The most populous city in B.C., Vancouver can often be found on lists of cities for livability and quality of life. However, Vancouver also ranks as the most expensive city to live in Canada and as the fourth-most expensive housing market globally.
Vancouver is also known as Metro Vancouver or Greater Vancouver. Metro Vancouver includes Vancouver proper but also other municipalities, such as Port Moody, Surrey, Burnaby and more. Metro Vancouver is part of the Lower Mainland, which overlaps with the Lower Fraser Valley.
The city is located in the traditional and unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh (Burrard) peoples of the Coast Salish group.
Vancouver is among British Columbia's youngest cities. The first European settlement in what is now Vancouver appeared in1862 on the Fraser River, just east of the ancient village of Musqueam in what is now Marpole. North West Company trader Simon Fraser and his crew are the first-known Europeans to set foot on the site of the present-day city. Originally named Gastown, the settlement grew around the site of a makeshift tavern built in 1867. The original site is marked by a steam clock. In 1886 the city was incorporated and renamed Vancouver after Captain George Vancouver. That year also marked the arrival of the first transcontinental train and of the Great Vancouver Fire. The fire razed the entire city.
Amalgamation with Point Grey and South Vancouver gave the city its final boundaries not long before it became the third-largest metropolis in the country. Natural resources, especially forestry, became the basis for Vancouver's economy.
Beginning with Expo 86, Vancouver has become increasingly well-known on the world stage. International conferences and conventions, some events with the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and several matches of 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup have been held there. In 2014, the city became the permanent home to TED conferences.
The city has a long and storied history of environmentalism. In 1969, Greenpeace was founded there.
Major film production studios in Vancouver and nearby Burnaby have turned Greater Vancouver and nearby areas into one of the largest film production centres in North America, earning it the nickname “Hollywood North.”
Vancouver experiences some of Canada’s warmest winters. The summer months are typically dry, while November through March are pretty much wet.
In 2020, the average sales price for a single detached home in Vancouver increased by 11.4 percent to $1,270,000 compared to $1,140,000 in 2019. Buyers looking for larger homes are responsible for the demand. Single-detached homes are the most popular property type with these move-up buyers.
First-time homebuyers are typically single homebuyers looking for condominiums, which range in price from $400,000 to $500,00 (minimum).
The 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in Vancouver, while the Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431, making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. It is the fifth-most densely populated North American city and one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada.
With its location on the Pacific Rim and at the western terminus of Canada’s transcontinental highway and rail routes, Vancouver is one of the nation’s largest industrial centres.
As of 2016, Port Metro Vancouver is the fourth-largest port by tonnage in the Americas, the busiest and largest in Canada, and the most diversified in North America. Due in large part to its natural surroundings, the city boasts a substantial tourism industry. In 2017, over 10.3 million people visited the city. Annually, tourism contributes approximately $4.8 billion to the Metro Vancouver economy and supports over 70,000 jobs. Each year over a million people pass through Vancouver on cruise ship vacations, often bound for Alaska.
Vancouver is also the headquarters of forest product and mining companies. In recent years, it has become a centre for software development, biotechnology, aerospace, video game development, animation studios and television production and film industry. The city’s focus on lifestyle and health culture also makes it a hub for many lifestyle brands such as Lululemon, Arc’teryx, and Mountain Equipment Co-op.
Of the five public universities in the Greater Vancouver area, the largest are the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU). UBC often ranks among the 40 best universities in the world and is among the 20 best public universities. SFU consistently ranks as the top comprehensive university in Canada and is among the 200 best universities in the world.
Other public universities include Capilano University, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Six private institutions also operate in the region: Trinity Western University in Langley, UOPX Canada in Burnaby, and University Canada West, NYIT Canada, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Columbia College, and Sprott Shaw College, all in Vancouver.
Vancouver Community College, Douglas College, and Langara College are publicly funded college-level institutions. The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) provides polytechnic education. Vancouver Film School provides one-year programs in film production and video game design.
The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique operates three Francophone schools in the city.
Vancouver is very much a sports-and-rec town, attracting residents who want easy access to the mountains and the ocean. Hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and mountain biking are popular activities. The city’s beaches thrive in the summer. A popular outdoor activity is the Grouse Grind, a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain. Some call it “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.”
The Vancouver Canucks is the city’s NHL team. The BC Lions are enjoyed by those who follow the Canadian Football League. Soccer fans turn out for the Vancouver Whitecaps. From 1995-2001, the city was home to its own NBA team, the Grizzlies.
Vancouver’s location makes it a major tourist destination. Many come to see the city's gardens, Stanley Park, a 405-hectare public park that borders the downtown, as well as Queen Elizabeth Park, VanDusen Botanical Garden, and the mountains, ocean, forest and parklands which surround the city.
Music, theatre, dance, and visual arts are well-represented. Most of the major venues are located downtown. These include but are not limited to Rogers Arena, BC Place Stadium, and the Orpheum, Queen Elizabeth, and Vogue theatres.
The Vancouver Art Gallery hosts local, national and international artists. Smaller galleries, many along South Granville and more recently east of Main, feature rotating exhibits of new work. The City supports public art installations such as murals.
Other municipalities in Greater Vancouver have their own localized arts scenes. Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, and Richmond all have their own theatres and venues.
Vancouver’s music scene has seen growth in influence and respect on the world stage. North American punk rock found an early home here thanks to bands like DOA and The Subhumans. In the 1990s, thanks in part to its proximity to Seattle, Olympia and Portland, Vancouver gave birth to an indie-rock scene that spawned critically acclaimed acts like Black Mountain, The New Pornographers, and Destroyer.
Vancouver has emerged as a top food destination. Annual events like Dine Out Vancouver and the Vancouver International Wine Festival attract thousands. Top restaurants include Boulevard for high-end, locally-sourced seafood; St. Lawrence, for French-Canadian-influenced fare; and Downlow Chicken Shack, a fried-chicken takeout destination in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood.
Vancouver is also an early entrant in the craft beer movement. Several craft breweries have opened in the city since the mid-oughts, with many gathered together in clusters in various neighbourhoods such as East Vancouver (aka “Yeast Van”), Port Moody, North Vancouver, and Mt. Pleasant.
Shoppers will find no shortage of ways to spend money, whether in the upscale boutiques along Robson Street, the outdoor-equipment mecca of West 4th, or the one-of-a-kind shops along Commercial Dr.
Downtown’s biggest mall is Pacific Centre, which includes Hudson’s Bay and Nordstrom outlets. Other malls in Greater Vancouver include Brentwood, Oakridge Centre, and Kingsgate.
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