Travel Blog

29 Oct

Vancouver’s Best Churches for Visitors

Vancouver Churhes

Photo: John Lee

The following article was contributed by Vancouver travel writer and Lonely Planet author John Lee (@johnleewriter)

In a city where buildings from the early days are vastly outnumbered by modern glass towers, Vancouver has plenty of historic churches for visitors who love popping into places of worship on their travels.

The first stop for many is downtown’s Christ Church Cathedral, a beautiful heritage structure that looks like it could have been transported straight from a 19th-century English parish.

Its dramatic interior includes a spectacular hammerbeam ceiling and dozens of sparkling stained glass windows. But the lovely Gothic Revival building that welcomes visitors today wasn’t always so captivating.

The original structure – completed in 1889 – was a squat stone shed that locals soon nicknamed “the root cellar.” Replaced by a traditional-looking church a few years later, by the 1970s plans were drawn up to demolish it and replace it with a new tower.

Luckily, history-hugging Vancouverites stepped up to the plate and won the day. Now a Class A heritage building, Christ Church Cathedral is widely regarded as one of Vancouver’s architectural gems.

For visitors, its stained glass windows remain a highlight. Download a self-guided tour and you’ll soon by basking before 34 great examples, from the Victorian era to the present day. My favourite? A three-panel design crafted by William Morris Company in the downstairs vestibule.

A five-minute walk away is downtown’s other most popular place of worship for visitors. St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church was completed in 1933 – although its grand granite façade makes it seem much older.

A cavernous, high-ceilinged interior that inspires calm, the church is a popular music venue, frequently hosting well-attended concerts.

Check its website for upcoming events: there’s a Halloween organ concert on October 27, for example, while the weekly free entry Jazz Vespers has become a local legend. Staged at 4 p.m. every Sunday, the one-hour service includes music from some of the city’s coolest jazz musicians.

Sustenance of a different kind is offered across town at Mount Pleasant’s Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.

The hall adjoining the turreted main building hosts one of Vancouver’s most popular church events on the first Friday of every month. Attracting hundreds of esurient locals, the stomach-lagging Perogy Night is highly recommended.

Join the queue before the 5 p.m. kick-off and you’ll soon be tucking into a $12 blow-out of six bulging perogies, two cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, sausage and coffee – mini versions and vegetarian options also available. Prepared and served by a busy bunch of industrious seniors, it’s the perfect event to meet the locals and stuff your face at the same time.

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