The Lower Mainland of British Columbia (BC) includes 21 municipalities, with the most well-known being the city of Vancouver. The whole region is a very desirable place to live, and ranked #3 in a worldwide survey on the top cities for quality of life!
Just next door to Vancouver is Burnaby, a city of about 250,000 people. Burnaby is a large urban center known for great shopping and restaurants, excellent family-friendly communities, and a good public transit system.
There are a lot of reasons someone might be interested in moving to and living in Burnaby, BC. But there are also some cons that should be carefully considered, most notably the high cost of living and the traffic. Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the top pros and cons of living in Burnaby, BC.
Pros of Living in Burnaby
1. Excellent public transit
Burnaby has some of the best public transit in the Lower Mainland. This is a great feature of the city, considering some neighbourhoods are very dense and traffic can be slow-moving and frustrating to drive in.
The SkyTrain goes through Burnaby on the north and south routes, making it accessible to most people living in the city. There are 11 SkyTrain stops in the city, second only to Vancouver. There are also many buses that run different routes in Burnaby. All of these public transit options make commuting easy and affordable, and the SkyTrain in particular gives residents very quick access to downtown Vancouverm either for work or recreation purposes.
2. Great parks and outdoor recreation spaces
There are many wonderful urban parks in Burnaby that are excellent for walking, running, or biking. Some of the popular parks are Burnaby Lake, a 10 km loop or Deer Lake, a 5 km loop around the lake. Both of these parks are very popular and enjoyed regularly by residents of all ages and fitness levels. Central Park is also popular for walking, biking, or playing tennis at the numerous available courts.
Those looking for a bit more vigorous exercise can head up Burnaby Mountain, which has lots of hiking and downhill biking options. Burnaby Mountain has an elevation gain of 370 meters, so it’s a great place to go for an urban hike and get a bit of a workout!
3. Awesome shopping centres
Two world-class shopping malls are located in Burnaby – Brentwood Town Centre and Metrotown. Metrotown, specifically, is the largest mall in BC with over 400 stores. You can find anything here, from high-end stores to casual west coast outdoor clothing. Between these two malls and the other shopping areas in Burnaby, residents are close to any store they might need.
4. Amazing restaurants
Burnaby is a very multicultural city – 50% of its residents were born outside of Canada – which is reflected in the many amazing restaurants! There is, particularly, a large Chinese community with a high concentration of world-class Chinese restaurants to try out.
Concentrated around the Metrotown area and Kingsway Highway are amazing restaurants serving dim-sum, noodles, or other delicious food.
5. Great culture and community centres
Burnaby is home to many smaller communities and neighbourhoods, most of which have their own community centres, libraries, or recreation centres. Residents of Burnaby are easily able to get involved in community events and recreation opportunities, such as swimming, local classes, or visiting the library.
The Burnaby Village Heritage Museum is another draw to the city and provides an excellent cultural experience for visitors and residents alike. It is an old-fashioned village circa the 1920s with staff who dress up in costumes. It’s such a fun way to learn about the history of the area!
6. Good education
We all need a good education, and Burnaby is a great city for high-calibre schools! They are home to multiple post-secondary institutions, including the highly-regarded BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) and Simon Fraser University.
Because Burnaby is a large city, there are also a number of great K-12 schools, both public and private. There are many options for private schools, including religious private schools or specialized schools such as those for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Cons of Living in Burnaby
1. Lots of traffic
Even though the access to public transit makes commuting in Burnaby fairly easy, the excessive traffic in the city can make it very challenging. Some parts of the city, particularly around Kingsway Avenue or Marine Drive, are very slow-moving traffic corridors, which can be frustrating for those who rely on that route to get to work or school.
Highway #1 travels through Burnaby and can be a quicker way to bypass the city, though it also gets extremely backed-up with traffic during rush hour in particular.
2. Some neighbourhoods are not very attractive
Burnaby is a big city, so there is a lot of diversity in the different neighbourhoods. While a significant amount of development and gentrification (replacing old buildings with newer, higher-cost buildings) is occurring in Burnaby, some neighbourhoods are still fairly run-down and not very attractive, with graffiti, litter, or just generally old and ugly buildings. This might be important to some people who are looking for up-scale and visually aesthetic neighbourhoods to live in.
3. High cost of living
One of the biggest cons of living in Burnaby is the high cost of living. In fact, this cost-of-living calculator shows that it is virtually the same cost to live in Burnaby as in Vancouver, the most expensive city in Canada. Consumer prices are similar, though Vancouver is still overall more expensive for housing, both to rent and buy. Recent data shows that the cost to purchase a home is currently averaged at $1 million.
And, unfortunately, the cost of living is as high as Vancouver, but without a lot of the perks that Vancouver has (i.e. natural beauty, walkable downtown, more restaurants/entertainment).
4. Less natural beauty and access to mountains/oceans as surrounding cities
While there are undoubtedly some very beautiful areas and outdoor spaces, there is not the same access to the surrounding mountains or ocean and lakes as some of the other communities in the Lower Mainland have.
Generally speaking, to visit a beach, forest (hiking), or mountain (skiing), you need to travel outside of Burnaby to access it. Residents with cars might find this not to be too challenging, but if you rely solely on public transit to move around, it is more difficult to access some of these nature getaways!
5. No downtown core – not very walkable
Burnaby is a large, spread-out city. There are a number of neighbourhoods that have a “downtown” area and can be walkable, but the city on a whole is not. Burnaby has a walk score of 60, which is not too bad but does mean some areas are not very walking-friendly. A newcomer to the city will have to consider carefully where they live if it is a priority to walk to all normal day-to-day activities.
Burnaby is a great city with excellent transit, good community resources, and a lot of excellent shopping and dining options. However, there are some cons to the city, including the high cost of living, excessive car traffic, and lack of a downtown core and walkable areas.
Someone planning to move to the Lower Mainland of BC should definitely consider Burnaby, although it’s important to carefully consider both the pros and cons of the city.