Luxe Layovers: YVR
Remember the days when the thought of an airport layover brought shudders and a sense of dread? Today’s airports are breaking out of that mold — and breaking all the old rules — to offer bespoke services to modern travelers. From luxury lounges, modern spas and art museums, to wine bars, gourmet restaurants and markets filled with fresh produce, airports around the world are revolutionizing the travel experience. Discover a new place each month for your next luxe layover.
Vancouver International Airport, Canada: YVR
Vancouver International Airport sits on Sea Island, an island on the Fraser River in Richmond, British Columbia. Situated about 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the airport started with a single runway and a wood shack in 1931.
During World War II, the airport housed the Royal Canadian Air Force and became a manufacturing site for Boeing. The airport further expanded in 1968 with a new $32 million terminal, which served 1.9 million passengers that year. During the 1980’s, international travel blossomed in and out of YVR, with service by Air China, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
The next major expansion was in 1996b with a new $250 million, 16-gate international terminal and new control tower. The airport received great attention on 9/11 when 34 US-based aircraft, carrying more than 8500 passengers, were diverted to Vancouver.
Today, 53 airlines serve YVR to 109 non-stop destinations in Canada, the US and around the world. Last year, YVR served approximately 18 million passengers, making it Canada’s second busiest airport.
The Airport Layout
Vancouver International Airport has been voted best airport in North America for six years and it’s immediately obvious when you arrive, whether you land at Vancouver’s international terminal or enter landside, why that is the case.
When arriving from the U.S. or another international location, you find yourself in a well-marked, modern terminal. Enroute to the customs queue, you walk past beautiful artwork that gives you an immediate sense of being in the Pacific Northwest. You will pass through a post and beam longhouse, go past a sandy beach with sounds of birds and water and past a traditional Pacific Northwest canoe. The overhead wooden sculpture is representative of Canada’s First Nation artwork.
When arriving at YVR, you clear border service and immigration, gather your baggage (free carts are available), give your declaration card to Canada Border Services and proceed through the international reception lounge to the exit and public greeting area. You can find tourism information, money exchange and several shops inside the international reception lounge.
When departing YVR, there are different check-in terminals: Domestic, International and USA terminals. If you are going to the U.S., you will clear customs at YVR before boarding your flight. If you have U.S. Global Entry, you can enter security, fill out the questions on the Global Entry kiosks, and then proceed to security in a matter of moments. If you do not have Global Entry, you will need to fill out the paper USA Declaration Card and proceed to the US Customs and Border Protection line before heading to security.
If your layover in VYR allows time to explore the area, it is easy to get from the airport into downtown Vancouver. One of the easiest ways to get into town is via the new Canada Line train. The train is located between the international and domestic terminals. From international arrivals, exit the building with your luggage and follow signs to the Canada Line. Just before the parking structure, take the escalator or elevator up to the platform.
For domestic arrivals, pick up your bags on Level 2 and then go up to Level 3, walk toward the Link building, following signs to Canada Line. The trip is easier if you purchase a DayPass, Monthly FareCard or FareSaver Ticket at the 7-Eleven or Pharmasave in the domestic terminal (in Arrivals, Level 2). the trip takes about 18 minutes to downtown Richmond or 26 minutes to downtown Vancouver.
Be sure to check out the Green Wall, the largest living wall in North American, connecting Canada Line’s Airport Station to the surrounding Chester Johnson Park. The massive living wall measures nearly 56 feet tall and extends for 36 feet. It is covered with nearly 27,400 individual living plants.
If you prefer to secure private transportation, Aerocar Service is the airport’s licensed limo service. There are set fees of $53 to hire a sedan from YVR to downtown Vancouver. To make a reservation, call 888.821.0021 or visit online at aerocar.ca.
Airport Clubs & Lounges
In addition to several airline-specific lounges (here is a list of all airlines that fly into YVR and you can check with individual airlines for lounge information), YVR has three Plaza Premium Lounges. These lounges are available to all passengers at an hourly rate.
- Distinguished Visitors Lounge is landside in international arrivals. It is an ideal spot to meet or to freshen up before leaving the airport. It is available by reservation only with a minimum charge for four people ($50 CAD per person for 3 hours). The lounge seats up to 20 people and includes a large shower room with amenities, refreshments with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soft drinks, juice, beer and wine. Premium liquor and foods are available for purchase. There is also free Wi-Fi, newspapers, magazines and television for guests.
- Domestic Departures is the newest Plaza Premium Lounge at YVR. It recently opened near Gate B15. Reservations are available but not required. It is open from 6 am to 9 pm Saturday through Friday and 6 am to 8 pm Saturday. The cost is $40 CAD for 2 hours; $50 CAD for 3 hours; or $70 CAD for 6 hours. You will find a variety of hot and cold meals, including sandwiches, burgers, pulled pork sliders, live cooking pasta stands and a variety of Canadian poutines. There are also beverage selections including coffee, tea, juice and alcoholic beverages. There is free Wi-Fi, magazines, newspapers, televisions, a business center with four computer workstations, phones, private resting areas and shower rooms with amenities.
- USA Departures is the lounge for guests waiting departure to the U.S. It is located across from Gate E87 and overlooks the arrivals hall. The lounge seats about 60 guests. There is food and beverage service throughout the day with hot and cold beverages, alcoholic beverages, fresh sandwiches and desserts. There is free Wi-Fi, two computer stations, televisions, magazines and newspapers. The lounge is open from 5 am to 7 pm Sunday through Friday and 5 am to 6 pm on Saturdays. It is available to any traveler at a rate of $40 CAD (2 hours); $50 CAD (3 hours); or $70 CAD (6 hours).
Restaurants & Bars
There are a variety of restaurants and bars at the various terminals in YVR. You can find a Tim Horton’s, serving up Canada’s favorite coffee, in each terminal. Below are the other recommended restaurants and bars at YVR.
- Monk’s Grill is named for the local False Creek neighborhood hangout Monk McQueen’s. It brings drinks and West Coast cuisine to passengers at YVR and is located near Gate C45.
- Stanley’s Happy Landing Lounge is a long-time YVR favorite. It’s located outside security near baggage claim, making it an ideal meeting spot.
- Koho Restaurant & Bar serves a full menu of local favorites from BC wines and beers to mussels, wings and the YVR burger. There is also a large gluten free menu. Koho is located outside security on Level 3 in the international terminal.
- Milestones Bar and Grill is an upscale casual restaurant near Gate D53. Favorites include BC wines, shared plates and prime rib. There is a large gluten free menu available.
- Jetside Bar is actually located inside the lobby of The Fairmont Vancouver Airport, just outside security above the USA departures terminal. The popular bar offers a sophisticated spot to pass the time between flights. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer great views of North Shore mountains and the runways. You can relax in a sofa by a roaring fire to enjoy drinks and appetizers along with free Wi-Fi and televisions. There is live music every Friday and Saturday evening. The bar is open 11 am to midnight daily.
- Globe@YVR is the airport’s only fine dining restaurant, also located at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport. The restaurant specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine and practices an Ocean Wise Program. The restaurant, with panoramic views over the runway, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6 am to 10 pm daily.
There are a variety of shops at YVR, offering everything from tourist items, souvenirs and books to luxury products, rare whiskies and gourmet items.
- Virgin Books and Entertainment offers books, music and entertainment, including electronic entertainment such as DVDs, computer games and electronics. There are two locations in the domestic terminal, one on Level 3 before security (open 5:30 am to 10 pm daily) and one near Gate C32 (open 6 am to 9 pm daily).
- Rogers’ Chocolates started in Victoria, BC back in 1885. Favorites still include the individually-wrapped Victoria Creams and sea salt caramels. Located near Gate C31, open 6 am to 9 pm daily.
- Westcoast Liquor Store is a large, full service liquor store where you can pick up BC wines, imported wines, spirits, beers and accessories. It is before security on L1, so you will either want to pick up items as you arrive in Vancouver, or put the items in your baggage prior to checking it. You won’t be able to get the large bottles through security. The store is open 9 am to 11 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am to 11 pm on weekends.
- Gallerie Vancouver sells Kenneth Cole, Roots, Fossil, Thompson, Jack George and Columbia Sportswear clothing and accessories. The store is located near Gate C31 and open 6 am to 9 pm.
- Marshall Rousso sells women’s lifestyle fashions along with handbags, jewelry and shoes. The shop, located near Gate B16, is open 5:30 am to 10 pm.
- Taraxca Jewellery sells handcrafted jewelry from BC artisans. The shop has large selections of abalone, pearl, shell, Aboriginal inspired West Coast collections and wood/silver collections. Located before security on Level 3, the shop is open 7 am to 8 pm.
- Tumi sells high-end suitcases, bags and travel accessories. The store is located near Gate B14 and is open 5:30 am to 10 pm.
- Crafthouse sells unique, handcrafted gifts from BC artisans, including jewelry, artwork, clay items and clothing. Crafthouse is located before security on Level 3 and is open 6 am to 9 pm.
- Explore Sea to Sky offers items from Vancouver’s Sea to Sky Corridor from Vancouver to Whistler. The shop showcases the area’s art and culture, including local gourmet delicacies. The shop is located near Gate C47 and is open 6 am to 9 pm daily.
- Travel + Leisure is the world’s first branded shop by the luxury travel magazine of the same name. The store includes luggage, accessories, literature, maps and travel guides. It is located before security on Level 3 and open 6 am to 9 pm daily.
- The Beauty Shop sells high-end cosmetics and fragrances. Beauty Advisors are on hand to help. Located near Gate B53, the shop is open 9 am to 8 pm.
- Collection offers tax and duty free prices on such labels as Pandora, Swarovski, Prada, Gucci, Tag Heuer, Longines and Swatch. There are two locations, open 24 hours daily. One is on the ramp just past security while the other is near Gate D53.
- Connoisseur Collection offers fine, rare whiskies and cognacs from around the world. The shop, open 24 hours, is located on the ramp just past security.
- Hermès is the world-renowned retailer of fine bags, clothing, accessories, fragrances and home decor. The duty-free shop, located near Gate D53, is open 9 am to 5:15 pm daily.
- Brooks Brothers offers fine clothing, including both business and casual wear. It is located before security on Level 3 and open 9 am to 10 pm daily.
- Hudson’s Bay Company Trading Post is probably Canada’s most famous department store. Among the shop’s famous offerings is the Canadian multi-strip Point Blanket and accessories. The shop is open from 9 am to 10 pm.
- Gifts of the Raven is adjacent to one of the airport’s most beloved pieces of art, Bill Reid’s The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe. The shop is filled with cultural items and artwork from BC’s First Nations people. The shop, located before security on Level 3, is open 9 am to 8 pm.
- Kids Works is filled with educational toys, crafts, travel games and other toys. The shop is located near Gate E87 and open 5 am to 7:30 pm daily.
- Roots is a favorite Canadian brand for leather goods, sports gear and apparel. The shop is located near Gate E87 and is open from 7 am to 7:30 pm daily.
- Victoria’s Secret offers its beauty products and accessories including bags, sunglasses and skin care items. The shop is located near Gate E87 and open from 5 am to 7 pm.
- Indulgences offers spa-quality bath and body products. The shop is located near Gate E85 and is open 7 am to 7:30 pm daily.
- Discover Vancouver sells products from Vancouver exhibits, attractions and landmarks along with items from First Nation peoples including art and jewelry. The shop is located near Gate E87 and is open 7 am to 7:30 pm daily.
- Science World is brought to YVR by Vancouver’s popular Telus World of Science. the shop, near Gate E87, is open 5 am to 7:30 pm and sells educational toys, puzzles, games, experiments and books.
- Vancouver Kitchen sells a selection of regional foods, including sweets, sauces, seafood, drink mixes, local linens, giftware and cookbooks. The shop is located near Gate E87 and open 7 am to 7:30 pm.
For Your Health
Vancouver International Airport offers several services that are rare to find at airports. There is a pharmacy, dental clinic and medical clinic on Level 1 of the domestic terminal before clearing security.
The pharmacy, Pharmasave, is open 8 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday. It has prescription drug service and also sells gifts, cards and over-the-counter medications.
Next door to Pharmasave is the medical clinic. The walk-in clinic offers both primary care and family care. Other specialties include travel medicine, physiotherapy, podiatry, acute injury management and aviation health services. It is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.
The dental clinic, which offers both appointments and walk-in services, practices aesthetic, cosmetic and general dentistry. The clinic is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am to 5:30 pm Saturday.
For Fun & Relaxation
The artwork at YVR is one of the things that has made it a travel favorite. As you walk through the airport’s terminals, you will find yourself surrounded by great artwork, most of it from Canada. One of the key features of the International terminal is the Aquarium and Creek. The indoor creek is surrounded by cafes, shopping, seating and artwork. The satellite location of the Vancouver Aquarium is a large, 30,000-gallon aquarium that showcases indigenous sea animals. This massive aquarium is located on Level 3 and includes thousands of creatures, including wolf eels, anemones, striped perch, sea stars, live rock, kelp, corals, sea urchins and fish. There is a smaller jellyfish exhibit on Level 4 that includes more than 12 types of jellies.
If you have a long layover, you can download one of several maps that showcase the artwork located throughout the terminals. One of the self-guided tours, Land, Sea & Sky, showcases the variety of artwork at YVR. Another great self-guided art tour focuses First Nations Art & Architecture. Both include details of the artwork (with photos to ensure you are reading about the correct work of art) along with a detailed map to lead you through the terminals. You can either download the PDF before you leave home, or open it on your tablet so you can follow along at the airport.
Some of the highlights include the Flight Spindle Whorl by artist Susan Point. This is the world’s largest Coast Salish Spindle Whorl, measuring more than 16 feet in diameter and about a foot thick. The Flight Spindle Whorl greets passengers as they enter the Customs Hall in the International terminal.
Another favorite artwork is the Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by artist Bill Reid. The massive piece was installed in the International terminal in 1996 and is probably YVR’s most famous item. It is a bronze casting with a jade green patina. Haida Gwaii means “Islands of the People” while the Jade Canoe represents all living beings in the world. Just behind The Jade Canoe is the Great Wave Wall by artist Lutz Haufschild. The work, measuring more than 130 feet long by nearly 33 feet tall, consists of thousands of glass pieces representing the ocean.
Throughout the airport, you will find a variety of totems and Clayoquot welcome figures. There are several figures, standing nearly 10 feet tall, in the International arrivals terminal. These items were traditionally positioned on beaches to welcome guests to special events. The most dramatic totem, Celebration of Flight, is in the Graham Clarke Atrium in departures Level 3. The work is by artist Don Yeomans and includes many mythological symbols. You can find additional totems outside the International terminal.
Another great way to spend some time during your layover is at the public observation area on Level 4 of the domestic terminal. You will have to exit and re-enter security, so it’s a great way to spend some time on long layovers. The public observation area is open to the general public, so you will often see people there hanging out watching the planes come and go. The large space is filled with floor-to-ceiling windows, 23 feet tall and stretching for almost 140 feet. There are telescopes available to give you close up views of the planes. Other features include touch-screen kiosks detailing the airport’s history, air traffic control listening stations, an interactive model of Sea Island and a video that gives you a behind the scenes look at how your luggage travels throughout YVR.
Rest Your Head
The only hotel at YVR is the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Airport. The hotel, located directly above the USA Departures terminal, includes 392 luxury rooms, all sound proofed with floor-to-ceiling windows so you can sleep in peace, but enjoy watching the planes at the airport during your stay. The hotel offers a full-service day spa. Day use rooms are available for 4, 6 or 8 hours, and includes use of the pool or health club.
The hotel has a bar and restaurant (see above in the restaurant section of the USA terminal) and serves afternoon tea between 2 and 3:30 pm. For reservations, visit online at http://www.fairmont.com/vancouver-airport-richmond/.
Be sure to go online at http://www.yvr.ca/en/default.aspx for any current updates before you leave home. When you are at the airport, if you have any questions, you can contact one of 12 customer care counters located throughout YVR. Each one is open 24 hours. There are also dozens of volunteers in bright green vests located throughout the airport. Any of them can answer your questions or guide you in the right direction.