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M y c i t y * : VA N C O U V E R 1

photographer janis nicolay shows us her favourite spots in the canadian seaport



*Share the simple things in your city. Leave a comment at or email

wherever you may be


Janis Nicolay Janis is a photographer and native Vancouverite who shoots for magazines, designers and architects. She adores mid‑century design, baking, DIY and travel – and covers them all on her blog.


Most of us live in cities. Even if a tiny part of us yearns for the country, it’s hard to deny the excitement of town. We ask one person – clearly in love with their city – to tell us what makes it so special. Through their eyes, we can take a fresh look at where we live too. How long have you lived in the city?

I grew up in a suburb about 20 minutes from the city, and I’ve lived in Vancouver for most of my “big girl” life. I’ve also lived in Melbourne, Toronto and Tokyo. What keeps you in the city?

My friends and family are pretty much all here and, really, it’s a pretty special place to live. My work is varied, and I do travel for shoots, so this is a perfect home base. Which season makes your city feel most alive?

Summer, definitely. There are festivals, markets and always a patio to sit on. Vancouverites flock to beaches and head to the mountains to hike. I’m not a huge hiker, but I do love a good picnic at the park or beach… maybe with a beer or two.


1 A jewel in the middle of Chinatown, Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden is a perfect spot to relax and take a breather. 2 Janis loves to hang out at Jericho Beach on her Gallant & Jones chairs, enjoying the view of the Vancouver skyline. 3 Located in Gastown, Hotel Europe is a beautiful flatiron building. 4 The totem poles are a popular attraction at Stanley Park. 5 An organic fruit stand at Granville Island Market that sells mostly British Columbia-grown fruit.

breakfast is a must, so I’ll head to Lucy’s Eastside Diner, or Matchstick Coffee Roasters. Even if I’m not shooting I’m still up with the birds, sitting in our back garden drinking coffee and catching up with emails. I tend to get way more done super early in the morning. What’s the light like?

Vancouver has amazing light. It’s a photographer’s dream. We have daylight from 5am to 10pm.

What time of day do you most enjoy?

Crack of dawn. I shoot a fair number of garden stories for magazines, and the best time of day for that is dawn. The light is magical. After an early shoot a good Subscribe at

How does your city smell?

Well, that depends on which part of the city you’re in. If you’re in Chinatown, you’ll smell incense and dried » 43


“In the summer the city smells of flowers, evergreen trees and the sea. After rain, it smells even better”


1 Bartender Sarah at The Union shaking up some refreshing and unique “bangas” – Filipino cocktails. 2 A view down Granville Street at dusk. The Vogue Theatre is a great live music venue and has one of the few neon signs left in the city.

herbs. On Commercial Drive, it would be the aroma of coffee winding out of all the Italian cafés, along with the smell of baking. In the summer, in general, the city smells of flowers, evergreen trees and the sea. After a rain shower, it smells even better.

Tell us about the colours of your city. Vancouver is a city of glass. All the towers are pretty much glass and concrete. They take on the colour of the mountains and water, making the overall look of the city a cool blue grey.

What are the green spaces like?

Where do you like to escape to?

Beautiful and plentiful. Vancouver has heaps of pretty green spaces, flowers and trees. We have 40,000 cherry blossom trees alone.

I love camping, so I often head to Nicola Lake, or I’ll go to Bromley Rock Provincial Park. British Columbia is a beautiful province, so there are lots of options within a couple of hours’ travel from the city. If I just have an afternoon to escape, then I’ll go to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, which is about 30 minutes away, take a walk through an old growth forest, and sit by the river.

And where is your favourite?

I have two! First is the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, in Chinatown. It’s a little jewel in the middle of the city. National Geographic has named it the best city garden in the world. Many Vancouverites still don’t know it exists. I have to change that. Another spectacular green space is Stanley Park. This is utterly massive, and it’s a forest in the city. You can walk or bike around the entire seawall, hang out at the beaches, check out the totem poles, watch live music or theatre at Malkin Bowl or visit the aquarium. 44

Do you exercise outdoors, and if so at what time of day?

Vancouverites are huge on fitness, and in the summer they’re out in droves. I’m not one of them though, sadly! What are your favourite places to gather?

Gathering with friends usually involves eating and drinking. If we’re not having a picnic somewhere, I’d

wherever you may be




normally meet friends at The Union for a noodle bowl and a banga (a Filipino cocktail), or high tea at the adorable Butter Tea Room.


are The Union, Heirloom, Salt, The Acorn, L’Abattoir, El Camino’s and Tacofino. Where do you find your guilty pleasures?

Walking, when I can. Vancouver is pretty hilly, so you can get a good workout too.

At the race track! I love going to Hastings Park on a hot summer day and watching the races over a few beers. Don’t tell anyone.

What would surprise a newcomer to your city?

Where do you like to go with friends?

That it doesn’t always rain. Well, not in the summer anyway. We also have the cheapest sushi in the world, and it’s delicious and everywhere.

I love going to live music venues. The old Vogue Theatre on Granville Street is always a good place. Other great spots to see live music are The Media Club, The Railway Club and the Commodore Ballroom.

What’s your favourite way to get about?

3 The steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery are a popular spot for people-watching on beautiful summer days. 4 One of Janis’s favourite dishes at The Union is Cha Ca Fish, a bowl of cod, rice noodles and a mix of incredible flavours. 5  Bromley Rock is a British Columbia provincial park about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Vancouver. 6 Janis’s guilty pleasure: horse racing at Hastings Park, with a great view of the North Shore Mountains.

What do you long for most if you’ve been away?

A peanut butter sandwich cookie, from Butter Baked Goods, and the sight of the North Shore Mountains from Jericho Beach.

Where do you like to go alone?

Sometimes it’s nice to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery alone. If I’ve had a long day of photo editing, it’s good to pop down for a wander. The building itself is gorgeous.

What’s the best time of day to eat out?

Vancouverites tend to head out fairly early and stay out late. The city has some of the best restaurants anywhere in the world, and heaps of them. Some of my favourites Subscribe at

What types of shop do you most like to visit?

I love home design stores most, but I do like a good fashion and accessory shop too. Some of my favourite » 45

Janis’s private tour Favourite Shop Eugene Choo

1 Sit down and type out a letter, or make a badge, on vintage typewriters at The Regional Assembly of Text. 2 Afternoon tea treats at Butter Tea Room. One of the best in the city, with a lovely selection of teas. 3 The Cross Decor & Design has a vast selection of books plus beautiful furniture and home accessories.

3683 Main Street This fantastic shop is in my neighbourhood. They carry men’s and women’s fashion and accessories, along with a small collection of books and candles. The owner, Kildare Curtis, is a great guy too.

favourite art gallery Equinox Gallery 525 Great Northern Way Off the beaten track, but worth checking out. I love this space. It’s a perfect gallery for viewing world-acclaimed Canadian artists.

Favourite food stops


Finch’s Market and Café 501 East Georgia Street Offering up all the staples (bread, milk and eggs), but the café also sells oils, canned tomatoes and their own Finch’s coffee. I often pop by to enjoy one of the amazing sandwiches that they’re famous for.

Trout Lake Farmers’ Market John Hendry Park There are many farmers’ markets around the city, but my favourite has to be Trout Lake. It’s a beautiful location to pick up a few things, and have a picnic right there and then.

Best places for souvenir-hunting 3


Janis Nicolay specialises in photographing interiors, lifestyle and food. She’s recently finished shooting her first cookbook project, to be released this autumn.


spots are Walrus, The Cross Decor & Design and Much&Little for home things, as well as Charlie & Lee for fashion. At Walrus they sell a lot of products by independent designers. I love the line of hand-crafted, porcelain vintage-looking canning jars by Heyday (a Vancouver designer). The Regional Assembly of Text is all things typed, hand-printed and stamped. It’s a great place to pop by if you need to make some badges, type a letter or pick up some pretty screen-printed papers. If you stop by Spool of Thread Sewing Lounge, you can pick out some fabric, plunk yourself down at a sewing machine and leave with a skirt or a couple of pillows. I love that. Where would you like to live if you couldn’t live here?

That’s a tough one! My husband’s from Melbourne, so I’d probably choose there, though I think I could probably handle London too.

The Regional Assembly of Text 3934 Main Street The place to find notebooks and journals with quirky Vancouver and British Columbia illustrations, or you could make your own Vancouver badge. Definitely something unique.

Salmagundi West 321 West Cordova Poke through tiny drawers to discover a mini Mounted Policeman, totem pole or maybe a vintage Vancouver postcard. You never know what you’ll find.

thing you have to see Grouse Mountain For the view alone, Grouse Mountain on a clear day is a must-visit. Ride the tram to the top, have a drink and take in the breathtaking views of the city. There’s also skiing, a wildlife refuge, zipline tours and more.

The Simple Things - My City:Vancouver  

A look at some of my favourite spots in Vancouver, shot for The Simple Things magazine.

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