Hot to shop: Vancouver

Belinda Jackson finds the price tags agreeable on a range of must-haves, from designer labels to cosmetics and outdoor gear.

Staple diet

The Pacific Centre's flagship store Holt Renfrew (aka "the Holt") is Canada's classic, seriously upmarket department store. Think Tiffany & Co, Manolo Blahnik and Prada (corner of Granville and Dunsmuir streets, Downtown). Moving slightly downmarket, The Bay has had an injection of funk and now stocks Canadian and international labels (674 Granville Street, Downtown).

Must buys

Cosmetics. All the best North American brands are to be had at bargain prices compared with what you'll pay in Australia, including for Toronto-born M.A.C, whose Robson Street shop includes pro products (908 Robson Street, Downtown). Visit luxe Sephora (Pacific Centre, 701 W Georgia Street) or go wild in any of the delightfully named Shoppers Drug Marts to stock up on the basics (1125 Davie Street). For Canadian brands such as Balmshell lipgloss, Cargo's paraben-free natural lipsticks and Beaute (worn by uber-pouter Kristen Stewart), try Beautymark; it's also home to eyebrow-shaping guru Alisha Noon (1120 Hamilton Street, Yaletown).

Cheap trick

Winners. It's chock to the roof with last season's designer goods at bargain-basement prices. They call it "fashionomics". The trick is to grab a basket, fill it, then find a quiet corner in which to do the cull. The Downtown shop sits above a Future Shop, good for budget electronics gear (corner of Granville and Robson streets, Downtown).

Market madness

The Granville Island Public Market showcases sustainably harvested salmon and maple syrups. Stop at Stock Market for gorgeous hot soups. All First World spic and span. For an antiques scrounge, the Vancouver Flea Market runs every weekend from 9am-5pm and on public holidays (703 Terminal Avenue, Main SkyTrain). On summer weekends, snack on octopus balls and cruise the knock-offs at the huge Richmond Chinatown night market, from 7pm Friday-Sunday (12631 Vulcan Way, Richmond), or the more conveniently located, smaller Vancouver Chinatown night market, open until September 5 from 6.30pm Friday-Sunday (SkyTrain to Stadium-Chinatown, corner of Keefer and Main streets).

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Insider trading

Fashion starts in Gastown, home of local stars such as internationally recognised fashion house Obakki (44 Water Street), eco-chic Mandula (235 Cambie Street) and John Fluevog for divine handmade clogs and shoes as spotted on such famed feet as Madonna, Perry Farrell and, er, Marilyn Manson (65 Water Street). Must-see boutiques include Dream for men's and women's fashion (311 W. Cordova Street), The Block (350 W. Cordova Street) and One of a Few for women's clothing in all-natural fabrics (354 Water Street). Men, seek out Dutil Denim for True Religion and other cult denim (303 W. Cordova Street) and hit Livestock for limited-edition runners (239 Abbot Street).

Home help

Fans of gorgeous homewares should head to The Cross Decor & Design for candles, antique-style servers and even tinkly jewellery (1198 Homer Street, Yaletown) or Moule (1994 West Fourth Avenue, Kitsilano). Granville Island is packed with ceramics galleries; the taste has been known to veer towards cottage.

Fash & trash

Robson Street is home to high-end labels but, really, you want one of those college jackets, don't you? Canada's own Roots has college-boy casual and cheerleader-bright sweats (1001 Robson Street, Downtown). For yoga chic, visit Vancouver legend Lululemon Athletica (1148 Robson Street, Downtown). As befits a country that the snow dome was surely modelled on, top-label outdoor and ski gear is well priced, with glamorous hues not seen on Australia's boring racks. Check outlets on Gastown's Water Street.

Locals love

Food. Gourmands cruise the aisles of Urban Fare (177 Davie Street, Yaletown) and Meinhardt's Fine Foods (3002 Granville Street, South Granville). Get on down to Mink Chocolates' cafe for its handmade O Canada! bars of pecans caramelised in maple syrup in a maple syrup milk-chocolate ganache, or for some organic dark-choc delights (863 Hastings Street West, Downtown).

The fine print

A TransLink DayPass on SkyTrains, buses and SeaBuses citywide costs $9/$7 concession, singles $2.50. Little aquabuses run between Granville Island, Yaletown and Davie Street, tickets from $3. Tourism Vancouver: tourismvancouver.com.

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