Vancouver Neighbourhoods: Yaletown

Welcome to beautiful Yaletown! (Tourism Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic)

Yaletown was once the Western terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway, though more recent renovations date back to 1986 when Vancouver hosted the World’s Fair (also known as Expo ’86). Since then, the waterfront along the north side of False Creek and the warehouse district adjoining it have evolved into one of Vancouver’s most chic neighbourhoods. Here, you’ll find residential and business lofts, sidewalk cafés, trendy restaurants and cocktail bars, boutique shopping and leafy parks – and lots of cute dogs!

History

Like much of Vancouver, Yaletown’s history was largely shaped by the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1887 – specifically, CPR Engine 374, which is preserved today in the Roundhouse Community Centre. The neighbourhood’s moniker was inspired by the railway’s transfer of its repair shops from Yale – situated along the Fraser River – to Vancouver.

Over the next few decades, False Creek blossomed as tradespeople moved to the area, attracted by the sawmills, cooperage and lumber yards sprouting on its north side. By the turn of the century, Vancouver had become the wholesaling centre for all of Western Canada.

In 1900, the City of Vancouver initiated plans for an eight-block warehouse district to be built near the original Yaletown – most of the buildings were completed by 1913. This new neighbourhood was ideally situated as a hub for processing, repackaging and warehousing goods. In 1907, the neighbourhood held distinction as home to Canada’s first gas station, situated at the corner of Cambie and Smithe streets.

By the ‘50s, many of Yaletown’s homeowners had sold their properties to factories and shops. The area was almost strictly commercial until the late ‘70s, when young professionals started to discover the old warehouses made for convenient and inexpensive spaces to live and work. Today, these warehouses have evolved into offices, trendy restaurants and loft-style residences.

Dining and Nightlife

You’re spoiled for choice with Yaletown’s array of dining and nightlife options. (Jade Stone Photography)

Yaletown’s redbrick warehouses were built with exterior platforms that allowed for easy loading of textiles onto trains. Those same platforms now live a new life as sunny patios filled with diners indulging in brunch, happy hour drinks or aesthetically striking dinners.

Yaletown caters to all palates with incredible seafood (try Blue Water Café + Raw Bar for gorgeous dishes served in a luxe dining space, or Fanny Bay Oyster Bar to sample tide-to-table fare); relaxed bistros (Yaletown Brewing Company is a crowd favourite, and WildTale showcases Vancouver’s abundance of local seafood, produce and meat); and eclectic feasts (House Special is a fun space serving Vietnamese market-style lunches and street food-inspired dinners, while Minami delivers Aburi-style sushi seared with a blowtorch and bamboo charcoal). The district’s pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares are conducive to ambling, so you can scout out the perfect spot before settling in for your meal.

Health nuts will adore Yaletown’s plentiful options for smoothies and fresh-pressed juices (try The Juice Truck and Glory Juice Co. for starters), and caffeine fiends will find plenty of coffeeshops to fuel their mornings and beyond (Sweet Victory Bakery and CooCoo Coffee are fantastic finds).

In the evenings, Yaletown’s eateries come alive with live music, delicious cocktails and buzzy dance floors. Whether your preference leans towards casual pub or upscale lounge, you’re sure to find your perfect match in Yaletown.

Shopping

Shops like The Cross will lure you in with stunning displays. (Britney Gill Photography)

Yaletown’s shopping options will appeal to serious buyers and strict window shoppers alike. Cool boutiques (Fine Finds and Woo to See You, for starters), pet shops (Barking Babies is simply adorable), stunning home décor (The Cross Décor & Design is a must-visit) and pretty hats (Goorin Bros. Hat Shop) are just a few of the myriad delights on offer here. You can also pop into Leisure Center, whose sprawling space houses an intriguing combination of fashion, art, music, homeware, cosmetics, food and drink.

Things to See and Do

Settle in for an afternoon of jazz at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. (Douglas Williams)

Yaletown’s waterfront parks are a major draw to visitors and locals. Right beside the seawall is David Lam Park, whose concerts and festivals include captivating shows at the annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Join the locals in walking, jogging or biking along the seawall, and you’ll come across lots of eye-catching public art sprinkled along the waterfront.

Be sure to stop by the Roundhouse Community Centre, home to historic Engine 374. Across the way is Urban Fare, a dazzling emporium of gourmet grocery goods – the perfect stop for charcuterie fixings and seasonal fruit to bring on a picnic at one of the area’s waterfront parks.

Yaletown buzzes year-round with themed festivals attracting all kinds of revelers. In the summer, cute-as-a-button pups take over the area during Pet-A-Palooza, the biggest pet festival on the West Coast. Also in summer, Yaletown comes alive in a rainbow of colours as party-goers take to the streets for the Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival. When winter rolls around, gingerbread men and Santa himself reign the ‘hood at CandyTown, a lively Christmas festival featuring holiday-themed cocktails, Yuletide treats and a market showcasing locally made goodies.

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