Take a Walk through Gastown and Chinatown, Vancouver

This walk takes you through two of Vancouver’s oldest neighborhoods. Begin with lunch in Chinatown, stop to explore aboriginal art galleries, the city’s serene Chinese garden, and the unusual Police Museum, and then wrap up your afternoon with cocktails in Gastown.

old clock spewing steam next to a Canadian flag in Vancouver
The Gastown steam clock whistles every quarter hour and also spews steam. Photo © JPLDesigns/iStock.

Total Distance: 1.8 miles (3 kilometers)
Total Walking Time: 45 minutes

Fuel up for your walk with lunch at Chambar, adjacent to the Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain station. In a heritage brick building on Beatty Street, this restaurant creatively mixes flavors of Belgium and North Africa with local ingredients.

After lunch, turn right out of the restaurant, following Beatty Street one block to Pender Street. Turn right onto Pender, and go east two blocks. On the left side of Pender, stop at the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery, inside Skwachàys Lodge, Canada’s first aboriginal arts hotel, for a look at their works by native artists. As you leave, notice the large aboriginal sculpture atop the hotel building.

Turn left out of the gallery, cross under the ornate Millennium Gate, which marks the entrance to Chinatown, and walk one more block east on Pender.

Ming dynasty garden in Vancouver
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

At Carrall Street, turn right, walk half a block, and turn left at the garden wall to find the entrance to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It’s worth stopping to tour this peaceful retreat, the first authentic Ming Dynasty garden created outside of China.

From the garden, retrace your steps back north toward Pender Street and turn east (right) to find the Rennie Collection at Wing Sang, a private art museum. The brick building that houses the museum, constructed in 1889, is the oldest structure remaining in Chinatown.

Continue one block east on Pender to Main Street and turn right. As you walk south on Main, notice Chinatown’s mix of new condos and old-time shops. Stay on Main three blocks, then turn left onto Union Street. Midway down the block is Crackle Crème, a café that specializes in crème brûlée.

After your break, turn left out of the café, and in half a block, turn north (left) onto Gore Avenue. Follow Gore five blocks north. At Cordova Street, turn left to find the entrance to the Vancouver Police Museum on your left. The exhibits at this museum, in the former city morgue, detail Vancouver’s seamier side.

When you leave the museum, turn left onto Cordova, take the first right onto Main, and in one block, turn left onto Powell Street, which will take you toward Gastown. Follow Powell Street two blocks west to Maple Leaf Square, where Water, Alexander, Powell, and Carrall Streets meet. Stop for a photo at the statue of Gassy Jack, the British sailor for whom Gastown is named.

statue of gassy jack in gastown vancouver
Gastown’s name comes from “Gassy Jack.” Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Continue west on Water Street, the main street in Gastown, where several galleries specialize in works by aboriginal artists. At the corner of Water and Cambie Streets, you’ll see the Gastown Steam Clock, which toots its whistle every quarter hour.

Ready for a drink? Retrace your steps one block east on Water Street, where you can wrap up your walk with a cocktail at The Pourhouse.

Carolyn B. Heller

About the Author

A travel writer based in Vancouver, Canada, Carolyn B. Heller has celebrated spring in the Canadian Arctic, swapped fairy tales with a Druze family in the Golan Heights, studied Spanish in Ecuador and Costa Rica, and road tripped throughout North America. She writes about cultural, culinary, and offbeat adventures for Travel + Leisure, Atlas Obscura, Verge Magazine, Explore, The Takeout, Roads & KingdomsMontecristo, Canadian Traveller, and many other publications. And she’s the author of three Moon guidebooks: Moon Vancouver, Moon Toronto and Ontario, and Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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