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Vancouver’s DTES Street Market

DTES Street Market

The DTES Street Market used to be an outdoor flea-market-style bazaar on Sundays on Carrall Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside near Gastown.

It used to run there once a week from 11 am until 5 pm. Nowadays, however, it takes place 7 days a week at a different location.

Downtown Eastside Market

The DTES Street Market isn’t just a Sunday market anymore. Also, it no longer takes place in the 300 block of Carrall Street as it had for a number of years. Instead, as of 2017, the market’s new home is 62 East Hastings Street and it runs seven days a week from 9 am until 4 pm.

See below for information on what you’ll find at the market, how it came to be and what’s in the area.

About the DTES Market

The DTES Street Market is Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside at its finest, plus it’s an interesting event to pass through on your way to other nearby great Vancouver places.

Looking for a place to buy cheap yard-sale-type junk? Or maybe you’re interested in supporting the entrepreneurial efforts of some of society’s most disadvantaged? Or perhaps you’re downtown and looking for a place to people watch, do some bargain hunting and interact with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside locals?

If any of the above is true, then check out the DTES Street Market.

What You’ll Find at the Market

DTES Sunday Street MarketAt the DTES Street Market you’ll find up to over 100 vendors selling everything from CDs to old bicycles to kids’ toys to everything you can imagine at a flea market.

If you look at it and think that some of the merchandise looks like it could have been found in the garbage, you’re probably right. A lot of what’s for sale has been saved from the landfill by binners – hard-working and hard-on-their-luck folk who have combed through garbage bins looking for things worth saving.

You’d be surprised what people throw out these days – some of it isn’t half bad!

In addition to junk, there are also a number of artisan stalls at the DTES Street Market. You might find original art, some of it authentic First Nations aboriginal pieces, with the artist selling his or her works.

Want to support a struggling artist and get a great deal on some pretty nice stuff? Then check out the DTES Street Market, and ask the artist about what he or she created.

Where is the DTES Street Market

The DTES Street Market used to take place every Sunday at Pigeon Park, also known as Pioneer Place, at the 300 block of Carrall Street beginning at the corner with East Hastings.

Pigeon Park is just a postage-stamp-sized park, literally, but the bazaar took over the entire block with tents, stalls and people with items to sell on tarps on the ground and tables.

In late 2015 the market made plans to move to a new address about 6 blocks down the way, at 501 Powell Street by Oppenheimer Park. It then made the move, and remained there for a while, before moving to its current location at 62 East Hastings Street, which is only about a block from its original site.

What’s in the Area?

Just two blocks south from Pigeon Park is Water Street and Maple Tree Square, which is the heart of Gastown and home to some of Vancouver’s trendiest restaurants including L’Abattoir at 217 Carrall Street and PiDGiN at 350 Carrall Street, the last of which is in a 19th-century brick building that housed Vancouver’s first jail.

In a different direction, just half a block down East Hastings is Save On Meats, a famous Vancouver diner, butcher shop and social enterprise, which serves great food at good prices. And just two blocks south of Pigeon Park is Vancouver’s Chinatown and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden.

In short, the DTES Street Market is at the core of an interesting (albeit colourful) part of downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver's Chinatown
The Millennium Gate entrance to Chinatown

What is the Downtown Eastside?

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has a bad name, and not unjustifiably so. There is a lot of poverty in the area, as well as homelessness, mental health issues and addiction problems.

The DTES is Vancouver’s skid row. It’s an integral part of what makes Vancouver what it is, however, and not everything about Vancouver is perfect.

Unlike what some people say, the Downtown Eastside is not an overly dangerous area to visit, although parts of the East Hastings neighbourhood are not recommended if you are by yourself and female and it’s late at night. During the day however, it’s a fairly vibrant, colourful part of town with just more than an average share of people asking if you can spare some change.

In addition to checking out all of Vancouver’s beautiful and best places, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is worth visiting too – both as a cultural experience in itself, but also as its neighbourhood includes some of Vancouver’s most interesting places, including parts of historic Gastown and neighbouring Chinatown.

Background to the DTES Market

The DTES Street Market is run by a registered non-profit society with the help of dozens of volunteers.

According to the society, the market actually “started as a resist and occupy action against harassment by DTES police handing out vending tickets, [but] it now receives a small grant and a valid permit from the City of Vancouver.”

The market used to generate an estimated $10,000 worth of transactions each Sunday, putting well over $500,000 directly into the pockets of the residents of the poorest postal code in Canada. Today, at its new 7-days-a-week venue, it probably makes even more.

To be a vendor at the DTES Street Market a person needs to be a resident of the area, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

According to the society that runs the market, “the vendors collect their items from the garbage bins all over the City of Vancouver, and come from the most marginalized population in Canada.”

“One third of [the] vendors are women, many current or former sex trade workers, roughly half are native, a significant minority are from the nearby Chinese retirement community, and a majority are either homeless or under-housed in the surrounding infamous SROs [single room occupancy residences] of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.”

Given its social mission, the vibrancy of the market, its geographic location, its cultural diversity and the shopping bargains to be found, the DTES Street Market is arguably one of Vancouver’s best places to visit if looking for a bargain.

It’s definitely not for everyone, and you don’t need to stay long, but it’s worth visiting for the cultural experience.

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