Last spring break, my roommate and I decided to take an alternative trip and go somewhere unusual and we decided on Vancouver. While we were ready for the chilly weather and hockey games, we didn't realize how great the food scene was in Vancouver.
We spent most of our time trying out new restaurants like Salt Tasting Room, a restaurant that offered tastings of wine and charcuterie boards, and hopping between Irish pubs, which there were a surprisingly large amount of in Vancouver. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Wine-Themed Hotels
We stayed in the Executive Hotel Vintage Park, which is a wine-themed hotel that hosted wine tastings every night of Canadian wine. If you're a foodie who loves wine, try booking a stay here around the same time as the Vancouver International Wine Festival, which is one of the premier wine festivals in North America.
2. Ethnic Food
Metropolitan Vancouver has a large ethnic population, so it makes sense that the variety and quality of ethnic food in Vancouver is pretty great. One of my favorite finds was Saj and Co, a Lebanese restaurant in downtown Vancouver with all freshly made food using local ingredients—they even make their own bread and hummus.
3. Granville Market
Similar to markets like Seattle's Pike Place Market, Vancouver has the Granville Island Public Market. The market has restaurants serving gourmet coffee, delicious crepes, and other varieties of food, or you can check out the fresh produce and fish market. The island is easy to reach by bike, walking or ferry, and also has a cool distillery called The Liberty Distillery.
4. Hot Chocolate Festival
Though Vancouver and British Columbia in general is warmer than the majority of Canada, it can still get pretty cold. A great way to warm up is with Vancouver's annual Hot Chocolate Festival. The festival is different from common food festival formats, taking place city-wide and over the span of a month, featuring chocolatiers from all over Vancouver.
5. Fresh Fish Festivals
Located right on the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver has a lot of fresh seafood options. They also have various festivals showcasing their seafood, including the B.C. Halibut Festival and the Vancouver Spot Prawn Festival, which both take place in the spring and have some of the best seafood in British Columbia.
6. Food Truck Festival
Formerly known as the Food Cart Fest, the VYR Food Fest is Vancouver's biggest food event of the summer, featuring food trucks, pop-up shops, a beer garden, and a Street Food Showdown, where Vancouver's top vendors offer an unlimited tasting menu for two hours. If two hours of unlimited tasting doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will.
7. The Currency Exchange Rate
I'm no stranger to seeing pricey food, but traveling to Vancouver was refreshing because I could justify spending a little more for good food because it was in Canadian dollars after all. The currency exchange rate is about 1 American dollar to 75 Canadian cents, so take advantage of the exchange rate and treat yourself.
For being such a metropolitan city, Vancouver is really walkable, since all the neighborhoods are close to each other. Bikes are another great option, so if you're heading to Vancouver, look into renting a bike. For trips just outside of the city, we used the public transportation to go to places like Grouse Mountain, and it was efficient and easy to navigate.
You didn't think I would leave off poutine, did you? Poutine is traditionally French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, kind of like Canada's version of animal fries. Once you've tried the classic version of poutine, check out a restaurant like Mean Poutine, where you can switch it up with different varieties of poutine.
Even if you're planning a trip that doesn't coincide with one of Vancouver's major food festivals, there are a lot of great food options in Vancouver year round. If you're interested in exploring the rest of Canada as well, check out what foods you should eat in each Canadian province.