Kitsilano – or Kits to locals – spans the southern shores of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, looking north toward snowcapped mountains and west to the Pacific horizon. Kits is also home to an established food and culture scene. And in the last few years, it’s taken on exciting momentum with internationally-recognized restaurants, as well as an emerging high street on West 4th Avenue for brands revolutionizing the traditional retail experience like Aesop, Arc’teryx, Mejuri, and now Monos.
As an undergrad at the nearby University of British Columbia, I lived in Kits through my early twenties and fell in love with its hundred-year old heritage houses, tree-lined streets, and long stretches of sandy beaches. Below, I share a few of my most-loved spots (old and new) in and around the neighbourhood that I hope inspire your next visit.
Sky-high Douglas fir trees at the University of British Columbia conceal one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. The inimitable Nitobe Memorial Garden was designed to create harmony with nature and to celebrate intercultural connection – renowned landscape architect Kannosuke Mori planted the garden alongside a team of Japanese-Canadian gardeners in 1960. With its springtime cherry blossoms to winter-pruned trees, shrubs, and mosses, you’ll find the garden is a wonderful sanctuary year-round.
1895 Lower Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
A new addition to the handful of delightful cafés that populate Kits’ coffee scene, Lumine has already established itself as a frontrunner for its rotating roasts from around the globe and in-house baked goods (including a divine double-baked almond croissant). And its quiet courtyard is my go-to spot to escape the rain and steal a few moments with a good book and a flat white.
103-1965 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Visit Formula Fig for a little self-care that feels oh-so-luxurious. The facial spa is known for its 30-minute high-tech, clean-beauty treatments. Stepping into the space is a transportive experience – luscious shades of green make you feel as though you’ve entered a secret garden-like paradise (and you have). The sole exception to the monochromatic colour scheme is the spa’s powder room, a pop of pink that mirrors the interior of the company’s namesake fruit.
2050 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
This charming, casual French café serves European favourites from morning until night. Comfort-food croque monsieurs and espressos round out the breakfasting hours, while the lunch and dinner menus boast foie gras and caviar, plus west-coast classics done in the style of the old world – moules et frites, anyone?
2278 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Graphic design brand Studio Faculty operates Sort, a storefront and community hub that hosts café pop-ups, gallery exhibits, and book launches. Sort carries a wide selection of curios subtly connected by intelligent design principles and everyday applications. You can find hard-to-come-by stationary goods from Germany and Japan, including my favourite buttery-soft writing paper from Kokuyo, twee home goods like bubble glassware, and beautifully-crafted outdoor gear from Portland-based brand Snowpeak. Before you check out, spend a few moments browsing through their carefully curated collection of design books for a dose of inspiration.
2550 Stephens Street, Vancouver
Vancouver’s famous seawall begins at Kits Beach and meanders for 28 kilometres along the waterfront from Stanley Park through the downtown core and False Creek. From here, you can set off to explore much of the city’s popular attractions. Or, settle in on the shore – lay a blanket on the sand and watch the sun set over English Bay. While the beach gets busy in warm weather, it never feels overwhelming – conversations from other beachgoers merge with the sound of waves lapping the shoreline, for a lively yet gentle atmosphere. Even on blustery days, being near the water and breathing in the ocean air is revitalizing.
Vancouverites love the outdoors, and cycling is a popular pastime that offers residents year-round enjoyment. Bike shops are a city staple, but Enroute presents a refreshingly different concept on West 1st Avenue. Set up as a communal space for cyclists, Enroute conducts triple duty as a shop, service station, and café, welcoming seasoned riders and casual enthusiasts alike. Bikes can be rented by the hour or by the day, so consider a leisurely ride along the seawall.
2205 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver
One of Vancouver’s most recognizable landmarks, this new formalist structure features a local twist: the triangular roof pays homage to traditional Coast Salish First Nations basket hats. Inside, the permanent collection tells the stories of the city and the people who’ve called it home, from pre-history to the present. And temporary exhibitions (often focused on cultural identity and environmental landscapes) bring global and archival experiences to the west coast. Don’t forget to complete your visit with a walk around the museum’s lush gardens and serene reflecting pools.
1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver
This not-to-be-missed cocktail bar is credited with bringing the natural wine trend to Vancouver. Since its arrival on scene in 2015, Grapes & Soda has consistently championed new mixology trends from around the world, including Japanese spirits to Oaxacan mezcal – many of which are now standard ingredients at bars around town. Off the beaten track, a few blocks east of bustling Burrard Street, with just a handful of tables, this intimate and inviting bar is the perfect place to enjoy an aperitif.
1541 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver
Unassuming atmosphere meets impeccable west coast cuisine. An expertly-crafted welcome cocktail awaits your arrival, and a seasonally-inspired tasting menu highlights local ingredients and cultural fusions found only in Vancouver (picture fresh-caught Pacific salmon braised with pickled daikon and an umami dashi glaze). It’s no surprise that AnnaLena holds one of the city’s inaugural Michelin stars.
1809 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver
A neighbourhood shaped by a rich multicultural history, turn-of-the-century architectural charm, and new trends in the design and dining worlds, Kitsilano showcases in a few square blocks why Vancouver regularly ranks as one of the world’s top cities – and one of my favourite places. ■
Photos by Pat Menard.