The Forbidden Tour

The Forbidden Walking Tour

Discover the West Coast capital of sin!

Private tours available | Public tours return April 2019

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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

  • Private tours available — email [email protected]
  • Public tours return April 2019.
  • Price: $28 adult | $25 senior or student.
  • Duration & length: 2 hours | 1km distance.
  • Start point: Cathedral Square, across from the Holy Rosary Cathedral at Dunsmuir & Richards.
  • End point: Maple Tree Square, Gastown.

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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.

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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!

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Gallery

FORBIDDEN HISTORY

Launched in 2012 as our company’s original walking tour, the Forbidden Tour now spills the beans on the city’s sordid past 7 nights a week!

PROHIBITION HISTORY

Learn how Vancouver cops struggled to pursue bootleggers and blind pigs while fortunes were made rum-running across the border.

HERITAGE BUILDINGS

Discover how Beaux-Arts beauties the Sun Tower and the Dominion Building battled to become the tallest in the British Empire.

VICE HISTORY

The occasional police bust didn’t stop a wave of bawdy houses that sprung up under the permissive gaze of notorious mayor L.D. Taylor.

OPIUM HISTORY

Before government crackdowns forced it underground, Vancouver’s thriving opium industry operated in broad daylight.

LOCAL GUIDES

Our guides are storytellers who love to entertain, inform, and delight their guests! Join them on a walk into our city’s forbidden history.

RIOTS

Hear the story of Vancouver’s darkest day — the 1907 riot by white supremacists that destroyed businesses, homes and lives.

MOBSTERS

Mobster Joe Celona arrived in Vancouver in 1919 and quickly became a crime kingpin, running bawdy houses and blind pigs.

CHINATOWN & GASTOWN

Walk the lanes and alleyways of Chinatown and Gastown, where the city’s history is soaked into the brick walls and cobblestones.

Guest testimonials

GREAT FUN, NOT TO BE MISSED

“Our tour guide was Nevada and she was totally brilliant in every respect. Nevada gave us the most interesting, funny, thought provoking and informative tour. She is really knowledgeable about her home town and has such a great way of telling the stories and pointing out all the places that you need to see. It was like being shown around by a friend we had come to visit. We would totally recommend this tour and if you are lucky enough to get Nevada as your tour guide, even better.”

— Sarah-Jane S., via Trip Advisor

FASCINATING FORBIDDEN TOUR

“Lina was a fantastic tour guide. She was charismatic, witty and passionate about the stories she was telling us. Her genuine interest and humanity kept me interested the entire 2 hours. What an amazing, well researched and informative journey. I can’t believe I didn’t learn any of this in school… important to know, especially as a local.”

— HLG H., via Trip Advisor

 

One of the best walking tours I’ve been on

“We went on the Prohibition Tour when in Vancouver recently. I had no idea what to expect. IT WAS AWESOME. Our guide Aman had a really great speaking style and kept us all entertained. I was really impressed with the level of knowledge around the history of buildings, prohibition in general, different people at play- it’s clear that this company does their research. It was engaging and I learned so much Vancouver history. I have always found mobster-related things to be fascinating and this didn’t disappoint. You should definitely take this tour!”

mnieman, via Trip Advisor

Tour Start Location