Vancouver, BC, Canada

Kayakers bobble past, waving at friends on the beach. A floatplane shimmies over the park, diving to its watery landing strip. A chattery hubbub bounces off the gleaming glass towers that forest the city like latter-day totems.

When the Olympic Winter Games rolled into town in 2010, there was no shortage of jaw-dropping visuals, instantly inspiring people around the world to check out Canada’s immigration procedures. Vancouver is, after all, one of the cities that routinely tops those lists of the world’s greatest places to live. But beyond the breathtaking snowcapped crags, city-hugging beaches and dense waterfront forests lies a comparatively young metropolis that’s still trying to discover its true identity – less than 150 years after a ‘gassy’ Englishman rowed in and kicked it all off with a makeshift pub.

Covering the city’s main outdoor, museum and gallery attractions will certainly keep you busy for a few days. After that it’s highly advisable to start digging beneath the surface to find out what really makes this laid-back lotusland tick. You’ll discover that the ‘real Vancouver’ is in the clamorous Commercial Dr coffee shops, the hipster hangouts of SoMa, the gay-friendly streets of the West End, the kaleidoscopic thoroughfares of Chinatown and the historic, re-invigorated old streets of Gastown, where that original pub once stood.

Of course, the rest of the world will know all about this in 2010. Why not beat them to it by dropping by for your own urban adventure – coupled with a giant doorstep of outdoor attractions

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