Yaletown's latest opus

Catch the buzz in Vancouver, B.C.'s trendiest neighborhood

Eric Lucas

The lobby of the Opus Hotel (322 Davie St.; 866/642-6787) is utterly unexpected. Black-clad reception clerks greet visitors from behind a stand-alone podium, and an alcove lit with votive candles provides the warm glow of a fireplace. Yet despite its contemporary style, the Opus occupies a very traditional-looking building, a seven-story brick structure designed to blend in with the neighborhood.

The juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and unorthodox, is exactly what gives the Yaletown neighborhood its appeal. Old warehouses, where horse-drawn carts picked up dry goods and produce a century ago, offer a distinct contrast to the glittering towers of Vancouver's downtown. Virtually every building has 2- by 3-foot Douglas-fir pillars and beams flanked by weathered bricks; many structures have concrete shipping platforms that have been converted to patios.

"I like that feeling of longevity," says Barbara-jo McIntosh, owner of Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks (1128 Mainland St.; www.bookstocooks.com or 604/688-6755), a cookbook store housed in a century-old building. "And I like the fact that you can walk into almost any of these old buildings and find a modern use."

The Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews; www.roundhouse.ca or 604/713-1800) is another updated relic. Situated in an 1885 building, the five-year-old center includes a theater as well as a gallery displaying the work of local artists. Outside, a huge late-19th-century Canadian Pacific locomotive sits in the center of the brick plaza that was once the city's rail terminus.

For tapas, fondue, and one of the city's best B.C. wine selections, visit Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar (closed Sun; 1138 Homer St.; www.brixvancouver.com or 604/915-9463). Another local favorite, Blue Water Cafe (1095 Hamilton St.; www.bluewatercafe.net or 604/688-8078) serves stellar seafood (try the appetizer tower) in an industrial space.

Next door, Vancouver Cigar Company (1093 Hamilton; 604/685-0445) has an outdoor patio where patrons enjoy the fine Cuban wares ― an age-old pleasure that, like Yaletown itself, is still in vogue.


WHERE: Yaletown is just southeast of downtown Vancouver, B.C., bounded by False Creek and Seymour and Smithe Streets. From south of Vancouver, head north on Granville St., cross the Granville Bridge, and turn right on Davie St.

CONTACT: Tourism Vancouver,