Kitsilano (often referred to simply as Kits), South Granville and Granville Island form most of the northern part of the Vancouver west side. In the 1960s Kits was a neighbourhood where hippies “tuned in and dropped out” but today it has some of Vancouver’s most expensive properties. It is situated right on the beach and very close to downtown. Granville Island, and the nearby neighbourhood of South Granville, are a focal point for the arts community in Vancouver with a number of studios and theatre groups.
Kitsilano is one of Vancouver’s most popular neighbourhoods. The first people living in the area were the Squamish people and the neighbourhood’s name is derived from a Squamish chief, August Jack Khatsahlano. Its proximity to the early Vancouver settlement drew settlers and it became one of Vancouver’s first suburbs.
It’s long been a popular spot with young people and was a counterculture hotbed in the 1960s. Greenpeace opened one of their first offices in Kitsilano and the British Columbia Green Party’s original offices were here, as well. The area has become more gentrified in the decades since, but it still has a vibrancy that is missing in the more staid neighbourhoods that surround it.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the beach, which continues to be the focal point of the community. On a sunny day, the beach towels come out, the volleyballs fly and the patios fill. And while the neighbourhood beaches certainly cater to the sun worshipers and the see-and-be-seen attitude, they also host music festivals, live theatre and other community events.
Kitsilano also has the distinction of historically being an enclave of Greek immigrants and their descendants. The Greek neighbourhood’s borders have never been defined, however the strip between Alma St and Trafalgar St is known as ‘Greek West Broadway’; West Broadway at Trutch Street is generally considered the neighbourhood’s heart. The Greek community of Vancouver continues to maintain a presence by hosting ‘Greek Day’ on the last Sunday of every June where West Broadway is closed to vehicle traffic between MacDonald and Blenheim for free, family-oriented festivities.
Technically speaking, Kitsilano is defined as the area between Burrard St in the east and Alma St in the west, and from the water to 16th Ave in the south.
Located beneath the Granville Street Bridge on the south side of False Creek, Granville Island (actually a peninsula) started off as industrial land. Over time, its warehouses and shops were abandoned and left to decay when the industry moved on. In the 1970s the Federal Government embarked on an ambitious plan of urban renewal, which involved cleaning up the pollution left by industry on the island and encouraging mixed-use development. Today, the restored original corrugated tin buildings and their new occupants — artisans, markets, boutique shops and restaurants — come together to give Granville Island its vibrancy and unique feel.
The neighbourhoods are easy to access by car, bike or bus, especially from downtown Vancouver. Parking is somewhat limited and traffic around the beach can back-up on weekend afternoons, so public transit (or walking/biking) will frequently be a better option.