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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!