Downtown and Gastown

General description
Welcome to the heart of Vancouver! Located on a stretch of land separating English Bay and Vancouver Harbour, the Downtown area is the place to socialise, shop, and conduct business. Take in Vancouver’s movie-worthy Downtown as you browse shops lining wide streets. Meet your friends for coffee in one of Vancouver’s many cafes and restaurants, or why not indulge in Vancouver’s vibrant nightlife in one of the many bars on the neon-lit Granville Street. If shopping takes your fancy, check out the shopping malls bordering Robson Square. Once you’ve shopped until you’ve dropped, take a load off your feet and enjoy some fresh flavourful food from the street food vendors on Robson Square. You may also have the opportunity to view performances, demonstrations, and budding dancers as you dine al fresco. If you stroll around the Downtown area, you’ll notice that you’re never far away from nature with many water features, sponsored miniature gardens, and parks. Indeed, Vancouver’s famous green glass skyscrapers are laid out to always provide you with a view of the sea or mountains. If you fancy a change from the modern scene of the Downtown, simply stroll northeast and find yourself in Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood. Charming red-brick building lends character to this neighbourhood which has reinvented itself in recent years. New cafes, restaurants and bars enhance Gastown’s strong food culture. Its Instagrammable lights and paved streets make it a popular tourist spot, especially the Gastown steam clock. All the galore and glamour aside, the surprisingly high presence of homelessness is another characterizing feature that typifies both of these neighborhoods.

Description of the greenery
Both Downtown and Gastown are built-up, highly commercial and residential areas. Nevertheless, greenery can be seen depending on where you look. These neighbourhoods encompass public parks like Nelson Park, Victory Square, and even Robson Square. Many of the large skyscrapers will have miniature gardens in front of the entrance, which helps to break up the glass and steel. However, some of the parks, such as Victory Square, have not seen any business meetings for a long time and are instead meeting and dealing sites for the neighborhoods’ homeless scene.

Diversity rating
The people you see in Downtown and Gastown are probably the first people the inventors of the term “diversity” thought of. It takes about 10 minutes of wandering around to realize that there could not be a more complex mix of young and old, black and white, rich and poor, country of origin, leisure or work, etc. Wherever you go and wherever you look, there are clear contrasts. However, these characterizing contrasts are not of an equal nature. Businessmen conduct high-value deals over lunch while homeless people wander past, searching for a dry place to spend the night. This asymmetry is also reflected in the pricing of these two neighborhoods. With some of the most valuable ground in Canada, properties in these neighborhoods soar higher than its skyscrapers. Both neighborhoods also find themselves filled with tourists, who add to the diversity while only temporarily observing the contrasts characterizing these neighborhoods.

Mood rating
Downtown Vancouver has that real metropolis vibe going, it really feels like you are in a world city. The streets are filled with a very diverse crowd, making it feel like a real melting pot. As stated, it is also a place of contrasts, where homeless people lie on the sidewalks as businessmen make their way through the financial district. The presence of the many tourists does add to the world city vibe. Whereas Downtown feels grand and upscale, Gastown is a remarkable next door neighbor. The cobbled streets lined with heritage buildings and overhanging trees give it a town-in-a-city mood. Gastown feels quaint and cosy, where Vancouver’s history comes to the fore. It could almost feel like an old colonial town, were it not for the presence of many tourists. The contrast between quaint Gastown and metropolitan Downtown is a perfect reflection of Vancouver’s diversity.

Economic status
Much that can be seen reminds of a typical center of a city. Downtown and Gastown have it all. People with little, medium, and huge amounts of money. On a typical day, you can see rich individuals drive their expensive cars around the corner to pick up freshly brewed coffee, while homeless guys wake up in front of one of the many high risers. In other words, the wealth gap seems blatantly obvious right in the heart of the city. For those lying outside the skyscrapers, it is impossible to even imagine how much money is turned over in the conference rooms of the building against which they rest. The same goes for the money spent in the many shops and restaurants that stretch across the city center. The large number of tourists bring in huge amounts of money to be spent somewhere, and the Downtown and Gastown neighborhoods are great places to do this. It remains, however, saddingly evident that these spoils are all but shared equally.

Kind of people
This part of town attracts everyone! Do you want to engage with the dancers of all sorts under Robson Square or would you prefer to read your book on the stairs in front of the museum. Wherever you look, you will find people quickly on their commute to work in their office attire, or wandering tourists, trying to take a picture of the famous Gastown Steam Clock. Nonetheless, the surprisingly visible presence of homelessness scars the image Vancouver tries to project into the world. At night, a relaxed atmosphere brings those that can afford it to dinner over a glass of wine at the many restaurants. In the end, take pleasure in observing the great variety of people this part of town brings together, and the vibrant energy produced as a result. Both neighborhoods do not disguise anything, and are a fascinating place to observe both the highs and lows of Canadian city life.

You would fit in here best if you fit these criteria:

  • Tourist, shopper, local
  • Visiting the city, up for some vibrant city life, commuting to work 
  • Any social class
  • Any age group