Vancouver’s Granville Island was once a mudflat full of tin factories and heavy machine shops that provided service to our city’s booming logging and fishing industries.
It was only during the Great Depression that the area spawned its first merchants. Entrepreneurial squatters who worked the area for salmon, smelt, and wood to sell at the nearby Main Street public market.
Today that enterprising spirit remains. Granville Island’s almost 300 shops, galleries, theatres, crafts makers, and restaurants owe a great deal to those depression-era hustlers. And now, so do you!
Let’s see how to visit Granville Island like a pro.
Things to Do at Granville Island Vancouver
Granville Island Public Market
Hours: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (7 Days a week)
For most locals, the Granville Island and the Granville Island Public Market area are linguistically indistinguishable.
When I say I’m going to Granville Island, it probably means I’m planning on diving head first into precious produce, select snacks, and captivating coffee.
With over 50 food vendors boiling away sweet and savoury treats from Vancouver’s diverse cultural melting pot, there’s something at the public market for everybody.
So what should tourists try?
Firstly, let me save you the money and say skip the food court-style food stalls. That’s not where you’re going to hit pay dirt.
You should head straight to the Granville Island Market with a plan to:
Coming from a third-generation worker in the local fishing industry: you should go right for the seafood – a huge part of my Vancouver must eats list.
I would start and end with the locally caught candied salmon, though the double-smoked strips are equally delicious.
These indigenous-inspired delicacies are simply BC in bite-sized pieces.
At Granville Island, Longliner Seafoods will take care of you and even pack to travel if needed. And don’t be ashamed to ask for 50 grams each to make your little tasting platter.
Expect to pay about $10.00-$12.00 for a decent portion.
If you’ve rented an Airbnb or apartment with a kitchen, you should also know about some other local legends like jumbo spot prawns (April-May), halibut (spring/summer), and sockeye salmon (summer).
Related: Best Time to Visit Vancouver
Canada’s Golden Nectar
On the long list of things to do in Vancouver, who can resist delving into Canada’s nature candy?
Maple Syrup simply blows away any futile corn syrup contenders that have been seen at the peak of a pancake pile. And it oozes right out of our trees.
You’ll find stands set up all over Granville Island where you can buy this Eastern Canadian delicacy. You can also opt for lollipops, candies, and even maple syrup butter – but be careful; you may get addicted!
Expect to pay around $10.00 for a little jug of it.
Try the Food Vendors and Picnic
For small-production, fresh-off-the-wheel local cheeses look no further than the Benton Brothers – you’ll never buy supermarket cheese again.
You might want to slap one of your cheeses on some amazing artisan bread from A Bread Affair. One of the most original varieties that are unique to Vancouver is the Sweetheart cranberry semolina bread: turkey’s soulmate.
Here you’ll also get some of the most delicious pastries in town.
Complete the hat trick of best food vendors with a trip to Oyama Sausage Co for Paris-quality charcuterie from ethnically raised meats inspired by Vancouver’s global village.
Then take your feast out back to enjoy the beautiful views of False Creek and Vancouver’s skyline. During summertime in Vancouver, there is always a variety of performance artists.
Take a Food Walking Tour
If you really want to take full advantage of all the market has to offer, I recommend jumping on the popular Food Walking Tour of Granville Island.
Make sure to bring your appetite, as your guide will transport you around the public market to sample from a wide array of culinary delights, including; seafood, cheeses, charcuterie meats, fresh produce, chocolates and more.
Vancouver city tours are great places to meet new friends and sample the delicious offerings at food vendors as you learn about the fascinating history of Granville Island and the city of Vancouver itself.
You can read a more in-depth review in our best Vancouver food tours post.
Visit Granville Island Stores
Granville Island is home to some of Vancouver’s best shopping.
You’ll find pottery, unique crafts, carvings, toys, and just about anything else – except run-of-the-mill chain shops that’ll bore you all the way back to the office!
If you’re visiting Vancouver with kids, you can’t miss the aptly named Kids Only Market. Or you’ll never hear the end of it! Here you’ll find 25 kid-friendly shops specializing in anything from puppets to sports to books and music.
The kid’s market also has an arcade room, a pond, and a candy shop.
We also can’t forget the quirky, handmade clothing items at Make. Wacky Canadian-themed t-shirts are a hit here. But why not a t-shirt dominated by cheeseburgers or cats? Or how about both? If you can think it up, they can make it a reality.
If you’re looking for unique gifts (even for yourself), there’s also the Granville Island Hat Shop. Here they claim to combat the city’s unpredictable weather by cooling down your head with straw or warming up your head with wool: with fashion!
Related: Check out our list of the top Granville Island Hotels
Go Whale Watching
Who needs to dust off that old Free Willy VHS when we’ve got our own killer whales swimming around in the harbour?
Start off cruising at False Creek-friendly speeds for a closeup of the amazing Vancouver skyline before the skipper puts down the throttle of your jet-propelled boat and takes you to the coastal islands to visit the area’s dolphins, otters, sea lions, bald eagles and of course whales.
Check out our Vancouver Whale Watching Guide for more information, or simply click on the button below to book your tour.
Granville Island Brewing
Granville Island Brewing considers itself Canada’s first microbrewery and still provides beer to many of Vancouver’s best bars. This is where Vancouver’s much-vaunted craft beer scene got its start.
You’ll find their Coastal Series beers like English Bay Pale Ale and Cypress Honey Lager all over the country. But the more creative small batch series are what bring people to their taproom for tastings.
$9.75 gets you a tour + three 5oz tasters.
Tours run Monday to Thursday at noon, 2 pm, and 4 pm and Friday to Sunday at noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 5:30 pm.
🍺 Big on beer? Check out the best brewery tours in Vancouver.
Vancouver Theater Sports League
Quick wits and belly-busting laughs dominate this improv comedy club that has been wowing Vancouverites and tourists alike since 1980.
The improvisation and audience interaction ensure that no two shows are the same, so why not book yourself for a couple of nights?
Shows range from 60 minutes to 90 minutes long.
Eat at World Class Granville Island Restaurants
The area is home to a few of Vancouver’s best restaurants and houses many locations to rival the eats downtown if you’re willing to ferry over!
I talked about the world-class Pacific seafood available at the Granville Island Public Market, and nobody cooks it better than Sandbar Seafood Restaurant.
If you’re on the go and on a budget, hit the happy hour (Mon-Fri, 3-6) on the patio and grab yourself some $5.00 Granville Island Brewing pints, wines, or well highballs.
They’re paired brilliantly with delicious value seafood appetizers like wok mussels or the bay shrimp and avocado stacks.
If you’re looking for an amazing meal at Granville Island, remember to go all out for dinner and get a chilled seafood tower like the Sand Barge or the Sandbar Tower.
Fancy something a little more exotic? The brand new Alimentaria Mexicana offers an exciting array of authentic Mexican flavours from their colourful cantina, tremendous terraza, or the El Caminero take-out window.
Check the Art Galleries
Many local artists are based in the former Granville Island net lofts and the other nooks and crannies found throughout the island.
Of particular interest to tourists looking for unique gifts would be the Blue Seas Gallery and its award-winning Vancouver skyline photography.
Circle Craft Coop is another great gallery which promotes over 130 craftspeople from all over British Columbia. The ceramics, leather, glass, jewelry, textiles, and wood here are only displayed and sold after a rigorous jury process.
Another great option for lovers of art galleries and hunters of authentic souvenirs is the Eagle Spirit Gallery and its Northwest Coast native art: the biggest collection in Vancouver.
Along the same lines, you’ll no doubt be impressed by the silver jewelry, dream catchers, and art/card prints at the Wickaninnish Gallery.
Watch the Buskers Work Their Magic
Particularly on the docks along the backside of the Public Market, you’ll find a variety of licensed buskers performing cover songs, juggling acts, illusions, comedy and more.
You’ll find six busking places within the public market itself and eight outside, so you’re spoiled for choice.
Your best bet to catch an act to your liking is by visiting the Granville Island Busker’s Association website.
Granville Island Map
Granville Island Market Hours
Normal business hours are in effect even on statutory holidays.
- Granville Island Public Market: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Kids Market: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Hours are valid 7 days a week.
Other individual business hours listed in my list of things to do at Granville Island may vary – it’s best to consult the businesses using the map above.
Related: How Many Days Do I Need to Spend in Vancouver?
How to Get to Granville Island
As seen above, you’ll find Granville Island due south of the downtown Vancouver peninsula, about 150 meters across False Creek in the Fairview neighbourhood.
If it was legal, you could swim, but most of us just take a car or hop on any of Vancouver’s convenient transit options.
Visiting Vancouver by car? Point your GPS to the intersection of West 4th and Fir.
From here can follow Fir Street and take a right on either West 3rd or West 2nd – from here, it’s impossible to miss the huge Granville Island sign.
For custom directions, visit Google Maps.
You could also take the quick $10.00 Vancouver taxi ride from downtown to save on parking.
To get to Granville Island from downtown, you must get to Gastown or anywhere along Granville Street to grab the #50 (False Creek) bus.
If you’re coming from the area south of downtown, you can get off at 5th and Granville and walk 15 minutes using the following buses:
- 10 (Downtown) if you’re coming from South Vancouver/Granville/Marpole.
- 14 (Hastings) if you’re coming from around Kitsilano/UBC.
- 16 (29th Ave Station) if you’re coming from the west side/Kerrisdale.
For more information, check out our Vancouver public transport guide.
This is my favourite way to visit from downtown Vancouver because it’s a great way to explore the water for cheap.
Just take the Aquabus from the many different positions along False Creek
After a day at Stanley Park or top Vancouver beaches like English Bay, I like grabbing the Aquabus from the Hornby Street stop and heading over.
Other stops along the line include Science World, Plaza of Nations, Yaletown (served by Yaletown-Roundhouse Skytrain station), Stamps Landing, Spyglass Place, and David Lam Park.
Get a full map here.
It won’t be the most comfortable means of transit, but on a sunny day, there’s nothing wrong with taking the Canada Line of the Vancouver Skytrain system to Olympic Village station.
It’s quite a picturesque 30-minute walk from here along the seawall to Granville Island.
Granville Island Parking
Unfortunately, as of 2021, parking is no longer free during peak hours (11:00 am-6:00 pm).
During weekday peak hours, these spots cost $1 an hour, rising to $2 on weekends. So it’s still quite affordable by local standards.
If you can’t get a spot outside, there are also five paid parking lots, usually in the form of multi-story parkades, with prices ranging from $3.00 an hour to $15.00 daily.
You’ll see individual street parking stalls all over, but the cheapest spots will be past Granville Island Market at the end of Johnston.
Tips for Visiting Granville Island
- It’s better to visit early because things tend to get busy around 11:00 am
- Budget around 3 hours for a proper visit
- Grab yourself a good Granville Island map before visiting
- Go on an empty stomach!
- Head to the food court last so you can get a better idea of how to attack the place culinarily 😉
- Park along the Canada Line and take the train in or walk from Broadway, 4th, or 10th
- If you’re taking the Hop on Hop Off Bus, you’ll have free water transport from downtown
- Granville Island is actually under the Granville Street bridge, so don’t be fooled by GPS apps.
When is the best day to visit Granville Island?
Visiting Granville Island in Vancouver is a delightful experience any day of the week, offering unique shopping experiences, delicious food, and vibrant art scenes. However, there are a few factors to consider:
- Crowds: If you want to avoid larger crowds, weekdays are typically less busy than weekends. This allows you to explore the Public Market, shops, and art galleries with a bit more peace.
- Weekends: If you thrive in a bustling atmosphere, Granville Island is at its liveliest on weekends. While it can be a bit crowded, there’s an undeniable energy with live performances often taking place. This can add to the charm of your visit.
- Special Events: Granville Island in Vancouver is a vibrant hub of cultural activities. Thus it hosts numerous special events throughout the year. The Vancouver International Children’s Festival (May/June), Vancouver Jazz Festival (June), Vancouver Fringe Festival (September), and Canada Day Celebrations (July 1st) are particular highlights.
Granville Island FAQ
Why visit Granville Island?
Because it’s one of North America’s great market, art gallery, and restaurant districts offering a wide range of unique culinary and shopping experiences found only on the West Coast.
Where is Granville Island located?
It is found just south of the downtown peninsula of Vancouver, across from a body of water called False Creek.
What time does Granville Island Market open?
Granville Island opens at 9:00 am daily (until 6:oo pm)
When is the best time to visit Granville Island?
The best time to avoid crowds is early in the morning or later in the evening.
Who owns Granville Island?
It is not owned by one specific person or company, and the area is home to some 275 businesses, with each owning a little portion!
Can you get to Granville Island by Skytrain?
Yes, get off the Canada Line at Olympic Village and walk west along 6th Avenue – it’s about a 2 km (25-minute) walk.
What to eat at Granville Island Public Market?
I would recommend a combination of local salmon products (smoked + candied), some maple syrup butter and other derived treats, and a sampling of artisan cheese and meat products.
What are the famous Granville Island Donuts?
The famous Granville Island donut shop is called Lee’s Donuts. They’ve been making handmade donuts since at least the 1970s. If you arrive at the Granville Island Market at peak hours, make sure you line up outside since you won’t be able to order inside. The most famous donut is the honey dip.
Is Granville Island dog-friendly?
Dogs are permitted on the island but must be kept on a leash and are not allowed to enter food service areas unless they are service dogs.
You may even want to get them a treat at Granville Island Pet Treatery.
About to Visit Granville Island?
I’ve explained the top things to do at Granville Island Vancouver, showed you how to park, and damnit I’ve even shown you the way to the whales!
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t missed something, am I right?
If you have any questions about this or anything else on your Vancouver holiday, do the ‘write’ thing. Get in touch in the comments section below or hit us on the Vancouver Planner Facebook page.
Enjoy Granville Island😀
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