How to spend a day at . . . Granville Island

This well-known tourist spot is a gold mine for local culture

A top view of the food section of Granville Island Public Market. Various individuals sit at tables while enjoying food from the stalls surrounding them. Colorful awnings and signage are displayed throughout the space.
PHOTO: Izzy Cheung / The Peak

By: Izzy Cheung, Arts & Culture Editor

With a bustling public market and beautiful views of False Creek, Granville Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vancouver. Even as locals, many of us are still privy to some of the hidden gems that lie within it. From bracelet-making to book-sleuthing, here’s how to spend a day at Granville Island. 

Start your day off by visiting Tru Café, just outside of the island itself. Pick up an iced coffee or pistachio chocolate cookie for the jaunt, or take home a bag of their retail coffee beans. Their Tru blend mixes hints of milk chocolate and marshmallow, so be sure to take some home to use for a pre-class coffee later on. 

Once you’ve gotten your breakfast or morning snack, walk along highway 99 onto Granville Island. Avoid the temptations of The Vancouver Fish Company and turn right, making a stop at Kids Market for some adorable plushies and handcrafted toys. Despite the name, Kids Market is definitely not just for kids — but you can indulge your inner child by visiting them! Find the perfect Pokémon, Kirby, or Sumikko figurines at Token Toys, or take a look at Soumak Boutique for handmade robes and keffiyehs

PHOTO: Izzy Cheung / The Peak

Outside of Kids Market is a play area that overlooks a duck pond decorated with swooping trees straight out of a Studio Ghibli film. I recommend taking some time to sit here and enjoy both your coffee and the view. If you’ve already finished your drink from Tru Café, then you’re in luck — My Island Café is right next to you. Try their gluten free almond chocolate cookie or a slice of their red velvet loaf. 

Wander into the next market section and explore local storefronts hosting as many small businesses as you can name. Kingsmill Studio Pottery Shop is home to amber striped dishes by Vin Arora, mugs crafted by The Poplar Studio, and ornate masks and murals by Bob Kingsmill. At Nooroongji Books, you’ll encounter stories blossoming from a variety of cultures, as well as specialty events such as their Nooroongji Book Club, which will be hosting a talk on Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia on June 28. 

PHOTO: Izzy Cheung / The Peak

Before heading towards the public market, be sure to stop by Beadworks, a jewellery shop that hosts the perfect activity for you to enjoy with loved ones. Here, shoppers can pick from the store’s variety of beads and string them together to create their own bracelets and necklaces. 

PHOTO: Izzy Cheung / The Peak

We’ve made it to the part that will have you making the most difficult decision yet — where to eat! Granville Island’s Public Market is no stranger to good food and good views, so once you’ve figured out what you’re craving, take a seat near the docks and watch live performances by buskers. On my journey, I enjoyed a chicken pot pie from A La Mode, as well as some beef and pork tacos from La Tortilleria. If you’re craving a sweet treat, I recommend grabbing a pastry from Laurelle’s Fine Foods or a specialty iced tea from Granville Island Tea Company.

PHOTO: Izzy Cheung / The Peak

To end the day, you’re going to want to peruse the intricate art of the many studios on the island. Take a stroll around Federation Gallery to see wispy brushstroke landscape, cityscape, and oceanscape paintings. Admire the “steel, wire, and stone” sculptures of Dominic Benhura on display at Ukama Gallery. Find the blooming, colourful art of the Northwest Coast at Inukshuk Gallery, which operates as part of Gallery Indigena

Regardless of the shops, eateries, or galleries you visit, you’re sure to have a great time celebrating local cultures at Granville Island!  

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