Although a large percentage of Vancouver's Chinese community has shifted to suburban Richmond, there's still a wonderful buzz of authenticity in the open-front markets, bakeries, and herbalist and import shops of the city's historic Chinatown. Street signs are in Chinese lettering, streetlights look like lanterns topped with decorative dragons, and much of the architecture is patterned on that of Guangzhou (Canton). Chinatown's early residents, immigrants who arrived from China in the late 1800s, came primarily to seek work in BC's emerging railroad and mining industries. More recently, hip young newcomers have been settling in the neighborhood, bringing funky shops, eclectic eateries, and even a few condominium buildings. You can still linger over a traditional dim sum lunch, but you can also settle in for a creative cocktail, a currywurst, or a slice of pie before scoping out the indie fashions.
You could easily spend an hour wandering around Chinatown, checking out the architecture and exotic wares; add at least an hour if you also want to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Be aware that you might come across one or two seedy corners in Chinatown; it's all pretty safe by day, but you might prefer to cab it at night.