If you like storytelling, live theatre, history and going for walks, and you want to learn about the city’s past, we highly recommend guided tours with Forbidden Vancouver. They are great for both tourists and locals.
Visit the forbiddenvancouver.ca website for tickets and full details about the company’s tours.
WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WINTER
In the past the tours used to end in November and then didn’t start back up until the spring. Since last year, however, they run twelve months of the year.
Even in January, Hidden History & Sweet Treats Tour takes place on both Saturdays and Sundays. Beginning in February, there is also the Lost Souls of Gastown Tour most days of the week except for Mondays. The first Secrets of the Penthouse tour of the year is on February 14th (i.e., Valentine’s Day). The next one after that is on March 13th.
This article contains the following information about Forbidden Vancouver:
Walking Tour Options | Lost Souls of Gastown | Monumental Scandals Tour | Forbidden Vancouver Tour | Dark Secrets of Stanley Park | Really Gay History Tour | Holiday History & Hot Chocolate Tour | Tips & Advice | Other Information
Guided Walking Tours with Forbidden Vancouver
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 four 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. The group explores Vancouver neighbourhoods and the past.
Forbidden Vancouver is a great company. It offers exceptional guided tours of downtown Vancouver. We’ve been on their walks and loved them. Also, last time we checked, they had a five out of five rating on both TripAdvisor and Yelp! It’s impossible to get reviews any higher than that!
For tickets and full details about the tours, see the forbiddenvancouver.ca website.
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 looks at the city’s “gay” past. There’s also a tour with holiday displays and hot chocolate during the Christmas season.
Tours last for between about 1.5 hours and 2.5 hours. They go at a comfortable pace – not too fast and not too slow. They are all recommended and, between the six of them, they offer something for everyone (except maybe for folks who really don’t like to walk, plus children under 14 years of age).
Comprehensive details about Forbidden Vancouver’s walking tour options are listed below.
The various walking tours, duration and prices as of early 2024 are listed below.
- Lost Souls of Gastown Tour (1.5 hours, $30/$33)
- Dark Secrets of Stanley Park Tour (2 hours, $30/$33)
- Really Gay History Tour (2 hours, $30/$33)
- Forbidden Vancouver Tour (1.75 hours, $30/$33)
- Hidden History & Sweet Treats Tour (2 hours, $30/$33)
(Note: The Hidden History & Sweet Treats Tour used to be called the Monumental Scandals Tour. It has a new name though, plus some tasty extra perks!)
Other Tour Options
In December last year, and during the first week of 2024, there was also the Holiday History & Hot Chocolate Tour. It was a 2-hour walk and cost either $45 or $49 depending on your age. Whether it happens again next Christmas season is to be determined. Fingers crossed that it will!
In addition to the above, Forbidden Vancouver also hosts Secrets of the Penthouse which is a special event at the Penthouse Nightclub. It costs $70, but it’s not a walking tour. Rather, it’s an old-fashioned, night life-style party at Vancouver’s most infamous club. It features stories about mobsters, bootlegging, vice squads and murder. It also includes live Jazz and an Italian dinner of spaghetti & meatballs! Unlike the tours, this event only happens about once a month. It also pretty much always sells out!
See below for more comprehensive details about each of the above walking tours.
Lost Souls of Gastown
The Lost Souls of Gastown Tour is Forbidden Vancouver’s most popular tour. It’s a 1.5-hour storytelling excursion. Guided by a professional actor, this tour goes through the side streets and alleyways of Gastown which is Vancouver’s historic old part of town.
The tour starts in front of the Monaco Cafe at 356 Water Street. It finishes around a 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 1800s. The historical information provided, however, from the bawdy houses to the plague, the great fire and murder of John Bray, are all historically accurate. Authentic photos of what places used to look like are also shown along the way.
This tour runs almost every evening between February and autumn, with extra times added around Halloween season. The last time we checked it cost $32 for adults and $29 for students and seniors.
Click Lost Souls of Gastown Tour for tickets and more information about this adventure.
The Hidden History & Sweet Treats Tour
Launched in May 2023, and formerly called the Monumental Scandals Tour, the Hidden History & Sweet Treats Tour is one of the newest offerings in Forbidden Vancouver’s collection of walking tour options. Whereas most of the company’s other tours are recommended for adults and youth ages 14+ (or kids as young as 10 whose parents think they can handle mature subject matter), this one is a little tamer and simply rated “ages 10+”). This tour also comes with yummy treats to enjoy along the way.
Despite being “tamer,” this new tour uncovers the steamier and more scandalous history behind some of Vancouver’s most iconic buildings. What has happened inside the Vancouver Art Gallery, Hotel Vancouver, Sinclair Centre, Marine Building and other historic landmarks over the years in the past? You’ll be surprised!
In this tour you’ll hear stories about the lives and secrets of socialites and the rich and famous. You’ll learn about murders, corruption and scandals. The tour includes an exclusive viewing of the iconic Marine Building. Participants get to go inside and learn about some of the city’s other historic structures too. The hosting guide describes Vancouver’s history during the Great Depression and tells stories about early 20th Century-era class warfare, Vaudeville dancers and gambling.
As of January 2024, now called the Hidden History & Sweet Treats Tour, this new tour happens on Saturdays and Sundays. Because it includes things to eat, the new cost is $69 for adults and $64 for seniors and youth. They start not far from Robson Square at the corner of Robson Street and Granville in front of the Old Navy clothing store. They end a couple of hours later at the Marine Building at 355 Burrard Street.
To learn more about this tour, see the Forbidden Vancouver website.
The Forbidden Vancouver Tour
The Forbidden Vancouver Tour is a 1.75-hour walking tour. It explores Vancouver’s Victory Square and historic Gastown neighbourhoods. The group meets outside the Buro Espresso coffee shop at 356 Water Street and the tour ends in Maple Tree Square just down the road.
The Forbidden Tour goes for about one kilometre. It starts by the Steam Clock at the corner of Water Street and Cambie in Gastown. It too costs between $29 and $32.
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.
The Forbidden Tour takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from April until the end of October. Beginning in June, it also runs on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Click Forbidden Vancouver Tour for more information 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 a daytime 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. You’ll also learn about Deadman’s Island, secret cemeteries 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 mornings, lasts for about two hours and runs from May or June until late fall. The cost is between around $29 and $32 per person.
Click The Dark Secrets of Stanley Park for more information about the tours through Vancouver’s world-famous park. Or, for details about our experience on the walk a few years ago, see our article about Forbidden Vancouver’s Walking Tour Through Stanley Park.
The Really Gay History Tour
Did you know that the history of Vancouver and the struggles of its 2SLGBTQIA+ 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 2SLGBTQIA+ history, participants make their way through Vancouver’s West End to Davie Street Village with its bars, restaurants and rainbow-coloured banners and cross-walks.
The tour begins outside the Robert Lee YMCA and finishes a couple of hours later at Davie Street Village. The cost is around $32 for adults and $29 for seniors and students. The tour takes place during the day about once a week between April or May and October. There are extra tours every once in a while too, however, including during the Vancouver Pride Festival around the first week of August.
Participants meet outside the Robert Lee YMCA building at 955 Burrard Street and the tour ends in Jim Deva Plaza on Davie Street.
See our article about the Really Gay History Tours for more details.
The Holiday History & Hot Chocolate Tour
The Holiday History & Hot Chocolate Tour is a Forbidden Vancouver experience perfect for the holiday season.
The tour takes participants to fancy hotel lobbies with Christmas displays, while they hear interesting and creepy stories about some of downtown’s heritage buildings. The tour takes place in the colder months of the year, so all of the stops are indoors. One of the highlights is a private viewing of the Marine Building paired with hot chocolate from Mink Chocolates.
This holiday tour runs on weekends and select dates in December and January. The experience is two hours long and costs $45 for youth and seniors and $49 for adults. Everyone meets at the corner of Granville and Robson, and the tour ends at 863 West Hastings Street.
For more information about this tour, visit the official Holiday History & Hot Chocolate page.
Tips & Advice
Below are some suggestions and information to help you make the most of your walking tour experiences.
TIP #1: Most of the tours with Forbidden Vancouver are recommended for adults and youth ages 14+. Children as young as 10 can also join, but only if their parents or guardians are comfortable with them being exposed to the occasional story involving mature subject matter.
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 Dark Secrets of Stanley Park Tour is not.
TIP #5: All of the tours are both entertaining and educational. With the Lost Souls of Gastown Tour, you’ll be entertained by a fictitious character from bygone years who leads the tour, 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