Living in: Vancouver
The Lost Lagoon in downtown Vancouver. (Press Association)
A shining city of towers and islands, surrounded by beaches and backed by snow-capped mountains, Vancouver is a young city with one ear tuned to the call of the wild and the other to the future.
For the outdoors lover, it is paradise; for the foodie, the Asian cuisine here is some of the best in the world; and for the urbanist, there is a lively and growing multicultural scene linked by excellent public transport. Add to all that, views of the peaks across English Bay, green Stanley Park and the sandy beaches that fringe the city.
These are what draw an ever-growing population to this fresh-air city on the Pacific Ocean. And new residents are coming from all over Canada, Asia and far flung points around the globe.
What is it known for?
Vancouver may have had its moment in the spotlight during the 2010 Winter Olympics, but it consistently ranks high on many of the world's best places to live lists. In fact, it has claimed the number one spot for two years running on the Economist Intelligence Unit's ranking of the most liveable cities.
The access from a booming and dense downtown to the great outdoors is nearly unrivalled in North American cities. Nearby options include kayaking around the city, skiing on frosted peaks and mountain biking through the rainforest. "It's a giant playground," said Julie Desaulniers, a transplant from Montreal who lives in North Vancouver with her family. "The north shore is a mountain biking mecca and I run on rainforest trails every weekend."
Hollywood has set up permanently in Vancouver and it is where many movies and TV shows are filmed, including the Twilight series. Enterprising folks have even set up tours for the Twi-hards who come seeking some scent of Bella and Edward.
Like Seattle to the south, Vancouver has a thriving coffee culture and hipster cafes, but it also has the best Chinatown in North America, amazing sushi and a sophisticated Asian fusion cuisine, all thanks to the city's sizeable Asian population. "The first thing I have when I come home after being away is the sushi," said Desaulniers.
Where do you want to live?
The West Side of Vancouver should not be confused with the West End, which sits across False Creek, or with West Vancouver across the Burrard Inlet. Neighbourhoods on the West Side, like Kitsilano, are popular because they are near the beach, close to downtown and have a funky, youthful character. East of Commercial Drive, things are a bit edgier, as is south of Main Street (SoMa), but both are filled with alterna-boutiques, galleries and restaurants. "The best value for money can be found in East Vancouver," said Don Campbell, president of Real Estate Investment Network." He says people who cannot afford downtown are buying in those areas, particularly anywhere that is within half a mile walking distance to the SkyTrain stations.
The downtown business district and Coal Harbour are popular for condo dwellers who want killer views across the water, and the Olympics gave construction a boost along Southeast False Creek, the body of water that separates the West End from the West Side. "While the former athletes' village turned out to be a boondoggle, the Olympics spurred construction along False Creek that has done very well," said Campbell.
Across the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, North Vancouver is home to young families, as is the tiny West Vancouver district where many ex-patriots and retirees also live. Surrey, a municipality south of the city - whose mayor was rated one of the best in the world - is becoming the second central business district for the metro Vancouver area and is linked by SkyTrain to downtown.
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to weekends away. Whistler is an hour and a half from downtown, and while winter there is all about skiing, in summer, you have access to great mountain biking, fishing and golfing. Many Vancouverites head south to Vancouver Island or one of the Gulf Islands, reachable by ferry. Tofino on Vancouver Island's west coast is a favourite with surfers and close to the Pacific Rim Natural Park.