Vancouver redirects here. Not to be confused with the smaller Vancouver, Washington, USA, suburb of Portland, Oregon. For more uses see Vancouver (disambiguation)

Vancouver is a Canadian city, in the Province of British Columbia. It is a major seaport and the largest metropolitan centre in western Canada, home to 545,000 people in 2001. Vancouver is the main city of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and of the larger region commonly known as the Lower Mainland, where 1,986,965 people (2001) live. The current mayor is Larry Campbell, Coalition of Progressive Electors.

Table of contents
1 Location
2 History
3 Scenery
4 Climate
5 Living
6 People
7 Industry
8 Transportation
9 Rankings
10 Sites of Interest
11 Colleges and Universities
12 Professional Sports Teams
13 Municipalities in Greater Vancouver
14 Location Relative to Other Municipalities in Greater Vancouver
15 References
16 External Links


Vancouver is situated at 49 degrees, 16 minutes north, and 123 degrees, 7 minutes west, in the Pacific Time Zone (UTC-8). It is adjacent to the Strait of Georgia, a body of water that is separated from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island.


Vancouver's ecosystem, with its abundant plant and animal life, provides a wealth of food and materials that have probably supported people for over 10,000 years. A settlement called "Wu'muthkweyum," (Musqueam), meaning "people of the grass," near the mouth of the Fraser River, dates from at least 3,000 years ago. At the time of European contact the Musqueam and Squamish peoples had villages in the area now called Vancouver. There is also evidence of a third group, the Tsleil'wauthuth, ancestors of today's Burrard Band in North Vancouver. These were Coast Salish First Nations sharing cultural traits with people in the Fraser Valley and Northern Washington. Halkomelem was the common language of the river people; the Squamish spoke a different language.

The Native peoples of the Northwest Coast achieved a very high a level of cultural complexity for a food gathering base. As Bruce Macdonald notes in Vancouver: a visual history: "Their economic system encouraged hard work, the accumulation of wealth and status and the redistribution of wealth..." Winter villages, in what is now known as Vancouver, were comprised of large plankhouses made of cedar. Gatherings called potlatches were common in the summer and winter months when the spirit powers were active. These ceremonies were an important part of the social and spiritual life of the people.

Spanish Captain Jose Maria Narvaez was the first European to explore the Strait of Georgia in 1791. In the following year, 1792, the British naval Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798) from King's Lynn in Norfolk joined the Spanish expedition based at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island's west coast and further explored the Strait of Georgia, as well as Puget Sound.

Lumbering was the early industry along Burrard Inlet, now the site of Vancouver's port. The first sawmill began operating in 1863 at Moodyville (in 1915, renamed "North Vancouver"). The first export of lumber took place in 1865; this lumber was shipped to Australia. By 1865 the first sawmill, Stamp's Mill, started in what was to become the City of Vancouver.

In 1870, the colonial government of British Columbia surveyed the community officially known as Granville. It was sited immediately west of Stamp's Mill and commonly known as Gastown, a name that survives today.

In 1885 Granville was selected by the Canadian Pacific Railway to be the western terminus of the transcontinental railway commissioned by the government of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald. (This led to Vancouver's infrequently used nickname, Terminal City). The CPR selected the new name "Vancouver", in part because the existence of Vancouver Island nearby would help identify the location to easterners. On April 6, 1886, the city was incorporated under that name; the first regular transcontinental train from Montreal arrived at a temporary terminus at Port Moody in July 1886, and service to Vancouver itself began in May 1887.

With the arrival of the railway, Vancouver began to grow rapidly due to access to Canadian markets. Additionally, as part of the agreement to join the Confederation, British Columbia's debt of approximately $1,000,000 was paid in full by the Canadian government, creating additional business opportunities.


Vancouver is home to North America's third largest urban park, Stanley Park. Despite having all the urban amenities of a big city, Vancouver has quick access to the sea and the mountains of the Coast Range. Due to the enclosure of mountains and water, buildings in downtown Vancouver are similar to highrises found in central Hong Kong. On a clear day one can see Mount Baker (a volcano in Washington state) to the southeast.


Vancouver's temperate climate goes against the Canadian stereotype and it is typically the warmest major city in Canada in the winter. The temperature and weather are similar to that of Seattle, Vancouver's nearest major US neighbour. Snow is common in the surrounding mountains but not at sea level. Summer months are usually sunny and the temperature hovers above 20 degrees Celsius. Spring and autumn are typically rainy and windy.


Vancouver is a relaxed city with many diversions and easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, boating and skiing. There is a lively cultural scene. Some have called it a "city of neighbourhoods," each with its own distinctive character.

Vancouver can be an expensive city, as housing prices are among the highest in Canada. Various strategies aim to lessen housing costs. These include cooperative housing, suites, increased density and smart growth. Nevertheless, as with many other cities on the west coast of North America, homelessness is a concern, as is the growing gulf between rich and poor.


Vancouver is home to people of many ethnic backgrounds and religions. It contains the second largest Chinatown in North America, (after San Francisco). Street signs written in Chinese and Punjabi (with original English names) can be seen in those respective cultural communities. Prior to the hand-over of Hong Kong to China many Chinese immigrants made Vancouver their home.

Vancouver is has many progressive elements, including a bustling music and art scene and innovative approaches to drug-related harm. The Four Pillars Drug Strategy combines harm reduction (needle exchanges, safe injection sites) with prevention, treatment and enforcement. Marijuana laws are generally unenforced within the city region allowing several "marijuana cafes" to open, earning it the name the Amsterdam of the North.


Vancouver is Canada's largest port and North America's gateway for Asia-Pacific trade. It ranks second in North America in total foreign exports and second on the West Coast in total cargo volume.

"Hollywood North," as the city has been called, typically hosts 10% of Hollywood's movies. Many American television series are filmed exclusively in Vancouver.

Tourism is a vital industry in Vancouver. Whistler, BC, 126 kilometres north of Vancouver, has often been designated as having the best skiing mountains in North America. Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain, each with a variety of summer and winter sports, are within thirty minutes drive of downtown Vancouver. The city's beaches, parks, waterfront and mountain backdrop, combined with its cultural and multi-ethnic character, all contribute to its unique appeal.

In an International Olympic Committee meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, in July 2003, Vancouver received (along with Whistler) the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Vancouver was also the site of the 1986 World Exposition.


The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) operates a regional rapid transit system, under the auspices of TransLink, an organization which is theoretically tasked with all aspects of municipal transportation, including roads and ferries within the GVRD. There is frequent bus service throughout Greater Vancouver. A passenger-only ferry service (known as SeaBus) crosses Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, while a two-line automated light rail metro system, the SkyTrain, links the downtown to Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. All these services have an integrated ticketing system, making public transport cheap and efficient. The Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Rapid Transit Project is scheduled for completion in time for the 2010 Winter Games. In addition, private companies operate leisure-oriented passenger ferry services, around False Creek. HarbourLynx provides passenger-only ferry service from Vancouver harbour to Nanaimo harbour on Vancouver Island.

There is an extensive network of bike paths that provide east/west and north/south routes from one end of the city to the other. Each of the major bike paths has signal control to permit cyclists easy crossing of major arteries.

Municipal bylaws and geography have protected Vancouver from the spread of urban freeways, and the only freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the eastern edge of the city.

Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport, located on Sea Island in Richmond. The airport is one of the busiest on the West Coast. A heliport and seaplane dock on Burrard Inlet link downtown directly to Victoria. Vancouver is also served by two B.C. Ferry terminals, one to the northwest near the village of Horseshoe Bay, and one to the south, at Tsawwassen, linking the city to Vancouver Island and other nearby islands.


Vancouver ranks second in a worldwide quality of life survey of 215 cities, conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

Sites of Interest

Notable buildings within the city include Christ Church Cathedral, the Hotel Vancouver (now part of the Fairmont chain), the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (with a world standard collection of Native American art including work by Bill Reid) and the Vancouver Art Gallery (notable collections include illustrations by Chagall and paintings by Emily Carr). There are several striking modern buildings in the downtown area, including the Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square (Arthur Erickson, architect) and the Library Square (Moshe Safdie), with its arches remniscent of a Roman coliseum. Neighbourhoods of interest within the city include the downtown area, Gastown, Chinatown (especially the Dr Sun Yat Sen classical Chinese garden), Granville Island, Commercial Drive, the Punjabi Market, the West End with access to English Bay beaches and Stanley Park and the University of British Columbia campus and adjacent parklands - including the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research.

Colleges and Universities

Vancouver and its adjacent communities are the home of two major universities, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), as well as a number of community colleges.

List of Mayors of Vancouver

Professional Sports Teams

Municipalities in Greater Vancouver

There are 21 municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). While each of these has a separate municipal government, the GVRD oversees common services within the metropolitan area such as water, sewage, housing, transportation and regional parks.

Location Relative to Other Municipalities in Greater Vancouver

North: West Vancouver |
North Vancouver
West: Strait of Georgia Vancouver East: Burnaby
South: Richmond


  • Macdonald, B. 1992. Vancouver: a visual history. Vancouver: TALLONBOOKS.

External Links