British Columbia, Canada, Travel

Exploring Victoria, everything you need to know

I once heard someone describe Victoria British Columbia as a place for newlyweds or nearly deads. A ridiculous statement really. I recently spent a weekend exploring and discovered that it’s not only gorgeous, but full of hidden gems.

Home to the second oldest Chinatown in North America. Once a key trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company, downtown Victoria displays some great architecture that you really should explore. Not to mention, a great collection of local food, from traditional fish and chips to eclectic raw food.

If you want to discover and explore Victoria like a local, you’ll want to read on and make notes. Below you’ll find the best ways to get there, and what to expect when you arrive.

I also share what to see and do, where to eat (hint totally local) and a few additional things to consider for your trip to British Columbia’s capital.

Let me know in the comments below what you think, a city full of gems, or a place for the nearly dead?

Explore Victoria downtown food

Traveling to Victoria:

Victoria, BC is located on the southern end of Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia, on the west-coast of Canada. Traveling to the island is relatively easy and can be a beautiful experience in its self.

The most popular ways to travel to Victoria include;

  • Car ferry service from the lower mainland. A beautiful ride through the Gulf Islands.
  • Fly into Victoria’s International Airport.
  • Catamaran passenger service will take you from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria in comfort. A great option if you don’t have a vehicle.
  • Seaplane from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria. A spectacular birds-eye-view of Vancouver, the Gulf Islands and Greater Victoria area.

What to expect when you visit

The vibe in Victoria is casual and laid back, you can expect weather that is mild which keeps the city in a perpetual state of bloom. Expect more sun than rain, but always dress in layers, it gets cool at night. 

The transit system is good, however walking or biking around the downtown core and exploring the narrow alleys of Chinatown is where you’ll discover local hidden treasures.

Victoria Tulips

What to see in Victoria

Exploring downtown Victoria will reward you with beautiful architectural buildings, local shops and Canada’s oldest Chinatown.

It's a city with a rich history, beginning with the Hudson’s Bay fur trade to the gold rush boom and later tourists venturing over on steamships with Canadian Pacific Railway.

Victoria Parlament Bldg

Architectural enthusiasts and history buffs will enjoy exploring the downtown core and inner harbour of Victoria. Four of Victoria’s most important buildings can be found on the water’s edge.

  • The Parliament Buildings. Tours are available, check the website.
  • Royal Canadian Museum. Build to house all of British Columbia's precious historical artifacts
  • The Canadian Pacific Rail Steamship Terminal
  • The Empress Hotel (formerly owned by Canadian Pacific Railway now owned by Fairmont Hotels)

Venturing deeper into Victoria’s downtown will reward you with treats and treasures found in the local shops.

  • Walk down Government Street and explore the historical buildings of Victoria’s past.
  • From the inner harbour take a bus ride down to Canada’s oldest Chinatown.
Chinatown alley
Chinatown Fan Tan Alley
Chinatown dragon alley

If nature is your thing then you want to wander through one of these amazing parks

  • Thunderbird Park, located behind the Royal Canadian Museum.
  • Beacon Hill Park, located in Victoria’s downtown core is a 75-hectare escape.
  • Fisherman’s Warf Park, a floating pier, located near downtown, about 15 min. stroll.

♥ Insider tip, Beacon Drive-in, a 50 year establishment on the outskirts of Beacon Hill Park serves up Victoria's favorite soft serve ice-cream.

Thunderbird Park Victoria

If you seek adventure, look into a tour or rental

  • Whale watching tours, most depart from the inner harbour. The best time to go is during late spring and into early fall, when the whales migrate back.
  • Kayak or SUP rentals located a few minutes from downtown. A great way to explore the natural beauty of the pacific west coast.

Some of my favorite tasty, Victoria food venues – Yum!

Victoria’s food scene has really taken off. The variety of delicious, good quality food is abundant. Here are just a few recommendations that cover some of the tastiest local food venues in the downtown area.

  • Ali Baba Pizza. Located at 777 Fort Street. Yup, that’s right pizza. It’s one of those places that uses quality ingredients, making the right combination between classic meat and cheese and gourmet pizza toppings.
  • John’s Place Restaurant. Located at 723 Pandora Avenue. All day diner featuring Canadian comfort food. They make their own breads and pies and OMG it’s good. This is a long standing local favorite. Expect a line-up, it doesn’t matter what time of day you go. You can make reservations, but you must call in 250-389-0711.
  • Barb’s Fish & Chips. Located at 1 Dallas Road, Fisherman’s Warf. This floating food counter is seasonal. If you’re in the neighbourhood, give this place a try. Oh, there’s an ice-cream vendor close by too! What’s not to like about that?
  • La Tana, a local bakery featuring Italian specialties. Located at #101 - 3 Fan Tan Alley, Chinatown. If you want something a little lighter, try their sandwiches or baked sweet goods. You’ll smell the bread baking as you walk down the alley.
  • Green Cuisine (vegan). Located at 5 – 560 Johnson Street. One of Victoria’s long standing local favorites. It’s a buffet style eatery with loads of fresh food.
  • Habit Coffee. Maybe you just want a great cup of coffee or tea. Two locations, one in Chinatown at 552 Pandora Street. The second location at 808 Yates Street in the atrium.
Habit Coffee Victoria Chinatown
Habit Latte Victoria

Extend your stay, visit a castle, stroll the grounds of the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion, shop for antiques or take a hike

If you have more that a day or two to explore Victoria, then you should look into these worthwhile locations. A little off the beaten tourist path and well worth a visit. 

  • Antique Row in downtown Victoria features a 3 block stretch of antique shops waiting for you to peruse. Located on Fort Street between Blanshard and Cook Street.
  • Mount Douglas Park in Saanich. You can tackle one of many easy to moderate hikes with the reward of views overlooking the island across Brentwood Bay and over to the Malahat. In addition, you can access the ocean via a quick walk from the parking lot.
  • Craigdarroch Castle located in the prestigious Rockland area of Victoria at 1050 Joan Crescent. The building is remarkable with a great history.
  • Lieutenant Governor General of British Columbia. Also located in the Rockland area at 1401 Rockland Avenue. Once a month public tours are held but very limited, you must check the website. The grounds are open to the public from dawn to dusk, free of charge.
  • Butchart Gardens is a well know 22-hectare garden. Originally a cement factory it’s now a garden attracting more that 1 million visitors annually.
  • Sidney, a quaint city by the sea. Wander around the downtown core at a leisurely pace. Enjoy the crowd free streets, find a local artisan shop or enjoy lunch with an ocean view.

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Victoria has something for everyone

This busy city has so many great activities and sights, I'm certain everyone in your travel group will find something to love about Victoria!

What do you think? Do you feel Victoria has a lot to offer? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, have fun and keep exploring!

Angelina

Victoria BC Lighthouse

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33 thoughts on “Exploring Victoria, everything you need to know

  1. Awesome info about BC! We are planning to be in Seattle for Labor Day weekend and was hoping to make a drive up to BC. We might be able to squeeze it in. I’ve always wondered about BC! Thank you for the info.

  2. I honestly don’t know too much about Canada, but after reading this I am eager to pay a visit. Victoria looks like such a vibrant and amazing place with lots to do. This was so engaging and informative. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I love traveling and this post is perfect. I love how you have different things that everyone can enjoy like what to see and where to eat. It is a perfect guide for someone who wants the trip laid put completely. I appreciate the time it took to make this and it looks like tons of fun. I will definitely be adding this to my bucket list.

  4. I have a bunch of family members that moved to Seattle, and I would love to take a trip to Victoria BC as part of our trip out west. Sounds like a really cool place!

    1. Marysa, you should try to fit it in if you can. There’s a car ferry that goes from Port Angeles and goes right to Victoria!

  5. We’ve never been to Victoria BC, but have only heard good things about it, so we’d really love to visit one day. Thanks for your little guide here, it will certainly be very helpful to us when we go there! By the way, I didn’t know that the Chinatown in Victoria is the oldest one in Canada! Wow! It must be something like the one in San Francisco!

    1. I hope you do make it to Victoria, you won’t be disappointed.
      San Francisco is North America’s oldest Chinatown. I have also been to that one and it’s very neat as well. Bigger than the one in Victoria if I recall correctly.

  6. Beautiful! I’ve never thought about going to Canada, but reading through your post has made this a definite location to venture to! Thanks 🙂

    1. Diego, you really should put Canada on your list. It’s an amazing country. Of course, I am a tiny bit biased, but I think it’s justified. 🙂

  7. Love this! I have always wanted to visit Victoria, but I have always heard that there isn’t much to do. Thanks for all the suggestions. I can’t wait to visit!

    1. Hi Laura. I think you heard wrong! lol
      Victoria has so much to do, I promise you! I hope you get to check it out for yourself.

  8. I have always envisioned Victoria as the Western town with the European architecture. I was surprised to find the diversity of architecture and style from your pictures. I love BC and need to get back to the area soon. I would love to see Craigdarroch Castle. And I need to go on another whale watching trip, this time with my family. Thanks.

  9. When I think of Victoria I think of the London in the UK. l have not hear that Victoria British Columbia was referred to as a place for newlyweds or nearly deads, to be honest, that sounds funny. Saying that Victoria sounds and looks like an amazing place to explore.

    1. Hi Mel,
      A lot of people say that Victoria reminds them of London. It does have a British feel about it. It’s a great place to explore, hope you can make it over one day.

  10. I was in Vancouver, but never made my way over to the island of Victoria. This is such a special, diverse part of Canada, isn’t it? The architecture and nature look so stunning; thank you for all of these recommendations! Also, thanks for including a vegan option in the places to dine. 😉 I need to return to Western Canada soon!

    1. It’s a shame you couldn’t make it to Victoria Cristina. Perhaps you’ll have to return. The west coast of Canada is really very unique and a nature lover’s paradise.

    1. I hope you can make it to BC one day. There’s a saying, “The west is the best!” 😉
      Whale watching is great around Victoria as well, probably not as cold as Iceland.
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  11. Angelina, I’ve just arrived in Vancouver several days ago, and I’m staying here for two months. I was looking into quick weekend trips in Victoria and Whistler, so this is very timely! Your post is quite comprehensive. I would love to try riding a catamaran to reach Victoria. Both its cafe culture and its architecture draw my attention. 🙂

  12. In my next trip to Canada, I am visiting Victoria! I am thinking about flying there, stay a couple of days and then rent a car and road trip around the island. I have been to Vancouver and loved every aspect of the city. Judging by that experience, I know I will love Victoria too.

  13. We love visiting Victoria and my daughter swears she has had the best bubble tea ever there (she house sat for some friends there for 8 weeks a few years ago so got to know it well) I have also heard that quote but I could quite happily live there! #weekendwanderlust

  14. Victoria’s one of my favorite places in Canada. Would love to explore the food scene as that’s really popped since I was last there. It’s such a beautiful and multi-cultural city. Didn’t know that the weather stayed so mild year round.

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