Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours is a company that offers guided walking tours through Gastown, downtown Vancouver, the West End and Stanley Park.
If you like storytelling, live theatre, history and going for walks, and you want to learn about the city’s past, a guided tour with Forbidden Vancouver is highly recommended for both tourists and locals (ages 14+).
For the official website of Vancouver’s premier walking tour company, and to buy tickets, click Forbidden Vancouver.
Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours
Tour guides and local actors entertain, educate and guide small groups through the streets and back alleys of downtown Vancouver. One of the tours – the Lost Souls of Gastown – is led by an actor or actress in costume. The other tours are with professional tour guides.
Each tour consists of between 4 and 20 guests, plus the guide. Sometimes dressed in period costume, depending on the tour, the guide introduces themselves and then leads the group on a mysterious and almost magical tour through Vancouver neighbourhoods and into the past.
Walking Tour Options
Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours offers a number of different kinds of tours. A couple of them focus on the city’s historical past and explore Gastown and other parts of Vancouver‘s downtown core. A third tour explores Stanley Park, another has an art deco and chocolate theme, and a fifth looks at the city’s “gay” past.
Tours last for between 1.5 and 2.5 hours and they go at a comfortable pace – not too fast and not too slow. They are all recommended and, between the five of them, they offer something for everyone (except maybe for folk who really don’t like to walk, plus children under 14 years of age).
Details about Forbidden Vancouver’s five main walking tour options are listed below. Walking tour season varies with each tour, but there is usually at least one running from March until December or even January each year. Private tours can also be booked year-round.
The various walking tours, durations and prices as of the spring of 2019 are as follows:
See below for more comprehensive details.
Lost Souls of Gastown
The Lost Souls of Gastown Tour is one of Forbidden Vancouver’s most popular tours. It’s a 1.5-hour storytelling excursion that’s guided by a professional actor or actress through the side streets and alleyways of Gastown, which is Vancouver’s historic old part of town.
The tour starts at Cathedral Square which is across the street from the Holy Rosary Cathedral at 646 Richards Street. It finishes around 1 kilometre and 90 minutes later near Maple Tree Square in the heart of Gastown at the corner of Water Street and Alexander. Places visited along the way include Gaoler’s Mews, the Gastown steam clock, the CPR railyards and former locations of the city’s first jailhouse, brothel and saloon.
There is a story to this tour, told through the life experiences of the guide’s fictitious character from the late 1800’s. The historical information provided – from the bawdy houses to the plague, the great fire and murder of John Bray – however, are all historically accurate. Photos of what places used to look like are also shown along the way.
As of late 2018, the tour runs about four evenings a week and costs $28 for adults or $25 for students and seniors.
Click Lost Souls of Gastown Tour for tickets and more information.
The Forbidden Vancouver Tour
Similar to the Lost Souls of Gastown, the Forbidden Tour lasts for about one kilometre, starts at Cathedral Square at the corner of Dunsmuir and Richards, and ends near Maple Tree Square in Gastown. It too costs between $25 and $28.
If you want to be entertained while learning about Vancouver’s history of opium dens, prohibition, speakeasies, corruption, crime and various social sins, you’ll enjoy this tour.
Click Forbidden Vancouver Tour for further details and to book your experience. And for an idea of what to expect, see the following promotional video from Forbidden Vancouver.
Dark Secrets of Stanley Park
Unlike Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours’ downtown trips, the Dark Secrets of Stanley Park Tour is an afternoon event that explores the seawall, forest trails and fascinating history of the city’s world-famous park. On the tour you’ll see totem poles and beautiful scenery, plus learn about Deadman’s Island, the Lions Gate Bridge and past criminal activities.
Beginning and ending outside the Vancouver Aquarium at 845 Avison Way in Stanley Park, the tour typically takes place on Saturday afternoons, lasts for about three hours and runs from mid-spring until late fall. The cost is between around $32 and $35.
Click The Dark Secrets of Stanley Park Tour for more information about the afternoon tours through the park.
Art Deco & Chocolate Tour
The Art Deco and Chocolate Tasting Tour is a two-and-a-half-hour walking tour in downtown Vancouver that examines some of the city’s art deco architecture and chocolate shop creations.
This walking tour combines storytelling, a look at how history has shaped early 20th-Century Vancouver, and chocolate sampling along the way. Venues examined include the Commodore Ballroom (1929), Gotham Steakhouse (1933), Marine Building (1930), Power Block (1929) and Vogue Theatre (1940). Also visited are two of Vancouver’s top chocolatiers (where complimentary tastings are included in the price of the tour).
Although still very much an outdoor walking tour, of Forbidden Vancouver’s various tour options, this one goes indoors more than the others (and so can be extra popular on rainier days).
The cost of this tour as of the winter of 2018/19 is between $45 and $50, depending on your age. It usually departs on Saturday mornings from outside the Vogue Theatre at 918 Granville Street (near Smithe Street) and finishes three hours later at the Marine Building at 355 Burrard Street.
If you like walking, exploring, history, architecture and/or chocolate, it’s a great tour to go on!
For tickets and more information click Art Deco & Chocolate Tasting Tour.
The Really Gay History Tour
Did you know that the history of Vancouver and the struggles of its LGBTQ2+ community for recognition and acceptance involved bookstore bombings, protests and police raids? You’ll learn about those and other events and places of interest in Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours’ Really Gay History Tour.
On this tour focusing on the city’s “gay” history, participants make their way from Robson Square, down Granville Street, and through Vancouver’s West End to Davie Street Village with its bars, restaurants and rainbow-coloured banners and cross-walks.
The tour begins at the Vancouver City Centre SkyTrain Station on Granville Street by West Georgia and finishes about three hours later at Davie Street Village. The cost is around $35 for adults and $32 for seniors and students. It takes place during the day about once a week between July and November.
Click The Really Gay History Tour for more details.
Forbidden Vancouver Tours Video
Below is a video with more information about Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours and a look at what to expect. In it you’ll meet Will Woods, the chief storyteller and founder of the company.
Tips & Advice
Below are some tips and additional information to help you make the most out of your walking tour experiences.
TIP #1: Because they involve content designed for mature audiences, walking tours with Forbidden Vancouver are recommended for folk ages 14+.
TIP #2: If you find you can’t hear, don’t be shy – ask your guide if they can speak up. It can be noisy on Vancouver’s streets and your guide will be more than happy to “up” their volume, especially if you’re in a larger group. They are also happy to answer questions along the way.
TIP #3: Tips are greatly appreciated, but not compulsory. If you enjoy your tour and want to thank your guide, feel free to slip them a few dollars at the end. Another way to thank the company is to give them a good review later online.
TIP #4: The four main tours within the city are all wheelchair accessible. Because it goes along forested trails in parts, the Secrets of Stanley Park tour is not.
TIP #5: At the end of your walk you’ll likely be given a promo code for a discount for a future tour (which you can use yourself or pass on to a friend).
TIP #6: Especially with the storytelling tours where the guide takes on the character of a fictitious historical figure, guests need a fairly good level of English to understand what’s being said. If English is your second language, and your level of comprehension isn’t quite high, you’ll likely be better off going to a museum where you can read the display information as opposed to just listening the whole time.
TIP #7: The tours are both entertaining and educational. You’ll be entertained by the fictitious characters from bygone years who lead the tours, but what they say is based on actual historical events.
To learn more about walking tours in downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park see the Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours website.
For information about other Vancouver tour companies click Vancouver Sightseeing Tours.
Other articles that might be of interest check include the following:
- Vancouver’s Historic Gastown
- Stanley Park
- Vancouver Restaurants
- Lower Mainland Festival and Events
- Vancouver History and Culture
- Vancouver Theatres
- Shows & Entertainment
- Vancouver’s Top 100 Places