Vancouver for budget travellers can be fun and exciting. After all, a visit to the city is mostly about enjoying the great Canadian outdoors, which happen to be easily accessible and at no extra cost. Even the most budget-conscious spender can enjoy the city’s plentiful recreational and sightseeing options. The vast and scenic Stanley Park and the well-manicured Queen Elizabeth Park are great examples, free for both visitors and locals to enjoy. Besides natural beauty, there’s great sightseeing among the high-rise cityscape of Downtown Vancouver. Below are ideas for free things to do in Vancouver – all good reasons to spend more on the hotel room and treat yourself by raiding the minibar.


    Granville Island

    A dining, sightseeing, and shopping haven

    You can plan a day out on this island or even make it the hub of your stay. There’s plenty to see and do on Granville Island alone, especially sightseeing, shopping, and adventurous dining. Start out at the dockside or Ron Basford Park for scenic views over False Creek. If you have kids in tow, they can splash and play at the free waterpark nearby. A stroll through the famous farmers’ market, Granville Island Public Market, lets you see and sample fresh goods at cheap prices.

    Location: Granville Island, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R7, Canada


    Stanley Park

    Vancouver’s vast and scenic urban park

    For free recreation and a good sampling of Vancouver’s great outdoors, you can make your way to Stanley Park, Vancouver’s most beautiful and feature-filled urban park. This green refuge has around 400 hectares that’s mostly covered in cedar forests, with pathways and hiking trails that lead you to various discovery spots. Among these are Brockton Point with its lighthouse and a totem pole garden that honours First Nations heritage art. The 13-mile Seawall is popular among cyclists, joggers, and for taking in the beautiful seascapes. 

    Location: Vancouver, BC V6G 1Z4, Canada

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 604-681-6728


    Gordon Southam Observatory

    Drop in to observe the moon and stars

    Sharing grounds with Vancouver’s space centre, the Gordon Macmillan Southam (GMS) Observatory offers you a “tour” of the moon, planets, and stars on Saturday evenings. It’s hard to miss with its large dome roof, which usually split open during observations. There are staff at hand who can assist you to look through the telescopes and help you understand how their computer-aided star tracking works. The main telescope is a classical Cassegrain reflector, mounted in the centre of the observation room. Admission is by donation.

    Location: 1100 Chestnut St, Vancouver, BC V6J 3J9, Canada

    Open: Saturdays from 7.30 pm to 11.30 pm

    Phone: +1 604-738-7827


    photo by Richard Eriksson (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Burnaby Village Museum

    Enjoy a fun, open-air, and hands-on history lesson

    This village museum is one of the best places to spend a day out with family in Vancouver without spending much money. Burnaby Village Museum harks back to the 1920s, with period costumed townsfolk greeting you in each of their homes’. You can sense the furnace heat as blacksmith works his metalworks or smell the ground coffee at the village’s general store. Entry to the village is free. There’s the 1912 CW Parker Carousel that offers rides at around $2.65 per child.

    Location: 6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby, BC V5G 3T6, Canada

    Open: May–September: Tuesday–Sunday from 11 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +1 604-297-4565


    photo by Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Queen Elizabeth Park

    Play fun games and explore pretty gardens

    Whether you’re up for hunting some of Vancouver’s best sceneries or wish to work up a sweat, the hilltop Queen Elizabeth Park offers you and your family a fun and free escape from the city streets. There’s plenty of fun to be had, like lawn bowling, tennis, and disc golf, along with simply enjoying a scenic stroll along its flower gardens at this highest point over the city. Picnicking near the west-facing slopes can be spectacular around April when cherry blossom trees burst into full bloom.

    Location: 4600 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2Z1, Canada

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 604-873-7000


    photo by Analise Zocher (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Lynn Canyon Bridge

    Walk high up among the verdant fir treetops

    The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge spans 160 ft high over the scenic and fir-forested Lynn Creek in North Vancouver. It’s free to access and connects to nature trails. At one point in history, you’d have to spare 10¢ to walk the bridge. These days, it might be outshined in popularity by the Capilano Suspension Bridge nearby, but with free access and stunning, 160-ft-high views, Lynn’s is your best budget choice.

    Location: ‎3663 Park Road, Lynn Canyon, North Vancouver, BC V7J 3G3, Canada

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 604-990-3755


    Capilano River Hatchery

    Witness remarkable nature at play

    The Capilano River Regional Park is home to a salmon hatchery where you can enjoy a stop between your forest hike to learn about the interesting life of salmon and trout. It’s free to visit and is worth spending a couple of hours. Besides learning about how fish develop from eggs until their release into the river, you can also witness a salmon run in the right season as they climb the salmon ladder. March through November are usually the best months to visit. 

    Location: 4500 Capilano Park Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4L3, Canada

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 604-666-1790


    photo by Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Grouse Grind Trail

    Explore Vancouver’s beautiful forested peak

    • Photo
    • Budget
    • Adventure

    If you’re in reasonable shape, looking for an adventure, and are up for a real challenge, you can consider hiking up the Grouse Grind Trail. This 1.8-mile free forest trail leads you up the face of Vancouver’s popular Grouse Mountain. The hike, on average, takes between 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete. Mind you, upon reaching the peak, the cost to take the Skyride back down is around $15. For average hiking, Grouse Mountain does offer various other moderate nature trails. 

    Location: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4K9, Canada

    Open: Daily from 6.15 am to 6.30 pm

    Phone: +1 604-224-5739


    Christ Church Cathedral

    A feast for the eyes and music to the ears

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    This is a striking, Gothic landmark in the heart of the high-rise cityscape of Downtown Vancouver. Despite having undergone refurbishments in the past, Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral on Burrard Street retains much of its antique charm, with its stone walls and stained-glass windows – in contrast to the modern skyscrapers surrounding it. It’s worth stepping inside just to hear the heavenly sounds of their award-winning choir. The church’s 4 magnificent bronze bells chime every 8am, noon, and 6pm.

    Location: 690 Burrard St, Vancouver, BC V6C 2L1, Canada

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm

    Phone: +1 604-682-3848


    photo by Colin Knowles (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Lonsdale Quay Market

    It’s one of Vancouver’s best waterfront spots

    Even if you’re on a tight budget and don’t wish to buy anything, Lonsdale Quay Market is a good go-to simply for taking in Vancouver’s waterfront views. You can browse through the market where several dozen shops sell fresh seafood, snacks and a good variety of local products. In the summer months, usually from June to September, you can expect live bands performing, charity barbecues, and the kids can enjoy fun and games.

    Location: 123 Carrie Cates Ct, North Vancouver, BC V7M 3K7, Canada

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 604-985-6261


    photo by GoToVan (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

    Start planning your trip

    Back to top