“Gassy Jack” Deighton, an English boat pilot, offered locals all the whiskey they could drink in return for helping him build a saloon beside Burrard Inlet in 1867. The town that grew around the saloon was officially named Granville in 1869, but it has always been known as Gastown. The district’s tree-lined cobblestone streets and old gas lamps front brightly-painted, restored buildings housing galleries, restaurants, and an abundance of gift and souvenir shops.
Most of the action centers along Water Street, which branches east off Cordova Street, an easy five-minute walk from Canada Place . As you first enter Water Street, you’re greeted by The Landing, a heritage building that has had its exterior restored to its former glory and its interior transformed into an upmarket shopping arcade.
Down the hill, at Cambie Street, is a steam clock—one of only two in the world. Built by a local clockmaker, it’s powered by a steam system originally put in place to heat buildings through an underground pipeline that snakes through downtown. Watch for the burst of steam every 15 minutes, which sets off steam whistles to the tune of Westminster chimes.
Continue east along Water Street to the 1899 Dominion Hotel and a string of other buildings built after the Great Fire of 1886. The Byrnes Block (2 Water St.) stands on the site of Deighton House, Gassy Jack’s second and more permanent saloon.