The run-up to the holiday season for many of us (under normal circumstances) typically involves dashing from store to store at Metro Vancouver malls in search of last-minute gifts.
Although things are a little different this year, it’s possible to escape the bustle and enjoy a more memorable holiday experience at Granville Island. With a distinct waterfront setting containing a mix of shops, artist studios, twinkling lights, and industrial and historic buildings, there’s nowhere quite like it in the city.
Whether you choose to explore the 100-plus unique shops and studios or peruse the amazing local ingredients at the Public Market, there’s plenty to enjoy. Open 7 days a week, parking is temporarily free with both open and covered parking widely available.
View this post on Instagram
From now through January 3, holiday lights will be strung up across Granville Island (that means tons of Instagrammable opportunities). Walk the almost 40 acres without crowds in a relaxed setting. Arrive early to check out the unique retail shops, and enjoy the restaurants, taprooms, distilleries and bars that remain open after 6 pm.
Granville Island is home to many local businesses, allowing you to buy special holiday gifts directly from the store owner, artist, or craftsperson who made them. This kind of exchange lets you see the direct impact of supporting Vancouver’s independent retailers at a time when it’s needed most.
Located inside the Net Loft building, the original Paper-Ya store was created by two local artists back in 1986. Today, the boutique specializes in everything from decorative paper products to DIY crafts to accessories. Choose a piece from the new Caran d’Ache and Paul Smith stationery collection, a 2021 planner, or a unique stocking stuffer.
Over on Railspur Alley, you’ll find Upstart & Crow, a bookstore that “exists to share stories and to support the literary arts in Vancouver and beyond.” Co-founded by Zoë Grams and author Ian Gill, the store is home to a massive book collection, artwork, and gifts like soy candles from Botanica. When you stop by, take a peek at the thoughtfully-created literary gift packages.
A hat has the power to elevate any outfit, and if you’re shopping for the hat person in your life (or yourself), Granville Island Hat Shop is a must-visit store. Nestled in the Net Loft on Johnston Street, it’s a fashion enthusiast’s haven with styles from berets to fedoras, and bucket styles to faux fur. The toughest decision you’ll have to make is choosing between vibrant and more traditional colour options.
If you’re looking for gifts like hand-engraved silver or gold jewelry, t-shirts, prints, or even beautiful masks, stay on Johnston Street and visit the Wickaninnish Gallery. The Indigenous-owned gallery was founded by Patricia Rivard in 1987 and showcases artwork by emerging and established Indigenous artists. (The store also stocks cozy moccasins for adults and kids.)
Home of the yearly Circle Craft Christmas Market, Granville Island’s Circle Craft Co-op in the Net Loft building is dedicated to providing opportunities for craftspeople to connect with the community. The store has been a huge force in promoting quality art since 1972, and this holiday season, you can help support BC artists in store. You might find the perfect ceramic piece for your space while you’re at it.
Spending more time at home this year has allowed us to experiment with new recipes and channel our creative culinary side. At Granville Island, The Market Kitchen Store has been serving professional and home chefs for over 30 years, stocking the essentials for the most important room in the house, as well as fun gifts for the foodie in your life.
At Kasandy on Duranleau Street, you’ll find a selection of beautifully handcrafted bags, accessories, and gift sets by artisans in Kenya, alongside pieces by local artisans. Owner Jackee Kasandy is originally from Kenya, where her family lives today. She works closely with East Africa’s artisan entrepreneurs to advance their product design, build their businesses, and sustainably increase their income.
There’s nothing quite like the soft touch of quality cashmere against your skin, and Mawlana specializes in goods made from the fabric, along with silks, home décor, jewellery, and much more. The store began as a small boutique in Syria before the owners, refugees Raphaël Machalani and Galilio Aissami, moved to Vancouver. We recommend spending some time browsing the home décor section.
For even more elegant fashion accessories, look to Alarte Silks on Railspur Alley. Hand-painted by artist Izabela Sauer, each wearable is truly a work of art made using an ancient Japanese pleating technique known as shibori. Whether it’s a stunning gift for mom or your best friend, you’ll find it here.
This holiday season, swap your usual holiday shopping for a magical experience on Granville Island. Visit on a day that suits your schedule and explore the boutiques and market at your own pace.
It’s worth noting that during the ongoing crisis, Granville Island is adhering to the protocols set by the office of the Provincial Health Officer. You can learn more about its COVID-19 Safety Plan here.
For more information on shop hours and more, visit granvilleisland.com.