Vancouver: the most beautiful city in the world

A long time ago just as this blog was getting going I wrote about why I left Vancouver, a city consistently rated among the planet’s most desirable cities and site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, which start in less than two weeks.

One commenter says he agrees with the taxi drivers who, recognising my foreign accent and asking me where I’m from, tell me I must be crazy not only to have left Canada, but also its brightest pearl.

It will be 20 years this fall that I packed everything I couldn’t sell into a Honda Civic to begin a four-day drive to Quebec which changed my life forever.  Much of Vancouver has also changed since then, but one thing’s for sure: it’s still the most beautiful city in the world.

If you have a high-definition monitor, bump this video up to 1080p and push it to full screen.   If you’re prone to homesickness – you know who you are – be prepared to be moved to tears between timecode 1:36 and 1:46.

Thanks to Lilalia at Yum Yum Café.

31 Responses to “Vancouver: the most beautiful city in the world”

  1. 1 lilalia
    February 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Ian, glad to hear about the tears. I shed them as well, and I never even lived in B.C myself. Still, the beauty of the lights and movement of the fog is stunning. Been living too long away from Canada to feel really Canadian, yet I did for the duration of the film.

    Will ask my sister about the motel location… wouldn’t that be just quirky if it was Squamish?

  2. February 3, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I had no idea. None. “Vancouver” has been just a word, with nothing particular associated with it. I’ve known it only as a city friends in Bellingham used to visit.

    Since I love cities, fog, water, good architecture and great skylines, it appears I’m going to have to plan to travel a bit further west when I get to Alberta😉

    • February 3, 2010 at 6:07 pm

      Funny, we used to go to Bellingham for cheap gas and shopping, until the dollar weakened so far it was no longer worth it. Before they opened the bars on Sundays in the mid-1980s there was a steady stream south to Point Roberts, a little thumbnail of land in the USA accessible by land only through Canada. I’m glad I was never the one driving.

  3. February 3, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I would love to move there – but I think the chances of my husband finding an appropriate job there are slim.

  4. 6 vorpal
    February 3, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Well, if you have to live in a city, Vancouver is a good one to live 40 minutes away from.
    I was downtown yesterday for the first time in several months. Took a walk from Davie and Granville to the Bay. Not a lot of beauty to be had. Most of Vancouver’s “beauty” has nothing to do with the city, but with its surroundings. Fortunately for me, I live in the surroundings. In some ways, Vancouver has improved tremendously since I first lived there full time. The air is far cleaner for one thing — which is surprising since the traffic is far worse. I fear that what people see as “beauty” is just newness. Some things — like the old courthouse — are really quite run down and seedy looking. The courthouse fountain plaza where they put the Olympic clock was actually quite depressing. It was dirty and dingy and there was a huge tattered tarp covering most of the building, made to look even worse by the lame attempt to decorate it with gaudy flower images. Perhaps some fog and mood lighting would have helped. We have just spent another month or so of gloomy grey skies, so even the move-to-tears mountains can’t be seen. I will say one thing though — when they sun does come out, the spirits of everyone in this city –and surroundings — will soar to the tops of those snow-capped peaks.

    • February 3, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      So true, Vorpal. That’s one thing I always used to say about Vancouver. It can rain and rain and rain, but as soon as the sun comes out, you forget it ever did.

      Of course there’s always the seedier side of the city. I took the family for a close-up look at the downtown East Side when we were there this past summer. They won’t forget it.

  5. February 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    What a great video. Watched it three times and only cried a little bit. And I’ll be there again in less than 5 months.🙂

    It’ll be 20 years for me too this July – I can hardly believe it. My 93 yr. old godfather is (or was, until he went blind in one eye) a professional photographer and on one of our visits he gave us one of his large prints, a beautiful night shot of the city from his house in the British Properties, everything shrouded in fog and the skyscrapers all lit up. We love it. There’s no place like Vancouver.

    • February 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

      You’re making the return an annual event, aren’t you? 🙂 I’d like to do the same, but at the same time, don’t want to limit my holiday time to just going home. It’s a balancing act. Then again, on our horse ride at Prerow last weekend the driver told us he’d not taken a holiday in 12 years. We’re doing pretty well by comparison.

  6. February 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Nope, still only every two years. Last year we went to Denmark.🙂 Yeah, it is a balancing act.

  7. February 6, 2010 at 11:41 am

    This really makes me want to visit Vancouver! I have Canadian family so should make a plan. Nice to make the connection with your hometown. Thanks.

    • February 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      Pete, you’re doing pretty well already in Cape Town! The day we walked on the beach and played in the sands with the Apostles in the background, the skies so brilliant blue – we’ll never forget it. That and our day up the mountain, Hout Bay, and on and on. We want to go back to do the Chapman’s Peak drive, which was closed when we were there in 2003.

  8. February 12, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Great video!

    I’ve been to Vancouver. I’d say it’s probably the most beautiful city in Canada (though parts of Montreal still win my heart).

    But of course the most beautiful city in the world is SEVILLA!

  9. February 17, 2010 at 4:01 am

    You are both wrong. Vancouver is the most beautiful big city in Canada and Victoria is the most beautiful small city. And of course the Gulf Islands are beautiful beyond comparison.

  10. February 17, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Good grief! I meant to type “city” above. I’m so embarrassed I may never comment again.😉

    Fixed it for you, TT.
    No need for a red face.🙂

  11. 17 Ava
    February 24, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Thank you for posting this Vancouver clip. I left Vancouver several years ago and ran across your website when searching for information about living in Hamburg, Germany. I currently live in Hong Kong and have also spent time living in Quebec prior to my sojourn here in HK. You can imagine my delight when I read about your journey from Vancouver to Quebec to Hong Kong to Hamburg.

    This video-clip helped me romanticise some of my memories of being raised in Vancouver….it IS the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. When it is not raining – it is perfection. At times, I do have a little affection for rainy, windy, cool, cloudy days. This is probably due to being raised in Vancouver’s grim and long “grey season” which, at times, seems to last forever.

    Despite my love of Vancouver, I am not so sure I want to move back there to live. Although it is a stellar city in terms of natural beauty, it lacks a certain socio-cultural elements that I need to make life fully enjoyable for me. Still seeking that place and am currently leaning towards Hamburg…we’ll see.

    Thank you again for posting this!

    • February 24, 2010 at 6:56 am

      Hello Ava – it’s always a pleasure to hear from new readers like you, people who go looking for something and actually find at least some of it on this humble blog. What are you doing in Hong Kong? Have you been there long? Do you like it? I missed it for quite a while after we left. If you decide to move to Hamburg and you’re looking for any more information, feel free to ask anytime.

  12. 19 Ava
    March 8, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Hello again, Ian.

    What have I been doing for the past half of a decade in Hong Kong? Good question. Getting a handle on having a child and working at the same time. I teach in an international school.

    This is not my first time living in HK – I lived here briefly when I was single and exploring the world. It was fun as a single but not really my cup of tea for raising our child.

    Our one child does not remember Canada (was born there) and thinks HK is “home”. This is a major part of why we want to move…it was not until we had a child that we reflected upon our own childhoods and the idea of space, trees and cool fresh air came to mind. At the same time, we are well aware of the idea that expats are all “running away from something or running to something”. Indeed we left for a reason with a particular vision in mind but we have not found what we wanted in HK. A great city on many levels. But not for the current chapter of our lives. Besides, we don’t want to be “expats” any longer. I quite dislike many of the associations that go along with the concept of “expat”. It’s not me. It’s not us.

    We recently decided that we want certain social and cultural elements for both our young child and ourselves. Mostly, we want to choose the right place for our child to “grow up” in with a sense of belonging to the place. I am not interested in raising an expat child or a “third culture” kid. We want our son to feel like they have “roots” so that led us to one of two options for “planting our roots” – Germany or Canada. My husband is a dual citizen (Germany/Canada) and so is our child. So that narrows it down, doesn’t it?

    We think that we should at least try living in Germany for a year or two and then if we do not like it, we both agreed that moving back to Canada would be our final move. The expat lifestyle is not for us. So, that said, we are in the early stages of leaving HK and planning a move to Germany. Hamburg came to mind first because my husband’s father is from a small city not far from Hamburg. We need to do more investigating obviously. If we do find employment in Hamburg and decide to move there, I will probably have a few more questions for you…thank you for offering to answer them if the arise.

    Maybe one day, like you, I will be writing “letters home” from Hamburg.

  13. 20 Paul
    November 27, 2010 at 6:26 am

    I’ll make this short and simple. People told me over and over that Cape Town was the most beautiful city in the world. I didn’t think it held a candle to Vancouver. Whatever its faults, anyone living in or near there is incredibly fortunate.

    • November 27, 2010 at 8:14 am

      Hi Paul,
      They’re both very beautiful, but in a different way. I find Vancouver has grown too much, but that’s just my comparison with the way I remember it 20 years ago. Traffic is horrendous. Cape Town is culturally much more interesting, imho.

  14. 22 Toby
    May 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I live in Hamburg and only visited Vancouver once. I was not that impressed to be honest. Unless you have a house right by the water I don’t see what the big deal is.

    • May 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      Hello Toby,
      Maybe you should go back for another look and stay awhile, because at its best, it’s unbeatable. Sure you’ve got urban sprawl and traffic problems and crappy run-down parts of town and you’re bound to run into people you’d rather not, but you get that anywhere. It’s Vancouver’s setting that makes it.

  15. 24 Anonymous
    May 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I just got a message in my email that this Vancouver discussion thread got two more responses…well…my husband’s family has a home in Hamburg and in Vancouver and to be honest, the home in Vancouver is in a much more spectacular, natural setting. The home in Hamburg is lovely, but Hamburg is quite flat. I suppose this shows how much I appreciate mountains! Not too many years ago I posted here asking Ian about Hamburg as we were considering moving there or back “home” to Vancouver. Well, neither of us secured employment in Hamburg but, as fate would have it, a surprising opportunity came up and we took it. We now live in Zurich, Switzerland and I can not tell you how beautiful it is! It reminds me of living in Vancouver in the 80’s and 90’s…not too crowded, very clean and simply stunning natural beauty. I had no idea that Zurich would offer so many nature settings and lifestyle similarities to Vancouver, Canada. I’ve only been here 10 months since we left Hong Kong but my, my…we love it here!

    • May 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm

      Hey, I remember you!🙂
      Funny how people pop up on this dusty ol’ blog years later. I’m glad to hear you’ve found Zurich. I agree with what you say about it being like Vancouver 25 years ago – especially summer with the life around the lake, and the mountains so close by. I’ve only visited for maybe a week at a time, but it was so memorable. I could live in Zurich.
      One problem with Vancouver right now is housing. The smallest, crappiest-looking shacks are trading for more than a million bucks, but a price crash is starting, so maybe things will go back to sanity, but in the meantime it’s going to look like 2008 in the States for a while there.

  16. 26 Anonymous
    June 25, 2012 at 4:58 am

    I live in Kitsilano, the Southside of English Bay. The video is very nice but as one who sees the beautiful north shore mountains every day….well, the best angle for a shot was not in this presentation. Shoot from Kits Beach, Jericho Beach, Lorcano Beach or Spanish Banks Beach…that angle gives you the downtown and Stanley Park combined with Grouse and Cypress Mountains in the background. That view is the one that changes people’s lives forever! I’ve been around the world and Vancouver’s natural scenic beauty wins out. Breathtaking! And thankfully, my home!

    • June 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      Is it the view that makes Vancouver different when it comes to housing? When I was there just a couple of weeks ago, that’s all you read about – how expensive it is to live there. Is the crash everyone predicts going to arrive anytime soon?

  17. 28 mehdi
    July 18, 2012 at 8:51 am

    hi ian
    how can i download this video ?

    • July 18, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Hi Mehdi,
      The video is hosted on YouTube, so a good start would be to click on the video and go to the site. I’ve never bothered to even try to download videos from there, but I’m sure there’s a way.

  18. 30 Anonymous
    July 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    I disagree with one of the comments above, the in the city “there is not a lot of beauty to be had”. I live right on Robson street near Stanley Park, and the beauty is breathtaking. Of course, any city has “seedy” areas – and they are easily avoided.

    • July 28, 2012 at 6:10 am

      For sure. I used to live at 1915 Haro, so just a block or two away from Stanley Park. It was perfect. Anyone who says there is not a lot of beauty to be had in Vancouver is either blind to what beauty is, or has such high standards they’d be miserable anywhere.

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