Nanaimo, a picturesque city centrally located on Vancouver Island, has long been considered a hub of British Columbia. While it was initially deemed “Hub City” because of its convenient location, it is now one of the top shopping destinations in the area.
Downtown Nanaimo, in particular, is popular amongst art lovers, foodies, gift shoppers, and everyone in-between. From the packed bookstores to the clothing outlets, art galleries, and numerous boutiques, it is clear why year after year people flock to this part of the city to feed the shopping bug. In addition to specialty shops and jewelry stores, a section of downtown Nanaimo has also been coined the “Arts District”. Whether during the holiday season or low season, the city’s shops are alive and bustling.
Below we will go over a brief overview of what to expect when shopping in Nanaimo, as well as a few stores that are must-stops if you’re visiting the city.
One-of-a-Kind Stores Galore
As mentioned, Nanaimo offers a unique meld of big name retailers and funky, one-of-a-kind shops where you are bound to find something that catches your eye. There are more than a dozen indoor and outdoor malls in Nanaimo, including Woodgrove Mall, Vancouver Island’s biggest shopping center. Because of the many, many different options, it’s no wonder why Nanaimo has been tagged the “shopping mecca” of Vancouver Island.
Another bonus when shopping in Nanaimo is that many of the shopping areas, boutiques, and retailers are located along the historic old Island Highway 19A. This offers visitors a chance to pick up something special while also getting a look at the breathtaking coastline of Vancouver Island.
Downtown Nanaimo is divided into three separate shopping areas: the Arts District, the Old City Quarter, and the Waterfront District. Here is a little more information on two of these main districts:
The Arts District
The Arts District is located in the city core and definitely lives up to its name. A good starting place is Gallery 223, which is a cooperative space in an old heritage building that offers a place for artists to work, as well as a studio on the second floor. Another highlight of this area is Hill’s Native Art, a gallery that is known for its presentation of masks, totems, walking sticks, and other Cowichan Valley treasures.
Old City Quarter
Situated directly up the hill from the downtown epicenter, Old City Quarter is a historic area that hosts shops and restaurants within a modern red-brick complex. There are many different retail shops that offer an eclectic mix, such as a knitting and yarn shop, quaint boutiques with unique jewelry, clothing, and home decor, and New Age shops that carry such items as crystals and minerals.
The Old City Quarter district is also home to McLean’s Specialty Foods, a renowned shop that carries Scandinavian and UK imports, mouth-watering sauces, and hundreds of varieties of cheese. Another must-stop in this area are the heritage shops a bit further down Fitzwilliam Street nearing the harbour. G.E.M. Fabrications, which sells unique wrought-iron metalwork, is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike.
As you can see, you will have no shortage of shopping choices when visiting Nanaimo. Whether you are in the mood to check out the city’s malls and big name shops, or are interested in getting a taste of Nanaimo’s funky and one-of-a-kind boutiques, you won’t be disappointed.
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