Once known for its residents' penchant for Birks (read: Birkenstocks) and yoga wear, Vancouver's retail makeup is redeeming itself. When you're out shopping, just remember that all the "towns"- Gastown, Yaletown, Chinatown and Crosstown - are, well, downtown. And forget trying to figure out why all the "wests" - West End, West Van and the West Side - are as far apart as they are similar-sounding. Robson and Alberni streets remain the premier source for mainstream and luxury brands, with hits of glamour thanks to Hermès, Louis Vuitton, the country's only Agent Provocateur, and a handful of hot restaurants. Kitsilano is worth a visit if only for shoe mecca Gravity Pope, but if time is running against you, head instead to Gastown, where boutiques like One of a Few and Nouvelle Nouvelle are quaint, quirky and very manageable, especially if you refuel at one of the many watering holes in the area.
Koko moccasin, $425
Like so many Vancouverites, designer Ken Diamond moonlights for the film industry. But then he spends his free days hand-making moccasins, bags and other leather goods in his East End studio. Each pair of Kokos takes an entire day to construct; it's no wonder everyone from Brooklyn hipsters to design aficionados love the comfortable slippers. ( By appointment) 756 Powell St.; 604-669-4179; kendiamond.com.
Toggle sweater, $387
Made in Vancouver by a team of more than 30 knitters, Granted's intarsia sweaters impart a West Coast vibe on any wearer. The company also offers youthful takes on the traditional shape with knit patterns such as a spouting whale or an owl - and all are super-warm. LynnSteven Boutique; 225 Carrall St.; 604-899-0808; lynnsteven.com; grantedclothing.com
Align Ultra mat, $28
It may seem strange to buy a yoga mat on a holiday shopping adventure, but given that there's no shortage of yoga studios and organic-food stores in this city, you'll want a relic of this supreme health consciousness to take home. Lululemon's Align yoga mat, a mainstay on many a Vancouverite's back, is grippy, perfectly padded and affordable. 2113 W. Fourth Ave.; 604-732-6111; lululemon.com.
Forget that this restaurant's name means slaughterhouse in French - or don't: L'Abattoir is, after all, a meat-lover's heaven. Named for the area's colourful history as a butchery district (turns out "Blood Alley" was actually a tourism-fuelled designation), you haven't lived until you've tried Chef Lee Cooper's chicken and pickled cauliflower salad. 217 Carrall St.; 604-568-1701; labattoir.ca
Trendy folk flock to the newly renovated Waldorf Hotel and the well-heeled opt for the Shangri-La, but for those who want to actually sleep (and prefer to do so downtown), the Loden Hotel in Coal Harbour is cozy, quiet and luxurious, without the requisite price tag. Bonus points for its restaurant, Voya, being tasty enough to be a popular destination for locals. 1177 Melville St.; 604-669-5060; rooms from $169, theloden.com
Special to The Globe and Mail
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