Vancouver Coffee Rides: Historic Gastown and East Van

This Vancouver Coffee Cycling Route is designed to sample cafes from Vancouver’s historic downtown core through to Vancouver East. You will be cycling through Coal Harbour, Gastown, Main Street, Chinatown, and Commercial Drive.

I make limited recommendations based on what I think people could actually take. It’s probably still too high, so bring a friend!

Vancouver Coffee Rides Map

This is free and downloadable to your phone. As long as it is pre-loaded, you do not need to have Wi-Fi.

Also, I’ve included all the other independent cafes (which to me are fewer than 5 stores) I’ve mentioned previously so that you can check them out too if you want alternatives.

Begin in Gastown and Coal Harbour

Vancouver Harbourfront Park Coal Harbour Canada Place North Shore

Vancouver Harbourfront Park in Coal Harbour

Begin your day at Gastown and pick up a coffee to go at Revolver Coffee.

Bring it to the Coal Harbour Convention Area and parks to enjoy your first cup with a spectacular morning view of the North Shore Mountains.

Macchiato at Timbertrain Coffee Roasters in Gastown Vancouver

Timbertrain’s macchiato

Cycle back to Gastown and try another cup at Timbertrain Coffee Roasters.

When you’re done, cut through downtown over to the False Creek Recreational Path. You can choose where you’d like to enter it. You can cycle straight south, down towards Burrard or Cambie Bridge. I personally prefer the more scenic and car-free cycle towards Science World to enter it. Exit around Olympic Village.

Rocanini Roasters on West 5th

A generous ‘regular’ macchiato from the roastery

Head over to Rocanini Coffee Roasters in a hidden area with some quirky places. (Foodie Tip: Solly’s Bagels makes a great side detour towards Cambie Bridge for a snack, but you’ll need to double back. It’s on the map.)

Gene Coffee Bar on Main St

Outside seating along the glass walls on both sides of the cafe for people watching

Next, climb the slight hill to head to – what I call – Vancouver’s Golden Coffee Triangle at  Main Street around Broadway.

Bike Tip: If you are on Ontario, watch out for the steep hill around Broadway. The residential roads are gorgeous in the summer with the tall, leafy trees, but watch out for cars at the roundabouts.

Main Street Cafes

You could stay in this area all day if you wanted.. It’s a hipster area with boutiques, small cafes (the food type), restaurants, and specialty shops.

49th Parallel Macchiato and Luckys Doughnuts

49th Parallel macchiato and Luckys Doughnuts via Instagram

Try 49th Parallel Roasters, which also has Lucky’s Doughnuts inside. I highly recommend you get a combo. The doughnuts come in traditional favourites such as plain and usually chocoalate. In the summer, I’ve gotten passion fruit, and around Christmas I tried pistachio cranberry.

Beta 5 Chocolates Main St Vancouver

Mint Chocolate Eclair to devour on the spot.

Food Tip: Head over to Beta 5 Chocolates for some of the best cream puffs you’ll ever have (or a chocolate Sunday). It’s on the map! The photo is of the eclair because all my other shots were just of the gorgeous nest cream puff. Each flavour comes with entirely different constructions, whether it’s a swirl, a cut top, or – as I maneionted – an egg in a nest!

Slide back down the hill to Chinatown.

Chinatown Cafes

Chinatown used to be the community hub for the Chinese until its recent gentrification (and Richmond’s mushrooming population). Many people knew it for the ‘druggies’ who were in the alleys. It still has a needle clinic at the Hastings corner. I knew it for the awesome, rowdy grocers, butchers, and fishmongers. It also had an amazing fishball noodle place, until the restaurant caught fire in 2014. After that, the Vietnamese community started growing. Now, it’s been redeveloped into a historic district – with trendy new cafes and some great gastropubs.

I recommend checking out the Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden which is free.

Matchstick Coffee Roasters Chinatown

Two macchiatos waiting to be claimed at the bar via Instagram

Check out Matchstick Coffee Roasters.

Propaganda Cafe is a great alternative.

Strathcona Park Adanac Union Cycling Vancouver

Strathcona Park along the Adanac Union Cycling Route Vancouver

Next, take the Union / Adanac Cycling route to Commercial Drive (follow the map between G & H. This route goes through quiet residential streets and passes by Strathcona Park, which is a great hang-out place. You will also see many well-kept Vancouver wooden Victorian houses.

Commercial Drive

Commercial Drive is known for two (maybe three) things: the Italian community, the lesbian community, and maybe the hippie-tree-hugging-local-organic communities. I used to cycle across town here every weekend, so I happen to love them all. True to its Italian roots, this place goes crazy during the Eurocup and World Cup, and has plenty of Italian diner-style espresso bars serving super sweet pastries to go with a formidable espresso shot (not quite like the rest of Vancouver’s West Coast style coffee).

For Third Wave espresso drinkers, pay tribute to the original Prado Cafe on Commercial Drive. They have a downtown location, but the original has been around long before Third Wave Coffee picked up. Sammy Piccolo is the legendary 4-time Canadian Barista Champion!

Platform 7 Cafe on East Hastings

On the rugged East End of Vancouver, you’ll find a splash of London serving a dash of Italian espresso.

Next, head further East through rugged East Hastings to Platform 7 for some Stumptown Coffee served in a London train station-themed cafe.

Mr Red Cafe Pho Noodles East Vancouver

Pho noodles at Mr. Red Cafe on East Hastings

Foodie Tip: Best be hungry around this time. Hop across the street to Mr. Red Cafe for some awesome Vietnamese Pho noodles. The portions are quite filling.

Lastly, follow East Hastings back towards downtown. You’ll get a feel for the rougher side of Vancouver, where you can still find thrift shops and no-nonsense grocers. This part of Vancouver is quickly disappearing as gentrification continues to expand (beginning from Gastown to Chinatown).

Goliath Coffee Roasters at Makerlabs

Goliath Coffee Roasters at Makerlabs.

Visit the location of Goliath Coffee, which is a brand you might have seen in The Capilano in Gastown. or other places throughout the Lower Mainland. What makes this location special is that it is in a 26,000 sq feet makerspace known as MakerLabs. You can enjoy your coffee in a unique location with comfortable sofas, super high rafters, and all sorts of interesting projects and raw materials around you.

When you’re done, head back to Gastown and Chinatown for dinner. There are a wealth of options in that area, ranging from gastropubs to push contemporary West Coast restaurants, sushi places, and oyster bars with happy hours (if you make it by 5pm). One of my personal favourites is Nicli Pizzeria between Chinatown and Gastown. It’s Vancouver’s first certified VPN Neapolitan-style pizza. I’ve been to Naples, and I’d have to agree it’s pretty true to that other coastal town on the Continent. 🙂

Happy riding!

Over to you. Would love to have more local input. What are your favourite cycling coffee routes? They will be added and you will be credited!

PS: Here’s my happy steed. It was originally found in Hong Kong, second hand, brought over to the UK for a cycling trip, and finally has a home in good old Vancouver.

Giant Merida Scultura Evo 904

Giant Merida Scultura Evo 904, originally from Hong Kong

4 responses to “Vancouver Coffee Rides: Historic Gastown and East Van

  1. Pingback: Vancouver Cafes: Propaganda Coffee (Chinatown) | The Cup and the Road·

  2. Pingback: Taipei Coffee Walk: Songshan District | The Cup and the Road·

  3. Pingback: Vancouver Cafes: Prado Cafe (Downtown Eastside) | The Cup and the Road·

  4. Pingback: Tokyo Coffee Walk: Ikejiriohashi (Setagaya) | The Cup and the Road·

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