People & Communities
CASE City Guide: Vancouver

Reviews and recommendations of local venues, attractions and customs of major cities by CASE members. Since details may change, we encourage you to make independent enquiries.  Know something additional about this city? Add a comment below



Vancouver, Canada
Marguerite Collins Olding, events coordinator-alumni affairs, at the University of British Columbia, is your CASE Vancouver, Canadaguide.

Vancouver is a friendly, dynamic and multicultural city set in a stunning natural environment. From biking around the seawall to fine dining in the bustling metropolitan core, there is something for everyone year round. Vancouver is the host for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For 2004-2009, it was voted the "Best City in the Americas" by Condé Nast Traveler magazine based on its ambience, friendliness, culture and sites, restaurants, lodging and shopping.

Interesting or unusual event venues

  • Roundhouse Centre is admired for its functional industrial beauty and has historical significance to Vancouver from an architectural and a social perspective. It is Vancouver's oldest heritage building still on its original site. This downtown community centre features a wood post-and-beam structure with heritage brick walls. Its many flexible meeting and event spaces provide the perfect urban setting for any modest budget. For larger events, consider the Performance Centre Theatre, which can accommodate 193 guests, or the exhibition hall, which can handle 400 for a standing reception. Smaller meeting spaces are also available.
  • Library Square Conference Centre. The Vancouver Public Library features beautiful event spaces. The downtown branch's highlights include the promenade, which is a spectacular curved atrium soaring seven stories high, (can accommodate 400 at round tables or 900 reception-style), and the large Alice McKay meeting room. Smaller meeting rooms are also available on the seventh floor. They are situated on the ends of the reading arcades, with glass walls providing a 360 degree view of the city and the library interior. Its nonprofit rates are reasonable for a venue of this nature downtown.
  • District 319 is a modern, edgy venue. Converted from an abandoned Asian movie house, this multimedia venue features three signature spaces: a brick wall gallery, a funky lounge and a screening room with 150 red-leather club chairs complete with foot rests. The venue is located in the Downtown Eastside. While the area is known for its poverty, the independent boutiques, hip restaurants and nightclubs make this the spot for local trendsetters. I would recommend this venue for an arts-related or young alumni event. Total venue capacity is 375, and it offers very reasonable nonprofit rates.
  • The Museum of Anthropology, located on the University of British Columbia campus, is a world-class venue. With breathtaking ocean views and many individual spaces to choose from, event planners can do just about any workshop, performance or reception here. The museum is putting finishing touches on a $56 million renovation and expansion project, which includes new event space. Spaces to choose from include the Great Hall, the Michael M. Ames Theatre and the Courtyard Room. Budget permitting, one of the best options is to rent the front grounds amidst the Haida Big Houses and soaring totem poles. The grounds can accommodate groups up to 2,000 people for a reception, but don't hesitate to book one of the smaller spaces for a boardroom meeting.

Favourite hotels

  • Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver, a new luxury boutique hotel, is located in the heart of downtown. Rooms are decorated in a contemporary Asian style, with many featuring private balconies and stunning views of the city. The hotel offers distinctive, intimate and flexible meeting rooms. This is currently the only Shangri-La in Canada (as of 2009).
  • The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver is an exceptional cosmopolitan hotel. As part of a $20 million renovation in 2007, the hotel revamped its 372 guest rooms, lobby, corporate meeting space and very popular YEW restaurant and bar.
  • The Sylvia Hotel is a designated heritage building, located on English Bay, beside Stanley Park and just five minutes from downtown Vancouver. Built in 1912, the Sylvia Hotel is a city landmark and one of Vancouver's greatest treasures. The old-fashioned character and friendly service makes you feel at home.
  • The Granville Island Hotel's location is what makes it unique and inviting. Located in Granville Island, right on the water, the property is in the hub of the city's artistic and cultural community. The famous Granville Island market is steps away, nestled between artists' studios and independent boutiques. You are minutes from downtown by bus, water taxi or on foot.

Best times to visit

Most Vancouverites will suggest May/June or August/September. The late spring is when the city comes back to life from a sleepy winter—it's green again and everyone comes out to enjoy the sun. Late summer is when we have the sunniest days and there are many activities to choose from.

Easiest way to get around

Renting a car is likely the easiest way to get around if you are travelling for work and need to get from point A to point B quickly. That said, the bus transportation system (Translink) is reliable and efficient, and many locals choose to bike or walk, particularly in the downtown core.

Local customs: notes and tips

  • Vancouver's multicultural nature is clearly reflected in its cuisine—it is not unusual to order Thai, Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean or sushi (Vancouver has great sushi) over sandwiches for a business lunch any day.
  • Always order coffee and tea service for business meetings. Vancouverites like their coffee!
  • Always tip a minimum of 15 percent for food and beverage; it would be considered rude otherwise. It is also customary to tip housekeepers, taxi drivers and hair stylists.
  • Vancouver is a very relaxed city—locals tend to dress casually outside of work, and business casual is the accepted norm in most office settings.

Gift suggestions for hosts

As Vancouver is a very multicultural city, cultural norms would depend on your host's background.

Final words of advice, welcome

  • Walk or bike around the seawall to Stanley Park.
  • Brunch in Coal Harbour on the water and watch the boats.
  • Take the gondola up Grouse Mountain for a spectacular view of the city.
  • Shop at a farmer's market for local food or artisan's wares.
  • Walk through Granville Island, visiting the market and little shops.
  • Go shopping on Main Street, browsing heritage spaces, antique stores and independent boutiques.
  • Go skiing or snowboarding at any of the three local mountains or head up to Whistler, home of the 2010 Winter Games!
  • Visit Vancouver Island or one of the five local Gulf islands for a quick getaway.
  • Visit Chinatown and Gastown for a look at Vancouver's past and what's up and coming.