Vancouver's compact downtown juxtaposes historic architecture with gleaming brand-new buildings. Sightseeing venues include museums, galleries, and top-notch shopping, most notably along Robson Street. The harbor front, with the gleaming convention center, has a fabulous water's edge path all the way to Stanley Park, epitomizing what Vancouver is all about.

At the top of a gentle rise up from the water, the intersection of Georgia and Granville streets is considered the city's epicenter and it's always bustling with activity. Georgia Street runs east–west, past Library Square and Rogers Arena (home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks), straight through to Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge (which leads to the North Shore and on to Whistler, a two-hour drive away). North–south Granville Street is shedding its previous shabbiness and evolving into a pedestrian-friendly area of neon-lighted sidewalks, funky shops, nightclubs, and street-side cafés. There may be pockets of grunge, but the 2010 Winter Olympics spurred a renaissance that has given the street a new vitality. So, from the corner of Georgia and Granville, you'll find many key attractions within a five-minute walk, including the Vancouver Art Gallery, Robson Square, and Pacific Centre Mall.

Vancouver's landscaping adds to the city's walking appeal. In spring, flowerbeds spill over with tulips and daffodils while sea breezes scatter scented cherry blossoms throughout downtown; in summer office workers take to the beaches, parks, and urban courtyards for picnic lunches and laptop meetings. The West End has the prettiest streetscapes and harks back to the early 1930s when it housed the affluent middle class: trees are plentiful, gardens are lushly planted, and homes and apartment buildings exude the character of that era. Even in winter the West End makes for an idyllic walk. On rainy days, many downtown buildings have overhangs, so that you don't have to get as wet as the weather.