355 Burrard St
Close to Canada Place (which can of course also be explored for free), this 1930s building is adored by those in the know. It was once the tallest building across the British Empire, with mesmerizing Art Deco details in the grand entrance, lobby, and elevators. Entrance to the lobby is free on weekdays between 8:30am and 5pm.
The city’s famed greenway (see Seawall) offers epic views, picnic spots, and beaches along its 28-km (17.5-mile) route. The stretch around Stanley Park is one-way only.
The observatory at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre is free for stargazing from 7pm to 11pm every Saturday, weather permitting. Donations are welcome.
With the motto “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” Christ Church Cathedral can be visited for free all week, but Choral Eucharist (at 10:30am on Sundays) is when the custom-built Kenneth Jones organ and the award-winning choir can be heard.
There are several downloadable brochures for fascinating self-guided public art walking tours available on the City of Vancouver website. You can also book free city walking tours on the Tour Guys website (although the guides do appreciate a tip at the end of the tour).
Victoria’s imposing Neo-Classical 19th-century Parliament building is home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Free public tours run on weekdays when Parliament isn’t sitting (check the website for times) and you don’t need to book beforehand. However, for speciality tours that focus on the architecture or formal gardens, you will have to reserve a place in advance.
This expansive park is a lush green space with walking trails and swimming holes, plus a 50-m (165-ft) suspension bridge. The entire site, including the ecology center, can be visited free of charge.
9160 Steveston Hwy, Richmond (25 mins from downtown) • www.buddhisttemple.ca
Chinese culture and heritage, and Buddhist philosophy, is celebrated at Richmond’s International Buddhist Temple, which is open to all. Don’t miss the formal gardens, which can also be explored for free.
Some of Vancouver’s finest museums and galleries throw open their doors for free on certain days (a donation of whatever you can afford is appreciated). Head to the Vancouver Art Gallery 5–9pm on Tuesday nights, to the Museum of Vancouver 5–8pm on the last Thursday of the month, and to the Bill Reid Gallery 2–5pm on the first Friday of the month.
Vancouver and the surrounding area host plenty of free festivals and events in every season, such as the largest fireworks festival in the world, an open-air concert at the end of the jazz festival, and Pride. Canada Day on July 1 is celebrated with a huge fireworks display that lights up that waterfront.
1. Spend time taking it easy for free in the excellent parks and gardens in Vancouver and Victoria.
3. Save money on public transit costs in the city by buying all-zone day passes, or by getting a reloadable Compass Card.
4. Take the Canada Line from the airport to downtown for less than $10.
5. Visit and explore year-round farmers’ markets (www.eatlocal.org) that are free and offer inexpensive food options.
6. T&T supermarket is the place to stock up on inexpensive Asian staples and they often have free samples (www.tnt-supermarket.com).
7. For cheap dining, find out where the city’s best food trucks are (www.streetfoodapp.com/vancouver).
8. A Vancouver City Passport ($25) offers money-off coupons for major tourist attractions (www.citypassports.com).
9. Purchase cheap same-day tickets for events from community box office Tickets Tonight at the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre.
10. Sign up with Hostelling International before you travel to get access to all the best value hostels (www.hihostels.com). Unaffiliated hotels do sometimes offer discounts for members, too.