Dubbed the most romantic – and the most British – city in Canada, Victoria is nestled at the southern tip of Vancouver Island and is the provincial capital of British Columbia. The picture-postcard city has escaped the industrial surge of Vancouver, helping to preserve its historic downtown area and keep the city largely free from highways and high-rises.
Victoria is bursting with heritage and nature, with its credentials including a thriving museum scene, a burgeoning culinary culture and a vibrant waterfront, all set against a spectacular backdrop of wild ocean that is often teeming with whales.
Whether you’re looking to soak up some arts and culture, explore the great outdoors or simply relax by one of the city’s many beaches or lakes, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do and see in Victoria. First, head to Bastion Square in downtown Victoria to witness the original site of old Fort Victoria. The square looks out to the Inner Harbour and boasts some idyllic patio cafés and restaurants.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority’s Unity Wall mural is a nod to the Salish Nations, the region’s native people, and is well worth checking out for an authentic display of multicultural appreciation. The Royal BC Museum in Victoria showcases the city’s rich and interesting history, while The Robert Bateman Centre, one of Victoria’s newest attractions, exhibits some of the famous Canadian painter’s finest works.
The city is renowned for its orca-inhabited waters and boasts 3 pods of resident whales, so a daytrip to see them in their natural habitat is a must while visiting Victoria.
Eat and Drink
Seafood should be high on your culinary list while in Victoria. Local oysters and salmon are particularly tasty in this part of the world, as are locally grown vegetables. The Cowichan Valley, situated north of Victoria, boasts a wealth of wineries alongside a prosperous local food culture, and is a great option for food and wine daytrips away from the buzz of the city.
For those keen to stay in town, the city offers a diverse range of cuisines to choose from. Sushi, seafood, Italian and Indian are available and provide the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon spent in one of the many terrace bars, traditional pubs or upmarket cocktail joints. Afternoon tea is a deep-seated tradition in Victoria, taking the city back to its British roots.
Where to Stay
Whether it’s a beautifully restored Edwardian B&B or a family-friendly motel you’re looking for, there are scores of accommodation options in Victoria to suit all budgets and requirements. Hotels situated in the downtown area, particularly along Douglas Street and Government Street, are abuzz with restaurants, bars and busy nightlife.
James Bay boasts quiet hotels and residences to rent that are all within proximity of sightseeing opportunities. Sooke and Saanich are your go-to areas for spa resorts and luxurious country manor houses, while Oak Bay and Rockland are peaceful neighbourhoods situated well away from the hustle and bustle of inner-city Victoria.
Local markets, antique stores and independent boutiques abound in Victoria. Lower Johnson Street is the place to head if you’re in the market for some exclusive designer fashions. Fort Street, often dubbed Antiques Row, is a haven for antique and fashion hunters.
Bastion Square is home to a beautiful market during the summer, selling locally crafted items that make perfect take-home gifts. The Moss Street Market is a Saturday tradition, where vendors sell organic foods, crafts and exude hippie vibes in abundance.
Victoria Like a Local
To enjoy Victoria like a local, look beyond the tourist attractions and harbour. Take a visit to Thetis Lake, a local swimming hotspot complete with a small sandy beach and running trail. If you’re looking to catch some waves, locals know to head to Jordan River for some of the best surf in Victoria.