12 Great Free Things To Do in Vancouver

Vancouver has a host of beaches that are free for you to enjoy
Vancouver has a host of beaches that are free for you to enjoy | © James Nesterwitz / Alamy Stock Photo
Vancouver may have a reputation for being Canada’s most expensive city, but no matter – there are plenty of free and cheap things to do that will keep both locals and visitors entertained. Check out some of the best free things to do in Vancouver, from enjoying its West Coast beaches to enjoying the hiking trails that run through the city’s extensive parks.

Cross the bridge onto Granville Island

Granville Island, perched beneath Downtown Vancouver, is one of the city’s must-visit attractions. Wander through the Public Market, bursting with fresh produce, pastries and a food court of world cuisines, then pop over to the market’s waterfront to take in the views. Head east towards False Creek or west to Kits Beach, a sandy beach stretching out toward the English Bay.

Granville Island has a stunning view of Downtown Vancouver © Mauro Toccaceli / Alamy Stock Photo

Hit the Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery is housed in the city’s former courthouse and is as impressive inside as it is out. Although entrance typically costs $24, on Tuesday evening from 5pm to 9pm, the art gallery swings open its doors to the public, offering entry to the space by donation only. Past exhibits have included well-known Canadian artists like Douglas Coupland and Emily Carr.

The Vancouver Art Gallery showcases a host of Canadian artists © Roy LANGSTAFF / Alamy Stock Photo

Walk or bike the seawall

The Vancouver seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, extending for 17 miles (28 kilometers). It stretches from Stanley Park to the Spanish Banks Park west of Kitsilano. The path is divided into two well-marked sections, with parallel paths for walkers and cyclists. Two of the most scenic spans of the seawall are the areas around False Creek and Science World and the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The seawall has a curving path perfect for cycling or walking © Ron Bedard / Alamy Stock Photo

Visit Lynn Canyon Park

Located in North Vancouver, Lynn Canyon Park is a great free alternative to one of the city’s top paid attractions: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Lynn Canyon Park boasts its own smaller suspension bridge, which has sweeping views of the surrounding forest and swimming holes. The park covers 617 acres (250 hectares), and is filled with various hikes to suit all levels.

The Lynn Canyon suspension bridge © travelstock44 / Alamy Stock Photo

Relax at the beach

Vancouver teems with beaches. The most popular is Kits Beach, a sandy beach with a large grassed park area. In Stanley Park you’ll find First, Second and Third Beaches: First Beach is the park’s most popular and is busy with swimmers, as well as having volleyball courts and a rental facility for kayaks and paddleboards; Second Beach comes with view of the English Bay and a busy pool; Third Beach, on the southern coast, is the most isolated, offering quiet sandy beaches and sunset views. Further outside the city are Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby and Cates Park in North Vancouver.

Sunbathers enjoy the summer sun at Third Beach in Stanley Park, Vancouver © Marc Bruxelle / Alamy Stock Photo

Take in the view from Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park is Vancouver’s highest point, clocking in at 499 feet (152 meters) above sea level. Thanks to its location south of the city, the park has some of the best views – you’ll see the city’s towering skyline backdropped by beautiful North Vancouver mountains. Come by with a picnic, wander through the arboretum filled with exotic and native trees and soaring sculptures or play a game of tennis, lawn bowling or pitch and putt.

Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Voyage to Lonsdale Quay

Found in North Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay is quite easy to get to from Downtown – simply hop on the SeaBus ferry at Waterfront Station, which takes you right there. Here, you’ll find a bustling market with 80 local businesses, summertime events, exercise classes and live music.

Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver is home to a busy market © Marlene Ford / Alamy Stock Photo

Check out Chinatown

Vancouver’s Chinatown is the third-largest in North America by population (behind San Francisco and New York). Take in the ornate gate entrance on Pender Street, visit Sun Yat-Sen Park and peek into the dim sum restaurants, traditional bakeries and Chinese grocery stores lining the streets.

The entrance to Chinatown, Vancouver © Sean O'Neill / Alamy Stock Photo

Hike through Lighthouse Park

Set in the residential area of West Vancouver, Lighthouse Park is a national historic site. The 185-acre (75-hectare) park mainly consists of lush rainforest and several hiking trails, which are open year-round. At its southernmost tip is the park’s namesake, the Point Atkinson Lighthouse, a white lighthouse painted red on the top.

Beachcombers at Lighthouse Park, Point Atkinson, West Vancouver © Douglas Lander / Alamy Stock Photo

Get lost in Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a 1,000-acre (405-hectare) public park just off the end of Downtown Vancouver. The park is bordered by two waters – the Burrard Inlet and the English Bay – so there are plenty of beaches for swimming. You can drive, bike or walk through the park, but be sure to be on the lookout for a number of attractions: the Girl in a Wetsuit statue, Siwash Rock, the Lost Lagoon, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Beaver Lake and the park’s collection of totem poles.

Brockton Point Lighthouse is on the edge of Stanley Park © Thye Gn / Alamy Stock Photo

Enjoy a summertime festival

There are plenty of free festivals and events throughout the summer in Vancouver. Some of the most popular include the Celebration of Light (the largest offshore fireworks festival in the world, where various countries compete to see who can light up the sky the most creatively), the Pride Parade, the International Jazz Festival and a number of Canada Day celebrations.

A crowd gathers at sunset in English Bay, Vancouver, waiting for the Celebration of Light Festival to begin © Stock Connection Blue / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a hike (or two)

Everyone can be a hiker in Vancouver, thanks to the city’s large supply of parks. There are hikes here to suit every skill level: hit Stanley Park for a number of varied trails, Quarry Rock in Deep Cove for moderate trails and waterfalls, Burnaby Mountain for both hiking and mountain biking trails or Stawamus Chief, where experienced hikers climb a huge granite formation.

Burnaby Mountain park is tucked away east of Downtown Vancouver © Oleg Mayorov / Alamy Stock Photo