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Vancouver History

British Royal Navy captain George Vancouver may be credited with ‘discovering’ the city, but it was the Coast Salish people who first set up residence here around 8,000 to 10,000BC.

It was only in the 1770s that Europeans arrived in the form of Spanish naval explorers, hoping to claim North America’s west coast for Spain.

Captain James Cook briefly visited the region on his quest for the Northwest Passage in 1779 along with his navigator, George Vancouver. When Vancouver returned as captain of his own ship in 1792, Spanish captains reiterated their claim to the land.

Gold rushes in 1858 bolstered the local population. John ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton opened a saloon for forestry workers, which became so popular the area was named Gastown.

The city was then known as Granville but, in 1886, when the population hit around 1,000, it was renamed Vancouver. In the same year, a brush fire spread rapidly throughout the city and all but destroyed it, yet rebuilding began within days. The first Canadian Pacific Railway transcontinental passenger train pulled into town the following year in 1888, Stanley Park opened.

By 1900, Vancouver’s population overtook that of the provincial capital Victoria, and had reached 50,000 by 1906.

The iconic Lions Gate Bridge opened in 1938 and the development of West Vancouver began in earnest. Another commuter crossing, the SeaBus, opened in 1977 between Downtown and the North Shore. The first SkyTrain headed out to the suburbs in 1985 and has slowly expanded since.

Vancouver’s massively successful Expo 86 put the city firmly on the world stage and its legacy remains today – you can’t miss the dazzling geodesic dome of Science World, the former Expo Centre, at the end of False Creek.

This success was repeated when the city hosted the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, in which Canadians delighted in beating arch rivals the USA to win both the men’s and women’s hockey gold medals.

In 2011, Vancouver marked its 125th birthday with a packed programme of celebrations throughout the year.

Did you know?
• The bells of the Holy Rosary Cathedral were originally sent over from France in 1900, but were returned and recast after they were found to be out of tune.
• In 1969, the 9 O'Clock Gun was stolen by University of British Columbia students who wanted a "ransom" to be donated to BC Children's Hospital.
• When the Marine Building opened in 1930, it was the tallest building in the British Empire.

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Rosewood Hotel Georgia

Meticulously restored Rosewood Hotel Georgia once hosted Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Today's guests are treated to elegant rooms and suites, with delicious nods to the 1920s and 1930s and vast, decadently luxurious bathrooms. You can nip down to dinner at upscale Hawksworth Restaurant, plunge into the saltwater pool, or sip cocktails on the laid-back garden terrace.

Fairmont Pacific Rim

Lavish rooms in this Coal Harbour hotel feature luxurious Stearns & Foster beds, plush linens and roomy marble bathrooms with TV mirrors. The Willow Stream Spa offers nine treatment rooms, a massive fitness centre and an outside deck with meditation pods and private hot tubs. Or you can lounge by outdoor firepits next to the open-air rooftop pool.

Sandman Suites Vancouver - Davie Street

Sitting on vibrant Davie Street in the West End, the Sandman Suites are just a few minutes' walk from the beach and within strolling distance of trendy Yaletown. One-bedroom and studio suites come with fully equipped kitchens and private balconies. Many higher rooms have city or ocean views. In summer, take a dip in the heated outdoor pool.

The Sylvia Hotel

Overlooking English Bay and Stanley Park, this ivy-clad 1912 hotel offers good value for budget-minded travellers. The designated heritage building has been a hotel since 1936 and can lay claim to Vancouver's first cocktail bar, which opened here in 1954. Perfectly situated for exploring the West End, Granville Island and Stanley Park or hanging out on the beach.

The Burrard

This coolly renovated 1950s motor inn offers affordable retro chic with free Wi-Fi bang in the centre of Downtown. There's a lovely courtyard garden with a ping-pong table and free Brodie cruiser bike rentals if you fancy a spin around town. Grab breakie and an espresso in Elysian Coffee, the stylish café.

The Listel Hotel

Priding itself on its commitment to art, this hotel is handy for exploring Robson Street's shops. The rooms on the Museum Floor are fitted out with hemlock and cedar furnishings plus First Nations art. The Gallery Floor suites are more traditional in style, with cherry wood furnishings, chaises longues tucked in bay windows and original Canadian and international artwork.