Vancouver Travel Guide
Last week, Zach and I decided to drive up to Vancouver, Canada for their fashion week. You can see my favorite designers and recap here. Believe it or not – even though I’m Minnesotan – I had never been to Canada. What awaited us across the border was a stunning city filled with natural beauty, a buzzing city, great shopping and delicious food. Their license plates literally say, “beautiful British Columbia.” The region certainly lives up to that.
We spent our whirlwind 5-night stay at the Shangri-La and the St. Regis. I really wanted to compare two different hotels so I could knowledgeably talk about to great hotel options within the city. We didn’t have a ton of time to explore, but I feel like we experienced a lot of the must’s in this city. Read on to see what made my list.
We started our trip off with a two night stay at the Shangri-La. All I can say is wow, what an incredible hotel. We were greeted by a lovely and warm staff (a kindness that was consistent and welcoming our entire stay). The thing I typically don’t like about luxury hotels is that they sometimes feel cold and impersonal. Not here. I felt genuinely relaxed and comforted by the staff the whole time.
We really enjoyed the pool area. I love how it feels metropolitan, being placed on the 11th story in the middle of Downtown Vancouver. We were lucky enough to have sunshine (almost) the entire week we were there. Even though it was brisk, the pool area was blocked from the wind and the water was very warm – almost enough to make me forget that it was in Canada in March.
Almost immediately after Zach and I got into the hot tub. The nicest staff member came out with fruit-infused ice water and chilled wet towels for each of us. I swear, each moment I even thought of finishing my water, the woman would miraculously appear with a new glass for me. It was a Wednesday afternoon, so we had the entire pool area to ourselves (don’t you love that?!)
Then, since it was only 10:00 or so in the morning, we each got a smoothie to tide us over until lunch. They were so delightful. I opted for a detox greens smoothies (with only five months until our wedding) and Zach got a blueberry breakfast smoothie that he downed fast. They were so beyond accommodating to my vegan diet. I was floored when I asked for vegan-friendly options at their restaurant (expecting I’d have to modify a meal) and they brought out two separate menus, one vegetarian and one vegan – with tons of options. That is a win in my book.
Their heated pool was perfect for wading and had an infinity edge that felt so elegant and luxurious. It was an awe-inducing area with the surrounding sky scrapers and busy streets below.
After our first day of fashion shows, we came back ready to relax at our hotel. The sweet staff had a snacking plate and Prosecco waiting in our room for us (le sigh). They have the most beautiful all white marble bathroom with a dreamy and deep soaking tub. We filled the tub with bubbles and drank wine and snaked on fruit. It was the perfect end to a lovely first day in Canada.
We woke up the next day and had until 4:30 to hang around at the hotel and experience all it had to offer. We started our days just like we do back in Seattle – with a workout. But our gym in Seattle doesn’t have the same posh to it. Why is it easier to break a sweat with a view? They had an entire pilates room that was my version of workout heaven.After that, I had the pleasure of relaxing and indulging at the Chi Spa at the Shangri-La. The Asian influence of the property is reflective in their spa treatments. I love learning about oriental traditions and massage techniques because it helps me understand so many of the special people in my life who are originally from Asia. It was so tranquil, serene and full of inspired “me time.”
I had the Chi Aroma Vitality Treatment. It was 80 minutes of heaven. I can never truly relax. I’m a worker by nature and have trouble doing nothing and just unwind. But I was actually able to from the very beginning.
They had me change into a robe and gave me ice lemon water (my favorite!) to start. Then, I had a traditional peppermint tea while having a foot detox and rub. Side note: I need to get Zach to do this for me back in Seattle! After that, they had me take a 10 minute steam shower and then had me rinse off. What followed was an incredible and rejuvenating full body massage with different techniques and aromatherapy aspects. I have never been so zen.
We woke up the next day ready to take on another day of fashion shows. We ordered breakfast in bed and made coffee in the room’s Nespresso machine. This was my first time trying Nespresso and it was so rich and delicious, much like coffee I had every day when I lived in Italy. The bacon and pancakes is obviously Zach’s.
The Verdict on the Shangri-La >>>
This hotel is an amazing choice if you feel like indulgence of all sorts. Of relaxation, food, experience and otherwise. It feels so luxurious in a practical way. What I mean by that is, the luxury isn’t waisted. It is extravagance that you will use and enjoy. The bed was the most comfortable Zach and I had ever slept in, resulting in the best sleep either of us had ever experienced. The rooms are marvelous. They came with Fiji water, L’Occtaine products (that I’m now obsessed with since my visit), Nespresso coffee, a soaking tub (a huge plus in my world) and Zach’s favorite, automated shades that open and closed with a touch of a button.
Wether you want a extravagant “stay-cation” if you are from Canada or a romantic couples getaway. The Shangri-La is by far the best. I did a lot of research and talked to locals and they all agreed. It was nothing short of first-class service from the moment we pulled up to the moment we drove away. I can’t say enough about their genuinely warm staff and the stunning atmosphere, located right in the middle of Downtown. We were able to walk almost everywhere. Did I mention that Hermes, Burberry and Prada are almost literally right down stairs?
Then, we packed up and headed to the St. Regis for the remaining three nights of our trip. Right away I felt like I was home here. Once again, maybe it’s just that Canadians are nice, but the staff was so warm and welcoming. We literally had just parked the car and before I could even open my door, a concierge was there to open my door and help us with our bags.
We were lucky enough to get the executive suite, so we had a living room, a bedroom and a large bathroom in our unit. Our room had oversized cozy robes, slippers, Fiji Water and L’Occtaine products – all of the essentials. The L’Ooctaine Canada team had a welcome basket waiting for me, which was so sweet. I’m obsessed with their body wash (it makes your skin baby-soft and doubles as bubble bath!)The St. Regis is just homey. There is original art where ever you look and it feels established and regal in its historic building. My favorite part is their free breakfast. But this isn’t your typical continental breakfast. It is a nice sit down and order breakfast that happens to be complimentary.
The Verdict on the St. Regis >>>
The St. Regis is the perfect home base for any extended vacation. The staff is so friendly and quick to help with any needs, including ideas for the best places to go see within an hour of the city. We found ourselves bopping in and out more so than the Shangri-La which was good, it got us out and exploring the city instead of just sitting in front of the tv or hanging out in the Olympic regulation deep bathtubs that come in every room. It is a great place to bring children and have space for everyone to have a bed and doors to separate the sleeping and the fun.
Overall, the St. Regis is a place we will definitely be revisiting for a ski trip or to further explore the city, and the Shangri-La will be our first choice for a relaxing resort type vacation where the only time we leave the hotel will be to visit the nearby Prada store for some new shades to use at the hot tub.
When we adventured outside of downtown, we spent a couple hours at Capilano Park. It was a stunning trek through suspension bridges (cringe – I faced my fears!) and waterfalls. Best of all, it was free. If you want to spend part of your day outside of the concrete streets of downtown, I’d highly recommend it. It is only twenty minutes away, on the outskirts of the city.Fair warning, get ready to get your cardio in for the day. There are never ending stairs, but it was a great mini-workout with a great view.
Nearby, there is Clevland Park. If you want a place with a view to have a picnic, this is it! Grab two to go mugs of coffee and watch the sunrise (or set) looking off into the mountains. Or, do what we did and grab sushi to go after your hike in Capilano Park and take in some fresh air. Sushi Mori was so good and was devoured in a matter of minutes.
Within the city, there is Stanley Park. This was hands down my favorite thing we did. Wear (semi) practical shoes and take a walk around the island to get a awe-inducing view of the city. The water, the boats and the skyline unite to create the perfect photo opportunity.
I saw other people who had rented bikes to explore the park more, if you can arrange it, that’s a great idea! It’s quite a big park and your views change dramatically based on what side you are looking at. If you go further into the park, there is a gorgeous view of the mountains. If you are there in the spring, when you first get into the park, there are endless cherry blossom trees in full bloom (swoon).
As we always do when we travel, we used SIXT car rentals. They are so fuss-free and always give you a luxury car that is super photogenic.
If you read this social post, you might know that unfortunately, our car was broken into while we were in Vancouver and a bag of camera equipment was stolen. I was beyond panicked because I have literally never even been in an accident before and we had a brand-new Mercedes with a broken window. I read online that this is a nightmare of an experience so I expected the worst.
The SIXT team was incredible. They didn’t even worry about the car and everyone we asked to just responded, “are you both ok?” Or, “we are just glad you are safe.” They were so considerate to us during a truly vulnerable time. All it took was one call to claims and they just handled everything. I can not say enough about how great they were to us.
Have any of you been to Vancouver? What are your favorite parts about it? I’d love to hear!
As always, thank you for reading.