Imagine a smoky inter-tidal mudflat populated by corrugated-tin factories and heavy machine shops servicing Vancouver’s booming logging and fishing industries.
That was Granville Island Public Market in 1920.
It was only with the Great Depression that the area spawned its first merchants: squatters who worked the area for salmon, smelt, and wood to sell at the nearby Main Street public market.
Today the industry has been swept away with the tides of modern economy but the entrepreneurial spirit remains. The almost 300 shops, galleries, theaters, crafts makers, and restaurants owe a great deal to those miserable conditions and so do you!
And there’s no better way for you to show your gratitude than to go in like a pro.
Things to Do at Granville Island Public Market
Hit Up the Market
For locals the area of Granville Island and the Granville Island Public Market 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 vendors boiling away sweet and savory treats from Vancouver’s diverse cultural melting pot there’s something at the market for everybody.
So what should tourists try?
First of all let me save you the money and say skip the food court-style cooked food stalls because that’s not where you’re going to hit pay dirt.
You’ll buy at the market with a plan to;
Dive Face First Into the Seafood
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.
This to me is BC in bite-sized pieces.
In the market Longliner Seafoods will take care of you and even pack to travel if needed. Don’t be ashamed to just ask for 50 grams of each to make your own little tasting platter.
Expect to pay about $10.00-$12.00 for a decent portion.
If you’ve rented an Airbnb or apartment with kitchen you should also know about some other local legends like jumbo spot prawns (April-May), halibut (spring/summer), and sockeye salmon (summer).
The later has an almost crimson red flesh not seen in any farm salmon offerings.
Sip Up 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 blows away any corn syrup contenders that have ever seen the peak of a pancake pile. And it comes right out of our trees.
You’ll find stands set up all over the market and can buy the syrup itself, lollipops, candies, and even maple syrup butter – but be careful, you may get addicted!
Expect to pay $10.00 for a little jug of it.
Make a Picnic Out of It
Did I hear someone say cheese?
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’s 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.
Go for the hat trick of best market vendors with a trip to Oyama Sausage Co for Paris-quality charcuterie from ethnically raised meats inspired by Vancouver’s global village.
The miso pork sausage is a home run!
Then take your feast out back to enjoy the beautiful views of False Creek and Vancouver’s skyline. In the Summer time there is always a variety of performance artists for your entertainment.
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 Wok Around Granville Island walking tour.
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, fruits, chocolates and more.
Meet some new friends and sample the delicious food as you learn about the fascinating history of Granville Island and the city of Vancouver itself.
Granville Island is home to a ton of shops where you’ll find pottery, artisan 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 traveling to Vancouver with kids one of the highlights for them will be the aptly named Kids Only Market. Here you’ll find 25 kid-friendly shops specializing in anything from puppets to sports to books and music.
There’s also 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 also… why not a t-shirt dominated by cheeseburgers or cats? Or both. If you can think it up they can make it a reality.
If you’re looking for original 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!
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 some dolphins, otters, sea lions, bad 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.
Tour a Brewery
For those fond of a drink or two you didn’t think I was gonna hold out on you, did you?
You’ll find their Coastal Series beers like English Bay Pale Ale and Cypress Honey Lager all over the country but it’s the small batch series that brings 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.
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 nights?
Shows range from 60 minutes to 90 minutes long.
Eat at World Class Granville Island Restaurants
It’s not like you didn’t see this one coming.
I talked about the world-class Pacific seafood available at the Granville Island Market and nobody cooks it better than Sandbar Seafood Restaurant.
Here you’ve got two options.
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 a meal to remember go all out for dinner and get a chilled seafood tower like the Sand Barge or the Sandbar Tower.
The Dungeness crab cakes (made from the most commercially sought after crustacean in the Pacific North West) add local flavour, and lots of it!
If you’re looking for local and seasonal eats you’ll find a winner with the Edible Canada Bistro. All the ingredients are locally sourced right down to the Canadian cola!
For this reason you’ll find an ever-changing menu of updated classics like eggs benny, fish and chips, and crispy chicken burgers.
Vegetarians will also find a home here with a large salad offering and falafel.
There’s also duck poutine!
Check out an Art Gallery or Two
Many local artists are based in the former net lofts and the other nooks and crannies found in Granville Island. Of particular interest to tourists 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.
Quality? Check, check, and check.
Another great option for art lovers 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/cards prints at the Wickaninnish Gallery.
Watch the Buskers Work Their Magic
Particularly on the docks along the backside of Granville Island Public Market you’ll find a variety of licensed buskers performing cover songs, juggling acts, illusions, comedy and more.
You’ll find 6 busking places within the market itself and 8 outside so you’re spoiled for choice, if not for confusion! Your best bet to catch an act to your liking is by visiting the Granville Island Busker’s Association website.
Please remember – tips are always welcome!
Tips for Visiting Granville Island
- It’s better to go early because things get busy around 11:00 am
- Budget around 3 hours for a proper Granville Island 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 😉
- Don’t eat outside in the square unless you want to be attacked by seagulls
- 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 programs.
Granville Island Map
How to Get to Granville Island
As seen above, you’ll find Granville Island due south of the downtown 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.
For those renting a car you’ll be happy to know that Granville Island is easily reachable by many of the city’s thoroughfares like Granville, Oak, and Cambie streets.
I would point my GPS to the intersection of West 4th and Fir.
From here you’ll simply need to follow Fir and take a right on either West 3rd or West 2nd – from here it’s impossible to miss with the huge Granville Island sign.
For custom directions visit Google Maps.
Since parking is limited (more info later), I suggest taking transit unless you want to drive around looking for that golden ticket spot. Things can get quite congested/claustrophobic as the area generally isn’t made for cars.
To save on the parking you could take the quick $10.00 Vancouver taxi ride from downtown.
If you want to know how to get to Granville Island from downtown you’ll need to get yourself to either 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.
A single cash fare for the bus is $3.00 or $2.35 with a Compass Card.
For more information on check out our Vancouver Public Transit user guide.
Check Vancouver bus routes and schedules with Translink.
This is my favourite way to get to Granville Island from downtown because honestly Vancouver was made to be explored by water – in particular the rainbow Aquabus from the many different positions along False Creek
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.
Prices: Adults $38.00, Senior/Kids (4-12) $1.75, kids under 4 free.
Ferries go from 7:00 am to 10:30 pm in summer (8:30 pm winter).
Most boats are bike/wheelchair/pet friendly.
To purchase a day pass visit our friends over at Viator.
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.
From here it’s quite a picturesque 30 minute walk along the seawall to Granville Island.
Granville Island is about 30 minutes or less from most places in the downtown peninsula along the Seawall. However, the nearby Burrard Street Bridge is also very cycle-friendly.
You can also explore beautiful Yaletown, Olympic Village and Kitsilano during your trip.
Granville Island Parking
If you’re renting a car on your Vancouver vacation you’ll be happy to know that free Granville Island parking is a reality!
When arriving take your first left off of Anderson street onto Cartwright and you’ll see individual street parking stalls all over, including around Granville Island Market. You may have to drive around a bit to find one especially on weekends.
During business hours (enforced from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, 7 days a week) visitors may park in each stall only once per day up to a maximum of three hours. Do check the signs carefully though as some parking spots are limited to one hour.
If you get impatient 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 be able to pay by Visa, MasterCard, PayByPhone, or cash.
Granville Island Market Hours
Normal business hours are in effect even on statutory holidays.
- Granville Island Public Market: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
- Kids Market: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Hours are valid 7 days a week.
Other individually 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.
Why visit Granville Island?
Because it’s one of North America’s great market, gallery, and restaurant districts offering a wide range of unique culinary and shopping experiences only found 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 open?
Granville island opens at 9:00 am daily (until 9:oo pm)
When is the best time to go to 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, all 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 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.
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.
Don’t Be an Island Alone, Hit Me Up!
I’ve explained the top things to do at Granville Island, 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’ve got any questions about this or anything else on your Vancouver holiday do the ‘write’ thing: and get in touch in the comments section below.