Vancouver  has shopping centers, malls, and specialty stores everywhere. Head to Gastown  for native arts and crafts, Robson Street  for boutique clothing, Granville Street Mall for department stores, Granville Island  for everything from ships’ chandlery to kids’ clothing, Yaletown for the trendy clothes of local designers, the Eastside for army-surplus stores and pawnbrokers, Chinatown for Eastern foods, and the junction of Main Street and E. 49th Avenue for Indian foods.
Sandwiched between the many cafés, restaurants, and tacky souvenir stores along Water Street are other stores selling Vancouver’s best selection of native arts and crafts. One of the largest outlets, Hill’s Native Art (165 Water St., 604/685-4249) sells $10 T-shirts, towering $12,000 totem poles, and everything in between, including genuine Cowichan sweaters and carved ceremonial masks. Also featuring traditional native art is Images for a Canadian Heritage (164 Water St., 604/685-7046). The Inuit Gallery of Vancouver (206 Cambie St., 604/688-7323) exhibits the work of Inuit and northwest coast native artists and sculptors. Among the highlights are many soapstone pieces by carvers from Cape Dorset, a remote Inuit village in Arctic Canada.
Chinatown  evolved more than 100 years ago as a place where Chinese settlers, who mostly lived around the back of False Creek , could shop and eat in an environment they were familiar with. Today, the streets bustle with locals and tourists alike, browsing the many intriguing shops and dining on authentic Chinese cuisine.
The shops sell a mind-boggling array of Chinese goods: wind chimes, soy sauce, teapots, dried mushrooms, delicate paper fans, and much, much more. Along Main Street a number of shops sell ginseng, sold by the Chinese ounce (38 grams or 1.3 U.S. ounces). Cultivated ginseng costs from $12 an ounce, while wild ginseng goes for up to $500 an ounce.
In addition to selling the herb, the staff at Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Co. (550 Main St., 604/684-1566) explains ginseng preparation methods to buyers and offers tea tastings, as well. Looking for something to eat? You’ll find genuine Cantonese-style cuisine at the east end and tamer Chinese-Canadian dishes at the west end.
Arts and crafts galleries on Granville Island include Wickaninnish Gallery (1666 Johnston St., 604/681-1057), which sells stunning native art, jewelry, carvings, weavings, and original paintings; Gallery of BC Ceramics (1359 Cartwright St., 604/669-3606), showcasing the work of the province’s leading potters and sculptors; and Forge & Form (1334 Cartwright St., 604/684-6298), which creates and sells a variety of gold and silver jewelry.
Duranleau Street is home to many maritime-based businesses, adventure-tour operators, and charter operators. The Quarterdeck (1660 Duranleau St., 604/683-8232) stocks everything from marine charts to brass shipping bells.
Despite looking pretty dowdy these days, Granville Street Mall nevertheless forms the heart of the downtown shopping precinct; the two-block stretch of Granville Street is closed to private vehicles, though buses and taxis still pass through. Here you’ll find the city’s largest department store, The Bay (674 Granville St., 604/681-6211), a Canadian chain that evolved from the historic Hudson’s Bay Company. Today the store emphasizes Canadian goods, from souvenirs to household appliances. Also on the mall, the Pacific Centre features 165 shops, a massive food court, and a three-story-high waterfall.
British Columbia’s largest shopping complex, Metrotown, houses more than 200 shops. It’s on the Kingsway in Burnaby ; get there from downtown on the SkyTrain.
A small stretch of W. Broadway, between Main and Cambie Streets, holds Vancouver ’s largest concentration of outdoor equipment stores. The largest of these is Mountain Equipment Co-op (130 W. Broadway, 604/872-7858, Mon.–Wed. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Thurs.–Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.–6 p.m.). Like the American R.E.I stores, it is a cooperative owned by its members; to make a purchase, you must be a member (a once-only charge of $5). The store holds a massive selection of clothing, climbing and mountaineering equipment, tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, books, and other accessories.
In business since the 1950s, Duthie Books (2339 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano, 604/732-5344, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.) is one of the city’s few remaining independent bookstores. On Granville Island, search out Blackberry Books (1666 Johnston St., 604/685-6188). The Canadian bookstore giant Chapters/Indigo has multiple Vancouver stores, including downtown (788 Robson St., 604/682-4066).
Vancouver has three excellent bookstores specializing in travel-related literature; all are in close proximity to each other in the area between Granville Island and Point Grey. They are: Wanderlust (west of Cypress St. at 1929 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano, 604/739-2182, Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday noon–5 p.m.), The Travel Bug (3065 W. Broadway, 604/737-1122, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sunday noon–5 p.m.), and International Travel Maps and Books (530 W. Broadway, 604/879-3621, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday noon–5 p.m.).