City guide: Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city located in the province of British Columbia in the west of Canada. It’s actually the most populated city in this area of the country and the 8th in the entire of Canada.
The city’s origins lie in the late 19th century in the lumbering industry when Vancouver was originally just a settlement called ‘Granville’ (or ‘Gastown’ as it was also referred to, after a local proprietor who built a tavern for the millworkers). This one tavern on the waterfront quickly developed inland into what would first become Granville, and then Vancouver (named after explorer Captain George Vancouver) once the Canadian Pacific Railway began to be developed further and the city’s population exploded.
The city’s port is the biggest in the country making it the epicentre for the exporting and importing of goods in and out of the country. Another profitable avenue for the city is in the film and television industry where Vancouver doubles as the backdrop to many big American TV shows and films, thanks to its picturesque quality – another great reason why Vancouver attracts both tourists and international students.
Vancouver is a very diverse city with over half of residents citing a first language that is not English. There is a large Asian population in the city, specifically Chinese with 25% considering it to be their first language. In fact, Vancouver’s Chinatown is the 3rd largest in North America! Punjabi and Vietnamese are also popularly-spoken languages in the city.
One of Vancouver’s biggest claims to fame is the fact that it has been voted one of the most liveable cities in the whole world (voted 3rd in 2014). This is based on key factors like culture and education (factors which any international student should be considering when deciding where to study in Canada). So despite the slightly higher cost of living, the Vancouver lifestyle is certainly a highly-desirable place to live.
One important factor for this is the relatively mild climate which Vancouver enjoys. Snow falls in Vancouver less than 15 days a year which is a stark difference compared to what most think of Canada (i.e. that is snows constantly). Vancouver actually sees the most sunshine of any city in the country!
Vancouver is a great place to live if you like the outdoors. You can really make the most of all the sunshine it enjoys. Stanley Park is the 3rd largest urban park in North America, over 10 times larger than New York’s famous Central Park. Here you can go biking along the Park’s 9Km sea wall which delivers beautiful views. There is also Vancouver Aquarium located within the park, which is the largest aquarium in the country and houses over 70,000 creatures. Additionally there are plenty more activities you can do in and around the park, both on land and in the water which surrounds Stanley Park.
Speaking of the water, take a water taxi or kayak to the Granville Island Public Market. Fish, meat, fruit, vegetable, cheese, bread, arts & crafts.... you can get everything here, all made and sourced locally.
During the summer months, the annual Shakespeare festival, ‘Bard on the Beach’ takes place. Various performances of different Shakespearian works take place in tents in Vanier Park on the waterfront as well as talks and events which are related. The festival has been running for over 25 years with the aim to provide high quality standards of Shakespearian productions for the local audience. If you’re a humanities student, or just looking for some culture, you should definitely check it out!
The city’s strong Asian population means that there are many, many options to find delicious Asian cuisine. Many call Vancouver the most interesting dining experience in North America and it’s not hard to see why. Gastown, the original and oldest neighbourhood which the city was built around, is packed with trendy bars, restaurants and clubs (as well as a statue dedicated to ‘Gassy Jack’, the proprietor who built the original tavern for the millworkers which became the basis for Vancouver).
Higher education institutions in Vancouver include the University of British Columbia, Langara College, the Art Institute of Vancouver and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
Not interested in Vancouver? Learn more about Toronto instead.
Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.