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Iconic Gastown in downtown Vancouver
Photograph: ShutterstockVancouver, British Columbia - Canada. Downtown iconic landmark on a chilly night just after a rain, the Steam Clock, Gastown - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The 12 best bars in Vancouver

Get ready to paint the town red. The best bars in Vancouver offer something for everyone, except maybe the teetotallers

Written by
Andrew Lynch
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Vancouver is one heck of a night out. There is a lot to love about this city, and its commitment to sundown activities is right up there, with neighbourhood after neighbourhood offering unique bars covering a whole lot of ground. Gastown is at the heart of it all, no great shock when you consider the saloon-centric aspect of its origins, but the entire city has plenty to offer on the booze front. You’ll have to pack your umbrella, it being the PNW, after all, but what’s a little drizzle when you’ve got the best bars in Vancouver to explore? Spend your day exploring the best attractions, fill up at a fantastic restaurant and then get ready to hit the town. 

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Best bars in Vancouver

Vancouver's best-kept secret is located underneath a mattress store on Main Street. The Narrow has no signage, so you have to know it's there. Look for what appears to be a shady bus stop; If you see a red light on, the bar is open. Head through a metal door, walk down some sketchy stairs, and you'll find yourself in a beautiful, prohibition-style bar (yes, even though Canada never had a Prohibition). The cocktails are classic, from G&Ts to cosmopolitans. 

When in the Pacific Northwest, drink IPA. Most of the beers on tap at this colourful, funky brewery are heavy on the hops. But don't worry, there's plenty of variety within that category. Equinox hops in Paddy's Goodbye brew give the beer big citrus and pine notes, while the hops in the Galaxy IPA lend it a pineapple flavour. But be warned: Those afraid of clowns should scurry past the wooden characters outside the brewery. 

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Located in the old industrial area of East Van, Parallel 49 Brewing has a food truck literally inside the bar. It's one of the older craft breweries in the city, and Parallel makes sure that all their beers have character and go down easy. They have a large selection, several of which can only be sampled (in moderation, of course) at the brewery itself.

Located just on the edge of Gastown, the Alibi offers exclusive brews in a relaxed, traditional bar setting. The constantly rotating tap list features tons of local micro-brews and craft beers, and the sampler beer flights are the perfect way to try them all. 

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A historic landmark located on the beach, this building and bar were built in 1912, and converted from an apartment building to a hotel in the 1930s. The bar itself is a bit dated, but that's what gives it its character. Indulge in a platter of fish and chips, cocktail in hand, while you take in the ocean view. 

This bustling brewery features beers named after the East Van neighbourhood: Dude Chillin' Pale Ale is named after the infamous Dude Chillin' Park down the street, and the Raven Cream Ale is named after the thousands of ravens that swarm East Vancouver. Pizzas, also made in house, make for perfect pairings. If you're lucky, a live pianist will add some tunes to the vibe. 

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Granville Island is filled with independent, locally-sourced shops and restaurants, but the Vancouver Fish Company has the best happy hour. Local beers and wines and highballs are all $5 paired with reasonably priced, fresh seafood dishes like shucked oysters ($2 each) and fish tacos ($3 each). Sit on the patio if you want to converse with pirates. (Yes, really). 

This classic speakeasy offers spectacular drinks and tasty food. Don't miss The Apiary, with walnut bitters and honeycomb, or The Port Authority, a bourbon-based cocktail with housemade chocolate liqueur. Food comes in the form of mushroom pies and the Hoola Dog, a teriyaki-glazed hot dog with pineapple relish and jalapeno. While many of Vancouver's bars are intimate spaces, The Clough Cub's cosy private backroom is perfect for groups, and you can even order a group cocktail served in a pineapple. 

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Playful, tacky and beautiful, the Tiki Room is a local haunt offering Polynesian eats like tuna poke, prawn cocktails and pork tacos, as well as a wide variety of rum-based tropical drinks. But one of the best things about it is the live entertainment, from music to comedy to burlesque there's guaranteed to be a different act every night of the week. 

This small, underground bar in Gastown features live music by local bands. The weekend can get crowded, so prepare to stand while you sway to the music while sipping the sultry Holy Smoke cocktail, made with Bulleit Bourbon, Laphroaig whiskey and black tea. 

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A tiny room attached to a donair spot, Uncle Abe's looks like your grandma's basement, complete with tacky wallpaper, furniture from the late '70s and thrift store art covering the walls. The tap list is augmented by their own in-house craft beer. There's a payphone at the back that you should definitely pick up. There's always someone or something on the other line. 

 

This proper Irish pub goes from a quiet respite on weekdays to a lively party on the weekends, when the beer flows and live bands take the stage. Named after the late Danny Burns, a member of popular Northern Irish band The Wolfhounds, Wolf & Hound is one of the few places in Vancouver where you can get a proper pint of Guinness. 

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