The fabric of British Columbia's culture is a unique combination of ancient and modern, rustic and progressive -- a fact most obviously apparent in the amazing shopping the province has to offer. Whether handmade local wares, top-shelf international imports or designer duds, there's always somewhere irresistible to put a dent in your travelers cheques. Let's go shopping…
Victoria had its start as a fort and a trading post. And while a trip today to the southern tip of Vancouver Island will find you in a bustling city, the 'trading' is still a popular part of this quaint capital. Only now, there are a lot more 'goods' to choose from and money has replaced pelts as the preferred currency. Just take a stroll down Fort Street's antique row - several blocks of antique shops and curiosity shops with a peppering of cafes and restaurants. Only a short walk further into town and you'll find yourself on Government Street, the third most popular commercial real estate in Canada (behind Toronto's Yonge Street and Vancouver's Robson Street). This is the tourist stretch of the city, with shops catering to a wide assortment of Canadiana and chocolate shops, delis and pubs to keep you going as long as your credit card! For the trendier side of the city, try the designer import shops of Trounce Alley or the swanky Olde Town designer boutiques of the newly-rejuvenated Lojo section of Lower Johnson Street.
But Victoria's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Island shopping. Head north up Highway 1 and you'll find some of the most unique shopping in Canada. Browse the pseudo-western façades of Whippletree Junction. Meander through the bookstores and antiques shops of Duncan. Take a stroll through Nanaimo's famous malls. Visit the Old Country Market in the magical community of Coombs. The goats that live and graze atop the mossy roof are a not-to-be-missed photo-op. (Yes, you read that right. Goats that live and graze on the roof!)
The astonishingly beautiful metropolis of Vancouver is home to so many great shopping areas that one could spend an entire vacation doing nothing but visiting them. These are our favourites: In the city centre, the world-famous Robson Street is the epic-centre of Vancouver fashion with high-end boutiques lining its length. Just blocks away, the Pacific Centre on Dunsmuir Street is home to Holt Renfrew, the final authority on all things designer. Of course, you might not be in the market for anything red-carpet worthy… Jump on the Skytrain monorail and you'll find yourself in Metrotown in the time it takes to drink a latte. This, the commercial centre of Burnaby is most notable for its mega-complex, the Metropolis at Metrotown which is Canada's second largest mall. With over 500 shops and a food court that's the size of most mall parking lots, there's no room for disappointment.
Heading north on the Sea to Sky Highway toward Whistler, one finds an entirely different experience. Welcome to the Sunshine Coast, a group of small, semi-remote townships on the glorious Howe Sound. There's more to this idyllic corner of the province than amazing mountain vistas and beautiful ocean views. This is also home to a small but thriving community of artists and artisans. Whether hand-blown glass, hand-made pottery, indigenous art and jewelry or local paintings by local painters, you'll find it here in the rustic towns and communities of Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Davis Bay, Sechelt, Madeira Park, Egmont, Halfmoon Bay, Redrooffs, Thormanby Island, Pender Harbour, Earl's Cove, Nelson Island, Westview, Powell River, Cranberry/Wildwood, Lund and Texada and Savary Island. And the beauty of all this? It's only an hour's drive out of Vancouver!
Only 2 hours' drive from Vancouver, the internationally-acclaimed alpine resort of Whistler features much more than amazing powder and world-class facilities. Amid the European-style pedestrianized village are over 100 bars and restaurants as well as dozens of shops that cater to visitors from all over the globe. From art galleries to jewelers to outerwear outposts, this ski and snowboard mecca has everything any shopaholic could ever desire.
British Columbia's got shopping. Come browse around!