Recently, Vancouver was voted as Canada’s most expensive city. But don’t worry, as there are many free and cheap things to do that will keep both locals and visitors entertained. From enjoying its West Coast beaches to exploring a free market or two, check out these top free things to do in the city.
Visit Granville Island
Granville Island is one of Vancouver’s top attractions. The best part is that it’s free for the whole family to enjoy. Take a wander through the Public Market, and try not to purchase something! The sweet treats are very tempting. Then check out the views from the market’s waterfront. Next, go for a walk to the east towards False Creek, or the west towards Kits Beach. It’s the place to be on a sunny Vancouver day.
Go to the Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery sits in the city’s former courthouse and is as impressive inside as it is outside. Fortunately, you can enjoy the art gallery one night a week for free. On Tuesday evenings from 5 until 9 pm, anyone can enter the art space “by donation.” It has previously exhibited work by some of the most well-known Canadian artists, including Douglas Coupland and Emily Carr.
Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, +1 604 662 4700
Walk or bike the seawall
The seawall is a local favorite. It’s the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path at 28 kilometers (17 miles). It stretches from Stanley Park to Spanish Banks Park, west of Kitsilano. There are two well-marked sections on the seawall as well: one for walkers and the other for cyclists. Two of the most scenic parts, complete with beautiful views across to North Vancouver, include the area around False Creek and Science World and that of the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Visit Lynn Canyon Park
Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver is a great free alternative to one of the city’s top attractions: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This park also has a mini suspension bridge, which has views of the forested area and its swimming holes. Cross the bridge and make your way around Lynn Canyon Park. If you visit in summer, you can take a dip in the very refreshing water! Or you can just simply enjoy the view from the rocky bank.
Lynn Canyon Park, North Vancouver, BC, Canada, +1 604 990 3755
Go to the beach
Another fun (and free) summertime activity in Vancouver is visiting one of the city’s beautiful beaches. The most popular beach is Kits Beach, as it has a large grassed park area, which is great for families. Stanley Park is home to First, Second, and Third Beaches. The latter is popular with locals and is the quietest out of the three sandy shores. There’s also Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby or Cates Park in North Vancouver.
See the view from Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth Park is actually Vancouver’s highest point, at 152 meters (499 feet) above sea level. Thanks to its location south of the city, this means it has one of the best views in Vancouver. Visit Queen Elizabeth Park at sunset or twilight to photograph the city skyline backdropped by the beautiful North Vancouver mountains. Alternatively, visit during the day with a picnic and wander through the park’s gardens.
Queen Elizabeth Park, 4600 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, +1 604 873 7000
Visit Lonsdale Quay
Another great place for an excellent view is Lonsdale Quay, located in North Vancouver. It’s easy to get there from Vancouver. Simply hop on the Seabus ferry at Waterfront Station, which takes you directly to your destination. There is a small marketplace if you are feeling peckish, but the best part about Lonsdale Quay is its view of the Vancouver skyline. Although it looks good at any time of the day, a visit at sunset is highly recommended.
Check out Chinatown
Vancouver’s Chinatown is actually the third largest in North America by population (behind San Francisco and New York). Check out the ornate gate entrance on Pender Street, and visit Sun Yat-Sen Park, which is a free alternative to the costly Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. In the summer, there is also a free Chinatown Night Market on the weekends.
Lighthouse Park, located in residential West Vancouver, is popular with both locals and visitors. A National Historic Site, the 185-acre (75-hectare) park mainly consists of a lush virgin rainforest. There are several hiking trails in the park, which are open year-round. The park’s namesake is Point Atkinson Lighthouse, located on the park’s southernmost tip.
Lighthouse Park, 4902 Beacon Lane, West Vancouver, BC, Canada, +1 604 925 7275
Visiting Stanley Park is one of the best free things to do in Vancouver, as there is a lot to see and do. As previously mentioned, you can follow the seawall or visit one of its beaches in the summer. Other things to look out for include the controversial Girl in a Wetsuit statue, Siwash Rock, the Lost Lagoon, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Beaver Lake, and the park’s collection of totem poles. You could easily spend hours walking around and through Stanley Park.
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada, +1 604 681 6728
A fun and free activity to do year-round in Vancouver is to spot celebrities. Many TV shows and movies are filmed in the city, such as The Flash, Once Upon a Time, Supergirl, The Good Doctor, Deadpool, Riverdale, and Timeless. Celebrities are frequently spotted in Gastown, which is known for its luxurious loft apartments and restaurants. Once Upon a Time fans will want to visit Steveston. Many stars also rent apartments around Coal Harbour.
Enjoy a free festival in the summer
It seems there is always a free festival, event, or market happening every weekend during the summer in Vancouver. Some of the most popular ones include the Celebration of Lights, the Pride Parade, and, of course, Canada Day celebrations. The International Jazz Festival also hosts many free events annually. You can really never be bored in Vancouver in the summertime.
Hiking is one of the best free activities to do in the Greater Vancouver Area. There are too many hikes to list, but visit the comprehensive Vancouver Trails website for inspiration, depending on your skill level. Hiking to Quarry Rock in Deep Cove is very popular, so head out early. There are many hiking trails on Burnaby Mountain. And Stawamus Chief is another favorite with locals, but it’s located in Squamish, which is just over an hour from Vancouver.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
For something a little different, check out the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. On Saturday nights from 7 to 11 pm, the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory is open, and admission is by donation. It is home to a half-meter Cassegrain telescope, and there is knowledgeable staff on hand to help you explore and observe Vancouver’s night sky. “From planets to moons to star clusters, explore the most awe-inspiring views of the universe around you.”