Can’t choose between the mountains and the sea? No worries. Vancouver has both and more! Tucked into the southwest corner of British Columbia’s mainland, the city is bounded by water while the North Shore Mountains keep vigil over the city’s downtown.
4 Affordable Vancouver Hotels
YMCA Hotel Vancouver, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.
Delta Vancouver Airport, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.
Holiday Inn Express Vancouver Airport, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.
More ideas: Cheap Hotels and Places to Stay in Vancouver
Sample Vancouver’s Markets
If you have a taste for food or art, Granville Island is a free place to visit. This former island of industry – literally – was transformed in the late 20th century from an industrial wasteland to an appealing destination for locals and tourists alike.
Enjoy the sights and aromas of the island’s famous Public Market, stroll through artists’ studios and discover some amazing stuff, or visit one of the galleries at the Emily Carr University of Art & Design.
If Granville Island doesn’t leave you replete, check out the food and crafts at Lonsdale Quay Market in North Vancouver, right at the SeaBus terminal.
During the summer Farmers’ Markets operate on Saturdays or Sundays at several points throughout Vancouver while one Winter Farmers Market runs once a week between November and April.
Add some cultural flavour to your market experience by checking out Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, whose stores are open all-year long, but which also runs a special Night Market from mid-May to early September from 6:30 pm to 11:00 pm.
Experience Diverse Streetscapes and Commercial Landscapes
Immerse yourself in Vancouver’s historic beginnings with a free stroll through Gastown, oldest of the city’s neighbourhoods with cobbled streets and an old steam clock to prove it!
If you’re not full up on historical architecture, make tracks for Yaletown, another of Vancouver’s downtown neighbourhoods.
Want to breathe some sea air while you tour?
Canada Place in Vancouver’s harbour is the place to be with lots of cool stuff to see – view the cruise ships from the shore, watch Canada’s Storyboard on an enormous screen, check out the Canadian Trail along the Canada Place Promenade and, if you’re there in the evening, take in the Sails of Light.
If window shopping’s more your passion –particularly what’s on display in upscale stores – then head for Robson Street.
On West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano you’ll experience the heights of fashion and other fabulous stuff.
For a retail stroll with edge, venture east to Commercial Drive (“The Drive”).
Want to stretch those legs in greener places? When it comes to this free thing to do, Vancouver is a natural.
South of downtown Vancouver, you can enjoy Queen Elizabeth Park, with its famous Quarry Gardens, or stop to smell the roses – literally – in the fragrant rose garden at University of British Columbia, one of several gardens found on the university’s sprawling campus.
In the heart of Vancouver, there’s Stanley Park, a 400-hectare green space that features cedar, hemlock and fir trees and all the wildlife that goes along with them. Take a pleasant stroll or bike ride along the seawall, but also seek out the totem poles, monuments, and — in the summer — free dance lessons the park offers!
If Stanley Park isn’t a sufficient challenge, head across Burrard Inlet to tackle the tough-stuff trails on the North Shore Mountains.
In addition to the notorious Grouse Grind, the 2.9 kilometre (1.8 mile) trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, the inveterate hiker can enjoy trails of varying length and intensity throughout the North Shore Region.
If you’d rather bike a mountain than climb one, the North Shore has that covered too.
Have a hankering to walk across a 40-metre (130-foot) bridge that sways and jiggles? The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge awaits you. While you’re there, hit the trails or check out the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre, where entrance is free though a modest $2 donation is always welcome.
Bask on the Beach
A lazy day on the beach is a great free thing to do.
If you’re a committed naturist, or simply wish to experience nude bathing, Wreck Beach is the place to visit. Be sure to read the etiquette guide before you visit!
If nudity’s not your thing, don’t worry, there are more traditional options, including English Bay, Second Beach, Third Beach, and Spanish Banks. At Jericho Beach, the eastern end caters to swimmers while to the west sailboats and windsurfers reign supreme. A youthful crowd favours Kitsilano Beach.
If you plan to be in Vancouver on New Year’s Day, you can register to join in the costumed delights of the free annual Polar Bear Swim at English Bay, or simply bear witness from the warm comfort of the shore!
Consume Some Culture
Feeling culturally deprived? We can take care of that.
The Vancouver Art Gallery, home to the art of Emily Carr and much else, offers free admission after 5 P.M. on Tuesdays.
Prefer your art on the hoof?– Vancouver’s got that too. Download the complimentary booklet to take the self-guided Shoreline Art Tour. Or cross over to North Vancouver, and experience its public art through a series of self-guided walking tours, like the Lower Lonsdale Public Art Walking Tour and the Edgemont Village – Cycle + See Art Tour.
If you’re in Vancouver in mid-November, take part in the three-day Eastside Culture Crawl, where you’ll be able to visit artists in their studios.
If you’re foot sore, and just want to sit for a while, keep an eye out for Free Outdoor Movies during the summer months.
Lovers of books will appreciate the architectural splendor of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library located on West Georgia street.
Nine-stories tall, this place is so stunning you may find it hard to concentrate on what you’re reading. The reading and study areas are accessed by traversing bridges that span skylit light wells.
Step outside and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time as the building’s facade is reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome.
It’s striking exterior is the reason why the central branch location of the VPL has been a perennial setting for films and television shows, including the sci-fi hit “Battlestar Galactica”.
But this place isn’t all about books and looks. The library hosts free events every month, so be sure to check out what’s on.
Starlight, Star Bright
Indulge a passion for the stars at the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory, which offers 30-minute shows on a donation basis every Friday and Saturday evening year round.
If you prefer your stars in human form, Vancouver’s the place to be. Canada’s most intensive centre of film and television production, Vancouver’s been the short- and long-term home of many actors.
Keep your eyes peeled when you’re wandering around town because you just might spot one.
If you want to up your chances, visit the BC Film Commission website, which provides a list of current productions occurring throughout the province, including the actors in the major roles. Or you could just roam around the city until you come across some big white vans and snaking cables – sure signs of film production!
Plus check Groupon for Deals on Vancouver Things to Do
A great way to enjoy almost-free things to do in Vancouver is to check Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities.
Visit the Vancouver Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on attractions, activities, tours, boat cruises, theatre tickets, dinner spots and accommodations.
The Groupon Vancouver page is a smart place to check out when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Vancouver visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.