One of Vancouver’s oldest and buzziest districts, Gastown is packed with Victorian architecture and cobbled streets. Named after John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, an English mariner who opened a saloon in the area in the 19th century, the district is filled with heritage buildings now hosting boutiques, coffee shops, hip restaurants, and bars.
Because of its rich history and attractive architecture, Gastown is a big draw for visitors to Vancouver. The neighborhood is explored on many walking tours, during which guides explain its Wild West origins and point out key sights, such as the 1910-built Dominion Building, Vancouver’s first high-rise, and the Gassy Jack Statue.
The district’s historic buildings and neon signs make it a go-to on photography tours of Vancouver, while its thriving restaurant scene ensures its inclusion on many food tours. Gastown’s long and checkered history also makes it a common stomping ground for ghost tour groups and guides focusing on Vancouver’s illicit prohibition-era past. Many walking tours cover ground in both Gastown and neighboring Chinatown.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Gastown is a must-visit for history buffs, foodies, and shoppers.
- Wear comfortable shoes; Gastown rewards those who explore on foot.
- Water, Hastings, and Carrall streets are the main thoroughfares in the neighborhood, which is best explored on foot.
- Though there are some mild inclines and uneven surfaces, Gastown is mostly wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Gastown is located on the northeast edge of Downtown Vancouver, just southeast of Canada Place. The nearest transit station is Waterfront, which is served by the SkyTrain (Expo and Canada lines), the SeaBus passenger ferry, and the West Coast Express commuter rail service. Or, arrive as part of a tour that includes transportation.
When to Get There
Gastown is a busy downtown district and is most crowded in the evenings and on weekends. If you want to experience Gastown at its calmest, try coming midmorning midweek or in early morning on the weekend. One of the best times to visit is at night, when the district’s many craft beer bars and cocktail dens come alive.
What to See in Gastown
Gastown’s must-see sights are historic in nature. At Water Street, see Byrnes Block, a former luxury hotel. One of Vancouver’s oldest brick building, it was constructed in the late 19th century shortly after the 1886 Great Fire destroyed much of the city. At the corner of Water and Powell streets is another former hotel, the 6-story flatiron-style Hotel Europe. Also on Water Street is Gastown’s frequently photographed steam clock, which chimes every 15 minutes.