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Vancouver isn’t just a pretty city; it’s the epicenter of a fabulous Pacific Northwest food movement you must taste to believe.

A significant part of the romanticism you’ll feel as a first timer in Vancouver is taking in the view of the harbor. And at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, I have a front-row seat as the blinds peel back in my Deluxe Harbour View room on a bluebird morning.

Among a handful of luxury properties on the water’s edge, the hotel has the undeniable heritage of the brand, with sophistication integral to its essence. But at the same time, there’s a clever blend of youthfulness and stylishness in the persona here. It’s a fine line, yet the property walks it impeccably.

For breakfast, my partner and I head to Botanist, the Pacific Rim’s signature restaurant and bar, where the most important meal of the day feels just that. The Dungeness crab and avocado benedict is a lavish choice between sips of perfectly poured latte and sparkling water.

Annoyingly, the corner table window view is vying for my attention with a distracting outlook toward Stanley Park. Be warned: this city has a habit of calling you outside.

Vancouver certainly has the views, but at its core, this is a destination with character and plenty of opportunities to experience top-end dining. Since joining the ranks of the Michelin Guide in 2022, nine restaurants have already been given a star. But it isn’t all haute cuisine.

Tenacious brewers, diligent bakeries, intelligent bars and an underlying arts scene generate the day-to-day pulse of eating out and drinking in this bustling corner of British Columbia.

Morning Markets, Art and Pastries

As far as food-centric must-dos go, a visit to Granville Island is top of the list. As we arrive, there’s a palpable energy to this peninsula neighborhood: people mill around with overflowing bags of produce, roadside trucks pass out boxes of ice-covered fish and seabirds circle overhead.

The Artisan District is an interesting collection of creative minds selling art, jewelry and even bespoke spirits; a brilliant place to seek out a special gift. I spend most of my time inside the bustling halls of the Public Market, zigzagging between gourmand staples and vivacious vendors with trays of samples.

If it’s time for a second coffee, JJ Bean, a fourth-generation coffee roaster with serious pedigree, is the perfect one-stop caffeine hit.

Nearby Kitsilano is an affluent neighbourhood with great shopping and people-watching in equal measure. A walk along West 4th Avenue brings you past a thriving cafe scene and abundant outdoor clothing boutiques.

Feeling like a small break from the masses, we head north and, after some quiet tree-lined streets, find ourselves on Kitsilano Beach. Now’s an opportunity to get your steps up by exploring Vanier Park. The resident Canada geese with the city skyline in the background make for a great photo.

A little eastward, better known for breweries and coffee shops, Mount Pleasant is a suburb where street art flourishes. Meander the streets yourself or, like us, join a guided walk and let a local tell you all the curious insider anecdotes you won’t hear anywhere else.

The finale to the tour is a stop by Purebread on the corner of East 5th Avenue and Ontario Street, a bona fide smorgasbord of delicious baked treats.

Lunch Like an Italian

Ask For Luigi finds itself in the rough-around-the-edges neighborhood of Gastown, but let this put you off at your peril. As Italian diners go outside of Italy, this one nails the brief succinctly. It’s cozy, energetic and doesn’t try uber-hard for unattainable levels of authenticity like some other restaurants might.

At our window table, it isn’t long before we each have a Negroni – served in individual, small, ready-mixed bottles to be poured over ice – in hand to peruse the menu, which is the only way to start a Mediterranean-inspired lunch, in my opinion.

If you’re open to sharing, you’ll spoil your taste buds with a torrent of delicious flavors. We opt for the rigatoni alla Bolognese and radiatore verde and mushroom trifolati, accompanied by top-notch wines hand-selected by the brilliantly knowledgeable maître d’.

We wrap things up with a deliciously guilt-ridden panna cotta and an unforgettable olive oil cake – my ancestry isn’t Italian, but restaurants like this make me wish it was.

Naturally, Downtown has masses of sights and things to do. The Vancouver Art Gallery is an excellent post-lunch opportunity to add culture to your day and conveniently finds itself right around the corner from the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The 1939-built hotel is one of the most (if not the most) iconic buildings across the whole city.

The street-level boutiques within the grand hotel lobby include Dior, Louis Vuitton and Omega. They find themselves beside the rather grand art deco-inspired Notch 8 bar and lounge, which shakes up and stirs down notable pre- and post-prohibition cocktails.

Omakase and Nightcaps

After an afternoon stroll to Stanley Park’s Beaver Lake and returning along the Seawall (you’ll be pushed to do it all as it’s even bigger than New York’s Central Park), we retire to the pool at our hotel and watch the sun dip behind skyscrapers.

Freshened and hungry, our destination is Sushi Mahana on Vancouver’s North Shore. If you get excited about amazing hidden-in-plain-sight dining experiences, look no further.

This minimalist 10-seater takes the principles of Kyushu-style sushi – whereby seasonal ingredients enhance flavors – and delivers an immaculate omakase experience from the highest-grade seafood available.

Across 25 carefully executed courses, celebrated sushi chef Hiroshi Hoshiko takes us on a culinary odyssey with the most tender nigiri I’ve had the pleasure of eating. But how so?

Over sake, I learn Hoshiko uses the skills of a former fish auctioneer at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo to buy the best seasonal fish for him. He also engages with a local Japanese fisherman who practices the Japanese technique of ikejime to instantly kill and bleed freshly caught fish, minimizing stress and capturing the cleanest flavor and texture.

This might be the point to call it a night, but for those who like a nightcap – or two – you’ll be hard-pressed to look past the Pacific Rim’s Botanist. Returning to where our day began, we sit at the highly awarded bar – currently 19th on North America’s 50 Best Bars list – and start the abhorrent task of choosing which knockout cocktail we’re each going to sip.

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