Disclaimer: This is all personal opinion and it may differ from yours and yes, it’s a post full of negativity.
Before coming to Vancouver, we spent a lot of times scouring through YouTube videos and travel guides to learn about all the great things the city has to offer. Of course, reality is always different but some things ended up being a total shock as to how bad the difference actually was.
So here are a few things that we found to be totally overrated and we recommend you’d be better off keeping your expectations low.
1- The Gastown steam clock
This is probably the attraction that annoys us the most so bear with us.
There is no chance you watched a video or read an article about Vancouver that doesn’t show or talk about this clock. For some reason, they all seem to avoid bringing up two very important details: it doesn’t run on steam and it was made in 1977.
Now when we went to “visit”, the only way we noticed it was due to the amount of tourists around it, patiently waiting for the clock for the great melodious steam to release, as it is quite small. Since we’re the type of people who actually read plaques, it was then and there that we noticed the date being mentioned. As we looked around, we wondered if we were the only ones who felt a bit cheated? What was it that we were missing? Why is everyone looking at it with such fascination? When we first got there, we noticed a young woman waiting with her phone in hand, only to find her there 45 minutes later patiently waiting for the longer melody of the new hour compared to the shorter one that runs every 15 minutes.
After going back home, filled with disappointment, it turned out the clock does split Vancouverites between those who think it’s a great attraction and those who think it’s an outright deception.
2- Capilano Suspension Bridge
Also in every Vancouver promotional video, access to the bridge is paid and gives you some adrenaline jolt as you feel as if you’re walking in midair! Fortunately, we never spent the money to go there and instead, simply went to the nearby Lynn Canyon suspension bridge, which offers the same thing, except that it’s free. Even more so, there were suspension bridges across many other parks that we went to, some smaller than others but lets you the same great picture.
3- Stanley Park
This may come off as blasphemous to youtubers as what they promoted ended up being the largest disappointment. What is interesting about Stanley Park is the fact that it’s a large park in the middle of the city. Otherwise, it’s one of the more underwhelming parks of British Columbia as you discover more of the beauty that is in the province. The seawall itself is 10 kilometers of the same view. There are also a few attractions on the view, but nothing that will really blow your mind. The more interesting part of Stanley park are the inside trails that aren’t always talked about, where there is some elevation as well as remnants of the old polar bear enclosure, the rose garden and such.
4- The food scene
I’m still not sure where the praise for Vancouver’s food scene has come from. Granted, there are a lot of restaurants, but they all give the impression of being snack houses and dives. There are a few high end restaurants that are mainly part of a chain and the diversity of it is not as apparent as it is. There are very few restaurants that stick in mind as ones that we would want to try more than once. Also menus are the same over and over with curries, ahi tuna and fried chicken being in all kinds of restaurants. How many times can you eat the same thing?
5- The public art
Have you heard of the 4.8 million dollar spinning chandelier under the bridge? Or the red gollum inspired looking creature that popped up out of nowhere? This is not a discussion about art in general as taste is subjective and no one is asking that Vancouver become an art capital and compete with Europe. However, it is very difficult to find an art display that is appealing, at least none that we’ve run into so far. While one of the reason may be artists being driven out of the city, another one seems to be who the people choosing the art displays are.
6- The Granville island market
Another over talked about tourist attraction in travel guides, the Granville island market is exactly what it appears to be, a public market. Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve been there more than once but there is nothing truly iconic or special about it. It is what it is, a market where people can do their shopping, a series of stores and small restaurants. While we haven’t really bought anything from there except meat and fruits, people have described the market and stores as cash grabs and tourist traps but we’ll let you be the judge!
7- Robson Street
Another “blogger recommendation”, Robson street is basically a street, with stores, that you can find anywhere. There is nothing particularly special about Robson street if you’ve been really to any large city. The stores are on the higher end but you can find your typical brands interspersed with a few small restaurants. Not necessarily a destination to target on a visit.
8- The made-to-look-historic buildings
Vancouver is not an old city and unlike Victoria, hasn’t done much of an effort at having a unique vibe. There are very some maintained buildings and houses but there isn’t a preserved historical city centre. But for some reason, there is a tendency to create buildings and make them look old then promote them as must sees, such as the Vancouver public library. The VPL’s central branch is a grandiose and a show stopper building inspired by the coliseum. However, it was only built in 1995. The Gastown neighborhood is another example of entire buildings erected in the 1970s that were made to look as if they were a century old. The neighborhood itself is actually quite old but its buildings and cobblestone streets are not.
If you really would like to explore heritage buildings in Vancouver, visit the Vancouver Heritage Foundation which hosts a map of buildings and landmarks.
9- Tim Hortons
This one may be on me for expecting so much from a chain. Hearing about how it was a staple of every Canadian’s morning walk to work, I really thought the coffee would have such a unique flavour to it that would blow my mind and explain why it’s a staple of Canadian culture. Needless to say, it’s your average coffee chain you can find on every corner, where you can also grab a donut or a sandwich with your drink.