Granville Island Market, Vancouver
In the 1970’s, a former industrial site was transformed into one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions. Overlooking False Creek, the island features a busy food market, art galleries, an eponymous microbrewery, boutique distilleries, flashy restaurants, two theatres, various bars, a hotel, waterpark, and gift shops. There are over three hundred stores, with the toy-like Aquabus ferrying visitors along the creek. Stroll the market for fine cheese, chocolate, fruit, baked goods, condiments and artisan gifts. Listen to buskers while snacking on the outdoor deck (but watch out for turkey-sized seagulls!) Hire a motorboat, stand-up paddleboard, or kayak for a harbour adventure. Little ones will lose their marbles inside the Kids Market, with a four-level indoor Adventure Zone and old-fashioned arcade.
St Lawrence Market, Toronto
National Geographic once called the St Lawrence Market “the world’s best food market”. Toronto’s largest indoor market has been located on Front Street for over two centuries, although parts were destroyed by fire and rebuilt. There are three buildings in the complex: the two-story South Market has over 120 specialty vendors, with fresh produce, meat, fish, baked goods and artisan cheese. You’ll also find various restaurants and cafes. The North Market gathers producers from Southern Ontario for a popular Saturday Farmers Market, which dates back to 1803. On Sunday, the North Market hosts dozens of antique dealers. Retail businesses are located in the St Lawrence Hall, where you can also find exhibitions, concerts and rental space. The market is a short distance from other Toronto must-do’s, and well serviced by buses and street cars.
ByWard Market, Ottawa
Conveniently located close to Ottawa’s primo attractions (Parliament! The Rideau Canal! The National Gallery!) ByWard gets its unusual spelling from the area’s original surveyor John By, and the ward in which it was located. Attracting some 50,000 people each summer weekend, the original market building has produce and retail stores, surrounded by boutiques, restaurants, galleries and gift shops. Open-air vendors sprout on George and York Streets, and buskers add to the lively atmosphere. Don’t miss: the warm, sweet Beavertails on the corner of George and William; fine coffee at various establishments; Obama-inspired baked goods at Moulin de Provence, and a taster flight at the Clocktower or Lowertown craft breweries.
The Forks, Winnipeg
There are several terrific urban markets in the prairies – Saskatoon’s and Regina’s Farmers’ Markets come to mind – but only one of them has six thousand years of aboriginal history, and is a National Historic Site. The physical meeting of the mighty Assiniboine and Red rivers once attracted hunters, traders, pioneers and settlers. Today, tourists hunt souvenirs and locals hunt gourmet treats. There’s also a theatre, children’s museum, boutique hotel, a provincial tourism exhibit, and a short walk to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. When the Assiniboine freezes over in winter, out come the skating trails, Olympic-sized rink, and the popular Raw:Almond pop-up restaurant. Parks Canada operates an adjacent area with walking trails, a prairie garden, outdoor amphitheatre and canoe beach. The Oodena Celebration Circle, with its eight steel arms pointing towards specific constellations, is another visitor highlight.