The Old City (downtown Nanaimo) invites gushing descriptions using words like “quaint”, “charming” and “enchanting” – and deservedly so. It has been named one of the best small downtowns in Canada with its beautifully preserved heritage buildings and pretty, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes. The Old City tiers down to the waterfront like an amphitheatre, where a protected, picturesque harbour invites strollers to explore via a waterfront walkaway that winds past the busy boat basin, the charming waterfront shops and cafes, the pretty Maffeo Sutton Park and Swy-A-Lana Lagoon. From here you can explore farther by hopping a ferry to quaint Protection Island with its floating Dinghy Dock Pub or to Newcastle Island, a splendid provincial park with scenic walking trails and secluded picnic areas. Downtown Nanaimo is also known as the Arts District thanks to its excellent museum, the Port Theatre and its many art galleries and artisan boutiques. The newly renovated Port Place Mall offers iconic stores like Thrifty Foods and London Drugs while farther up the hill, shoppers can indulge their whims at the charming boutiques of Heritage Mews and the Old City Quarter. Pioneer Square on the waterfront next to the historic Bastion comes alive May to October with a Friday Farmers Market that attracts visitors from all over the city as well as from the ships that dock at the Cruise Ship Terminal a few steps away. The Old City is also a much loved residential neighbourhood featuring beautifully restored heritage homes as well as thoughtfully designed multi-family complexes.