Almost as much as British Columbians love the outdoors, they love shopping. With many unique shopping venues and specialized goods scattered throughout the province, you’re sure to stumble upon some locally designed and manufactured garments, hand-crafted artwork, specialty items renowned our beautiful province. Whatever your BC adventure might entail, make some time to peruse the shops for a special souvenir or item to remind you of your stay in British Columbia.
Read more about particular stores and shops, their opening hours, view photos and the latest item for the season.
Vancouver, Lower Mainland & Whistler
Shopping in Vancouver is made easy because shopping districts tend to be concentrated in a few city blocks. Certain areas of the city have been become known for particular types of merchandise: high-end retailers on Robson street, outdoor gear on West Broadway, antique shops on South Granville, and boutiques in Gastown and Yaletown.
Robson Street is one of the more popular shopping districts in Vancouver, with over 80,000 people flocking to the store, café, and restaurant lined streets on weekends. Spend the day browsing top-designer racks, stop for a shot of espresso in the afternoon, and end your shopping adventure with a delicious meal at one of Robson’s trendy restaurants. Street parking can often be an issue in this busy part of Vancouver so consider parking a few blocks away or find an underground parkade.
South Granville is known for as being a top attraction for art lovers. Whether you are simply an admirer or looking to buy, Gallery Row, comprised of many small galleries and art shops, is the place to go. The area runs from south of the Granville Street Bridge to 16th avenue. Nearby Granville Island is also another great area for shopping. Although not as well known, you’ll find artist studios and several crafty stores selling hand-made items here.
If you’d like some outdoor gear to help you prepare for all your BC adventuring, head over to West Broadway where you’ll find infinite options for finding the latest in high-tech gadgets and equipment. The large Mountain Equipment Co. store takes up more than half a block of this shopping region, while other smaller retailers provide shoppers with a great opportunity to shop and compare prices and styles.
For unique boutiques and specialty items, your best bet is to head over to historic Gastown or upscale Yaletown, where many stores proudly sell locally made and designed merchandise—a perfect souvenir of your BC getaway. You’ll often see urban-trendsetting celebrities sneaking in and out of stores looking for the next big thing. After a long day of shopping, these areas are also great for dinner and drinks, with many high-concept restaurants, brew pubs, and lounges available.
Lastly, if Mother Nature decides to hand you some wet weather, seek shelter at Metropolis at Metrotown, where 470 stores will keep you occupied for hours. The mall itself is a well-known attraction and offers numerous options for shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Open seven days a week, till 9 p.m., it is a popular shopping destination for locals and visitors.
Whistler’s charming village is ideal for shoppers and a wonderful place to stroll with host of stores from high-end boutiques to souvenirs and gift shops, and of course lots of outdoor and sports stores. The Village’s European-style, pedestrian only shopping area is a favourite to pass the day when not out enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings. Here is will find restaurants and cafes dotted about the shops catering to every need.
Victoria & Vancouver Island
Victoria is Vancouver Island’s most prominent city for shopping. Here you’ll find everything from one-of-a-kind items to trendy clothing, aboriginal art to all things British. Walk down Government Street and you’ll find an interesting mix of items featuring Victoria’s British heritage: wool sweaters, Scottish tartans, Irish lace, and of course, great spots for an afternoon tea. Contrary to the city’s European roots, you’ll find much evidence of Victoria’s aboriginal links here as well, with many First Nations art, gift, and fashion shops lining the streets.
Bastion Square and Trounce Alley are popular shopping areas off the main street, where a walk down the alley will bring you into a world of designs fresh from Europe or a shortcut to a stunning view of the inner Harbour. Fort Street is known as Victoria’s Antique Row, where you’ll find a collection of silver, military memorabilia, and antique furniture. About a 20-minute drive from Victoria’s city centre is Mattick’s Farm, a small and charming shopping area surrounded by flowers and tall Douglas-firs that create quite the relaxing atmosphere. Here, you’ll find specialty shops that cater to the gardeners, food, and wine lovers, as well as stores that showcase glasswork, ceramics, and jewelry made by fellow Canadians.
If you’re in need of a new book to read while you make your way throughout the province, make sure to stop by Sidney, also known as Book Town. About a 30-minute drive from downtown Victoria and only minutes away from the ferry terminal, this seaside community caters to wide the tastes and budgets of every book lover.
Kelowna, Kamloops & Thompson Okanagan
In the Thompson Okanagan, most shopping done by visitors tends to reflect the three things found in abundance in this region: wine, fruit, and fruit products. However, growing populations in cities such as Kelowna, Kamloops, and Penticton have created new shopping districts for the region, offering a great selection of items.
If wine and fruit is what you’re looking for, farmers markets and small specialty shops are located around the region with the ripest fruit, delicious Okanagan wines, and much more. Most wineries and orchards have their own stores where you can buy products directly—these are often a great place to make these purchases for the most selection.
For retail stores and boutiques, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in any one of the region’s city centres. Kelowna has a number of popular chain stores as well as a good mix of unique and eclectic shops along Spall Road, Pandosy Street, and in Tutt Street Square. In Kamloops you’ll find a good variety of shops including antique and second-hand shops selling a number of items that have been refurbished or ready to take on another life. Fort Street in Penticton is a go-to place for many looking for art and hand-made items such as pottery, brass, and the best of Okanagan gourmet gifts and aboriginal crafts.
For a smaller-town shopping feel, the Kootenay Rockies provide visitors with a variety of shops to find the perfect little souvenir to commemorate their trip. The communities of Cranbrook and Nelson are excellent places if you’re looking for jewelry, home-furnishings, and clothing, frequently selling items made in British Columbia. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate will appreciate the amount of gear, gadgets, and tools available in Invermere, located near the Kootenay National Park, where you can go from the store to adventure in a matter of minutes.
British Columbia’s largest landmass, located in the northern part of the province, has a surprisingly large shopping industry featuring items from books to clothing, jewelry to aboriginal art. The Haida Gwaii is a great place to find traditional British Columbian aboriginal sculpture or jewelry—beautiful reminders of the province’s original people. Prince Rupert’s main shopping district, Cow Bay Shopping, is located along the waterfront along the historical downtown part of the city, where boutiques and high-end fashions can be found. If you’re on the hunt for some big name stores, Fort St. John and Prince George is where they can be found. Lastly, a must-see jewelry centre is the small settlement of Jade City—a small community nestled in the north of Prince Rupert, renowned for its deposits of jade and small jewelry stores with bracelets, rings, and necklaces.
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
In the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, visitors can be transported back to shopping the Old West in Barkerville. Here you’ll find unique shops offering a selection of candy, watches, and many historic items from the town’s Gold Rush days. The communities of Williams Lake and Quesnel on the other hand, provide a more modern shopping experience, featuring stores that offer original jewelry and Western wear. Naturally, this region of the province known for its wide range of outdoor activities is also a great place to pick up the newest and latest gear for your upcoming fishing adventure or bird watching expedition.
Shopping gives visitors of any city an opportunity to experience life as a local. Browsing through the clothing racks of local designers, admiring hand-crafted jewelry, and selecting the perfect bottle of BC wine from a specialty shop are not only ways to keep the memory of your trip alive when you return home, but a way to see how British Columbians eat, shop, and live.
By: Tanya Colledge
Photo credits: Women with shopping bags on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver courtesy Tourism BC/Kevin Arnold; Summer shopping at a Farmers Market in Yaletown, Vancouver courtesy Tourism BC/Dannielle Hayes
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