The district of Gastown, Vancouver is the oldest past of the city. It grew from a single pub founded by John ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton in 1867. There’s even a statue, the Gassy Jack statue, that’s dedicated to him in Gastown today. Every visitor to Vancouver should spend an afternoon or longer in Gastown. There are so many things to do in Gastown from shopping to eating and some sightseeing too! If you’re looking for free things to do in Vancouver then checking out Gastown should be one of them!
Gastown is one of the most picturesque neighbourhoods of downtown Vancouver. Sure, there isn’t exactly a whole tonne of greenery like my home neighbourhood the West End. But there are cobbled streets, an old Steam Clock, vintage lampposts and independent shops aplenty.
Eat a porchetta sandwich from Meat & Bread
Meat & Bread is one of the best Gastown restaurants and it should definitely be on your list of things to do in Gastown. During weekday lunch this place is packed with office workers but the line moves quickly and it’s well worth the wait anyway!
Whilst there are a few options on the menu, you can’t visit Vancouver without at least one person in your group getting their classic porchetta sandwich that comes with salsa verde and crackling. It is so, SO good.
Watch the Steam Clock in action
The Steam Clock is perhaps the most iconic landmark in Gastown (and also one of the best known in Vancouver).If you ask someone what to do in Vancouver, changes are they’ll suggest you check the Gastown steam clock out. You couldn’t possibly visit the city without taking a look at the steam clock and handing around for it to burst into action.
Without ruining it too much, the clock isn’t actually steam powered (it’s electric) but you’ll still see steam come out.
Every 15 minutes the Gastown Steam Clock shows off a bit. It whistles and shoots steam from its five whistles in its own version of the Westminster Chime. On the hour it marks each hour with a toot from each whistle. Make sure you go at 12pm for the best display!
Wander CRAB Park
I said Gastown wasn’t particularly green but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any greenery: this is Vancouver after all! The best Vancouver activities often involve enjoying the outdoors and you can still do that in Gastown.
Head over to CRAB Park and stroll along the waterfront. There’s a little beach here and you’ll get great views of North Vancouver (especially good the day after it snows) and Canada Place too!
Gastown is FULL of independent shops. There are independent fashion shops, shoe shops, glasses, furniture and ‘bits and bobs’ shops. Some of my favourites are: Parliament, Old Faithful Shop and the lifestyle section at Nettle’s Tale Swimwear.
You could spend a whole day shopping in Gastown and I suggest you do!
Drink great coffee
Vancouver as a whole is pretty great for coffee, but Gastown has some of the best cafes! Not only do they do great coffee, but they’re super cute inside too! Make sure to check out Vancouver fave Revolver, drink from those pretty blue cups at Prado and pop into Birds and Beets for a cute interior!
Visit the Cacao 70 Dippery
The Cacao 70 Dippery opened up in Gastown quite recently and it’s definitely worth a visit if you love chocolate! It’s one of many fun things to do in Vancouver At the dippery you can get ice cream and waffles (you guessed it!) dipped in chocolate! In the summer months you should be prepared for a queue but these dips are great!
Admire the cobbled streets
Gastown’s cobbled streets are what makes the neighbourhood stand out so much. Wander down Water Street taking time to pop in and out of shops. Even in the rain this area is beautiful! These pretty streets are one of the best Vancouver attractions and they’re make cool things to do in Vancouver.
See Vancouver’s very own Flat Iron building
You may have seen the Flat Iron building in New York and maybe even the one in Toronto. The Vancouver flat iron building is one of the most iconic things to see in Vancouver. Sure, it’s not as well known but it’s still pretty cool to take a look at!
Pig out at ‘appy hour
Vancouver loves happy hour. I think pretty much ever pub and restaurant in the city offers a happy hour (often referred to as ‘appy hour). Happy Hour is often between 3-6pm and some places have a second happy hour from 9pm onwards. Some of the Gastown Vancouver restaurants are the best in the city!
During happy hour you’ll be able to get cheap drinks AND cheaper food. It’s totally worth it!
Say “hi” to Gassy Jack
It’s hard to miss this statue which stand on a semi-roundabout in Gastown. The statue is one of many Vancouver points of interest up there with the top things to do in downtown Vancouver.
You’ll learn a little more about Gastown by reading Gassy Jack’s plaque. When you’re exploring this historic neighbourhood make sure you give him a wave!
Grab brunch (on several occasions)
Did someone say brunch? If you’re looking for a tasty brunch, Gastown is a great place to go. Some of the best brunch in Vancouver can be found in Gastown so it’s definitely a thing to do in Gastown!
Nelson the Seagull is pretty much famous for its tasty breakfasts (avocado features heavily). For something more meaty then head to Save On Meats for a traditional American brunch. Sweet-tooth? Brioche Urban Eatery has your back!
Take in the views of the city from the Vancouver Lookout
The Vancouver Lookout offers one of the best views of the city (unless you’re planning on taking a seaplane – which is awesome!). One of my favourite Vancouver tourist attractions, you’ll get a 360 degree view of the city.
You’ll be able to see the snowy mountains to the north and (if it’s super clear) you’ll be able to see America to the south! Oh, and Stanley Park and the beaches of Kitsilano! It’s one of the best places to visit in Vancouver and is great for getting in some Vancouver sightseeing.
Your ticket for the Vancouver Lookout lasts all day and coming back up at night is one of the best things to do in Vancouver at night, trust me!
Drink local beers
For a relatively small city Vancouver has a TONNE of local breweries. There are so many awesome Gastown bars and loads of them do happy hour between 3-6.
You’ll be able to find some local brews in most of the pubs and restaurants around the city. But, if you fancy a beer while you’re in Gastown then you don’t need to go far for a local drink! There’s Steamworks Brewing Co, Postmark Brewing and Six Acres to name just a few.
Visit one of Gastown’s great book shops
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you’ll know I love a good bookshop. I seem to end up going into one whenever I travel (this one in Portland is especially good). If you too love a good bookshop then make sure to visit the bookshops in Gastown.
Visiting Vancouver in July? Watch the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix
Where to stay in Gastown
Gastown can be a pretty expensive part of Vancouver to stay in. But there are a few budget hostels and hotels too. Here are my picks of the best hotels in Gastown Vancouver, BC.
If you’re travelling to, or are new to, Vancouver then take a look at these other posts for best things to do in Vancouver, BC
- 7 Awesome things to do on the water in Vancouver
- 43 most instagrammable places in Vancouver
- Adventures & what to do in Stanley Park, Vancouver
- Climbing the Grouse Grind, Vancouver
- Things to do to in Vancouver’s West End by someone who lives there
- Everything you need to know about cycling around Stanley Park, Vancouver
- 5 best bike rides in Vancouver
- Cycling from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast for a burger
- 41 things to do in Kitsilano, Vancouver
- Best kayak day trips from Vancouver