What began as a simple lumber mill amongst wilderness, was injected with life when ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton arrived in 1867 and built a tavern for the working loggers. Not only did he spark some liquid life into the area, but the logger citizens paid homage by insisting that the area formerly called Granville, forever be known as Gastown instead. Like Gassy Jack, the area has had some highs and lows over its history. But recently, it has thrived into a rejuvenated neighbourhood that still wears its scars proudly from years past, and these scars give it its soul.
What used to be the ‘rough part of town’ is now home to creative minds, eclectic spirits and residents proud to ‘keep it real’. But don’t worry, a mix of hipsters and street people interplay beautifully amongst the cobblestone streets and ancient lampposts. As you walk through the alleyways and streetscapes, there is a certain harmonious juxtaposition that continues to draw you. For instance, you can grab a morning coffee and decadent chocolate treat at the socially conscious East Van Roasters that provides training and employment for female residents of the Downtown Eastside’s Rainier Hotel. Or you can head to the wonderfully luxurious flagship store of Kit and Ace and purchase a new cashmere creation from Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s wife and son duo that is expanding faster than a yoga master’s ligaments.
Alleyways create the entrances to many establishments, making it a bit of a mystery of whether you are about to discover something recklessly urban or the next great spot. Foodies will find heavenly eats along Blood Alley and Trounce Alley.
As the tourists surround the famous steam clock landmark, awaiting that photo opportunity, the locals are blowing off their own steam at many of the fantastic pubs with patios that give a European square motif with a West Coast flare. Doing a Gastown Pub Crawl may be the best way to experience it all, and feel free to stumble into neighbouring Chinatown while you are at it.
Integrate yourself within the spirit of Gastown and raise a glass – the appropriate way to honour Gassy Jack – the man who started it all.
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Gastown has that feel to it that it is ground zero for experimentation and the heritage neighbourhood serves up some terrific coffee at local cafes. From independent hipster joints to local Vancouver chains, you can always get the best espresso in the city right in cobblestone streets. Here are the top 5 spots to kickstart your morning in this 'hip hood.
Established the same year that Canada became a nation (shout out to the maple leaf!), Gastown grew into Canada’s third largest city and one of its most cosmopolitan. But the Gastown district today retains its historic charm, independent spirit and distinctiveness. There’s no mistaking Gastown for any other area of Vancouver, or of Canada for that matter.
Gastown has seen its fair share of whisky-drenched characters swapping stories at the bar. It’s tradition. Over a century ago, Gassy Jack arrived with a barrel of whiskey, while booze-loving lamplighter, John Clough, made history with his nightly patrols around the neighbourhood.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is adjacent to Gastown, though the lines become quite blurred as to where Gastown stops and Chinatown starts. Lucky for you, you don’t care, because it allows you to easily experience two ‘hoods for the price of one. As one of North America’s largest Chinatowns, the area has also seen a resurgence and traditional streetside vegetable markets with Asian fare are also now being interrupted with cool, hip establishments, though a bit harder to find. The famous Dr. Sun Yet Sen garden. The cranes in the sky signalling construction of medium-sized condo towers give the evidence that this place is on the up and up.
When you brew it right down, coffee shops are usually about crafting the best cup. But at East Van Roasters, the goal has nothing to do with coffee, or business for that matter. It’s all about crafting lives.
Simplicity. Elegance. Comfort. A quick glance into the ultra-trendy flagship store of Kit & Ace on Water Street shows why this retailer is exploding in popularity. Taking the same magic they used in starting yoga game-changer Lululemon, the wife and son team of Chip Wilson has created a cashmere comfort line that is flying off the shelves. Shannon and JJ noticed a void in luxury apparel that had style and sophistication and brought it to life in both women and men lines.
With so much tastiness in the air, it's hard to choose from the delicious menu of Dine Out Vancouver. But to help you navigate the hundreds of participating restaurants partaking in the prix-fixe style of pre-set menus, beVancouver presents the Gastown dining spots, broken down by price, to help make the most of your culinary tour in the neighbourhood.