The ultimate hotel guide to Vancouver

With its mountains, forested coastline and buzzing arts scene, it’s no surprise the Canadian city is home to a crop of eco-minded and nature-themed hotels — with the odd rock ‘n’ roll flourish thrown in. Sunday, 22 March 2020

Enjoying Vancouver is about easing yourself into the outdoorsy vibe and making the most of its easy-going vitality. Beneath that big-city skyline, bike lanes spool out and floatplanes buzz across the harbour. Most hotels are found within Downtown’s patchwork of easily explored neighbourhoods. The city’s harbour location means there are several swish, large-scale properties near the cruise ship terminal. However, if you’re after somewhere with more colour and individuality, as well as budget options, the best advice is to look elsewhere on the Downtown map. And if you’re planning to visit during the peak summer period, book well ahead — and expect to pay more, too.   

For 1950s nostalgia: The Burrard
Originally built as a motel in 1956, this hotel retains a fabulously authentic vintage feel. Rooms are retro — think silver pouffes, cork flooring and plastic-moulded chairs — and set around a large garden courtyard of palms and patios, where everything from the pastel-colour paintwork to the planters gives a nod to the past. Modern touches include cult conceptual artworks and in-room Nespresso machines, but the overall vibe is fixed firmly in another age. Guests have free access to bikes (with no time limit) and its location on Burrard Street means it’s close to Davie Village, Vancouver’s gay heartland.  
Rooms: From CA$128 (£74), room only.

For serious style: The Loden Hotel
Set on a quiet road close to the harbourside, this 70-room hotel looks nondescript from the street, its branded, free-to-use London-style cabs the only hint of its hidden character. This changes once you step inside and encounter Balearic beats, scatter cushions and smoked mirrors. It’s full of pleasing details — the bathtubs are super-deep and the second-floor garden has hummingbird feeders — while free bikes are great for exploring nearby Stanley Park Seawall.   
Rooms: From CA$410 (£237), room only.

 

For old meets new: The Exchange Hotel
This 201-room hotel in the Financial District occupies the grand, marbled building that once served as Vancouver’s stock exchange. It’s a class act, offering 1920s glam and glitz alongside bona fide eco-credentials, including recycled flooring and LED lighting throughout. The rooms are all clean lines and arty touches, with L’Occitane en Provence toiletries and whole-wall prints, while the communal spaces include a courtyard with table football, and Greek restaurant Hydra. 
Rooms: From CA$246 (£142), room only.

For ethical travellers: Skwachàys Lodge
A 12-metre cedar totem pole stands sentry on the roof of Skwachàys Lodge, a boutique hotel that ploughs all its profit into supporting local indigenous artists. All 18 suites are designed by First Nations artists according to natural themes, ranging from forest spirits to spawning salmon, and there’s extensive studio space onsite.
The hotel takes its name from its location, once a spiritually important area of springs and marshes. The ground floor houses a gallery displaying artworks for sale, and unusually for the city, room rates also include a Continental breakfast.  
Rooms: Suites from CA$199 (£115), B&B.

For arty types: The Listel hotel
This hotel recycles, composts or converts all its waste to electricity. Solar panels and a sustainability-focused restaurant are among its other green initiatives. It also has a creative streak, with artworks displayed throughout. The 129-room hotel sits on Robson Street, whose ramen joints and boutique stores make it one of the buzziest strips in the city.      
Rooms: From CA$210 (£121), room only.

For modern comforts: The Douglas
Taking its name from iconic local tree the Douglas fir, this upmarket, 188-room hotel takes the arboreal theme and runs with it. The lobby desk sits on a giant tree trunk; warm, woody tones are everywhere and even the drinks list has fir-infused tipples. The hotel shares a building (and a parent brand) with the adjacent JW Marriott hotel, meaning eight bars and restaurants to choose from, plus a spa. It’s also near two key sports and concert venues: BC Place and the Rogers Arena.   
Rooms: From CA$434 (£250), room only.

For bay views: The Sylvia Hotel
Ivy clad and gazing out over English Bay, the 120-room Sylvia Hotel is home to the city’s oldest cocktail bar. Visitors can sip former guest Errol Flynn’s favourite tipple, a Vancouver (gin, vermouth and orange bitters), while watching the sun set over the beach. There’s a time-warp feel throughout, from the old-school dial above the lift to the wooden cubbyholes at reception. 
Rooms: From CA$194 (£112), room only.

For budget travellers: Samesun Vancouver 
This 288-bed hostel is situated on the neon-lit entertainment hub that is Granville Street, setting the tone for what is one of the city’s liveliest budget options. The lobby bar, The Beaver Taphouse, offers a changing roster of 20 local craft beers, while organised activities range from hikes and beach clean-ups to music bingo and Mario Kart tournaments. As well as dorms, there are 11 private doubles, three with en suites.     
Rooms: Doubles from CA$106 (£61), B&B.

For history buffs: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver 
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s illustrious who’s-who of past guests includes Liberace and Zsa Zsa Gabor. When it was first opened in 1939 — by King George VI, no less — it was said to be visible from 50 miles away. It may no longer be the lone beacon on the horizon, but its copper-roofed, gargoyle-topped bulk still makes it a landmark. It’s equally grand on the inside, with hushed lobbies, thick carpets and glittering chandeliers. Expect big-chain comfort in each of its 557 rooms, as well as a plum location next to Vancouver Art Gallery.  
Rooms: From CA$351 (£203), room only.

For the selfie set: Hotel Belmont
Should you be looking for somewhere to shout about on Instagram, then look no further than this hip young guitar-slinger of a hotel. The 82-room Belmont sets out its stall from the moment you enter, with framed rock-star photos in the lobby alongside the sort of modish decor that wouldn’t feel out of place in a fashion shoot. Other highlights include boozy popsicles and a bowling alley. Guests also get free entry to onsite party spot The Basement.   
Rooms: From CA$169 (£98), room only.
 

Published in the April 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller Food

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