Hide from death and the law in Vancouver’s retro Burrard hotel
Spent a great night in a Miami beach motel last week. And it was 4,505 kilometers away from Florida on Canada’s west coast.
The Burrard hotel is a throwback, 4-storey motel in downtown Vancouver, BC. It’s located right across the street from St. Paul’s, an acute-care hospital that specializes in heart attacks (treating heart attacks, not causing them). So if your relative is on life support and you want to drink your worries away in a kitschy paradise, slouch on over to the Burrard.
Built in 1956, the Burrard turned seedy for decades until it was given a saucy hipster makeover last year. Now it’s an under-heralded art deco gem that you probably won’t find in local travel brochures. This pastel-painted motel will make you feel like you’re on the lam from a Tampa Bay bank heist gone awry and you’re lucky to be alive.
If you are a wanted criminal/celebrity and you need to hide out in a Vancouver hotel where no cop or paparazzi will ever find you, the Burrard’s a pretty safe bet. It’s the kind of refuge where you can (probably) slip the desk clerk 20 bucks to let you chill in a private room for a couple of hours so you can bleach and buzzcut your hair, fake-tan your skin, practice your new identity, then figure out your next lawless move.
In a classic motel layout, every room overlooks the rectangular courtyard below. As the website says, “It’s like Melrose Place, only there’s no pool to drown in.”
Instead, the courtyard is a forest of fauna and palm trees (planted in the early ’70s), vintage chairs, and giant Jenga game pieces. This 2nd-floor courtyard — a lovely oasis in an otherwise concrete urban jungle — is perched a few feet above the parking level. And I’m not just talking about parked cars here. The Burrard is the first hotel I’ve stayed at that offers your choice of a dozen cruiser bikes to bomb around the Vancouver seawall. Some bikes even have cute tote boxes attached to the back. Very cool
I stayed at the Burrard for a night last week. Room 424. Our nice, clean, hipster-approved room had a sunset view, a crooked HD flatscreen TV, and a sign pointed at the bath tub that read ‘THIS WAY TO THE POOL –>’
Kooky signs are a recurring motif. On the 3rd floor staircase, there’s:
There’s no bar or nightclub here, so I guess the 3rd floor is reserved for groupies.
Here’s the second floor:
Tell that to all the vacationing seniors on the 2nd floor. Meanwhile if you’re staying on the 1st floor, I’m afraid I have bad news for you:
Every time I walked past this lobby sign, I had to stop what I was doing and rush in to use the toilet:
If you’re actually hiding out from a bank heist gone awry, it gets lonely if you don’t call your mom. Trust me. So you’ll be happy to hear the Burrard gives you free phone calls to anywhere in North America.
The Burrard costs as low as $124 a night (low season) which includes free coffee, ice, and bottled water, and a seriously powerful room fan. Kids stay free. Pets are welcome for an extra 25 bones a night (and Bowser gets a bed, bowl, and treats). The Burrard’s website touts the bathroom as “stunning” so it’s got that going for it.
Maybe the best part is there’s no breakfast room. Instead, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, pop the collar on your golf shirt, and shuffle into the ground floor deli Betty’s. As you wait for your latte and sandwich, paparazzi may not spot you, but you will be noticed by other guests. They’re all just like you…fun-seeking retirees, hungover hipsters, and haunted offspring of terminal patients at St. Paul’s hospital. It’s a dreamy hotel for sure.
I’m not even sure the Burrard is real. I only stayed there two nights but even then it felt off-kilter and strange. It was like I’d already been there forever…but it wasn’t a hotel at all. Instead, it was a funky, playful waiting room for the final hotel across the street.
– Ken Hegan
Read all Ken’s travel stories here.
Ken was a guest of The Burrard