With easy access to nature, this cosmopolitan and compact Canadian city has an endless supply of entertainment options — for visitors as well as locals.

Contemporary, sophisticated and casual Vancouver is one of those cities where business travellers are likely to hear a little voice inside their head repeating, “You know, you could live here.”

In September, Vancouver was named the “World’s Most Reputable City” by the Copenhagen-based Reputation Institute, based on a survey of nearly 18,000 people from eight of the world's largest industrialized nations. They scored it highest for effective administration, adequate transportation infrastructure, adherence to progressive social, economic and environmental policies, and the best overall city in which to live and work.

Even though it clings to the wild, watery, western edge of Canada, Vancouver is a cosmopolitan, compact and walkable city, with breathtaking views in nearly every direction. Residents (who frequently refer to their hometown as simply “Van”) are happy, healthy, hardworking and eager to please.

The city’s upscale hotel stock and convention facilities got a big upgrade with the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Vancouver has a modern, convenient airport with nonstop flights to major cities across the globe. A burgeoning local food and wine scene and quick, easy access to nature means there is an endless supply of entertainment options — for visitors as well as locals.

Most business travellers arrive via the modern, easily navigated Vancouver International Airport, located about 15km south of city centre. Get to the airport early and enjoy plane spotting and a drink or snack at the cosy Jetside Bar at the 392-room Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, located inside the airport terminal. Those departing on international flights can partake in daily Scotch tastings at the airport’s massive, easily distinguishable duty-free store.

Since there are no freeways connecting the airport to the city, traffic can have a major impact on travel time, so plan on the drive taking about 30 minutes without traffic, or an hour during rush hours. Those not burdened with heavy luggage should opt for the Canada Line, a 25-minute rapid rail link that connects the airport and city centre.

Hotels

Elegant
The dramatic 377-room Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel (opened in 2010) is a big draw for business travellers due to its spectacular location on the water and across the street from the Vancouver Convention Centre. Ask for a harbour mountain-view room and you can watch seaplanes take off from Coal Harbour or see the first streaks of light hit the snow-capped North Shore mountains as you sip your morning coffee. Schedule a casual power breakfast at the hotel’s popular Giovane café, loved by locals for its custom roasted coffee, savoury breakfast bruschetta and decadent, cream-filled sugar buns.

A few blocks uphill and nestled in Vancouver’s glassy core of high-rise buildings soars the elegant 119-room Shangri-La Hotel, favoured by high-level executives and celebrities for its luxurious service… and its discretion. Guests arriving by car or cab check in at a lower motor lobby, where elevators can whisk them to their upper-floor rooms, bypassing its glitzy glass and marble main lobby fronting West Georgia Street, a major downtown thoroughfare. Rooms with outdoor balconies also make inhaling bellyfuls of fresh ocean- and mountain-cleansed air a morning ritual. This year, the Shangri-La received the coveted Five Diamond Award designation from the Canadian and American Automobile Associations — the only hotel in Vancouver to receive the honour.

After a down-to-the-bones, four-year facelift, the 85-year-old Rosewood Hotel Georgia quickly reclaimed its title as belle of the ball among Vancouver’s most elegant hotels when it re-opened in July 2011. Popular perches like the 1927 Lobby Lounge or Reflections (on the rooftop during the summer) keep its opulent dark-wood-panelled lobby abuzz with a see-and-be-seen mix of locals and hotel guests — many waiting for tables at its uber-hot Hawksworth Restaurant. The hotel’s plush 156 rooms and suites have some of the largest bathrooms in town.

The cosy, historic 65-room St Regis hotel underwent a major, 12-million Canadian dollar renovation in 2008 and re-emerged as a business traveller favourite, with marble bathroom finishes and walls sheathed in rich, pale blue leather.  International calling from guest rooms, full breakfast and wi-fi are included in the hotel’s surprisingly reasonable rates.

Edgy
The modern, earthy 77-room, 15-storey Loden Hotel is sandwiched between other towers mid-block, so you might miss it when walking or driving along Melville Street downtown. Oversized rooms have bright floor-to-ceiling windows, warm wood panelling and all-marble bathrooms, some of which are separated from guest rooms with large sliding wooden wall panels, which lend a sense of openness to the space. There are also a few thoughtful touches: each room is stocked with a yoga mat, there are two London-taxi-style cars on call to shuttle guests around the city and free bikes are available for guests to borrow.

Downtown Vancouver’s fashionable, café- and bar-dotted Yaletown district is home to the trendy 96-room low-rise Opus Hotel, which assigns names to its five distinct room types: Billy, the rock star (eclectic); Susan, the executive from Toronto (sophisticated); Mike, a doctor from New York City (minimalist); Pierre, the food critic from Paris (vibrant); and Dede, the actress from LA (dramatic). There is an iPad in each room for guest use, lollipops and Pez dispensers replace chocolates on the pillow at turndown, and those who book via the hotel’s website get free in-room wi-fi. The Canada Line airport link stops across the street.

Original art and a robust relationship with local artisans and museums means a stay at the otherwise prosaic 129-room Listel Hotel feels more like a visit to an art gallery. Located in the West End, near Vancouver’s gay village along Davie Street, the hotel showcases contemporary Northwest Coast art on loan from the prestigious University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, as well as modern and contemporary works courtesy of the Buschlen Mowatt Galleries. Plus, there is free long distance calling within Canada and to the US and complimentary wine receptions each afternoon.

Expense account
It has only been open a year, but the Hawksworth Restaurant at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia (named after local celebrity chef David Hawksworth) is already the most sought-after table in town for business travellers out to impress clients or celebrate big deals. Menus feature contemporary Canadian cuisine with ingredients sourced from local waters or farms (such jalapeño and sunflower seed-crusted sturgeon with ham hock, kale and spiced squash broth) served up in a classy street-level dining room. The full menu is also served at the restaurant’s bar -- an excellent option if dining alone.

If Vancouver’s cloudy winter days get you down, soak up some natural light in the glassed-in, aquarium-like setting of Market by Jean-Georges, located on the third floor of the Shangri-La hotel. While the menu changes with the seasons, staples such as the black truffle pizza with fontina cheese or the steamed shrimp salad with avocado and champagne dressing are year-round favourites of the movers and shakers from nearby offices who take advantage of its popular 50-minute, 29-Canadian-dollar prix fixe power lunch. 

For a fun night out with clients or colleagues, head over to Chambar on the eastern edge of downtown. This warm red-brick warehouse space sports one of Canada’s most eclectic menus, blending the seemingly opposite tastes of Belgium and North Africa. For example, chef Nico Schuermans prepares steamed mussels three ways: coquotte, with white wine cream and bacon; vin blanc, with white wine, butter, celery and leeks; or congolaise, with tomato coconut cream, smoked chilli, lime and cilantro. In typical Belgian style, all are served with crispy hot frites (fries), and washed down with a house-made Chambar ale or one of the many Belgian brews on the menu.

Campagnolo has quickly been catapulted to fame thanks to its house-made Italian salumi (thinly sliced, cured meats and sausage) sourced from organic, free run farms nearby; a famous crispy chick-pea salad served with chillies, mint and citrus; and its pizza, pasta and seasonally inspired main dishes served by a knowledgeable staff. A year after it opened in 2008, Condé Nast Traveller magazine named it one of the 50 hottest restaurants in the world. The atmosphere (fir beams and concrete) and neighbourhood (the urban pioneering end of Main Street) are rustic, but the fresh, flavourful, carefully sourced fare makes it worth the 10-minute cab ride from downtown.

At Bacchus Restaurant in the Wedgewood Hotel, you will find an elegant, clubby atmosphere of richly upholstered chairs, white linen table cloths, dark wood panelling and a twinkling piano tended to by a suited staff and sommelier — perfect for a lunch or dinner when quiet conversation with a colleague or client is key. The menu features traditional Canadian fare such as wild British Columbia salmon, roasted Brome Lake (Quebec) duck and Alberta beef tenderloin.

Off the clock
While Canada’s Pacific southwest is gorgeous from the ground, it is even more spectacular if seen from the air. If you have an extra day, stroll over to downtown’s Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre and catch a 35-minute seaplane flight (150 Canadian dollars each way) over the sparkling Strait of Georgia and the verdant Gulf Islands to Victoria, the quaint capital of British Columbia. The seaplane splashes down in the middle of town and docks at the Victoria Harbour Water Aerodrome — within walking distance of the grand Fairmont Empress Hotel (great for high tea) and the downtown streets packed with boutiques, restaurants and cafes.

Go local
Much of the allure of living in British Columbia is easy access to its natural delights, of which locals frequently indulge. Join them on nearby Grouse Mountain — just 15km from downtown — for skiing in the winter, hiking or zip lining in the summer, or just taking in the magnificence on the Skyride aerial tram to the mountaintop observatory. Fit business travellers up for a challenge should consider “The Grouse Grind”, a 2.9km trail up the mountain face, referred to locally as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”. If that is too much of a challenge, consider a nice flatlander bicycle ride along the seawall at Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park.

Don’t do this!
Do not smoke. As you might expect in a healthful city known for its fresh air, Vancouver has the strictest smoking laws in Canada, including a ban on smoking in all restaurants and bars, including outdoor patios. In addition, smokers can only light up of they are at least 6m away from building or restaurant entryways or windows. Smoking is also banned at all city parks and beaches.