Vancouver Neighbourhood Guide: Granville Island
Granville Island may be the most popular tourist attraction we have here in the Vancouver area - and why not?! This tiny little area of land is packed full of woodworkers, cheese makers, painters, shop owners, entrepreneurs, art students, pasta makers, donut producers, and countless other wonderful shops to explore. It is a true microcosm of creatives and it somehow always manages to energize me. You will see the locals battling the tourists as they buy their groceries from the Public Market, the tourists with their jaws dropped as they slowly meander through the rows and rows of stalls, and the artists in their paint stained jeans waiting for their coffee.
Granville Island can almost be split into two areas: the Pubic Market and the external shops and studios. The Public Market is just what it sounds like- a giant market that has rows and rows of food vendors serving everything from pasta, charcuterie, cheeses, and pastries. Outside of the Public Market you will find streets of studios, shops, and all sorts of artisans. TukTukEats runs a Granville Island Artisan Tour that allows me to walk you around the island, meet some of my favourite creatives, and sample some the best offerings that the island offers.
Let’s start in the Public Market. As always, first up- caffeine! JJ Bean has a location in the market and in my opinion is your best bet for a cup of jo. Across from JJ Bean, you will notice beautiful flower arrangements- this is Our Little Flower Company, one of my favourite florists in Vancouver. While you wait for your coffee, feel free to stop and (literally) smell the roses. If tea if more your speed, just a few stalls down from JJ Bean you will find the Granville Island Tea Merchants. A husband and wife team, this shop never disappoints and one of my absolute favourite things to grab here is their Chai Tea Latte. Made from a secret recipe that is heavily guarded, it is one of most decedent and delicious things you will ever drink (in my opinion).
Once you are content with your beverage of choice, begin wandering! Benton Bros. Cheese shop is one of the best places to buy your cheese in Vancouver. Offering everything from locally sources products to the smelliest French fromages, you will be sure to be in heaven here. My favourite is the truffled sheep’s milk cheese followed by their raclette (a soft French cheese used for melting). Over at Oyama Sausage Co. you are almost guaranteed to find a swarm of people waiting their turn to buy all sorts of delectable cured meats. Oyama is the busiest shop in the market and for good reason as they truly do carry some of the best meats available. Just across from Oyama you will see the South China Seas Trading Co. I love love love wandering through this small shop as I am always finding products that I have never heard of but am eager to cook with. I’ve sourced everything from Pandan leaves, real Wasabi (almost all of what you get is fake), and a tortilla press. If you are foodie, do not miss this shop. Longliner Seafoods is one of the original vendors at the market (which opened in 1979) and is to this day a true family business. They continue to sell the same recipes that they did when they began and that includes a delicious offering of smoked and candied salmon. If you have not had the joy of tasting candied salmon, do not let this opportunity slip you by. Lee’s Donuts is another of the original vendors at the market. Today Lee’s still continues to make their donuts from start to finish inside their small stall inside the market.
Around 10:30am be sure to swing by for a fresh honey-dipped donut (you won’t regret it!). Continuing into the food hall, you will find a wide array of food stalls offering great lunch options from Greek to Ukrainian, it is one of my favourite places to eat because you can make a smorgasbord of as many different ethnicities as you can eat (think mall foodcourt but excellent food). Chau Veggie Express a great option for Vegetarians and I suggest trying one of their delicious vermicelli bowls or their namaste fresh rolls. Sprig Contemporary Greek Kitchen has some of the best falafel I’ve had the pleasure of trying. Outside of market hall you will find the Stock Market which offers a delicious range of soups both fresh and frozen. Everyday they have three offerings - a fish, meat, and vegetable as well as a breakfast soup.
If you pop in behind the public market you will find a few small shops including the Silk Weaving Studio. If you are interested in or enjoy beautifully made clothing and fabrics, don’t miss this stop. They also have an active loom in the shop that allows you to view how some of the clothes are being made. You will also find the Delish General Store which carries lots of locally made products and always lots of interesting novelty items.
Just across from the Public Market you will find the Net Loft building. Inside, is an array of some of my favourite small shops. Maiwa Handprints is a clothing store filled with the most amazing textiles and prints from around the world but specializing in fabrics from India. They also offer lots of different classes if you are wanting to get your creative juices flowing. I took an Indigo Dyeing class a few months ago and it was truly such a rewarding experience. Down the hall from Maiwa you will find Paper-Ya which contains some of the best stationary you can find in the city. From everything to funky binders, stamps, elegant pens, delicate Japanese papers, and the most creative cards, this place is always worth a stop when I am visiting the market.
Next, wander in the direction of Railspur Alley. Along the way you will pass the Granville Island Broom Co. which sells handcrafted brooms. They even sell small ones if you would like to take one home with you. As you turn into Railspur alley, you will notice Liberty Distillery which is a great place to enjoy a cocktail on a warm sunny afternoon (they also have a great happy hour that runs from 3pm-6pm on weekdays). Continue down the alley and notice the many artisans from the blacksmiths, jewelry designers, wood workers, and then (my personal favourite) the Artisan Sake Shop. Established in 2007, Artisan Sake Maker is widely recognized as the first sake of its kind in Canada and the only shop to be using 100% BC grown rice. They make everything from your standard sakes to a bubble style! Stop by for a flight and a short education session, you won’t be disappointed!
As you come to the end of Railspur alley, begin walking towards the Kid’s Market (even if you don’t have kids with you!). Along the way, you will pass many more studios but if you were to just pop into one I would recommend taking advantage of seeing the Craft Council of BC’s shop. It is a great place where many Canadian artists show their work under one roof. When you reach the Kid’s Market, be sure to take a second and just admire the entrance. Just peering through the front doors will invoke a grin as you notice the child size doors beside the full size ones, the rainbow bridges towering above, and shops upon shops filled with candy, toys, and games. It’s practically heaven for anyone under the age of 15 (physically of wishfully).
These are just my personal favourite things to do on the island, there are countless other alleys, shops, and artisans to explore. If you are visiting Granville Island for the first time, I would recommend allowing yourself at least 2-3 hours to explore this bustling neighbourhood. If you are interesting in a personalized tour of this area, fill out this form.