobbled roads create an old-time ambiance.
- Seedy. Right beside the drug-plagued Downtown Eastside.
- Urban. Far from any beaches (except un-swimmable Crab Park) and parks.
- Water Street, Gastown’s main strip of souvenir shops, restaurants, and boutiques.
- The Steam Clock. It’s a clock. Many people take photos of it and it is literally a hot spot with the steam and all.
Where to Stay
- Full of Memories: The Victorian Hotel has such a rich history, which its interior manages to maintain, that it was a featured stop for our entertaining Forbidden Vancouver tour.
- Lofty Locations: Most Airbnbs in Gastown are funky lofts with lofty prices.
- Hostel: The Cambie is famously a dirty and dirt-cheap bar for young people. The hostel is the same.
Kitsilano (or Kits) is the place to stay in Vancouver for a California-style beach vibe.
You’ll have a hard time finding an unfit person. Even the babies here wear Lululemon and Arcteryx (both born-in-Vancouver brands).
- Closer to the University of British Colombia (UBC) and all the West Side Beaches
- Its relaxed, active, outdoorsy feel will compel you to put on your yoga pants and join in.
- Poor public transit. The least well-served by public transit of all our picks for best neighborhoods in Vancouver.
- Kits Beach, which explodes with activity—volleyball, paddleboarding, swimming in the outdoor pool, basketball, suntanning—in the summer.
- 4th Ave between Vine and Burrard is the birthplace of Lululemon and has tons of yoga shops and studios, outdoor apparel stores, and good restaurants. Maenam is one of our favorites.
- Granville Island‘s markets, theaters, and shops are just down the street.
Where to Stay
Kits doesn’t have any hotels, so stay at an Airbnb.
- Basements and backyards: You’ll mostly find basement or backyard guest suites in Kits. Look in this area for the optimal location.
- Rent a Room: Look for a private Airbnb room in the area we’ve zoomed into here.
- Hostel: The HI-Jericho Beach is closest to Kits… but not really close to anything, not even bus stops, except the beach.
Mount pleasant has reached Stage 2 of the global hipster neighborhood development scale.
In Stage One, original hipsters creep into the cracks of downtrodden neighborhoods and multiply, setting up vegan restaurants, breweries, cafes, and vintage shops.
In Stage Two, those original hipsters tone down, people with too much money to be hipsters move in and drive up prices, and it becomes the go-to neighborhood in town.
And Stage Three… I don’t know yet. We’ll see soon enough!
- Most hipster of all the neighborhoods, which for most (but not all) people is a good thing.
- Easy airport access, especially the closer to Cambie Street you stay.
- Far from the beaches and parks.
- Brewery Creek below Broadway (towards the mountains) has enough buzzing microbreweries to keep you buzzed.
- Main Street is the, well, main street, of Mount Pleasant. Between 8th and 25th are most of the restaurants, cafes, and shops.
Where to Stay
Decide whether to stay closer to Cambie Street, for a more convenient location, or Main Street, to be embedded among the hipster hotspots. The two are 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) apart.
- An Eclectic Mix: Airbnbs in Mount Pleasant include artist’s studios, a surf shacks, a “Ganja Yoga retreat,” heritage houses, and regular ol’ apartments.
- Hostel: The C&N is the only hostel nearby, but it’s not in the nicest area, nor is the hotel that nice itself.
The West End:
Downtown’s Low-Key Locale
Not to be confused with Vancouver’s West Side (the residential neighborhoods between Main St. and UBC) and West Vancouver (a suburb by the mountains), the West End is a dense downtown neighborhood.
While the rest of downtown has developed dramatically over the last 30 years the West End has mostly remained its same low-key, lower cost neighborhood self.
- Relaxed and residential. Most of the streets are local-traffic-only.
- In the middle. Between the nature of Stanley Park and the beaches and the action and attractions of the rest of downtown.
- It’s not on any SkyTrain route and only has a couple of buses along Davie and Robson Streets.
- Not as hip. Rarely do any hip new restaurants or shops open in the West End.
- English Bay Beach and Sunset Beach
- Stanley Park and the Seawall
- Western Robson Street is a hub for the city’s best Japenese and Korean restaurants
- Davie Street, or “Davie Village,” Vancouver’s everyone’s-welcome gay-borhood.
Where to Stay
- Historic Beachside: The ivy-covered Sylvia Hotel right by English Bay, the Seawall, and Davie and Denman streets’ restaurants.
- Retro Chic: Burrard Hotel straddles the West End and Downtown for what we believe to be is a perfect location.
- Charm and Hospitality: If those two adjectives tickle your fancy, so will the West End Guesthouse.
- Airbnb: Look for an Airbnb west of Denman and close to Davie Street.
- Hostel: The quiet, but social and well-located Downtown Hostel is a good bet for backpackers who want to seize the day rather than party all night.
Yuppie’s (young urban professionals) gravitate to Yaletown so they can dress fancy and go to the fancy spin studios, smoothie bars, restaurants, IV therapy centers, and all other such places that they can afford now that they have “real jobs” but no kids yet.
- Nightlife. Vancouver’s not famous for its nightlife (and for good reason), but Yaletown’s the place to be if you want to party. It’s the place to start a night out then head over to the clubs on Granville Street or bars in Gastown.
- Lack of charm. The area is as charming as the nearly-identical glass apartment buildings that have sprouted from it.
- Expense. You don’t get as much bang for your buck in Yaletown. People here are more price insensitive than other parts of the city, and the prices reflect that.
- The ex-warehouse, now lofty and cool area along Hamilton and Mainland Streets between Robson and Davie.
- The seawall section by David Lam Park and along False Creek for stretching your legs, tanning your skin.
Where to Stay
- Style Central: The Opus Hotel epitomizes Yaletown.
- Hostel: A couple blocks of away on Granville Street, which is party by night and dirty by day (but super central), the Samesun is Vancouver’s most popular hostel.
Not the Best Areas to Stay in Vancouver
Coal Harbour is Yaletown but instead of being full yuppies and yuppie-related businesses, it’s empty (because of absentee wealthy Asian owners).
For some reason, all the other blogs on where to stay in Vancouver have agreed it’s the “place to stay” if you’re going to take a cruise.
Because it’s close to the convention center?! That’s what tons of other bloggers say, but Gastown, Downtown Centre, and even Yaletown and the West End are just as close. Those blogs are just regurgitating each others’ words because there’s not enough nice to say about Coal Harbour.
Chinatown / Crosstown
The Chinatown / Crosstown area has some fantastic restaurants and bars, but newcomers may not feel as comfortable here as in other Vancouver neighborhoods because it is the grittiest of them all.
You will see people injecting drugs in themselves here and you won’t get much of a discount for staying here compared to the neighboring areas.
Fairview, False Creek, and South Granville
This area’s called Olympic Village because it was nothing but warehouses until it was completely redeveloped into athlete’s accommodation for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics then converted into apartments.
We give this neighborhood a bronze medal because there’s not a lot to it aside from those apartments and a couple of brewpubs. Look to stay in Mount Pleasant or Kits before settling on here.
The North Shore
Accommodation in the North Shore is cheaper than many other Vancouver neighborhoods listed here, closer to the mountain trails and parks, and “only” a public SeaBus away from downtown Vancouver.
But be careful making those compromises.
What money you save you’ll be paying with time to get anywhere in the city. And if you want to spend most of your time in the mountains, actually go to the mountains—check out Squamish—instead of trying to have your cake and eat it too.
For You Indecisive Folk
If you can’t or don’t want to decide for yourself and want us to tell you where to stay in Vancouver, here you go:
Stay in the West End.
Nobody will go wrong by staying there. It’s Vancouver’s best compromise of location and neighborhood feel, is family and everyone else friendly.
- Unlike many of the other Where to Stay in Vancouver blog posts, this one by Wandertooth actually has good information. Check it out if you’re undecided, want a second opinion, and have some time (it’s a long post).
- For the official word on Vancouver’s neighborhoods, check out Tourism Vancouver’s guides and videos.
- Check out the Vancouver events calendar to see if anything’s going on that you might want to stay close to.
- For restaurants in each neighborhood, the Georgia Straight’s annual nominees are reliable.
How to Have An Extraordinary Vancouver Visit
What to Do Once You Know Where to Stay?
Check out the other four posts of our 5-part Not Your Ordinary Vancouver Series (plus find links to some more hidden posts):
- The 11 Questions You Want Answered Before Visiting Vancouver
- Vancouver Travel Tips You Likely Haven’t Heard Already
- Where to Stay in Vancouver: The Best Neighborhoods, Ranked (Done!)
- 7 Things Everyone Actually Must Do if They Visit Vancouver
- Our Favorite Non-Touristy Things to Do in Vancouver