This Vancouver Coffee Walking / 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 created by a digital nomad raised on the West Coast and now mostly based in East Asia. The areas mentioned have cafe clusters, so it is possible to take public transit to each of the areas and walk around if you do not want to cycle. Most places are remote-work friendly, but may not have Wi-Fi.
I make limited recommendations based on what seems to be…somewhat reasonable amount of caffine to intake for a day. Each of the areas — Gastown, Chinatown, Broadway and Main Street, Commercial Drive, and East Hastings — are worth spending half a day in and have between 3-6 cafes clustered around to try. I would recommend bringing a friend as Vancouver drinks are usually double shots. 🙂
Vancouver Coffee Rides Map (For your phone)
I’ve also created an open map of my suggested route. You can do the following with this map:
- See the full list of independent cafes (in addition to the ones I mention in the post)
- Pre-load it / save it on your phone (with Google Maps)
- Keep it open on your phone without Wi-Fi (as long as you don’t restart it or close Google Maps)
*Note: Independent cafes to me means fewer than 5 shops (which is why places like Caffe Artigiano, Beans Around the World, and JJ Bean do not appear.
Begin in Gastown and 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 (photo above) and park to enjoy your first cup with a spectacular morning view of the North Shore Mountains.
Cycle back to Gastown and try another cup at Timbertrain Coffee Roasters.
False Creek Recreational Path to Main Street
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.
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.)
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.
Try 49th Parallel Roasters, which also has Lucky’s Doughnuts inside. (Foodie Tip: There is also another famous doughnut place down Main Street called ___. I highly recommend you get a combo.
Slide back down the hill to Chinatown.
Food Tip: Head over to Beta 5 Chocolates in the photo above for some of the best cream puffs you’ll ever have (or a chocolate Sunday). It’s on the map!
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.
- Check out Matchstick Coffee Roasters
- Propaganda Cafe is a great alternative.
- 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.
Adanac Cycling Route to 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!
Next, head further East into a rougher side of town for the dedicated foodies and coffee hunters.
East Hastings Coffee
Choose either a residential road or the more direct (but heavy traffic) East Hastings route to Platform 7 for some Stumptown Coffee served in a London train station-themed cafe.
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).
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 Pizzarea between Chinatown and Gastown. It’s pretty true to the Neapolitan-style pizza – and I’ve been to Naples. 🙂
Happy riding! If you have recommendations, please share them and you’ll be credited!
If you liked this coffee walk, check out my other cafe lists and coffee walk:
- 23 Best Coffee Shops in Vancouver: A Digital Nomad’s List
- Tokyo Coffee Walk: Ikejiriohashi (Setagaya)
- Tokyo Cafe Walks: 10 Spots in Yanasen
- Taipei Coffee Walk: Songshan District
PS: Here is my trusty steed, which I first found second-hand in Hong Kong, rode over the UK with, and brought to Vancouver as well for the route above.