Vancouver Neighbourhoods: Robson Street

Ready to stroll down Robson Street? (Tourism Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic)

Robson Street is Vancouver’s most popular shopping thoroughfare, bookended by major attractions BC Place Stadium and Stanley Park. One of Vancouver’s oldest commercial streets, it was once known as Robsonstrasse due to the high concentration of German shops that opened there after WWII. Today, Robson Street’s many visitors share the ‘hood with locals hurrying to work, sports fans surging towards the stadium, and international students grabbing a bite between classes.

History

Robson Street’s history dates back to the late 1800s where, even then, it served as a commercial and social hub. One of the first streets in Vancouver, it was named for John Robson, premier of British Columbia between 1889 and 1892. When train tracks were laid in the area in 1895, merchants seized the opportunity to open specialized shops that served the corresponding influx of new residents and visitors.

During the 1940s, business growth flourished; and, in the ‘50s, the street was dubbed “Robsonstrasse” as an homage to immigrants from postwar Germany who set up a collection of retail shops with European flavour. Visitors came in droves, attracted by the international character of delis, bakeries and high-fashion boutiques; and they stayed due to the proximity of inexpensive housing.

In the late ‘60s, redevelopment led to rent increases that forced smaller businesses to close. In their place appeared national and international chains like London Drugs and Starbucks (at one point, two Starbucks locations sat kitty-corner on the same Robson Street intersection, both remaining equally busy until one was forced to close due to rent hikes).

Today, Robson Street continues its reign as Vancouver’s flagship shopping destination. In the evenings, the street’s lights sparkle to life, casting a festive glow over shoppers, diners and other visitors attracted to the charm and grandeur of this popular thoroughfare.

Dining and Nightlife

Tasty eats await at Robson Street restaurants like CinCin. (Kevin Clark)

Robson Street’s historically international flavour continues in present day with a multicultural mix of cuisines delighting a plethora of palates. Within easy walking distance of the stadium, you’ll find casual joints like Red Card Sports Bar + Eatery and Red Racer Taphouse serving burgers, beers and game-day specials (enhanced by plenty of big-screen TVs). Tucked into the shop-lined blocks of central Robson Street are plenty of higher-end options, many above street level so you can people-watch while you dine – try CinCin Ristorante + Bar for upscale Italian in a sexy room, Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House to nosh on steak and oysters at a vibrant rooftop patio, and Forage for farm-to-table fare best enjoyed share-style. Towards Stanley Park are a range of Asian restaurants dishing up izakaya, Korean cuisine and ramen (we recommend Ramen Danbo and Guu with Garlic).

Caffeine fiends will adore Robson Street – coffeehouses are a dime a dozen, most serving excellent brew in comfortable digs. Drop by Le Petit Belge to indulge in sweet and savory Belgian waffles with your latte; Nordstrom’s Ebar Artisan Coffee for a strong cup in sleek surroundings; and PappaRoti for java paired with Malaysian buns.

Shopping

Shoppers, take note: the Robson Street area is packed with possibilities! (Tourism Vancouer/Tanya Goehring)

If maxing out your credit card (or window shopping) is your endgame, Robson Street is your fantasyland. At Granville Street, you’ll find fashion retailer Nordstrom, as well as the entrance to Pacific Centre Mall. Further west, take your pick of sporting goods, accessories, intimates, home décor, beauty products and wellness services; start at made-in-Canada (or Vancouver) favourites like Roots, selling outdoor lifestyle attire; Aritiza for trendy women’s fashions; and lululemon athletica, whose yogawear has earned a global cult following. Take a peek down Alberni Street if your tastes run to high-end brands like Prada and Jimmy Choo: you’ll soon see why this particular street is nicknamed “Luxury Row”.

Things to See and Do

BC Place Stadium anchors the east end of Robson Street. (BC Place Stadium)

BC Place Stadium lies at the east end of Robson Street, beckoning football fans attending BC Lions Canadian Football League games and soccer lovers eager to catch the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS team in action. The stadium also houses the fascinating BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, whose galleries share inspiring stories of hometown heroes like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen (you’ll also find a sculpture paying homage to Fox outside the museum plaza).

Strolling further west along Robson Street, you’ll reach the coliseum-like Vancouver Public Library (which you might recognize from hit Netflix shows like The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl and Smallville). A few blocks up is the Vancouver Art Gallery, part of bustling Robson Square. In addition to thought-provoking exhibits and attention-grabbing events, the attraction is home to the Gallery Café’s exquisite hidden patio, enveloped by greenery and bright blooms – an idyllic spot to sip wine and dine on light fare while listening to classical or jazz music. Below, Robson Square buzzes with activity, particularly when its underground event space treats visitors and locals to ballroom dancing in the summer and ice skating in the winter.

Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park lies at the west end of Robson Street. (Tourism Vancouver/Claire Baxter)

Continuing west along Robson Street, you’ll find blocks and blocks dedicated to shops, cafes and eateries; and, when you reach the other end, you’ll come out at Stanley Park, close to the tennis courts and Lost Lagoon – an attraction-filled part of Vancouver that requires its own dedicated explorations.

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