Huddled under the Granville Street Bridge south of Downtown, Granville Island is an agreeable “people’s place” – the title it likes for itself – and mostly lives up to its claim of being the heart of Vancouver. Friendly, easygoing and popular, its shops, markets, galleries, marina and open spaces are juxtaposed with a light-industrial setting whose faint whiff of warehouse squalor saves the area from any sense of pretentiousness.
The island, once a sand bar, was transformed in 1917 into an active ironworks and shipbuilding centre. By the 1960s the yards were derelict and the place had become a rat-infested depository. In 1972 the federal government agreed to bankroll a programme of residential, commercial and industrial redevelopment that retained the old false-fronted buildings, tin-shack homes, seawall and rail sidings. The best part of the job had been finished by 1979 – and was immediately successful – but work continues unobtrusively today, the various building projects only adding to the area’s sense of change and dynamism. Most people come here during the day, but there are some good restaurants, bars and the Arts Club Theatre (t 604 687 1644, w artsclub.com), which are all enough to keep the place buzzing at night.