An indoor food market and a thriving diversity of artist studios as well as performing arts spaces, specialty shops (there's not a chain store or designer label in sight), and a busy marina make Granville Island one of Vancouver's top attractions.
Explore at your leisure but try to plan your expedition over a meal, because the market is an excellent place for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and shopping. The buildings behind the market are as diverse as the island's main attractions and house all sorts of crafts shops. The waterside boardwalk behind the Arts Club and around the Creekhouse building will bring you to Ocean Art Works, an open-sided longhouse-style structure where you can watch First Nations artists at work. Make time to visit the free contemporary galleries beside the covered walkway, and Sea Village, one of the few houseboat communities in Vancouver. Other nooks and alleys to note are Ron Basford Park, a natural amphitheater for outdoor performances, and Railspur Alley, home to about a dozen studios and galleries that produce everything from jewelry to leather work and sake.
Granville Island is also a venue for Vancouver's many performing arts festivals—and a great place to catch top-quality street entertainment at any time.
In the early 20th century False Creek was dredged for better access to the sawmills that lined the shore, and the sludge was heaped onto a sandbar that grew large enough to house much-needed industrial and logging-equipment plants. Although businesses thrived in the 1920s, most fell into derelict status by the '60s. In the early '70s, though, the federal government came up with a creative plan to redevelop the island with a public market, marine activities, and artisans' studios. The refurbished Granville Island opened to the public in 1979 and was an immediate hit with locals and visitors alike.