Everything You Need To Know About Shopping In Vancouver
Like neighbors Seattle and Portland, Vancouver has thrived in the past few decades to transform from a sleepy coastal outpost to a thriving international metropolis. Vancouver doesn't just have unparalleled access to nature and an amazingly diverse culinary scene, but the shopping Vancouver has become one of Canada’s best.
There are dozens of trending-upward neighborhoods that offer a variety of shopping experiences from local boutiques to famous international brands. Whole neighborhoods have turned into de facto cultural and shopping districts, like the beloved Granville Island and Gastown. Vancouver is also large enough that upscale fashion institutions simply cannot ignore the market. More importantly, the local fashion industry has been thriving for decades, and the number of locally-owned Vancouver boutiques in Vancouver is truly impressive. Even the airport has turned into a shopping mecca.
With all these amazing options for shopping in Vancouver, you might need a little help for your upcoming trip. Here is the definitive guide to your retail therapy in Vancouver.
The Best Shopping Destinations in Vancouver
Located right in downtown Vancouver, this department store provides the city center with all the upscale and chic fashion institutions it needs. You’ll find standard high-end brands like Dior, Gucci, and Balmain at this Canadian institution. Holt Renfrew specializes in chic women’s fashion, and there isn’t a better selection of shoes, handbags, makeup, and accessories in one place. You'll find one of the best collections of fashion in all of Canada, let alone British Columbia.
Of course, there is an ample supply of men’s fashion, with a wide variety of styles ranging from business-casual to streetwear. Where Holt Renfrew really excels is customer service. The helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly staff have been known to provide such great assistance that it rivals the input of a personal shopping assistant. This fashionable department store is located just a few steps from the Waterfront Train Station, which is one of the easiest places to get to in all of Vancouver. If you find yourself downtown and looking for a new outfit or accessory, this is the place to stop.
This upscale mall covers three whole city blocks and offers one of the most expansive indoor shopping experiences in all of Vancouver. While you’ll find the usual suspects, albeit, locations with selection rivaling flagship stores, like The Gap, Michael Kors, and Hollister, Pacific Centre prides itself on curating some of Canada’s finest clothing institutions like The Hudson Bay Company.
To call the food court “serviceable” would be an understatement. There are amazing food options with a wide variety of cuisines on offer. Sushi, wood-fired pizza, and Vietnamese options are a far cry from the obligatory fast-food locations you find at lesser shopping malls.
Just about every trip to Vancouver will involve contending with at least some rain, so Pacific Centre’s massive layout and incredible offerings make it the perfect place to seek shelter during uncooperative weather. Pacific Centre is located near Waterfront Train Station and Holt Renfrew. So it’s easy to get to, and there is another amazing shopping destination next door.
Located south of downtown Vancouver in Richmond, BC, Aberdeen Centre is comprised of over 300 stores that specialize in imported merchandise from around the world. This bustling mall offers an astounding array of Chinese imports, from one of the world’s best selection of teas to home goods to incredible deals on fashion. Like many of the best East Asian shopping institutions, Aberdeen Centre’s food court is a thing of wonder. There is a huge emphasis on premium dining options at food courts, and Vancouver foodies swear by the variety of international flavors on offer.
The Chinese Cultural Center also hosts performances at Aberdeen Centre, and there is an eclectic program of music, art, and theatre held in their event hall and open spaces. The Musical Water Fountain in the center of the shopping mall will entertain the kids while you’re hopping from store to store. The Aberdeen Canada Line Station runs from downtown Vancouver directly to the mall, and there is ample parking available.
Nordstrom - Downtown
The Nordstrom in Downtown Vancouver is the store’s flagship location in all of British Columbia, and for good reason. There are 230,000 square feet of retail space in this behemoth shopping institution. You’ll find everything you’ll ever need here, from men’s and women’s fashion to home goods and even furniture. There is a nice cafe and even a bar where thirsty patrons can relax with a glass of wine or local beer. Nordstrom is located across the street from the gorgeous Robson Square, one of downtown Vancouver’s parks. The store is also accessible via The Canada Line, making it incredibly accessible.
The Best Designer Stores and Outlets in Vancouver
MacArthurGlen Designer Outlet (Vancouver International Airport)
Even the Vancouver International Airport has a world-class shopping center. The international retail giant McArthurGlen Group has developed a European-style outdoor shopping center. Here, you’ll find international luxury brands amidst the pedestrian-friendly walkways, piazzas, and tree-lined alleys. Many of the stores are outlet locations where shoppers can expect steep discounts and an excellent selection. Fortunately, you do not need to be flying to Denver in order to shop here, as it’s open to the public. Surprisingly, the Designer Outlets are incredibly busy, so getting there early in the day can help avoid the crowds of avid shoppers.
The Hudson’s Bay Company - Downtown
The Hudson’s Bay Company, known simply as The Bay, is located within Pacific Centre and is one of the area's can’t miss shopping experiences. This Canadian giant is perhaps one of the most recognizable and iconic Canadian brands in the world, and its popularity in Vancouver cannot be overstated. Located on Granville Street and West Georgia, this outlet has one of the finest selections of any Hudson Bay locations. Everything here ranges from high-end to upscale but affordable. Located within this department store is a TopShop location, which is a hip UK-based retailer.
Granville Island Public Market
This shopping center is located just south of Downtown on Granville Island. It's an amazing public market where you can find fresh produce, a kid's market, works from local artists, and a wide variety of other shopping experiences. It's easy to get to, with the Granville Bridge right next door to the mall.
This Vancouver-born-and-based brand is known for its incredibly well-made shoes. Designing high-end and distinctive footwear since 1970, John Fluevog’s flagship location is one of the retail anchors of the trendy Gastown neighborhood. The merchandise is pricey, but the quality and aesthetic make for an ideal splashy purchase to bring home from your trip to Vancouver.
The Latest Scoop
Having started as a pop-up retailer in the mid-aughts, this store has been described as a “lifestyle concept” retailer. The distinctive bespoke aesthetic that its curators expertly weave throughout women’s fashion, home decor, furniture, accessories, and gifts is truly unique. You never know what will be in stock when you arrive, but you know what the vibe will be.
The Best Vintage Stores in Vancouver
Now, this is truly a novel concept, and if you think about it enough, it makes complete sense. How about an entire mall comprised of vintage merchandise? There are different vintage retailers appealing to different aesthetics and customer bases. So there is less guesswork compared to other vintage shopping experiences. You won’t have to worry about walking into a thrift store looking for an 80’s blazer and finding an antique store. You’ll walk into Mintage Mall, and you’ll find the exact vibe you’re going for. It works. It makes sense. And it’s conveniently located near South Main Street.
Mine and Yours
This downtown vintage store specializes in high-end luxury threads from all the best international brands. Their shelves and racks are filled with Dior, Chanel, Gucci, and other fashion mainstays. The prices aren’t exactly bargain bin, but that’s not the intent here. This is for shoppers that are familiar with these brands, and are looking for pieces they can’t find new. Not to worry, the quality of these well-preserved and restored items is unbeatable. This is easily the most upscale vintage shopping in Vancouver.
Near the Waterfront train stop, this vintage store excels in its incredible curation. The knowledgeable and passionate staff certainly have an eye for finding not just the best pieces, but the right pieces. They have collections for both men’s and women’s fashion, and all of the prices are reasonable. The atmosphere is approachable, professional, and friendly. What more could you want?
Hunter and Hare
This stylish and twee vintage store is the antithesis of the dusty, musty thrift stores of yesteryear. Everything is intentionally decorated to be cute, clean, and fun. Expect vibrant colors from both the decor and merchandise. The pieces are of excellent quality; you won’t find any rags here. But the prices are reasonable and the staff is extremely approachable and helpful for guiding you through the store. There is certainly a focus, but just about everyone can find something that matches their personal style.
Located just down the street from the Classical Chinese Botanical Garden, Hey Jude has one of the best selections, and vibes of any store in Vancouver (vintage or not). The minimal but fun decor and energy here are very inviting for any shopper. The selection is incredible, and the prices aren’t astronomical. Hey Jude focuses on sourcing pieces with natural fibers, and they have strict quality standards, so it’s easy to trust that you’re getting the best here.
The Coolest Vancouver Streets for Shopping
This is one of Vancouver's most popular shopping options. You'll find fashion boutiques, chain stores, international fashion brands, and even spots for vintage clothing, all within walking distance. Most of the shopping on Robson Street is located near the intersection with Granville Street.
South Granville Street
South Granville is a nice location to window shop and mix with the locals. The area spans about ten city blocks on Granville Street from W6th Avenue to W16th Avenue. The street is anchored by stores like Anthropologie and the Indigo Book Store. The area is one of Vancouver’s best shopping centers. This is not the spot for high-end department stores like Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom, but rather smaller, local stores. South Granville’s proximity to the water and other downtown sights make it a pleasure to stroll down. Take a stroll through Granville Island to truly get a sense of Vancouver.
Originally a hot spot for souvenir shops selling knick-knacks and obligatory tourist T-Shirts, Gastown has turned into a hotspot for high-end boutiques. This neighborhood has a fine selection of art galleries, boutique shops, and independent stores from local designers and a few international brands. The cobbled streets are enjoyable for a short walk through, regardless of how serious your shopping endeavors get. One of the better stores to visit in Gastown has to be The First Nations Galleries, which showcase indigenous culture and art.
South Main Street
This hipster highway has turned into the epicenter of Vancouver cool. Starting around W8th Avenue and running through King Edward Avenue (W25th Avenue) there are scores upon scores of fashion boutiques, record stores, vintage stores, antique shops, jewellery stores, art galleries, specialty stores, and just about every single type of cool business you can find in a modern city like Vancouver. Regardless of whether or not you’re shopping for anything specific, it’s worth a trip down South Main Street. You’ll enjoy the vibe, and if there isn’t a boutique that catches your eye, you can always pop in for a craft beer at one of the many fine establishments on this iconic Vancouver street. One of the highlights of this stretch has to be the flagship store for Hill's Native Art Galleries for First Nations Artists.
Davie Village is a small residential area just south of the city center in the West End. Within three city blocks, there is a concentration of a few streets where Vancouver’s LBGTQ community has created one of the best neighborhoods in the city. Rainbow flags, pink bus shelters, and other vibrant features create a welcoming environment throughout the neighborhood, and the positivity is evident in the wonderful stores that line the streets. You’ll find cute cafes, bookstores, amazing vintage stops, and boutiques throughout the neighborhood. Start at Davie and Bute Streets, and explore the rest of the area!
This is certainly one of Vancouver's gems that’s hard to find anywhere else. This neighborhood and de facto shopping center bring together a massive array of produce, food, fashion, antiques, and imported goods. You will find just about anything you’ll ever want in Chinatown Vancouver, but if you’re traveling through town and need to keep it light, there are amazing imported antique items, the finest selection of green tea, linens, and other fine items.
The main shopping street is East Pender Street, and the intersections at Main, Keefer, and Gore form a rectangle where all of the best stores, restaurants, and nightlife are located. It’s more than worth stopping into a dumpling shop, or dim sum restaurant to take a break from your retail exploration. There are also amazing street food vendors in this neighborhood, so you won’t necessarily need to sit down in order to have a tasty snack.
Vancouver, British Columbia is the definition of an international city. With so much amazing culture, cuisine, and shopping from such a wide range of backgrounds, it’s easy to fall in love with the many flavors of Vancouver. Because of the incredible diversity in Vancouver, one of the best ways to get to know the city is to shop in its many neighborhoods, whether you're on Granville Island or in Chinatown. Regardless of whether you buy anything, window shopping can yield a rich experience where you feel rewarded just having walked down Vancouver’s streets taking in the sights and sounds. So go explore your new favorite neighborhood, buy something small (or big) to take home, and let a Bounce luggage storage take care of the bags.