Hidden in False Creek, under the shadow of the Granville Bridge is an island filled to the brim with shops, entertainment, delicious foods and lots of interesting people. Granville Island in Vancouver is a lot of things and is a must visit for anyone in the city.
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It is a food lover’s paradise.
It is an artist’s mecca.
It is an entertainment centre.
It is a gateway to many water adventures.
Granville Island came from humble beginnings. The island was once home to factories, plants, and sawmills. Today, these same buildings still stand, but they have been taken over by outdoor adventure companies, artist studios, and fantastic restaurants.
Granville Island Public Market
At the island’s heart is the Public Market where endless rows of artisan chocolates lay side by side with the freshest vegetables and seafood that was caught only hours before. Plenty of food stalls tempt you with their offerings and delicious smells come wafting in from all corners of the market. A wander through is a must. Good luck on not eating everything in sight!
The market is a great place to grab food. Whether you pick up lunch from one of the hot food stalls or piece together a picnic lunch from the many cheese and deli shops, there is something for everyone.
For dessert, you can stop by one of the fantastic bakeries or perhaps the doughnut shop, Lee’s Doughnuts. It’s so hard to say no to a sweet treat!
Eating and Drinking Well
Outside of the Public Market, the island is littered with great restaurants and places to grab an adult beverage or two. You’re sure to eat well at any of the restaurants on the island. The Granville Island Brewery is located here and has a tap room where you can taste the local brew. There is also the Liberty Distillery if you’re looking for something a little more potent.
If you’re bringing little ones to the island, there is a whole market catered specifically for them. The whole building is like a playground and there are plenty of tempting stores to get the latest fashion trends and toys. The building itself is brightly coloured and comes complete with a separate kid size entrance. At the back, there is a water park to run around in. I have so many memories of running around this building when I was little, it was really interesting seeing it as an adult now.
Granville Island is home to the Emily Carr University of Art + Design and its influence can be felt throughout the island. Many other artists have set up their studios here and you can spot art galleries scattered throughout. Most artist studios are opened to the public and you and you chat with the artists.
Most recently, Brazilian street artists have transformed one of Granville Island’s last ties to its past, the six concrete silos of Ocean Concrete, into works of art. The mural is a part of the Vancouver Biennale’s 2014-2016 exhibition, a non-profit organization that celebrates public art. These silos reach upwards of 21 metres high! What’s particularly cool about this project is that it’s completely crowdsourced.
Arts & Entertainment
There are a number of theatres on the island to watch. One of my favourites is the Vancouver TheatreSports League which is great for a night’s entertainment. Everything that happens on stage is improvised and they highly encourage audience participating. The Vancouver Arts Club is here and the famous Vancouver Fringe Festival takes place annual on the island every fall. Beyond the theatre, throughout the island, you’ll spot buskers showing off their talents. Musicians, jugglers, magicians and street performers alike, entertain the crowds.
Granville Island has plenty to offer off the island as well, by getting a little wet. There are many options for hitting the water. I went paddleboarding
(more about this later!), but you can also rent kayaks and jet skis. If you don’t feel like doing the work, you can hop on the Aquabus that takes you to different locations along False Creek.
There is plenty to do on the island from wandering the shops and food stalls to getting your feet wet to people watching and taking in the beautiful scenery. Granville Island is a great place to visit whether you’re a local or a visitor to the city. Take a couple of hours and take in this dynamic and vibrant part of the city.
Good to Know
Getting to Granville Island is a bit difficult. You can take the #50 from downtown and get off at the intersection of Anderson St. and West 2nd Ave, walking the rest of the way. Otherwise, many buses stop at Granville and 5th Ave and will require walking 5 – 10 minutes to the island. An easier way is to go by boat: the Aquabuses run frequently and there is also the False Creek Ferry. The easiest (aka laziest) option is by car, which brings me to…
Parking is horrendous so get there early or be prepared to be circling around and around looking for a place to park. The good thing is that there are a number of free parking lots if you’re lucky. Right by the market there is a 1-hour free parking lot which seemed to constantly have people coming and going. We got there just as everything was opening so we were able to snag a 3-hour parking space. We later moved the car for another 3-hour time slot. Win!
Have some cash on you. While some places in the market will accept credit cards, it’s always easier to pay with cash.
What would you most like to do on Granville Island?