Guide to the ‘Burbs: Burnaby

From megamalls to picturesque parks, Burnaby has something for everyone.

Hottest ‘Hoods

Condos are king in Burnaby, which is skyrocketing upward and outward with massive developments at Brentwood, Lougheed Town Centre and Metrotown—all part of the plan to concentrate development around SkyTrain stations and other transit corridors. Flocking there are first-time buyers and commuters priced out of the Vancouver market, although Burnaby is no longer the relative steal it used to be, and you have to love concrete living. At the other end of the market, those looking for more upscale detached still head for picturesque Deer Lake, while family-minded East Van types are setting up shop in Burnaby Heights.


Deer Lake: A round-the-lake walking trail, picnic spots and boat rentals make Deer Lake a popular spot to soak in the outdoors—but it’s also home to popular cultural stops, including the Burnaby Art Gallery, the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts and the Burnaby Village Museum. In summer, it’s also an ideal venue for outdoor concerts, this year featuring Ms. Lauryn Hill, Bon Iver and Portugal. The Man, along with Broken Social Scene, Vance Joy and the perennial favourite Burnaby Roots and Blues Festival. Burnaby Village MuseumMetropolis at Metrotown: The ’80s still echo through this megamall, but with nearly 400 stores and services, Metropolis at Metrotown is still B.C.’s biggest shopping centre, and the third largest in Canada, drawing more than 27 million customers annually. (West Edmonton Mall and Mississauga’s Square One are numbers one and two.) Burnaby council just approved major redevelopment plans for the area, which could mean big change for the 32-year-old shopping mecca and its surroundings, but for now it’s business as usual.Burnaby Mountain: No matter which way you travel it’s quite the hike to get there, but perched atop Burnaby Mountain is Simon Fraser University’s Arthur Erickson-designed main campus, itself a cultural and architectural landmark that houses the SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the SFU Art Gallery and other worthy stops, and offers myriad courses, workshops and talks. Outside, the Burnaby Mountain Conversation Area is perfect for cycling, hikes and stunning sunsets at the “Playground of the Gods.”

I have lived in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood of North Burnaby for 25 years. It’s the Italian area of the city and we have great restaurants, delis, and markets. The biggest plus is the lack of strip malls. I abhor strip malls. —Jessica Dragojevich, 57, Registered Social Worker

Best Bites

Hanwoori: With its strip-mall location and non-descript decor, Hanwoori may not land any interior design prizes, but their authentic Korean food has been voted among the best in the region. Slow-simmered gori gom tang (oxtail soup), deep-fried dumplings, fried noodles, seafood pancakes and marinated meats barbecued at the table are among the dishes that keep the steady clientele coming.Chez Christophe: For those with a sweeter tooth, award-winning Swiss-trained pastry chef and chocolatier Christophe Bonzon—also the former executive pastry chef at CinCin—brings his exquisite creations to Burnaby Heights, treating locals to double-baked croissants with pecan maple syrup, elegant truffles, handmade macarons, chocolate éclairs, tart au citron and more. Chez CristopheThe Pear Tree: After more than 20 years, the Pear Tree is still regularly named the best restaurant in Burnaby and attracts both locals and foodies from further afield. Award-winning chef Scott Jaeger focuses on local, organic and sustainable ingredients, and offers both familiar favourites and more adventurous options, from 30-hour braised beef cheek with potato roulade to pan-roasted Lois Lake steelhead with pomme dauphine and butternut squash. Anton’s Pasta Bar: Locals joke that it’s not hard to find this beloved Burnaby spot: just look for the long lineups outside. Make sure to bring an appetite, too: while they’re known for the quality of their pastas and sauces—more than 70 red, white, clear and seafood-based combinations—they are famous for serving serious quantity. “Giant,” “amazingly huge,” “epic,” “immense” and “monster” are some of the terms online reviewers use, and one patron bluntly warns, “You will not be able to finish your pasta.”Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery: Ice cream lovers can step back in time at the Glenburn Soda Fountain, which opened in 2013 but feels like 1953. Ice cream cones, sundaes, milkshakes and malts are all made with local ice cream from Birchwood Dairy in Abbotsford, while nostalgic toys, treats and decor—as well as swoon-inducing house-made brownies—round out the vintage experience.Chad Thai: Sweet, sour, cream and spice all converge in the fresh Thai dishes at Chad Thai, regularly named the best Thai food in Burnaby. Inspired by Thai street food, the menu incorporates both meat and vegetarian options, among them pad Thai goong, seafood soups and an assortment of curries, cashew chicken and noodles, as well as coconut ice cream and tasty Thai desserts.Cozmos Cafe and Bistro: Focaccia sandwiches, zucchini sticks and yam fries are among the simple comfort foods that earn Cozmos high marks among locals, but it’s the generous all-day breakfasts that keep weekend warriors lining up. Signature dishes include classic two-egg breakfasts, eggs benny variations (classic, Florentine, veggie, tuna melt and Greek), and so many omelette options you’ll need a strong coffee to decide.

Coming Soon 

The city of Burnaby is putting most of its development eggs into four very large baskets—Brentwood, Lougheed Town Centre, Edmonds and Metrotown—with all of them doing double time as major transit hubs. Plans include solidifying Metrotown as Burnaby’s town centre, with a dense mix of business and residential spaces, transportation options and amenities. Surrounded by glassy condo towers, Brentwood will host Vancouver’s latest megamall, and thousands of market condos and rentals will continue to come on-stream in the Lougheed Town Centre area—where towers will reach heights of up to 65 storeys. Rendering of the future of Brentwood. 

Want to see more from the VanMag guide to the suburbs? Check out the rest here.