During the 2020 Christmas and pre-Christmas season, from mid-November until January 3rd, the neighbourhood is especially pretty at night. There is a giant star sculpture in the plaza by the waterfront. The historic crane is decorated with illuminations and there are musical note-shaped lights nearby in the trees. In front of the public market area especially, there are even more festive lights and Christmas-y decorations.
Granville Island is a great place for shopping, and it’s especially pretty at night during the holiday season.
Continue reading to learn more about the district in general, or click Christmas & Holiday Lights to learn more about the venue in November and December.
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The District of Granville Island
Granville Island has an interesting set up. The place includes industrial activities (like a cement plant) and streets of parking combined with boutiques, art studios, places to eat and theatres scattered around. It’s an eclectic neighbourhood and one of the Lower Mainland’s most popular tourist destinations.
If you like shopping, especially for unique gifts and handmade artisan products, you’ll love Granville Island. It’s also an exceptional place for restaurants, live theatre and waterfront views of the Vancouver skyline.
Getting to Granville Island
Granville Island is located in False Creek on the edge of downtown Vancouver under the Granville Street Bridge. The address for the Public Market is 1680 Johnston Street. The area is most easily accessible by car, but there is also fairly decent public bus transit.
During normal times, you have to pay for parking in the area between 11:00 am and 6:00 pm. The cost is $3 per hour until September 30th. After that, and until May, the winter rate of $2 per hour applies. Before 11:00 am and after 6:00 pm, though, year-round, parking is free. In 2020, however, because of COVID-19, all parking is temporarily free.
For the official Granville Island website visit granvilleisland.com.
COVID-19 & What’s Happening on Granville Island
As of November, 2020, most of Granville Island has reopened since shutting down back in the spring. The Kids Market is open, along with most retail shops and restaurants in the area. As mentioned above, parking on the island is also temporarily free, which is awesome!
The Arts Club‘s Granville Island Stage is operating, with reduced maximum capacity, and with the play Buffoon running until December 6th. The False Creek Ferries and Aquabus, both of which make stops at Granville Island, are also operating.
When we last visited the area, in mid-November, individual retail shops had maximum capacities of between about 3 and 14 customers at a time, so social distancing in stores wasn’t a problem. Pretty much everyone was wearing a mask – which was great – and there were hand-sanitizing stations everywhere.
Also when we last went, on a Saturday afternoon, there was what looked like a long line up to get into the Granville Island Public Market building. The line moved really fast though and it took less than 5 minutes to get in. It’s so awesome that they are restricting the number of people inside at any given time, and that wait times are so short and reasonable.
Once inside the Public Market there are arrows on all the floors telling people which direction to walk. We wandered around for a while, bought some lunch, and then went outside to eat. The Japanese katsudon chicken, wonton soup, sushi and hot chocolate that we had were all delicious!
With the temporarily free parking, various safety precautions in place and smaller crowds than normal, Granville Island is a great place to shop at and explore this time of year. It’s also an exceptional neighbourhood to find restaurants and locally-owned businesses and artists to support!
Granville Island Things to See & Do
Granville Island is a popular place year round. In the summer the place is especially vibrant and there is often live entertainment outside. Around Christmas there are festive lights, and throughout the year there are plays to watch, events to enjoy and restaurants to eat at. The views of the city across the water are spectacular 365 days of the year.
At Granville Island there is a world-famous indoor Public Market with vendors selling everything from fresh fruit and fish, to cheese, pastries and maple syrup. There are also boutiques selling beautiful and unique artisan products in the Net Loft, in Railspur Alley and all around the area. Granville Island is also home to a wide variety of art studios, galleries, restaurants and theatres.
To learn more about the shopping opportunities, and to see a couple of videos about some of the area’s most interesting stores, see our article about Shopping on Granville Island.
Granville Island Entertainment
Granville Island is full of places for entertainment. In addition to the bars and restaurants, and the buskers in the summer, there are a number of theatres on the island. There’s the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage, the Waterfront Theatre, and Vancouver TheatreSports.
The Arts Club Theatre Company hosts high quality live shows. Vancouver TheatreSports is also a fun place featuring comedy improv.
Where to Eat and Drink
Granville Island is full of great places to eat and drink, from fine dining restaurants to unique take-out places in the Public Market‘s food court area. Below are a few places that stand out for us.
- Bridges Restaurant – a pub-style restaurant with an amazing outdoor patio by the waterfront.
- Dockside Restaurant – a popular casual yet upscale restaurant at the Granville Island Hotel at 1253 Johnston Street. They have a really nice patio at the back in the summer.
- Granville Island Brewing – a brew pub located across the street from the Kids Market at 1441 Cartwright Street.
- Liberty Distillery – located at 1494 Old Bridge Street at the entrance to Railspur Alley, this is a great place to enjoy locally-made organic craft spirits. They also give tours of their distillery.
- Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (Blue Hat Bistro) – a great restaurant, and not so widely known. It’s one of the city’s finest culinary schools, and they serve exceptional (and very reasonably priced for what you get) lunch specials. You’ll find Blue Hat Bistro near the entrance to Granville Island at 101-1505 West 2nd Avenue. (Note: This restaurant has been closed temporarily in 2020 due to COVID-19.)
- Tony’s Fish and Oyster Café – located at 1511 Anderson Street near the entrance to Granville Island. This is a good place to get fish and chips, clam chowder and oysters in the half shell.
- Vancouver Fish Co. – next door to Tony’s, this is a popular and fancier place for fish and seafood.
The above are just a few of the many bars and restaurants in the area. There are lots of other great places in the Public Market too. For an even more comprehensive list of places to eat and drink, see the Granville Island website.
Market Food Vendors Video
To give you an idea of what to expect with respect to food vendors at the Public Market, check out the following video. It features many of the places where you can find things to eat right away, either in the market or outside by the waterfront, or take with you for a picnic somewhere else.
The focus of the following video is on the food vendors selling ready-made items. As you’ll see there are stalls selling everything from pizza to Chinese, fresh-squeezed juices, salads, Mexican and bubble tea. To see a video about other types of vendors in the area, check out the video in our article about the Granville Island Public Market.
Granville Island Events
Granville Island hosts a number of special events during the year including the following:
- Winter Jazz – live music at various venues in February. In past years, in February, Granville Island used to host a Winterruption Festival that featured a weekend of live music and other entertainment. For the last couple of years, instead of Winterruption, the area has hosted a weekend of Winter Jazz in late February. Shows have been free and have taken place at Performance Works at 1218 Cartwright Street.
- Vancouver Boat Show – a trade show featuring marine equipment and vessels of all kinds and sizes at both BC Place Stadium and Granville Island in February.
- Vancouver International Children’s Festival – a multi-day event featuring kid-friendly shows and activities in late May.
- Granville Island Farmers Market – an outdoor produce market that usually takes place on Thursdays from 11 am to 4 pm from early June until late September. The farmers market isn’t a huge attraction in itself, but it nicely complements the already amazing Granville Island Public Market. (Note: Because of COVID-19, the farmers market did not take place in 2020.)
- Vancouver International Jazz Festival – a large music festival in late June and over the Canada Day long weekend. Both free and ticketed concerts take place all over Vancouver, including at Granville Island.
- Vancouver Fringe Festival – an annual multi-day event featuring all kinds of live theatre performances. It takes place at various venues on Granville Island as a well as a couple of other places in Vancouver in September (although later in the fall in 2020).
- Christmas & Holiday Lights – from mid-November until the beginning of January the neighbourhood gets decorated with festive lights and illuminations.
- Winter Solstice Lantern Festival – an event featuring lantern-making workshops, fire-spinning performances and a procession of people around Granville Island as well as at a couple of other Vancouver locations on December 21st each year.
The above are some of the largest and most well-known events that take place in the area. To see what’s coming up soon see the Granville Island Events Website.
For more information about Granville Island see the Granville Island website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver’s Best Places for Shopping
- Shopping on Granville Island
- Vancouver on a Budget
- Metro Vancouver’s Top 100 Places
- False Creek and the False Creek Seawall
- City of Vancouver
- Vancouver Restaurants
- Vancouver Shows & Entertainment