Vancouver Neighbourhoods: Granville Street

Atmospheric Granville Street. (Tourism Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic)

Located in the heart of Vancouver, Granville Street is considered the city’s main entertainment district. Lined with countless restaurants, bars and nightclubs whose neon signs spark to life as darkness falls, the strip pulses with activity during weekends. As a main thoroughfare, Granville Street is easy to get to, whether your pleasure lies in shopping by day or shimmying on the dance floor at night.

History

Vancouver was originally known as the “township of Granville”, named after Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, who served as British Secretary of State for the Colonies. When the city was officially incorporated as “Vancouver” in 1886, the Granville moniker shifted to one of the main thoroughfares running through the city.

After the Canadian Pacific Railway completed its western terminus at the north end of Granville Street, Vancouver’s population swelled. As the centre of the action, Granville Street soon attracted retail and entertainment outlets like the Vancouver Opera House; theatres such as the Commodore Cabaret, which staged vaudeville acts, films, news reels and plays; and assorted pubs and restaurants. In the ‘50s, Granville Street’s flashy neon signs contributed to Vancouver’s impressive collection (more than 19,000), renowned as one of the largest in the world.

In the middle of the 20th century, the downtown portion of Granville sparkled with energy, housing popular cinemas stacked along Theatre Row, as well as buzzy nightclubs, pizza parlours, bars, pawn shops and strip joints. Venues like Capitol 6, a ‘20s-era movie theatre, and Movieland Arcade, which screened peep shows, contributed to the area’s unofficial designation as Vancouver’s entertainment district.

Dining and Nightlife

Neon lights and nightclubs line Granville Street. (Tourism Vancouver/Clayton Perry)

You’ll find plenty of cafes, pubs and food trucks along Granville Street to fuel up before your evening delights. Seeking pre-theatre cocktails and bites? UVA Wine and Cocktail Bar is a short block off Granville Street, situated perpendicular to the Orpheum Theatre; the stylish space offers a comprehensive cocktail menu paired with Italian-inspired share plates. For a raucous atmosphere perfect for watching the game, head to Dublin Calling, whose hearty Irish fare is complemented by local and imported beers, as well as pool, ping pong, darts and other amusements.

If brunch is your jam, pay a visit to Twisted Fork Bistro, if you don’t mind standing in line – this local institution is often packed with guests noshing on Croque Monsieur, asiago scones and banana-stuffed brioche French toast. The Templeton’s retro space also dishes up tasty morning fare, incorporating organic ingredients and vegan alternatives.

Those who prefer to hit up the dance floor can pay a visit to nightclubs like Republic, whose three floors are lit by a massive LED light wall; and Venue, which often doubles as a concert hall.

Shopping

Strolling, shopping and dancing on Granville Street from morning ’til night. (Flickr/Colin Knowles)

Granville Street is home to multi-block Pacific Centre, whose retail action primarily takes place underground. The mall houses high-end department stores Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom, as well as boutiques, chain stores and food outlets.

Make sure to pop by John Fluevog, whose funky shoes are just as much art as they are footwear; and Urban Outfitters, a multi-level space selling clothing, home décor and gifts.

Things to See and Do

The opulent Orpheum Theatre. (Flickr/Colin Knowles)

Watching Granville Street’s dazzling neon signs twinkle and blink to life marks the neighbourhood’s transition into an after-dark hotspot. Here, you can catch the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra perform at the historic Orpheum Theatre, whose opulent interior has hosted performances for nearly a century. The Commodore Ballroom is one of the city’s premiere concert venues, hosting everyone from Kiss to The Police to Snoop Dog; downstairs you’ll find Commodore Bowling & Billiards, Canada’s oldest surviving recreation centre at 89 years old. For an in-depth foray into Granville Street’s buildings, public art and history, sign up for The Tour Guys’ free neighbourhood walking tour.

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