What's it like to live in Vancouver? It's fantastic, according to most residents who live here. With picturesque views, a vibrant history, and many amenities, Vancouver is one of the best cities to live in within Canada. More than that, it's one of the world's best cities, with The Economist ranking Vancouver as the sixth most livable city globally.
In many respects, Vancouver represents the perfect place to live in Canada. With mild winters and summers, Vancouverites don't experience many of the weather issues that other people within the country face (and, no, Vancouver is not all rain, despite what the stereotype might be). It's a truly world-class city, with restaurants for any food you could imagine, numerous hiking trails, epic scenery, and an excellent airport for international travel. Plus, it's close to the U.S.- Canada border, so if you ever want to head down south, living in Vancouver makes that easier.
While Vancouver may not be perfect, it is one of Canada's best destinations in which to live. Could it be your next home? Read on to see how Vancouver stacks up in some of the most important categories.
The city of Vancouver is in the southwestern part of the province of British Columbia. To the left of Vancouver is the Strait of Georgia, across which sits Vancouver Island. Above Vancouver is North Vancouver, which is an entirely different city despite a similar sounding name. Below Vancouver is Richmond. Burnaby lies to the right of Vancouver.
However, when people talk about "Vancouver," they typically aren't referring to that comparatively small city section. Instead, they're referring to the Greater Vancouver Area, which is nearly 3,000 kilometres squared. The GVA stretches from Bowen Island and West Vancouver on the west side to Maple Ridge and Langley on the east. It goes as far north as Lions Bay and as far south as the US border.
People can commute with relative ease between each of these towns and cities. The SkyTrain, trans-Canada highway, and other highways within the region's boundaries enable easy commuting between the residential, and sometimes more rural, exterior towns, and the bustling downtown core.
As mentioned earlier, Vancouver is the sixth most livable city on the entire planet, so it obviously must have some strong reasons why people love it.
For starters, the weather is among the best in Canada - especially if you don't like snow. Winters here are mild and, although they can be a little rainy at times, are excellent compared to the heavy snow and cold many other parts of this country get. There are very few places in Canada where you can avoid snow, for the most part, during the winter months, and Vancouver is one of those cities. Summer months are beautiful, often having little rain and gorgeous blue skies. While it can get hot in Vancouver during the summer, the summers here are usually relatively mild. It might go above 30 degrees Celsius for a couple of weeks, but for the most part, summers will be quite a bit cooler than some of the other places in Canada (especially out in Toronto and Montreal).
We'll get into each of these in more detail later, but Vancouver has a robust scene for pretty much everything. The economy is diverse. There are jobs in pretty much every sector here, from tech to finance to healthcare. The food scene is also fantastic. Vancouver's diverse population has afforded it an equal level of diversity of food. Want Chinese food? No problem - there are plenty of fabulous authentic Chinese restaurants here. The same is true for Indian food, Thai food, Mexican, and most other countries and ethnicities worldwide. Of course, there are plenty of places that serve classic Canadian fare.
There are plenty of things to see and do around the city. If you're into outdoor activities, nothing beats this area. World-class skiing, hiking trails, biking, and pretty much every other outdoor endeavour you can think of exists in the Vancouver region. Of course, museums, sporting events, and other attractions are all found in this region too. If you're into nightlife and bars, yep, Vancouver has that!
What does Vancouver offer? Pretty much everything you could ever hope for in a city. That's what makes it such a sought-after place to live and why it attracts people from everywhere. It may even be the right place for you!
Here are a few quick fun and quirky facts that you should know about if you're considering moving to the city.
Vancouver is a fantastic place to live with ample jobs and a high quality of life. You'd be hard pressed to find somewhere as vibrant and fun as Vancouver anywhere else in the world.
Vancouver has a very diverse economy, with fulfilling careers in almost all sectors, including tech, healthcare, and education. You probably know of or own some products from some of the major companies here. Lululemon, Earls, Purdy's Chocolates, and Plenty of Fish, all originated from Vancouver. In terms of large tech companies, both Microsoft and Amazon have offices within the Vancouver region, and there are plenty of startups. If you work in academia, there are plenty of universities and colleges from which to choose for your career..
Average Salary in Vancouver
The average household earned $65,000 as of 2017 in Vancouver. However, there are significant disparities in the income levels depending on the field in which you work. The average software developer earns around $70,000 (so a couple of programmers could, in theory, make $140k as combined household income). If you work at one of the big-name companies, like Microsoft or Amazon, it's not unreasonable to have salaries above six figures, even for people with minimal experience. However, the minimum wage is $14.60 per hour, so some jobs in Vancouver earn around $30,000 per year.
It is worth noting that salary isn't the only perk that Vancouverites have. Vancouver has quite a few public sector jobs (UBC, BC government, Provincial Health Services, etc.). Depending on what role you find yourself in, you may have a pension, employee discounts, and other perks. Since the labour market is relatively competitive, employers often have to offer incentives to fill positions. Last year, the unemployment rate for BC was the lowest of any province within Canada. That rate made it easier for people to find higher-paying jobs than in other parts of the country.
Cost of Living in Vancouver
Unfortunately, the cost of living in Vancouver is high in terms of housing prices. If you're the average household ($65,000 per year), buying a home for $1.5 million in downtown BC is very tricky. However, the average condo within Vancouver is around $638,000 for a onebedroom place. Young professionals and married couples without kids can often find a way to make that work and live within the downtown area.
However, much of Vancouver's reputation for being an expensive place to live is due to the cost of living in the metro area. Once you get out into the suburbs, things quickly become more affordable. Not cheap, necessarily, but easier than living in the city.
For example, in Pitt Meadows, which is only 38 kilometres from downtown Vancouver, you can get a 3-bedroom home for $894,000 and a 2-bedroom condo for $429,000. Depending on where you live and your commuting method, it's usually workable to live in Pitt Meadows and work in downtown Vancouver. Earning $65,000 a year with a 2-bedroom condo for $429,000 is doable for most families. That would be a payment of $1,493.34 per month, assuming 20% down and a 25-year amortization at today's interest rates.
So, is Vancouver expensive in terms of housing? Yes. But looking outside of the city, you'll often find ways to afford to live within the Greater Vancouver Area.
For other aspects of life, Vancouver tends to be middle-of-the-road. Gas in BC is amongst the highest in the country, but BC also has no provincial sales tax on many food items. Restaurants, entertainment, and other things within the province tend to be cheaper than the other major cities in Canada like Toronto or Montreal. As such, once you have your housing situation figured out, everything else in Vancouver is reasonably affordable. BC even recently did away with the MSP payments, so that makes Vancouver more affordable.
Interested In a Startup
Whether you're interested in founding a startup or joining one, Vancouver is arguably the best place to do that in Canada. For starters, you'll have access to one of the best talent pools within the country. Since many major tech companies call this region home within Canada, you'll have that as a talent pool from which you can recruit.
Furthermore, it's effortless to sell people on the prospect of living here —many people who visit Vancouver fall in love with it. The scenery, mountains, fresh air, fantastic schools, low crime, and active lifestyle attract people worldwide. While some sites might advise other places to form a startup (like Toronto or London), it's often much harder to sell people on the move there. In Toronto, expensive housing and brutal winters deter many people who dream of a west-coast tech lifestyle. London, while a charming town in its own right, isn't the dream of people looking to immerse themselves in tech.
Vancouver is, though, which means that forming a startup in this region gives you access to some of the best resources this country offers.
The education of K-12 students within Vancouver mostly falls under the jurisdiction of the Vancouver School Board. The VSB is responsible for overseeing nearly 120 schools within the Metro Vancouver region. Its budget sits at a whopping $392 million, which shows the serious investment that Vancouverites have in their education system.
There's also the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver, which oversees around 50 schools all across the Greater Vancouver Area. Some of the schools are in downtown Vancouver, but many are in cities outside the limits, like Burnaby or Port Coquitlam. If you want your child to have a high-quality Catholic education, it's hard to beat this school district.
There are also six French schools offered by the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, within the Greater Vancouver Area. So, if you're moving from a province like Quebec or Ontario, where your child received an all-French education, there are options within Vancouver
Many people believe that the educational system within the city is one of the best in Canada. There are plenty of schools and school choices, and the educators themselves are gifted. Consider that the Vancouver School Board "district programs include early and late French Immersion, Intensive French, Mandarin Bilingual, Fine Arts, Indigenous Focus School, IB and Montessori." It's tough to find that level of quality in a school board elsewhere within the country. Vancouver represents one of the best places - if not the best place - if you have children to raise them in terms of a quality school experience.
Vancouver is also an excellent place for families with post-secondary education needs. UBC, University of British Columbia, is an outstanding school with a very affordable price for Canadian citizens. There's also SFU, Simon Fraser University, which is a popular destination for many Vancouverites.
However, much like the theme of employment, Vancouver's post-secondary options are diverse. Are you interested in movies? Vancouver has the answer with the Vancouver Film School. How about art or design? Again, Vancouver has the solution for you with the Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
There are many post-secondary options from which you can choose within Vancouver. Even if your children don't want to remain in the Vancouver region, being on the west coast will give them access to plenty of school choices, just a short flight or drive away. There are the University of Victoria and Royal Roads in Victoria, BC. Down south, in the US, the University of Washington in Seattle is a mere three-hour drive away. Going further down south, a threehour flight will get you into most of California. So, no matter if your child goes to UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley, Stanford, or one of the many other famous institutions there, you can always be a short flight away.
It's challenging to beat the post-secondary educational prospects of living on the west coast. There are so many affordable schools within BC. And, if your child decides that they want to do an education down south, there are so many fantastic schools along the west coast. They're a short flight away from the parents.
Considering that Vancouver is a place with plentiful job opportunities, a strong earning potential overall, low crime rates, and plenty of educational options, it's no wonder why people worldwide come to this magnificent city and want to call it home.
If you've been reading this and Vancouver sounds like a place you'd like to live, the next step is to figure out where you want to live.
Geographically, although Vancouver is compact, the Greater Vancouver Area spreads out far. Therefore, when looking at places to live, you should consider where you'll be working and what sort of lifestyle you want. If you are working downtown, then you'll probably want a place that's a reasonable commute to the city centre. However, if you're working in a place like Surrey or Burnaby, you could look at areas much further east.
Here are 10 of the best spots to live in the Vancouver area.
The West End
The West End is a beautiful section of Metro Vancouver. As the name implies, it's the westernmost part of the city, with a beach named "Sunset" that's just perfect. Enjoy the seawall, take in breathtaking ocean views, and enjoy some of Vancouver's best food. The West End is one of the most natural neighbourhoods in Vancouver city to recommend.
With plenty of shopping and historical charm, South Granville is another of Metro Vancouver's best neighbourhoods. It's a very walkable part of the city and friendly as well. Housing is a little more expensive in this neighbourhood than in other places, but it's very much worth it.
"Boutique, chic, touristy, and techy." These would be the words that people would use to discuss Gastown. It's a beautiful area with cobblestone walkways, and there's always something unexpected in this area. Some people report seeing interpretive dances and other impromptu performances in this area. It's an energetic place with significant potential.
Yaletown is another magnificent place in Vancouver. It has a very authentic west coast feel with lots of activities for everyone. There are fantastic food choices in Yaletown and lots of pleasant parks in which to stroll.
With easy access to Stanley Park, the West End, downtown, and the North Shore, Coal Harbour is another excellent choice. With a beautiful seawall, authentic history, and stunning views, this is a top destination for many soon-to-be Vancouverites.
If you're looking at places outside of Metro Vancouver, you may wish to consider Surrey. Situated 34 kilometres southeast of Vancouver, Surrey has fantastic dining and housing options. Unlike Vancouver, Surrey is very residential. You can find beautiful homes for almost any taste. Play golf, enjoy the beach, and enjoy gorgeous parks all in Surrey!
Richmond is close to Metro Vancouver as it is only 15 kilometres south. Richmond has plenty of shopping, dining, and housing options. As one of Vancouver's most ethnically diverse cities, Richmond has fantastic restaurants for almost any food you can imagine. If you like to travel a lot, Richmond is one of the best options as it is close to the airport.
Even though these two cities are technically different, they're very close in geographic proximity, so they're worth noting together. If you're looking for a residential area that's much more affordable than downtown, you should give Coquitlam or Port Coquitlam some serious thought. With fantastic schools, plenty of housing, low crime rates, and plenty of shopping choices, either of these cities would be an excellent choice.
Many people don't know this, but New Westminster was once the capital of British Columbia. In 1866, the Mainland colony and the Island colony merged, which made Victoria the head of the new, unified province that we know and love today. However, because of its crucial status, New Westminster retained the title of being the mainland's highest-population city until the early 20th century when Vancouver passed it for good.
Nowadays, New Westminster is a beautiful place to live, work, and raise a family. With housing that's more affordable than other parts of Vancouver, fantastic schools, and a low crime rate, it's hard to beat the lifestyle that New Westminster offers.
Generally, people consider Maple Ridge to be the furthest east of the Greater Vancouver Area. At 45 kilometres from the city centre, Maple Ridge is a decent commute for anyone working in the downtown area. However, the relative affordability of homes might make that commute worth it. It's also a safe, quiet, residential place to raise a family. In many spots, Maple Ridge has more of a rural feel to it than even a suburb. If you're looking for a place where you can have some space, Maple Ridge is the place!
Getting around Vancouver requires a little bit of skill. For the most part, navigating the city is relatively straightforward. In the downtown area, streets are in gridlike form. There are a few highways and bridges that lead out of the downtown. One highway will take you north, a couple east, and one south.
Most people who live within Metro Vancouver don't drive by car to work. Most take public transportation or a bicycle. Biking is very popular in the downtown area as the streets are relatively narrow, and parking is limited. Plus, even though it may rain, people can bike yearround. It rarely gets so cold that hopping on a bike is no longer a possibility.
Vancouver has excellent public transportation within the city limits. TransLink, a civic organization, handles all the buses and trains that move people all around the Greater Vancouver Area. In the city centre, buses can move people with relative ease. Want to see a hockey game? Yep, there's a bus for that. Want to get to Stanley Park? Again, there's public transportation that can get you there relatively easy.
If you choose to locate outside Vancouver, the SkyTrain can often bring you into the city much more quickly than driving will. The SkyTrain goes as far east as Coquitlam, southeast into Surrey, and south into Richmond. For example, if you locate in New Westminster, and want to leave your home at 9 am to go downtown, taking the car could take up to 50 minutes. However, the Expo Line SkyTrain can get you into the city in 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, the SkyTrain doesn't extend as far east as Maple Ridge or Langley, yet. However, there are plans to extend the train out to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Therefore, things may change in the future.
Living in Vancouver has many perks. One of those is access to some of the best food in the world. Indeed, it's hard to think of a place with more authentic food from all over the world than what you can find in Vancouver. If you're looking for some places to eat, consider these five that have very high ratings.
This high-end sushi restaurant features all kinds of sustainable seafood in a sophisticated setting. The views and patio seating are some of Miku's best attributes and a reason to go there in and of itself. If you like sushi, you should check this place out!
Blue Water is another seafood place that features sustainable products with unique touches. It's not an inexpensive restaurant by any means, but the cost is well worth it for the quality. It also has plenty of quality drink and wine options to make it the perfect night out!
Nico Schuermans, the founder of Chambar, worked in a three-star Michelin restaurant in Belgium. Some people widely regard it as Belgium's best restaurant. Nico brought this beautiful Belgian cuisine to Vancouver, where he opened Chambar. This restaurant brings the best of that Belgian cuisine and showcases the best ingredients of the pacific northwest. It's a fantastic place to eat.
This Vietnamese-Cambodian restaurant has specialties like chicken wings and butter beef. They serve hearty food at excellent prices, so you won't need to worry about breaking the bank if you want to eat here! Phnom Penh doesn't have a website, unfortunately, but it's a great excuse to go there to check out the menu!
The farm-to-table concept has exploded in popularity. Many restaurants now offer this type of "tour" of local ingredients, but very few of them do it as well as Forage. The food they offer is amongst the best there is, and you can feel good eating there that you're supporting local BC farmers, fishers, and foragers. All too often, the proceeds from the food we eat go to benefit some big corporation's shareholders, so it's always nice to support a local business that does fantastic things for their community.
Much like food, Vancouver has plenty of things to keep you entertained and satisfied living in the city. There are too many to list in this write-up, but here are three things you should check out when you're in the city!
This landmark bridge is in the treetops and provides scenic views. Those views are probably unlike anything you have probably seen before. It's a little touristy, but it's fun to do because it will make you fall in love with the beauty of nature surrounding this city all over again.
With 1,000 acres of land containing beaches, playgrounds, an aquarium, a pool, and more, Stanley Park is a favourite retreat for Vancouverites and tourists. There's so much to see and do in Stanley Park that it's hard to become bored. Plus, the views are spectacular. There's no better place to run, jog, or bike.
Fun fact about Stanley Park:it's 20% bigger than New York's famous Central Park. Given how much people explore and walk Central Park, it should be no surprise that Vancouverites feel the same way about Stanley Park.
If you're into hockey, check out the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. It's worth noting that the Canucks are not the only hockey team as the Vancouver Giants play in Langley. Unfortunately, the Canucks don't have the best record in the NHL by any means, but the games are always incredibly entertaining. If you're into football, you can go to BC Lions games.
While there are no major league baseball or basketball teams, there is a minor league baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, that play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in Metro Vancouver. They are an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Vancouver is in the top ten most livable cities rankings for a reason. It's a world-class place as there are plenty of food and entertainment options. You can find any type of housing that you need. If you want downtown condo living, Vancouver can provide that. Conversely, if you wish to have a rural lifestyle, Maple Ridge and Langley's suburbs can offer that.
That's the beauty of this fantastic city: diversity. We can see it everywhere, from the people that call it home, to the job opportunities available, to the entertainment and food options here. Diversity is Vancouver's strength, and there's nothing quite like our beautiful city anywhere else in the world.
If you're interested in making Vancouver your home, please contact me! I would love to help you find the perfect home or condo to make your Vancouver dream come true!
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