Prohibition City

Prohibition City

From back alley blind pigs to Chinatown opium dens!

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Mobsters! Opium! Booze!

Delve into Vancouver’s dirtiest secrets on this scandal fuelled walking tour. Starting in the world of the saloon, you trace the story of prohibition in Vancouver while winding along the city’s most storied streets. You’ll hear tales of blind pigs, corrupt mayors, and enterprising bootleggers. Plus you’ll see first hand evidence of opium dens and walk down an alleyway once teeming with over 40 “bawdy houses.”

Along the way you’ll see some of the city’s greatest heritage buildings like the Sun Tower and the Dominion Building, which once battled to become the tallest building in the British Empire. The tour finishes in Gastown, steps from the city’s most talked about bars and restaurants.

Prohibition in Vancouver

In 1917, Prohibition hit Vancouver harder than a slug of bathtub gin, knocking the city to its knees. Saloon doors swung closed for good, forcing law-abiding citizens into an underground world of bootlegged spirits and illicit activity.

Mob bosses set up scores of illegal drinking dens, while dirty cops took bribes to look the other way. Vancouver’s longest-running mayor L.D. Taylor emerged from the chaos, soon notorious for his shadowy past, raucous parties and underworld ties. When the U.S. followed suit with their own prohibition three years later, enterprising Vancouver rum-runners made millions smuggling booze on midnight voyages down the coast.

Prohibition City … these ain’t the kinda stories you hear on the tour buses!


  • Scandalous stories of Vancouver’s prohibition history.
  • Tales of opium dens, bootlegging, corruption and vice.
  • Designed for adult audiences.
  • Easy to find start point at Cathedral Square.
  • See the city’s greatest heritage buildings and hear their untold stories.
  • Finishes in Maple Tree Square, surrounded by the city’s best bars and restaurants.

Quick Facts

  • Public tours return spring 2018
  • Price: $25 adult | $22 senior/student.
  • Duration & length: 1 hour 45 minutes | 1km distance.
  • Private tours available: email [email protected]
  • Meeting point: Cathedral Square, Dunsmuir and Richards streets.
  • End point: Maple Tree Square, Gastown – a short walk from the start point.

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See where it all went down!

Chinatown in the 1800s - Dupont St - credit City of Vancouver Archives


Victory Square Vancouver - 1920s - credit City of Vancouver Archives

Victory Square

West Hastings & Carrall Streets - CPR interurban train crossing - credit City of Vancouver Archives

Hastings Street

Tour Start Location


Places You’ll Visit

  • Gastown
  • Chinatown
  • Shanghai Alley
  • The Millennium Gate
  • Historic Victory Square
  • Opium den escape routes
  • Former saloons & beer parlours
  • The Cenotaph – WW1 memorial
  • Vancouver’s best preserved alleyway
  • The Flack Block – built on gold money
  • Beaux-Arts beauty the Dominion Building
  • The Permanent Building with its machine gun turret
  • The Sun Tower – Vancouver’s most salacious building