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For a less sweaty endeavour, consider one of the free – tips encouraged – city walking tours with Vancouver’s Tour Guys. Or relive your student days with a gratis, summer-only guided amble around the waterfront University of British Columbia campus.

If you really want to get off the beaten path, book ahead for a free guided bus and walking tour of the area’s forest-encircled reservoirs, run by the Metro Vancouver regional authority.

Admission-free art
Vancouver is studded with eye-popping outdoor public art – the gaggle of giant laughing figures near the shoreline of English Bay is arguably the most popular -- but there are also many free-entry galleries for those ever-regular rainy days. Rub your chin in contemplation at the changing exhibitions inside the Charles H. Scott Gallery at Granville Island’s Emily Carr University, including frequent shows by graduating students. Or check out the often-challenging contemporary works in the Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia.

Downtown’s popular Vancouver Art Gallery also curates a free outdoor art installation called Offsite near the Shangri-La Hotel. Changing twice-yearly, past exhibitions included giant photographs and scale models of old-time cabins. And if you want to save on entry to the gallery itself – where blockbuster visiting shows combine with a strong focus on photography by Vancouver artists – drop by between 5 pm and 9 pm on Tuesdays when entry is by donation (five Canadian dollars is typical).

There is also a freebie gem nearby that even some locals do not know about. Nip into the Royal Bank of Canada at the corner of West Georgia Street and Burrard Street, and take the escalator up one floor. In front of you will be the giant ‘Ksan Mural, a nine-panel, 36.5m-long First Nations carving that is one the largest aboriginal artworks in Canada. And although it is in a bank, you do not have to pay a cent to see it.

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© 2012 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘The best of Vancouver for free’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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