The Forbidden Tour

The Forbidden Walking Tour

Our Prohibition City walking tour got a new name!

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Take the Forbidden Tour!

Join us for a walking tour of historic Vancouver and discover how illegal booze, opium, and vice turned a sleepy port city into the West Coast capital of sin…on the Forbidden Tour.

This two hour walking tour explores Victory Square, Chinatown, and Gastown – Vancouver’s most historic neighbourhoods. Starting in the world of the saloon, you’ll trace the story of Vancouver’s forbidden history while winding along the city’s most historic 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.

The real story of Vancouver

In 1917, Prohibition hit Vancouver harder than a slug of bathtub gin. 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.

By the 1920s Vancouver’s Chinatown had became a hotbed of prostitution, gambling, and opium. Thirsty loggers, sailors, and miners poured in from the nearby port, ready to blow their wages while crime kingpins Shui Moy and Joe Celona lined their pockets with the ill-gotten gains.

On the Forbidden Tour you’ll walk the alleyways and back streets where it all went down. So discover the real story of Vancouver – this ain’t where they take you on the tour buses!

Watch the 90 second video

Highlights

  • The real story of Vancouver.
  • Designed for adult audiences.
  • Tales of opium dens, bootlegging, corruption and vice.
  • Weave through the alleyways and lanes of Victory Square, Chinatown, and Gastown.

Quick Facts

  • Public tours return spring 2018.
  • Price: $28 adult | $25 senior/student.
  • Duration & length: 2 hours | 1km distance.
  • Private tours available: email [email protected]
  • Start point: Cathedral Sq, across from the Holy Rosary Cathedral at Dunsmuir & Richards.
  • End point: Maple Tree Square, Gastown.

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See where it all went down!

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

Chinatown

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

Landmarks

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