With leafy streets, a diverse and friendly population, easy access to the seawall and Stanley Park, and plenty of great restaurants and bars, the West End offers many charms. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that it was recently named the best neighbourhood in Canada in the 2015 Great Places in Canada contest. Here are just five of the things both the contest jurors and neighbourhood residents love about Vancouver’s own village by the sea.
1. An Inclusive Community
With its relatively affordable housing considering its central location, and substantial percentage of rental homes, the West End has long been a natural landing place for those new to Canada. It is also known worldwide as the centre of Vancouver’s LGBT community, the largest in Western Canada. The neighbourhood is the site of one of the largest LGBT events in the world, the annual Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival, which attracts up to 650,000 attendees. “The West End’s density is evenly matched by its diversity of residents, and by a strong commitment to creating an inclusive community that prioritizes affordable housing,” contest juror Jaspal Marwah said in the statement announcing the neighbourhood’s win.
2. Stunning Parks and Public Spaces
From the sprawling Stanley Park to the seawall to the beaches, the West End has plenty of spectacular public spaces, providing a natural backyard for all of the neighbourhood’s apartment dwellers (more than 99 per cent of West Enders live in apartments or condo buildings). The Great Places jurors named the West End’s “traffic calming, street furniture, treed promenades, pocket parks and public spaces” as important elements of the neighbourhood’s appeal.
3. Prime Shopping and Dining
The West End has three unique commercial areas: Robson, Davie and Denman Streets. Robson is home to some of the city’s top high-end shopping on one end and Vancouver’s developing “Ramen District” on the other. Davie features plenty of restaurants and bars, and is the epicentre of the city’s LGBT nightlife scene. Denman blends tourist-friendly takeout joints and bike rental shops with local eateries and businesses to create a true community feel with plenty of activity at any time of day.
4. Car-Free Living
Sure, navigating the one-way streets and finding a parking spot can be a challenge. All the more reason to leave the car at home (or eschew owning one at all), as many West End residents do. “The West End makes it easy, safe and inviting for residents to walk and bike to work, to access thriving local businesses and to explore Vancouver’s beaches, trails and Stanley Park,” Marwah said.
5. An Oasis in the City
Those tree-lined streets and easy beach access make it easy to forget the West End is one of the densest neighbourhoods in the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Watching the sun set over the A-Maze-ing Laughter sculptures and English Bay beyond, one feels a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the downtown core, and a long stroll through Stanley Park is good for anyone’s soul.