During a month-long road trip through the US and Canada in summer, I nearly skipped Vancouver because it just seemed a little too out of the way from Toronto. I’m so glad I didn’t. I spent some of the happiest days of my life over there. Now that might have been a combination of great people, blue skies, general euphoria and the city’s summer vibe, but I’d argue that Vancouver is a great idea no matter when or why you visit. And here are some of the basics.

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The scenery

If you and your camera love a good view, aesthetics are key when it comes to choosing a destination. But fear not, in Vancouver the most stunning scenery is just a stone’s throw away. The Squamish Chief is a one-hour drive north of Vancouver; hiking and sweating your way up there is the best way to spend a day. There are different routes and levels, so fear not if you’re a beginner, a bit of willpower still helps you get to the top. The view is mind-blowing and the photos only convey a slice of that. Rumour has it that you can even spot dolphins from up there.

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Vancouver Island is also fairly close and can be reached by ferry. You’ll be rewarded if you explore the island yourself and don’t remain where the crowds are! If you rent a car and drive further west, there’s Tofino with all its wales (!), waves and solitude. Back on the mainland, the stunner that is the rest of British Columbia is at your footstep. Worthwhile stops are the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Lynn Valley.

Shops and food

Back to the actual city… The Granville Island Market is excellent for food shopping and lunching. Get your hands on fresh seafood while seeing sailing boats outside (it doesn’t really get much more authentic than that), fresh fruit and lots of chats and good vibes with local market people.

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Nelson the Sea Gull is a nice restaurant with a very downtownesque interior. Meat & Bread do excellent but meaty meat. I’m still stunned by how much meat their portions have. The rye-bread sandwiches are bursting with real flavours but if you not used to that amount (of, you guessed it, meat), maybe go for a chocolate bar and a latte instead.

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The Old Faithful Shop is a beautiful collection of useless stuff but it’s impossible to walk out with a new map, notebook or, ehm… a doll.

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Coffee is key in Vancouver! I recently overheard a conversation between a barista in Berlin and visitor. They spoke about a common friend in Vancouver who was doing their dissertation on coffee, marketing, individual tastes and lots of other bits that I didn’t know could be material for an academic paper. So this world’s true coffee entrepreneurs are chilling out in Vancouver, there you have it! My fave stops for caffeine shots and smiles are Revolver Coffee, Matchstick Coffee and Timbertrain. Yum.

Also, while we’re on the topic of universities…

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The Uni

Look at this! The University of British Columbia (UBC) is the prettiest institution my eyes have ever seen. And they have seen a lot. Strolling through a giant 4 km2, you are probably gonna come across a rose garden (!) and a mountain view (!). Things I would give to have had that campus instead of the miserable concrete block in London that was my uni. They offer short courses over summer so even if you’re only the city for a couple of weeks, there might a new skill that you can learn.

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The beaches and parks

Kitsilano Beach is one of my favourite places on earth. My friends and I literally spent a whole day there once. We came at 9, took a swim, played the guitar and volleyball (well, I was watching them play but that counts too, right?), had a picnic and stayed there until sunset. Good times.

People here are also among the most active I have ever seen. The amount of time they spend outside running, swimming, sailing, biking and so on reflect on their genuine health and lifestyle – I’m never been so motivated to join in the exercising fun.

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Stanley Park and Queen Victoria Park are two very lush parks full with flowers, puppies and little quirks (like ideas for exercises… seriously!?).

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The spirit

Canadians love debating and celebrating their identity (which is very different to the US, claiming otherwise is an offence!). I was lucky enough to be around for the fireworks, street parties and gigs at Canada Day (July 1), their national holiday. The uniqueness of all these factors has it that I’m very quick to tell everyone I meet that Vancouver is heaven on earth! And I’d happily spend the rest of my days there. One day!

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Have you guys been to Vancouver? What was your favourite spot?

*All photos taken by Caroline Schmitt