Best for families: Skwachàys Lodge
Admittedly, the downtown neighbourhood bordering Gastown and Chinatown is insalubrious, but the Skwachàys Lodge is a shining example of a social enterprise. Each of the 18 rooms is a unique art installation created by Aboriginal artists, some of whom live on site, and local hotel designers — ravens, pow wow dancers and the moon reign triumphant. But the tiny details, like high thread-count sheets, clearly matter.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$149 (£74). skwachays.com
Best for value: St Regis
An independent, which fought off a lawsuit from the chain with the same name, the St Regis offers up probably the best all-inclusive deal in the city. Free worldwide calls, a cooked-to-order hot breakfast, Fiji bottled water and Steve Nash gym passes are just a few of the benefits on offer. Rooms are spacious and restful, and their Gotham steakhouse is one of the best in the city.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$169 (£84). stregishotel.com
We recommend: Rosewood Hotel Georgia
Sophistication oozes from every pore of this Grand Dame of a hotel in the heart of the city, from its art deco-inspired neon-lit sign to the fedora-sporting doormen. Back in its 1950s heyday, the Georgia hosted everyone from Elvis to Nat King Cole. After a multi-million dollar renovation, the hotel re-opened in 2011. Dotted around is original artwork from one of the largest private Canadian collections in North America and the wood-panelled lobby is home to an excellent reverse-perspective Patrick Hughes piece.
Upstairs, inviting rooms glow in a palette of gentle gold, warm vanilla and cocoa accents. Rain showers and heated marble floors feature in the huge bathrooms — the dual-level Lord Stanley Suite even has a rooftop plunge pool. On-site attractions include the excellent SENSE spa and world-class Hawksworth restaurant and cocktail bar, where you can score tumblers of $1,500-per-ounce Louis XIII Cognac alongside craft beers.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$280 (£140). rosewoodhotels.com
We recommend: The Opus
Stripped down floor-to-ceiling glass on the outside, jewel-box bright with sensuously swagged fabrics and a daring colour palette on the inside, the independently owned Opus is the city’s sexiest boutique hotel. The design concept takes its lead from five ‘room muses’, offering minimalist chic to exotic modernist decor.
Plush rooms and suites scream decadence from the purple paisley wallpaper and flatscreen room divider fireplaces to cheeky soaker tubs overlooking neighbouring offices and apartments — and yes, blinds are available for shy guests.
Check-in comes with a glass of bubbly and complimentary town car service. Rooms are packed with a raft of tech toys, including iPads and Galaxy mobile phones, which can be taken off the premises. Better still, long, late lie-ins are encouraged, thanks to the complimentary PressReader app which accesses 2,300 newspapers in 55 languages.
The lobby’s craft cocktail bar, a hub for the funky Yaletown set, hums with live music and DJs five nights a week. Meanwhile, focusing on rustic Italian served alla famiglia-style, La Pentola offers fresh farm-to-table flavours and fun eight-course monthly supper clubs.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$279 (£138). vancouver.opushotel.com
Best on a budget: YWCA Hotel Vancouver
You don’t have to be a woman, Christian, or even particularly young to take advantage of a stay at the city’s best low-cost hotel. The Y is a relatively new addition at the end of Robson Street, just across from BC Place, the 50,000-seater, multi-purpose stadium. Basic but bright rooms range from singles to doubles to quints, all decked out with LCD TV and a mini-refrigerator, and offering en suite or semi-private bathrooms. Generously kitted out shared guest kitchens help to keep costs down, and there are some excellent ramen, sushi and burger options located nearby.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$84 (£42). ywcavan.org/hotel
Best for entertainment: Hotel Blu
This boutique hotel is within scoring distance of both BC Place — home of the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the venue of choice for big name artists such as Taylor Swift and AC/DC — and the city’s beloved Canucks hockey stadium.
With a motto of ‘luxury and technology meets sustainablity’, rooms and suites have a loft-like vibe with split-levels and soaring ceilings, while jade and gold accents add a serene tone. There’s LED lighting throughout, Elemis bath amenities and you can geek out on the in-room streaming system with HD screens.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$179 (£89). hotelbluvancouver.com
Best for creatives: The Listel
Ever dreamed of waking up in an art gallery? The Listel can make that fantasy a reality, thanks to its work with the UBC Museum of Anthropology and the Buschlen Mowatt Art Gallery. With installation pieces and bold wall prints, even the corridors are a visual feast.
Soak up contemporary Northwest Coastal art on the Museum Floor with First Nations artists showcased in each room, or splurge on a suite on the Gallery Floor, which focuses on international artists’ work. Shades of cream and plenty of natural wooden touches keep the focus firmly on the wall art — although the lovingly restored vintage furniture definitely warrants a second look.
The Listel’s award-winning zero-waste policy doesn’t mean luxury has been compromised — the loo roll may be recycled but the sheet thread count is high, the baths deliciously decadent and the service impeccable. Of the two on-site restaurants, Forage is one of the city’s finest examples of locavore farm-to-table cuisine, and the newly opened Timber wanders further afield into delicious all-Canadian comfort food.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$299 (£147). thelistelhotel.com
Best for families: Times Square Suites
Tucked away on a leafy street running down to Stanley Park, away from the hubbub of Denman Street, the Times Square offers roomy one- and two-bedroom suites with full kitchens, washer-dryers, cosy living room spaces and even a communal rooftop garden with barbecues and a jaw-dropping view over Grouse Mountain. Wildly popular with families and long-stay travellers, small touches like the locally ground coffee and organic teas from North Vancouver, as well as free passes to the nearby gym and pool, add to the charm.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$179 (£89). timessquaresuites.com
Best for the beach: The Sylvia
One of the city’s best-loved heritage hotels, wrapped on one side in Virginia Creeper, is just a pebble’s throw from the sandy delights of English Bay and Stanley Park. The Sylvia was once the tallest building in the neighbourhood and still houses the city’s first cocktail bar. Sip on a Vancouver cocktail (former guest Errol Flynn used to love them) made with gin, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and Angostura bitters, and enjoy the superb sunset views. Rooms come in all shapes and sizes, many with full kitchen and living area, and they’re impeccably spotless.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$135 (£67). sylviahotel.com
We recommend: The Fairmont Pacific Rim
Achingly modern, the PacRim opened just in time for the city’s 2012 Winter Olympics and has been a winner ever since. The hotel’s mission to wow starts before you enter: a Bocci-designed abstract forest glows outside the main entrance where British artist Liam Gillick’s words wrap themselves around the exterior.
The large marble lobby offers a friendly intimacy, with its daily live music sessions, and the city’s first 100% sustainable raw bar. Its excellent cocktail bar is headed up by 2014 Bartender of the Year, Grant Sceney, who represented Canada in the Diageo World Class contest.
Elegant rooms soothe in shades of cream and fawn with polished wood accents. Splurge on a room with a Japanese tub overlooking the North Shore Mountains with a bird’s eye view of the floatplanes outside. Thanks to the in-room tech, guests can control everything from the lighting to closing the drapes, booking a complimentary town car or a spa treatment. The pool and cabana beds offer great sunset city views.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $400 (£198). fairmont.com/pacific-rim-vancouver
Best for views: The Pinnacle Harbourfront
It’s tempting to spend all day staring out of the floor-to-ceiling windows of this friendly Pinnacle chain outpost, as you’ll be rewarded with excellent views of Coal Harbour, the soaring North Shore Mountains and the floatplanes which purr as they land and take off. Rooms may boast little in the way of tech bells and whistles, but they’re pleasingly large, have decent coffee-makers, and offer cheery, warm decor.
■ Rooms: Doubles from C$179 (£89). pinnacleharbourfronthotel.com
Best for fitness: Westin Bayshore
As you step in the lift at this sizeable resort hotel with a pool overlooking the swooping beauty of the North Shore Mountains, you’ll spot a poster offering free weekly yoga sessions. The health theme continues with a run concierge who organises group runs, free maps of jogging routes through the park, and even a TV channel dedicated to in-room workouts. Request a corner room overlooking Lost Lagoon, as the Juliet balconies extend around to overlook Canada Place for a jaw-dropping Vancouver views. Meanwhile, the ‘Heavenly’ beds more than live up to their name.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $189 (£93). westinbayshore.com
Published in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)