Geography of Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, BC Skyline

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Vancouver is the largest city in the Canadian province of British Columbia and is the third-largest in Canada. As of 2006, Vancouver's population was 578,000 but its Census Metropolitan Area surpassed two million. Vancouver's residents (like those in many large Canadian cities) are ethnically diverse and over 50% are not native English speakers.


The City of Vancouver is located on the British Columbia's west coast, adjacent to the Strait of Georgia and across that waterway from Vancouver Island. It is also north of the Fraser River and lies mostly on the western part of the Burrard Peninsula. The city of Vancouver is well-known as one of the world's most "livable cities" but it is also one of the most expensive in Canada and North America. Vancouver has also hosted many international events and most recently, it has gained worldwide attention because it and nearby Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

What to Know About Vancouver

The following is a list of the most important things to know about Vancouver, British Columbia:

  1. The City of Vancouver is named after George Vancouver, a British captain who explored Burrard Inlet in 1792.
  2. Vancouver is one of Canada's youngest cities and the first European settlement was not until 1862 when McLeery's Farm was established on the Fraser River. It is believed, however, that aboriginal people lived in the Vancouver region from at least 8,000-10,000 years ago.
  3. Vancouver officially incorporated on April 6, 1886, after Canada's first transcontinental railroad reached the region. Shortly thereafter, nearly the entire city was destroyed when the Great Vancouver Fire broke out on June 13, 1886. The city quickly rebuilt though and by 1911, it had a population of 100,000.
  4. Today, Vancouver is one of the most densely populated cities in North America after New York City and San Francisco, California with around 13,817 people per square mile (5,335 people per sq km) as of 2006. This is a direct result of urban planning focused on high-rise residential and mixed-use development as opposed to urban sprawl. Vancouver's urban planning practice originated in the late 1950s and is known in the planning world as Vancouverism.
  5. Because of Vancouverism and a lack of large amounts of urban sprawl as seen in other large North American cities, Vancouver has been able to maintain a large population and also a large amount of open space. Within this open land is Stanley Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America at around 1,001 acres (405 hectares).
  6. Vancouver's climate is considered oceanic or marine west coast and its summer months are dry. The average July high temperature is 71 F (21 C). Winters in Vancouver are usually rainy and the average low temperature in January is 33 F (0.5 C).
  7. The City of Vancouver has a total area of 44 square miles (114 sq km) and consists of both flat and hilly terrain. The North Shore Mountains are located near the city and dominate much of its cityscape, but on clear days, Mount Baker in Washington, Vancouver Island, and Bowen Island to the northeast can all be seen.

In the early days of its growth, Vancouver's economy was based around logging and sawmills which were established beginning in 1867. Although forestry is still Vancouver's largest industry today, the city is also home to the Port Metro Vancouver, which is the fourth-largest port based on the tonnage in North America. Vancouver's second largest industry is tourism because it is a well-known urban center worldwide.

What It's Known For

Vancouver is nicknamed Hollywood North because it is the third-largest film production center in North America following Los Angeles and New York City. The Vancouver International Film Festival takes place annually each September. Music and visual arts are also common in the city.

Vancouver also has another nickname of "city of neighborhoods" as much of it is divided into different and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. English, Scottish, and Irish people were Vancouver's largest ethnic groups in the past, but today, there is a large Chinese-speaking community in the city. Little Italy, Greektown, Japantown and the Punjabi Market are other ethnic neighborhoods in Vancouver.


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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Vancouver, British Columbia." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, September 8). Geography of Vancouver, British Columbia. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Vancouver, British Columbia." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 4, 2023).