Time Travel in Vancouver: Places Where You’ll Feel Like You’ve Stepped Back in Time

Pedestrians walk across cobblestone streets in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood.

Gastown. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic

On the world scale, Vancouver is a young city at 138 years old. But a lot has changed since our city was founded. Time travel to the past at museums, neighbourhoods, parks, and historic buildings around Vancouver.

Wander Through Historic Gastown

Located in downtown Vancouver, Gastown is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver. John “Gassy Jack” Deighton opened the city’s first saloon in 1867, giving the area the nickname it still holds. Many historic brick buildings survive from that time, thanks in part to a successful 1960s campaign to block the construction of a freeway through Gastown. Today the cobblestone streets are home to cafes and trendy boutiques. Be sure to stop for a photo op at the famous Gastown Steam Clock. But while it may look historic, it was actually built in 1977 as part of a neighbourhood revitalization project.

Hotel Europe in Gastown.

Gastown. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic

Immerse Yourself in the Past on a Historical Walking Tour

Sign up for a walking tour to discover a side of Vancouver you’ve never heard of. Forbidden Vancouver offers historical walking tours that highlight our city’s history of crime and scandal. Their Lost Souls of Gastown includes dramatic retellings of the neighbourhood’s gritty Victorian past. Or follow your guide through Davie Street Village to learn about LGBTQ+ history on The Really Gay History Tour.

Participants on the Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tour

Photo: Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours

Listen to Live Music at the Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1927 as a Vaudeville venue and functioned as a movie theatre for many decades. In the 1970s, the City of Vancouver purchased the theatre and restored it to the opulence of its 1920s heyday. In 1979 it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Today the Orpheum is the home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and also hosts comedy shows and musical events across many genres.

Interior of the Orpheum Theatre

Orpheum Theatre. Photo: Vancouver Civic Theatres


Experience Victorian Family Life at the Roedde House Museum

Downtown Vancouver’s skyline is dominated by steel girders and panes of glass. But a visit to the Roedde House Museum on Barclay Street will whisk you back to the Victorian Era. Volunteers have painstakingly restored the house to demonstrate the realities of family life in the 1890s.

Exterior of the Roedde House Museum in Vancouver

Photo via Roedde House Museum


Learn about Indigenous History in Stanley Park

Indigenous people have lived in what is now Vancouver since time immemorial. Join an Indigenous guide from Talaysay Tours on a walk through Stanley Park. Along the way, you will learn about the history of the local First Nations people through stories that include their experiences with explorers, traders, and settlers. You’ll also learn about Indigenous communities in Vancouver today.

Candace Campo from Talaysay Walking Indigenous Tours is conducting a presentation and speaking to a group while on a walking experience in Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Candace Campo from Talaysay Walking Indigenous Tours leading a tour in Stanley Park. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout


Explore the Former Warehouses and Rail Yard in Yaletown

Vancouver owes its existence to the railways – our city is the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today the railway ends at several high-tech port facilities, but originally, it ended in Yaletown at a collection of brick warehouses and a huge rail yard. Find historic Yaletown on Hamilton and Mainland Streets with boutiques and restaurants occupying the historic warehouses, patios spilling across the former loading docks, and chic loft apartments upstairs. The railroad legacy also lives on at the Roundhouse Community Centre nearby: the courtyard preserves the historic railway turntable and Canadian Pacific Engine 374, the first engine to arrive in Vancouver in 1887, has its own place of pride inside the community centre.

Mainland Street in Yaletown.

Mainland Street in Yaletown. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic



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