British Columbia’s crown jewel, Vancouver, is not just a great place to be, but it is also a wonderfully historic place to explore in Canada. The Lower Mainland of British Columbia has been home to a human population ever since the end of the last ice age. Today, Vancouver is a truly cosmopolitan city that is enriched by the rich cultures of European and Chinese settlers.
Want to explore the history of Vancouver and complete a crash course in its culture? Take a look at this helpful guide to Vancouver.
Vancouver: A Name With History
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The city was named after naval captain George Vancouver, a British explorer who toured the region extensively and even assigned British names to various places. He explored the Burrard Inlet inner harbor in 1792. He also explored the Hawaiian Islands and lent his name to other places in Canada and the United States. Vancouver commemorated him by placing his statue outside city hall.
The 125-year-old city was once known as Gastown. Though indigenous people have lived here for more than 6,000 years, it was Europeans who brought the Canadian Pacific Railway and a port to the city, also giving it a new name. Gastown was the first settlement in the area, built around a temporary tavern where ‘gassy’ Jack Deighton opened his first saloon. Gastown is considered a national historic site located close to the Downtown Eastside. The Lamplighter Club is the most iconic place in Gastown and is believed to be haunted by a tame ghost.
Now home of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Gastown was once a bustling center of trade and commerce, welcoming fishermen, lumberjacks, and sailors. Moody Ville, now known as North Vancouver, was the site of the Fraser Gold Rush that brought thousands of people to this place. The steam-powered clock built in 1977 at the corner of Water Street is one of the main tourist attractions here.
Chinatown and a Japanese Secret
The area now known as Chinatown is district that is home to many Chinese, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong residents. Multi-generational Chinese families and more recent Asian immigrants live in this region. It was once known for its neon signs but is now mostly known for its amazing Chinese food and the Carnegie Community Center.
Close to Chinatown is a small Japanese secret that only a few locals know about. Before World War II, the region now referred to as Rail Town was occupied by Japanese immigrants. Though that population dispersed due to political reasons, the relics of the era remain hidden in the modern city.
Little Ginza is an upcoming Japanese center of the region and is located near Japan Town, as are the Japanese Hall and the Vancouver Japanese Language School. Most of these historical relics can be found along Powell Street. You may have passed by the Vancouver Buddhist Temple at Jackson Street without realizing you are looking at a precious piece of Vancouver’s history.
Vancouver remains one of the top five most livable cities in the world. It offers a great blend of history, cultures, and a liberal, cosmopolitan atmosphere.