Last updated April 7th, 2023
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It’s really no secret, Vancouver is expensive! Having lived here for over 6 years, I can honestly say that I spend a lot of money living in Vancouver. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some free things to do in Vancouver that helps out my bank account and gets me outdoors!
Over the years I’ve met many fellow travelers who comment that they would love to visit Canada, but it’s just too expensive a country to explore, so they mostly stick to just one city when they do visit (if they visit). These cities usually end up being Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver.
In a bid to get more people to come visit me in Vancouver, I decided to put together a list of 10 of the best free things to do in Vancouver, to help offset the costs of everything else you’ll be spending money on while here!
Table of Contents
10 Of The Best Free Things To Do In Vancouver – From A Local
First things first, if you need a place to stay I would use Booking.com. In an expensive city it always helps to have a good hotel deal.
Walk around Granville Island Market
Granville Island is a popular year round destination for visitors and locals alike. Home to over 300 businesses, Granville Island has gone from a mud flat, to a man made industrial island, and is now home to a very loved cultural hub known for the buskers, festivals, artists, artisan shops and food.
The Granville Island Public Market was opened in 1979 and here you can find a vast assortment of shops; anything from gifts, fresh produce, fresh seafood, food stalls, hand crafted products, and more! Wandering around the market, picking up some fresh produce, and eating from all the stalls is a fun way to spend a few hours. If you don’t buy anything and just use your time to walk around and explore (including seeing The Raptors, a group of Biologists and Falconers who bring out various hawks to educate people about them), then this is a free activity! One of my favorite things to do on Granville Island is just wander around and people watch, usually with a snack or two from one of the food stalls.
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Explore Stanley Park
Although be careful and heed current advice, as there have been coyote attacks recently (this occurred in 2021, but as of 2023 you should still be alert to wildlife in Stanley Park, especially since there are still coyotes in the park.) and a cull of those coyotes, so just make sure to be aware of wildlife and current updates.
Otherwise, Stanley Park is a rainforest in the middle of Vancouver, giving you access to views of the mountains, ocean, the harbor, and the city.
There is so much to do in Stanley Park, including paid activities like the Vancouver Aquarium (Canada’s largest aquarium), horse drawn carriage rides, ride the train, book a time slot at Second Beach Pool, or eat at one of the restaurants.
For free activities though, you can walk or bike along the seawall, hike the trails by downloading a Stanley Park Map, bring a picnic and eat by the water, or walk to the lost lagoon, sometimes otters even come hang out on the rocks!
Hike Lynn Canyon. And walk the suspension bridge.
Dubbed by locals as the free Capilano Suspension Bridge (and free is a huge pro when you’re living in Vancouver), Lynn Canyon is not only a stunning hike, but also crossing this suspension bridge is free, unlike the hefty $54.95 fee to cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Open for over 100 hundred years (they opened in 1912) and covering 617 Acres, Lynn Canyon is a great way to spend a day. There’s an Ecology Center to learn about the park, several different hiking trails, the suspension bridge, waterfalls, and the 30 foot pool, which is one of the most popular swimming spots in the park!
Going up to Lynn Canyon is not just a free thing to do, it’s a great way to spend a few hours in Vancouver’s vividly green forests.
Visit Queen Elizabeth Park
The walk around the gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park may only be 0.41 kms, but the walk takes you up to the highest point of the city, giving you some spectacular views – for free! But there’s more to Queen Elizabeth Park than just the seasonally changing gardens; here you’ll find the Bloedel Conservatory (which you do have to pay for if you wish to check out the exotic plants and birds. I think it is very worth it!), the quarry gardens, tennis, golf, have a picnic, or take your dog to the dog park. There’s even a restaurant there, Seasons in the Park.
If you get the opportunity to visit in Spring or Summer, take it. The gardens and mountain views will be gorgeous.
Relax at the beach. Vancouver has plenty!
There’s Kits beach, Wreck beach, First, Second, and Third beach, English Bay, Sunset, Jericho, and more! You can easily go beach hopping in Vancouver. Considering that beaches are a big reason for many people to travel, the fact that all beaches in Vancouver are free to visit helps take a load off of your wallet. You can pack snacks and drinks, and relax at one of the various beaches on offer.
My recommendations? Wreck Beach for a nude beach and great hike, Kits beach for a cool vibe, Sunset beach for the obvious sunset, and Jericho beach for being somewhere in the middle of all of that.
Hike Lighthouse Park
Lighthouse Park has numerous trails, all with different levels of difficulty. This park is probably West Vancouver’s most beloved park, with old growth Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees for you to walk among.
Here you can rock climb in summer, have picnics, walk your dog, view the functioning lighthouse, and do some bird watching!
Wander Lonsdale Quay
For a beautiful view of Vancouver and easy access to Lynn Canyon, head to Lonsdale Quay on the North Shore. The views of the water and city here are stunning, and taking the SeaBus is so much fun!
You can drive to Lonsdale from the city, but I would argue that taking the SeaBus is half the fun of going! Also, if you work as a nanny or an au pair, bringing kids on the SeaBus is a ton of fun for them!
Admire the waterfront by Canada Place
I love strolling along the water by Canada Place! There are plenty of shops to peruse, and the most beautiful views of the waterfront and Vancouver’s North shore!
Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, there are loads of restaurants in the area, some gorgeous hotels, it’s close to all transit modes, and you can walk the Coal Harbour Seawall all the way to Stanley Park, giving you a gorgeous walk and some exercise!
There are always events going on down by the waterfront, so you never quite know what you’ll be walking past when you go.
Nestled in the heart of Chinatown, this is part park, part museum, part garden, and is modelled after the Ming Dynasty. Fun fact, this was the very first traditional Chinese Garden outside of China! The park is free to explore and even have free guided tours, but the Chinese Gardens have a $16 entrance fee.
Hike Pacific Spirit Regional Park.
Established in 1989, the best part of this park is that it’s open year round, meaning you can get out to enjoy the trails no matter the weather. Located near the UBC campus, this 763 hectare park is a nature lovers paradise, giving you dense forest, cliffs, bog, creeks, and Wreck Beach.
These trails are so green!
I put together this list of 10 of the best free things to do in Vancouver, to give you the chance to splurge on what you want, while still having some free fun! Enjoy your visit to beautiful Vancouver!
What else would you add to this list of free things to do in Vancouver?