Granville Island: one of Vancouver’s most famous attractions which isn’t, in fact, an island; and is, in fact, a sprawling, vibrant urban market.
This tucked-away area (which echoes Vancouver’s original name!) has had many uses over the years, and was most recently at the heart of Vancouver’s manufacturing district. In fact, the market’s main buildings originally housed logging and even rope-making operations that had a significant role in the city’s growth, even through World War II.
In 1979, it began its new life as a market district, and eventually became home to a design school and tens of local artisans, among many others – and now it’s one of Vancouver’s most famous stops, and a place that generates tourist dollars and notoriety for this wonderful city.
Boyfriend Perspective: Hi! Do you have a market that was converted from really old industrial buildings? Oh, you do?! That’s fantastic!! I’ll take two.
What to do at Granville Island
- Buy fresh fruit and veggies! If you’ve ever gardened or enjoyed a good local farmer’s market, you know there’s literally nothing like fresh-grown produce. Every single stall is full to bursting with treats that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the stomach. We picked up a few pounds of fresh berries while we were there, and enjoyed them on everything from cereal to ice cream, to just straight from the basket for the next several days. Also, we found a few new types of apples that we don’t necessarily get in the States, so that was a blast, as well!
- Amuse your tastebuds with baked goods. While the grocer stalls take up a lot of the central space, prepared food providers line the walls of this place. We arrived in the early afternoon and were feeling peckish, so we grabbed a HUGE hunk of coffee cake from a bakery called Muffin Granny. Holy bajeezus, guys. So good!! It wasn’t the only bakery, either – everything from candy to croissants is covered.
- Pickles! Neither of us thought, “Let’s go to a famous market and eat pickles.” But in the center of one of the big spaces, we found Kaylin & Hobbs, a vendor based out of Vancouver and New York city with a generous tasting counter for all their different gourmet pickles. Luke probably thought I was nuts, but I bought a LARGE jar of their mustard pickles, and I have no regrets.
- Admire craftsmen at work. Once you leave the main market warehouse, walk around and enjoy buskers (who rotate every 30 minutes or so) and artisans, many of whom have workshops set up nearby. We and several other passersby were absolutely mesmerized by a glass blower, working in his shop right off the main drag. While we were there, many of the workshops were unfortunately closed, but all the color and spirit of the area is still a pleasure to experience.
- Fun urban art. Art duo OSGEMEOS (made up of two extremely talented Brazilian twins) transformed this utilitarian part of the island into a working mural in 2014 as part of the Vancouver Biennale art celebration. In terms of “things to see”, this is right on par Seattle’s giant, in that it’s unique, fun, and honestly just cool.
Her: “What do you want for lunch?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Her: “They have everything from almost every culture. Just pick something already, we’ve only walked around the food for the last 3 hours.”
Me: “Don’t push me, I just can’t make up my mind.” :turns to cashier: “I will have one of everything please.”
How to get to Granville Island
Granville Island has its own suggestions about how to arrive, and feels strongly about using the waterbus, which makes a lot of sense, given its location.
That said, we had almost no problems finding paid, on-street parking up the road from the market when we arrived by car, and were happy to walk a few blocks to get to the entrance. TripAdvisor and others also have great input on places to park or ways to arrive at Granville Island.
Boyfriend Perspective: :Announcer voice: Car lovers!! Prepare yourself, a feast for the eyes that few are able to enjoy is upon you. Just north of 4th and Burard is a multitude of luxury and exotic car dealerships. You may be able to take a peak and see Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Bentley, and Koenigsegg on your trip to the island. Not sure how Meagan pulled me away from such pure art…