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Kitsilano - a trendy neighbourhood on the beach
Kitsilano ("Kits") is a popular neighbourhood located across the Burrard Street bridge from downtown. It used to be the heart of Vancouver's hippy counter-culture in the 1960s. While some places in Kits, like The Naam 24 hour vegetarian restaurant, are still around from that era, Kits has undergone a lot of gentrification since then.
Kits is often thought of as a trendy beachside community home to environmental & health conscious people, yoga & fitness buffs, yuppies, university students, and middle class families. Huge generalizations, but you get the idea.
A visitor to Vancouver would find Kitsilano interesting for a few reasons:
Kits Beach: a hugely popular beach with an outdoor swimming pool and lots of green space. Crazy busy when it's sunny outside. An excellent spot for people watching, swimming, and beach volleyball. Shops, pubs and restaurants exist across the street at Cornwall and Yew.
West 4th Avenue: The commercial heart of Kitsilano. It has a good selection of restaurants and unique boutiques, including some local institutions like Zulu Records and Duthie Books. It also has the largest collection of sports stores, especially snowboard/surf/skateboard shops, in one location (around W 4th and Burrard).
Vanier Park: A large grassy park along the waterfront north of Kits Beach with 3 museums worth checking out on a rainy day: the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the Vancouver Museum, and the MacMillan Space Centre. There's also a dog beach off Vanier Park where people can take their dogs off-leash.
West Broadway: It's the second commercial heart of Kits, but without a view of the beach. Broadway west of Macdonald has a neat mix of restaurants, cafes, delis, pubs, grocers, and retail boutiques. It's not as self-consciously trendy as W 4th, but that's precisely its charm. It feels more residential. It's also the traditional home of the city's Greek community, so you'll find a few Greek speciality shops, like Parthenon Importers.
- Food and Dining
In the 1960's and 70's Kitsilano or known as "Kits" was more of an area where hippies congregated. Now, the hippies are lawyers or CEO's and the neighborhood has developed accordingly.
Still, despite the "trendy and hip" factor, Kitsilano is still a fun place to shop and browse and take in a great meal, especially along W. Broadway.
Many active people chose Kitsilano as their home as located nearby is Kitsilano Beach, as well as Jericho beach.
Beaches and books in Kitsilano
Kitsilano, better known as "Kits", turned out to be one of my favorite neighborhoods in Vancouver. It started out as a hippy neighborhood in the 1960s, back when housing didn't cost quite so much in the area. It has changed a good deal over the years, but its proximity to the Kitsilano and Jericho beaches, two of the city's most popular beaches, still gives it a bit of a beach bum-type of atmosphere, sort of trendy but casual at the same time.
But the main reason why I enjoyed the area so much was for its amazing secondhand bookstores!! There are two shopping strips in Kitsilano, one being on West 4th Avenue, between Burrard and Balsam St, and the other on West Broadway St, between Macdonald and Alma St. W 4th Avenue offers a wide variety of cool clothing stores, along with some good restaurants, and two great used bookstores: "Duthie Books" and "Canterbury Tales". West Broadway didn't seem to be as popular, but there were even more used bookstores! Also, there were some really nice cafes and pubs - I'd recommend The Fringe Cafe located at 3124 West Broadway (www.fringecafe.ca) and The Frog and Firkin located at 1941 West Broadway (www.thefrogandfirkin.com).
Unfortunately, it was rather cool and rainy the day we made it to Kits Beach so there weren't that many people around, but I can picture how this must be a popular spot on a sunny summer day :o)
- Arts and Culture
Head down to Kits
There are several trendy areas in Vancouver, but Kitsilano is probably the most popular one amongst the younger, university crowds. In Kitsilano (usually shortened to "Kits" by the locals), you'll find several streets of coffeeshops, restaurants and bars (Arbutus and Yew are two major streets). At the North end of Arbutus you'll find Kits beach, along with Cornwall Avenue (which runs parallel to the beach, and eventually intersects Burrard Street).
The Kitsalano (known as Kits)...
The Kitsalano (known as Kits) part of town.
Hiking along the beach and bike paths of English Bay is a great way to spend an afternoon. Exploring the neighborhoods above the beach is nice, too. There are older homes here, with Victorian and post-Victorian influences. Smallish yards seem to be the only drawback of the properties around here, but there is a proper greenbelt surrounding Kits.
A View From the Beach
Driving into Vancouver for the very first time we drove around the Kitsilano area and happened across the Kitsilano Beach. Although the weather was still a bit on the chilly side in late May on a Friday afternoon there were a couple of brave souls who actually were in bathing suits sunning themselves on the beach.
During the summer months I'm sure there is much more of a crowd.
- Budget Travel
Vancouver’s muscle beach. This is where the volleyballers show off their stuff. There’s also a large public swimming pool nearby for tanning or even swimming. Oh, and there’s a nice beach here as well.
- Water Sports
West 4th for interesting shops and cafes
If you want to get away from Robson Street to see something with a little bit more character, try West 4th. Here you'll find speciality shops, funky cafes, coffeeshops, restaurants, furniture stores, record stores, etc.
Here is just a sampling of some of my favourite places to visit on West 4th:
Lulu Lemon is great if you want extremely good quality workout wear. Originally geared towards yoga, their clothes are comfortable and are now for whatever sport you choose. Style, function and comfort in one.
The Candy Aisle has British sweets and all sorts of goodies. Always fun.
Zulu Records has loads of good stuff - nothing like Virgin Megastore.
Chocolate Arts is practically an art gallery. Go browse their scrumptious chocolates molded into native designs by the eminent Robert Davidson (the artist, not the chocolatier).
Sophie's Cosmic Cafe is here, which has been recommended by others on this site.
Las Margaritas Mexican restaurant is a great place to go for a meal. Check out my review of it in my Vancouver pages.
Enjoy a lovely walk along the beach
If you are in Vancouver and you have some time, make sure to visit the Kitsilano area. There is plenty of pay parking near Kitsilano Beach. If you are early you can get a free spot along the road. A great walk from here is to Granville Island and back. It takes about 20-30 minutes one way to walk this stretch. Start your walk at Kitsilano Beach and make your way towards downtown Vancouver. You will pass the Vancouver Maritime Museum, walk along Vanier Park and make your way along False Creek to end up at Granville Island. This is the perfect spot to stop for a drink or have a nice meal.
Enjoy the beautiful views of West Vancouver, North Vancouver, English Bay, downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, the ocean and of course the beautiful mountains. You can either stroll along the beach or you can follow a paved path all the way.
- Hiking and Walking
- Family Travel
We live around 5 - 10mins walk to Kits beach and tis great for going for an evening stroll to watch the sun go down. In the summer it has a giant outdoor swimming pool. The beach is andy and relativly safe as there are police on patrol and life guards. You do get a view of the downtown area, Grouse and Mount Seymour too. If you are feeling energetic you can continue to walk all the way upto Wreck Beach stopping off on the way at other not so populated spots.
- Budget Travel
Kitsilano beach. Kit's is one of the main trendy areas of the west side. It's a great place to go for a stroll on the beach. On weekends it's where vancouver goes to walk there dog. Lots of people watching.
If you walk up Yew street just up from the beach, you can have your pick of great restaurants and pubs. Just up the hill on 4th, there is lots of shopping.
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