Top 10 places to photograph in Vancouver

English Bay, Vancouver, Scenic, Sea Wall

Walking along the seawall that opens up to sweeping vistas of English Bay is always a delight to photograph. (©Julia Pelish/

Story by Julia Pelish Visuals Editor

VANCOUVER — From Stanley Park’s best spots to Kits Beach and Gastown’s Flatiron Building, Vancouver has lots of great places to capture with your camera. What makes a location a good place to photograph? It could be many factors, including unique views or a mix of land and cityscapes or the amount and angle of the light.

Photo Essay on Vancouver’s Seawall
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When I was in New York, I loved to photograph in Times Square, with all its activity and how it constantly teems with life. In Vancouver, it’s the scenery that’s the draw. Here are my favourite 10 best places to photograph Vancouver.

1. Stanley Park — It’s more than 1,000 acres and its individual landmarks could easily fill half this list. Collectively, the park is a wonder and a delight for any photographer.

The Rose Garden bursts with florals for the lens, while Malkin Bowl and Prospect Point offer plenty of opportunity for crowd shots of Vancouver residents and tourists. The trails and tall trees feature sublime light that makes for outstanding nature photos. With the occasional eagle and the dozens of blue heron nests in the park, wildlife photographs can be taken a few yards from a city street. Plus there are beaches, outstretched lawns, mountain views and all kinds of activities taking place. Stanley Park is an example of the joy a city can offer residents when it keeps prime real estate public and pure.

2. Gastown — It’s beautiful, it’s edgy, it’s touristy, it’s hip, it’s artsy, it’s commercial, it’s changing, it’s timeless. Gastown is complex and complicated.

While it remains a head scratcher how such a prime spot in a jewel of a city could be so poorly taken care of, it’s also clear gentrification is here. A few years ago, Gastown looked much different than it does now, thanks to a number of new restaurants, fashion stores and the Woodward’s building. In a few years from now, its transformation will be even more apparent. With other large residential projects under way and plenty of money pouring in to clean up an area damaged by decades of a dominant drug culture, it’s not a leap to think Gastown will shed the uncomplimentary adjectives that taint its image for good. As it goes about this metamorphosis, it’s up to photographers to document life. There’s plenty to start with, from the architecture of the Flatiron Building to the cobblestone streets, and the many faces and states of mind of the denizens of the city. Gastown is key to Vancouver’s history and pictures will always tell people why.

3. From above — Take a seaplane ride and after you get over the buzzing of the engine and the queasiness in your stomach from the takeoff, you’ll see why so many people believe Vancouver will be the next great boom city on the planet. Who wouldn’t want to live here, amid the mountains and the sea? Make sure you keep your camera on the lookout for: the Lions Gate bridge, the top of Grouse Mountain, B.C. Place and the Olympic Village around False Creek. Oh, and make sure you don’t lean over too far.

4. Spanish Banks — This is one of my favourite places to take portraits in Vancouver, particularly of families. The sunsets are breathtaking and lend themselves to beautiful images regardless of who is in the lens. Spanish Banks is also generally calm, so the chances of sand kicking up and damaging your gear is not nearly the hazard it is on other beaches.

5. Queen Elizabeth Park — It may be home to the second-most beautiful garden in all of western British Columbia, but when Vancouver Island’s Butchart Gardens are first being runner-up isn’t a poor showing at all.

Queen Elizabeth Park is as suitable for taking intimate portraits with a close-up lens as it is for panoramic scenery shots with a mountain view. This may not be the green space tourists identify Vancouver with, but it should be on their list of places to see, simply for the view of the mountains and city skyline alone.

6. Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens — Vancouver has always been a bastion for immigrants and its largest neighbourhood for new Canadians is historic Chinatown. Named after a warrior and philosopher, the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden sits within walls off East Pender Street, the main thoroughfare of the city’s Chinatown. Despite the location in the middle of traffic, the gardens are surprisingly tranquil. With small trees, elegantly pruned and trimmed, quaint water features, and interesting architecture, the gardens are a treat to photograph.

7. Granville Island — With all the activity taking place during the summer, you’re sure to capture a musical performer or clown or packs of shoppers and tourists. Granville Island bustles when it’s warm and that kind of activity makes for fantastic street scenes.

8. Sunset Beach — Overlooking English Bay, the beach abounds with beautiful people and gorgeous views of the water. And, of course, it’s name isn’t a misnomer: The sunsets are spectacular.

9. On a boat — Because of the mountains, Vancouver’s skyline is often underestimated. On the water, though, the glass towers absorb the eye. The architecture, particularly on the north side of False Creek, is so luxurious you would think these buildings belong in Miami, not the northwest.

10. Yaletown — It’s my home, so of course I love taking pictures here. Yaletown is ritzy, hip, ultra-stylish and is home to some great people watching. Plus, each year the neighbourhood hosts more and more street parties, which are always great for photographing.

Have you got a favourite spot in Vancouver to photograph? Or a favourite photo to enter into our Photo of the Week contest? Email me and let’s talk shop!


A photographer who has worked in the largest media markets in Canada and the U.S., Julia’s travel photos and videos have been featured prominently in the Toronto Star and been exhibited in galleries in Toronto, New York and Vancouver. Her new line of photo jewelry was inspired by her travels. Even though she is an American, one of her favourite travel experiences was spending Canada Day 2000 on Parliament Hill, joining in a parade with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien and others. Julia is’s Visuals Editor. See her work at

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