Robson Square



Arthur Erickson’s masterpiece, Robson Square, is slowly being recognized as the Western equivalent to Rockefeller Plaza. We skate below (now that the rink has had its pricey Olympic refurbishment). We stage protests on the adjoining gallery’s steps. We cut through the iconic “stramps” (half-stairs, half-ramps) as we bisect the heart of downtown. During the Games, the complex becomes an international media hive. Skating is free, and so (from February 12 to 28) is the adjoining Vancouver Art Gallery.


Serious mid-level-brand shopping begins and ends on Robson Street. You’ll find everything from GAP, Banana Republic, Club Monaco, Guess, Armani Exchange, Tommy Hilfiger, and Bebe to Canadian-based chains like Aritzia, MAC, Roots, and Lululemon. Seek out Shifeon for its astonishingly comprehensive selection of perfumes and cosmetics. 1156 Robson St., 604-688-3291.



Coffee is a serious undertaking downtown; two of the city’s finest are within a minute’s walk from Robson Square. Caffè Artigiano’s staff is constantly winning international barista competitions. (The lineup out the door is testament.) Wicked Café just down the street makes, yes, wicked brew and serves it in a crisp, cool environment. Artigiano: 763 Hornby St., 604-694-7737. Wicked: 861 Hornby St., 604-569-5480.

Fuel up for your visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery with lunch in the Gallery Cafe. No pretence, just fresh salads, panini, and quiche, plus Mission Hill wines by the glass, all ordered cafeteria-style. If weather permits, sit beneath heat lamps on the lovely patio overlooking Robson Square and watch the world go by. 750 Hornby St., 604-662-4719.

Hand-pulled noodles made at warp speed are the draw at Legendary Noodle. The beef broth with pork-chive dumplings is stellar, as is the vegetarian bowl with stir-fried tofu. 1074 Denman St., 604-669-8551.

Kingyo Izakaya’s bold flavours and moody ambiance, with dark woods and nods to feudal Japan, outshines similar rooms nearby. Sample each section of the extensive menu: we favour the assorted sashimi, beef-tendon miso stew, and grilled black cod (aka sablefish, it’s something of a local delicacy and always a good bet). 871 Denman St., 604-608-1677.

Cibo Trattoria is a glamorous restaurant off the lobby of the Moda Hotel. The food is elegant, too: locally influenced Italian from British chef Neil Taylor, formerly of London’s famed River Café. Must-haves include raviolis of sweet local corn and ricotta saddled with shavings of pecorino (all pastas are made in house). 900 Seymour St., 604-602-9570.

Davie St. packs in the most after-hours restaurants and bars in Vancouver. Among them: Lolita’s South of the Border Cantina, a raucous room serving authentically rooted, locally influenced fare (exhibit A: the superb quesadilla con salmon pacifico); the tequila list is the city’s finest. Still thirsty? Step down the block to 1181. The city’s poshest gay bar is high-design, serving killer margaritas and special beers like Innis & Gunn. Lolita’s: Open till 2 a.m. nightly, with a full-dinner menu till 11 p.m. 1326 Davie St., 604-696-9996. 1181: 1181 Davie St., 604-687-3991.



Vida Wellness Spa’s Ayurvedic focus means treatments are geared toward your dosha, or temperament. Massage therapists can detect anything from career issues hiding behind your right scapula to indecisiveness in your left hip. The large, calming lounge, stocked with herbal teas and healthy snacks, is one of the prettiest in the city. 1010 Burrard St., in the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, 604-682-8410

Just off Robson Street’s strip of brand-name clothing shops, discover Fantacity, a raucous, underground karaoke bar frequented by hipsters, Japanese exchange students, and wanna-be songsters. Order your beer by the pitcher, or go home. 745 Thurlow St., 604-899-0006



Numerous buses service downtown and a cluster of SkyTrain stations between Burrard Street and Seymour Street make travelling a cinch.