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COMPLETE Guide to Gastown, Vancouver + 10 Best Things to do

COMPLETE Guide to Gastown, Vancouver + 10 Best Things to do

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Gastown is arguably the most famous neighborhood in Vancouver, BC. It’s where historic buildings and cobblestone streets meet trendy cafes and photo-worthy spots.

Located in the downtown Vancouver core, it’s a beautiful area to explore any time of year, thanks to the mild West Coast weather. Getting to and from Gastown is a breeze, thanks to the nearby Waterfront Station – the central hub that gives you access to the Skytrain, the West Coast Express, and the SeaBus Terminal.  

As soon as you set foot in this neighborhood, it’s easy to see why it’s such a major visitor attraction! From historical tours and Victorian architecture to amazing restaurants, lively bars, and cute boutiques, there are countless Gastown activities for everyone to enjoy.

We’ve spent lots of time checking out every corner of this historic neighborhood and its attractions, so keep reading to check out our complete guide to visiting Gastown! 

About Gastown, Vancouver 

Bailey walks around Gastown in Vancouver, BC
Gastown is such a beautiful neighborhood!

The Gastown neighborhood is where modern-day Vancouver as we know it first began! Facing north into Vancouver Harbor, the area sits on unceded Coast Salish territory that once served as an important portage route.

When the first non-Indigenous settlement was established in the 1800s, Gastown was named for the first saloon owner to open up shop in the area – Jack “Gassy” Deighton. The area continued to develop, and in 1871 the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus station was built just a block away, cementing Gastown’s role as the core of Vancouver.

Despite many setbacks through the years, like a devastating fire, falling into disarray during the Great Depression, and facing demolition plans during the ’60s, Gastown survived it all to become what it is today – a National Historic Site and one of the most beloved corners in Van. 

Gastown has plenty to offer on its own, but it also has the added bonus of being close to other landmark neighborhoods like the Downtown Core and Coal Harbor to the west.

Gastown also borders Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside, a low-income zone of Vancouver with longstanding social issues. And while we won’t sugarcoat that some of those issues are visible around the edges of Gastown and beyond, we definitely don’t think it should discourage you from visiting, either! Like all major cities in the world, a bit of street smarts will easily keep you safe and allow you to enjoy all the amazing history and offerings that make Gastown so famous.  

Gastown FAQs 

A cute street in Gastown, Vancouver on our food tour
The old beauty of Gastown!

Best Places to Eat in Gastown

Breakfast at twisted for in Gastown, Vancouver
Twisted Fork
Chicken dish at Nuba, Vancouver
Nuba

Okay, there are SO many amazing places to eat in this neighborhood, you could eat here for every meal for days! I actually did a food tour in Gastown and let me tell you, the delicious restaurants in Gastown delivered. While it’s hard for me to narrow it down, these are a few places you shouldn’t miss stopping by.

Twisted Fork

Great coffee, convenient location, and daily brunch. Count me in! Twisted Fork is our fave Gastown spot to dig into goodies like stuffed brioche french toast, eggs benny, and fresh, flavorful shakshuka. Brunch averages around $24 CAD, and their fresh mimosas are always a great idea!  

Nuba in Gastown

Step down into the lower level of the historic Dominion Building for a Lebanese feast at Nuba. This spot has beautiful décor and generous portions of favorites like falafel, chicken shish tawook, and bison kafta served with warm pita and fresh salad. Once an underground cafeteria, it’s got a relaxed vibe and good bang for your buck with lunches between $18-$23 CAD.  

Di Beppe Restaurant

Located on the corner of Carrall and East Cordova Street, Di Beppe is a cozy, modern Italian restaurant with delicious meals averaging about $25 CAD. Savor a fresh morning coffee in their bright front room, swing by for fresh pasta and pizza for lunch or dinner, or my favorite dessert here is some of their fresh tiramisu.  

Related Read: For more date night ideas, check out our guide to planning a honeymoon in Vancouver!

cauliflower bites at MeeT in Gastown, Vancouver
MeeT in Gastown food!
spaghetti cacio e pepe at Di Beppe in Gastown, Canada
Photo credit: Di Beppe

MeeT in Gastown

One of our favorites, we always leave MeeT in Gastown full and happy! Grab a seat outdoors or indoors, sip on a hibiscus limeade, and dig into some impressive, filling vegan food for about $18 CAD on average. We especially love the oyster mushroom kalamari, butter chikkin poutine, and their downright delicious MeeT Burger.  

Is That French

Tucked away in Blood Alley, newcomer Is That French offers wine tasting and light bites in a trendy space. Test out delicious cheese plates, pates, and fresh oysters paired with local BC wines by the glass, flight, or bottle. The servers here are knowledgeable, and it makes for a great date night spot! 

Tacofino 

Our love for Tacofino is no secret – we think they’ve got the best tacos in Canada! Their Gastown location is bright, retro, and trendy, with great service and filling portions. The crispy oyster mushroom taco is amazing, and the blackberry margarita puts a nice spin on things. Tacos are pretty wallet-friendly at about $7.50 CAD each, and daily happy hour at 3-6 pm offers up some more cheap eats.  

Related Read: Hit up the OG Tacofino location (and get in some epic surfing!) with a visit to Tofino, BC!

Best Bars/Places to Drink in Gastown

Bailey enjoys a drink at Steamworks Brewery in Gastown, Vancouver
Bailey enjoys a drink at Steamworks Brewpub in Gastown, Vancouver
Baileys sister and partner enjoy a drink at Steamworks Brewery in Gastown, Vancouver
Bailey’s sister and her boyfriend having some drinks with us in Gastown.

Whether you’re looking to relax after a day full of hiking and exploring or want a place to hide out on a rainy day in Vancouver, there are some excellent spots in Gastown to chill with a drink. There are our favs!

The Diamond Cocktail Bar – A great spot to grab a beer, wine, and crafty cocktails in a cozy setting with a view of Maple Tree Square. They’ve got something for everyone, whether you’re in the mood for something fresh, floral, or good and strong. Grab some small bites like cheese or charcuterie boards while you’re at it! 

Guilt & Co – Live music lovers, this one is for you! Hang out on the bright, open patio or get comfy in the cozy lounge with live entertainment. We love their full dinner menu, the late-night menu of shareable bites, local beer on tap, and cleverly-named handcrafted cocktails. No tickets or reservations are required; just check out the show times beforehand so you don’t miss out!  

Clough Club – Another one for cocktail lovers, Clough Club is cozy and dimly lit with a buzzing, social atmosphere. Grab snacks or casual eats like rosemary fries or a bacon cheddar dog and browse their extensive menu of brews, liquor, wines, and cocktails. Happy hour is from 5-7 pm Wednesday, and live music kicks off every Friday and Saturday.  

Steamworks Brewpub – The first-ever steam-powered brewery in Canada is still going strong and is one of our go-to spots! A casual, modern spot with an awesome harbor view, Steamworks has all the pub dishes plus some healthy options, too. Grab brews by the chalice or sleeve – some of which are served up for happy hour 3-6 pm daily!  

The Lamplighter Public House – A historic Gastown staple, The Lamplighter Public House is the oldest pub in all of Vancouver! With a buzzing, social atmosphere, it’s a great spot to grab a table with friends and enjoy great gastropub food and an extensive list of brews. Happy hour is 3-6 pm daily and all-day Monday!  

Best Things to do in Gastown, Vancouver 

1. See the famous Steam Clock

The Gastown Steam Clock in Gastown, Vancouver
The old Steam Clock!

Probably one of the most talked about things to do in Gastown, the famous Gastown Steam Clock is at the top of the list of free activities in Vancouver!

Prominently displayed on the corner of Cambie and Water Street, the clock was built in 1977, and it is one of only a few working steam clocks worldwide. It’s actually powered by both steam and an electric motor, and it puffs steam and chimes every quarter-hour, so you won’t have to wait long to see it in action.

It’s a pretty cool landmark, and we think it’s even better to see it lit up and steaming away at night! 

Related Read: Another top Vancouver landmark to add to your list is Grouse Mountain. The views from the top are stellar!

2. Go on a food tour

Sushi on a food tour in Gastown, Vancouver
The sushi was so good!
Canadian Poutine on a food tour in Vancouver, Canada
The classic Canadian Poutine!

If you wanna try Gastown’s food offerings and get a little history lesson all in one, hop on a historic walking food tour like we did!

The guides are awesome, showing you beautiful Gastown and sharing tips and tales during a 2.5-hour tour. Tickets are available online for $125 CAD per person and include 7 food tastings and 3 booze tastings, including bites of dishes like classic Canadian poutine, Japanese cuisine, and sweet treats at the end!

We found it was really well organized with satisfying portions, and we ended up visiting a few of the restaurants again on our own time. Folks with diet restrictions are welcome, too, and your guide will make sure you get to taste the diverse flavors of beautiful Gastown while finding your bearings.  

3. Go shopping

Bailey does some shopping in Gastown, Vancouver
I love the small boutiques!
A shop in Gastown, Vancouver
Souvenirs anyone?

Perfect for a low-key kinda day, grab a coffee and take a stroll down Water Street and Cordova Street for some awesome shopping. Gastown’s beautiful historic buildings are filled with bright shops and trendy boutiques just begging for you to stop in!

You can find handmade soaps, candles, and gifts at The Nooks Gastown, or check out beautiful, sustainable fashion at boutiques like the bright, cheery One of a Few.

If you’re looking for fun, touristy items, look no further than Hudson House Trading Company for Canadian-themed clothes, toys, and just about everything maple syrup flavored!  

Related Read: All the shopping at the local markets in Lonsdale Quay is another local favorite and is only a Seabus ride away!

4. Check out the Flatiron Building

Flatiron building Gastown
Flatiron Building in Gastown

Built in 1908, the Flatiron Building is a famous piece of architecture in Gastown. Just past Maple Tree Square on the Eastern end of Gastown, this is a great stop to add in if you’re out exploring or shopping. Don’t worry; it’s pretty hard to miss!

Built as Hotel Europe, Western Canada’s first fireproof hotel, it was converted to low-income housing in the 1980s so visitors can only admire this historic treasure from the outside.

It’s also a beautiful spot to visit at night, with city lights and cobblestone streets making it extra special. And it’s right across from The Diamond Cocktail Bar, so why not?!  

Related Read: For more beautiful architecture (like actual castles!), wander around Victoria, BC.

5. Vancouver Lost Souls of Gastown Walking Tour

Gastown, Vancouver at night
Explore Gastown at night!

Every historic quarter has its fair share of stories, and that includes some dark and twisty ones! For a theatrical tour that gives you a deeper look into Gastown’s past, get in on the Lost Souls of Gastown Walking Tour.

This is one of the top tours in Vancouver as it literally feels like you’re stepping back in time as your guide shows you the forgotten alleyways and corners, telling stories of The Great Fire, Gastown’s Gothic history, and famous landmarks and figures along the way. It’s a pretty cool way to learn about Gastown’s history, and as a bonus, you get to see the Gastown landmarks at night with fewer crowds around.

The 1.5-hour tour runs at 7 pm nightly from February thru October for $38 CAD per person, which we thought is a pretty great value. Grab your tickets here for a night of storytelling fun and local lore.  

6. Take a walk through CRAB Park

Towards the east side of Gastown, CRAB Park is a small recreational with some pretty awesome views of Vancouver Harbor. A great spot for a stroll or to take in the views, there’s also a small playground area for kids and families to enjoy.

It’s a nice slice of nature in an otherwise pretty busy place, and you can catch a glimpse of the SeaBus, helicopters, trains, and ships making their way in and out of the harbor. Entry is free, and it makes for a great picnic spot, also! 

7. Go on a pub crawl

Daniel and Bailey on a pub crawl in Gastown, Vancouver
Cheers!

One way to make friends and have an epic evening out is to join in on a Gastown Pub Crawl! We thought the guides here did an awesome job of organizing and keeping everyone entertained, and we came out with a few new friends and lots of memories.

It costs $30 CAD per person, and you can opt-in for the Thursday night crawl at 8 pm starting at Cambie Bar or the Friday night crawl at 8 pm from The Lamplighter Bar. For the next 5 hours or so, our fearless guide took us around to different bars and nightclubs, with cover charge included, free shots, and drink specials everywhere we went.

We loved that there were locals and visitors on this tour, and it was an awesome way to check out the nightlife in Gastown!  

8. Walk to Coal Harbor

A cruise ship sits in Coal Harbor on a summers day in Vancouver
Coal Harbor has fantastic views of North Vancouver!

A few blocks from Waterfront Station, you’ll find Coal Harbor, a beautiful waterfront neighborhood with tons to offer. The neighborhood starts West of Burrard Street, so it’s an easy 15-minute or so walk from Gastown.

We think the best way to explore is to start at the Seawall Water Walk off Burrard and make your way down to the seaside park. You’ll pass art installations like the famous “Digital Orca” and “The Drop,” get to see busy seaplanes sharing the harbor with ships and boats, and scope out all the great restaurants and bars along the way.

It’s a pretty popular spot, so you’ll find people cycling, walking, rollerblading, or just checking out the views of the harbor and mountains towering in the background. No matter which activity you’re enjoying, it’s hands down one of the most beautiful spots in Vancouver. 

Related Read: After watching the seaplanes take off here, jump on one for an amazing seaplane flight over Vancouver!

9. Play the Vancouver Murder Mystery Adventure in Gastown

For a little Gastown fun and games, grab up to 5 friends and get into a Vancouver Murder Mystery Adventure! We loved this experience, and for $38 CAD per person, we thought it was a pretty affordable way to have some fun.

You’ll meet your detective at Waterfront Station, and for about 2 hours, you and your team will go clue-hunting around Gastown in order to solve the mystery, seeing all the famous landmarks on your way. Comfy shoes are a must on this tour, and it’s a great way to meet new people or have fun with new friends you’ve met on your travels!  

10. Head up to Vancouver Lookout

Vancouver lookout at sunset
Vancouver Lookout at sunset

Vancouver is full of great views and vantage points, but none of them quite beat The Vancouver Lookout!

An iconic Gastown activity, the tower is located about a 5-minute walk from the Gastown Steam Clock and includes an awesome glass elevator that takes you all the way up 553 feet (168 meters). We planned our visit on a sunny day, and both agreed that the bird’s eye view of the downtown neighborhoods, mountains, and harbor is more than worth it!

You can buy tickets there, but it’s best to book online just in case – adult tickets are $18.25 CAD, children’s tickets (ages 6-17) are $13.25 CAD, and little ones under 5 can catch a free ride. They are open from 11 am – 4 pm daily, with the last elevator going up at 3:30 pm, which gives you more than enough time to enjoy the 360° views of beautiful Vancouver. 

Related Read: For another epic view, we love the suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon in Vancouver!

Where to Stay in Gastown

EXchange Hotel Vancouver
Photo credit: EXchange Hotel Vancouver

Places to stay in Gastown are just as diverse as the neighborhood itself, and there are lots of accommodations depending on your budget and travel style.

We’ve rounded up a few options to start off with, whether you’re looking for sky-high luxurious suites, down-to-earth hostels, or something in between. For even more choices, check out our guide on where to stay in Vancouver for a breakdown of the best hotels in different areas around the city!

EXchange Hotel Vancouver – $$$

EXchange Hotel Vancouver has unbeatable, epic views of the downtown core, Canada Place, and Vancouver Harbor. The vibe here is upscale and chic, with great amenities and helpful staff. The location is pretty unbeatable, too, with Waterfront Station, Gastown, and Coal Harbor a few steps away and all the restaurant and bar options you could ask for. Queen rooms here start at around $280 per night during peak season and can be booked online here.  

Victorian Hotel – $$

Located within a 5-minute walk of the Gastown Steam Clock, Victorian Hotel has a clean, modern aesthetic set in a beautiful historic building. Built in 1898 during the Gold Rush, this boutique hotel is one of the oldest in all of Vancouver!

All rooms have air-conditioning, laundry service, and super comfy beds. Rates for double rooms with shared bathrooms start around $180 CAD per night, and there are lots of nearby restaurants and café options. Book a room at this hotel online here.  

The Cambie Hostel Gastown – $

Two blocks from the Gastown Steam Clock, The Cambie Hostel Gastown is a bang for your buck in a pretty awesome location. Private rooms start from $99 CAD per person, and dorms (mixed, male-only, or female-only) start from $42 CAD per person.

The front desk is open 24/7 with friendly, helpful staff and lots of in-house activities. Bonus: you’ll score discounts at their associated bars like The Cambie Bar just downstairs, Malone’s Taphouse, and The 515 Bar. Check availability and book a room here now!

Other Things to do while you’re in Vancouver

View out the window of a sea plane over Vancouver, Canada
Views from a seaplane are epic!
Bailey sits at the Boatshed Restaurant in Kitsilano, Vancouver, BC
Enjoying the view at sunset from The Boatshed restaurant in Kitsilano.

Vancouver is a city filled with tons of things to do and see. So while you’re here, be sure not to miss some of the top attractions and activities:

  • Whale Watching – Without a doubt, the most popular tour in Vancouver is whale watching. Set off from the city on a half-day of on the ocean looking for whales. If you’re lucky, you might even see Orcas (also known as Killer Whales.) This whale-watching tour is a ton of fun, and at only about $200 CAD it is good value too!
  • Hiking – There are a ton of amazing hikes in and around Vancouver. Challenge yourself with the famous Grouse Grind, wander the trails near the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, or even drive towards Squamish and do The Chief.
  • Ride in a Seaplane – One of our favorite memories in Vancouver was riding in a seaplane. Taking off and landing on the ocean is super exciting, and then the views from the air are breathtaking. This seaplane ride lasts for 20 minutes and costs $160 CAD. It departs and returns to Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver. The best part is that seaplane tours in Vancouver operate all year round, so even if you’re visiting Vancouver in the winter you can take to the sky!
  • Eat ALL the food! – Vancouver is a foodie destination. Showcasing cuisine from all around the world in top-rated restaurants, you really need to make an effort to eat out a few times while in Vancouver. For breakfast, Jam Cafe or Medina are our go-to’s. For Asian cuisine, you can’t pass up Minami for sushi or Danbo for Ramen. You can also join this highly-rated food tour that takes you to some of the city’s best restaurants in the area of Gastown.
  • Explore Kitsilano – One of our favorite areas in all of Vancouver is Kitsilano. This suburb is super trendy and has many cute stores, cafes, and restaurants that are well worth checking out. On top of that, Kitsilano Beach is one of the best beaches in Vancouver and the perfect place to relax. It’s also our favorite place to watch the sunset.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel enjoy a drink at Steamworks Brewery in Gastown, Vancouver
Thanks for reading!

Whether you’re looking for a great spot for a drink, historic buildings, or good shopping, Gastown is a good mix of it all! Even if you’re only spending one day in Vancouver, it’s worth popping into this neighborhood to get a feel for the old-world charm of the city. I absolutely love the cobblestone streets and Victorian-era buildings around here. Make sure you stop by the Steam Clock too!

If you found this guide to exploring Gastown, Vancouver helpful, make sure to check out our other blogs about Canada’s West Coast. We have lots of ideas to make your trip to this part of the country extra special.

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