Victoria is a great place to visit for a weekend—or long weekend—escape in British Columbia. The city is quite small, so most of the main attractions lie within walking distance of each other in the city center. If your perfect weekend getaway involves brunching, shopping, enjoying pub meals on a sunny patio, and exploring fascinating museums, then you need to visit Victoria.
CNN, National Geographic, and USA Today have all named Butchart Gardens one of the world’s top gardens. As one of Victoria’s top attractions (and a National Historic Site), it receives nearly one million visitors annually. There’s a variety of landscapes within Butchart Gardens, including the Sunken Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, and Mediterranean Garden. It’s also worthwhile visiting in every season; in winter, the garden becomes a Christmas wonderland thanks to thousands of twinkling lights.
Victoria’s streets will make you think you’ve been transported to a charming English village. The downtown area features colorful Victorian buildings on Lower Johnson Street, floral hanging baskets everywhere, and some of the most stunning architecture in British Columbia (and maybe even Canada). Architecture aficionados will be spellbound by the Fairmont Empress, Craigdarroch Castle, and the BC Legislature Building. If you enjoy wandering around pretty places, you will love Victoria.
If you are a fan of this delicious dish, then prepare to eat the best fish and chips ever in Victoria! Red Fish Blue Fish operates out of a shipping container on a wooden pier in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Its reputation precedes it, so expect to wait for lunch (for example, the wait time in September was 40 minutes). But it’s definitely worthwhile. Menu items include the classic combo—you can pick from three different types of fish too—as well as chowder, sandwiches, tacos, and more. The local business also only uses Ocean Wise sustainable seafood. After eating at Red Fish Blue Fish, you will be comparing every other fish and chips to it.
Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown, which is also the second-oldest one in North America (San Francisco’s is the oldest). It’s a beautiful place to walk through and visit, thanks to the distinct architecture, the red and gold lanterns strung above the street, its gate named The Gate of Harmonious Interest, and the area’s shops and eateries. Chinatown is also where visitors will find Fan Tan Alley, which is one of the narrowest streets in Canada. Today it houses various retailers.
Victoria should be known as British Columbia’s pub capital. In the city center, it feels like there is a different pub on every corner. Some of the most popular options include Irish Times, which was voted North America’s best Irish pub this year and has live music nightly. Bartholomew’s Pub has been a “local favorite” since 1975. The Drake focuses on supplying top-quality West Coast craft beer, while The Churchill has 50 craft beers on tap. Visitors won’t be thirsty when visiting Victoria.
It may not be as well known as its San Franciscan counterpart, but Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-visit. The area is a short walk from the city center and is home to many colorful float homes and dining options. Choose your favorite float home while feasting on Mexican, sushi, or ice cream. You can also get the Harbour Ferry back to the Inner Harbour after exploring Fisherman’s Wharf.
The Royal BC Museum was founded in 1886, and the “Royal” title was bestowed in 1987. Today it houses the province’s natural and human history museum, as well as British Columbia’s Provincial Archives. The Royal BC Museum has three permanent galleries: modern history, natural history, and First Nations history. It also has an IMAX® with the largest screen in British Columbia. It’s a great place for people, and young kids, to learn more about beautiful British Columbia.
The Inner Harbour is where you will find Victoria’s most impressive buildings. It’s an ideal place to soak up the sun, take photos, and listen to buskers. The Inner Harbour is also an excellent destination to visit at night, as the BC Legislature Building twinkles at twilight. From the Inner Harbour, people can get a seaplane to Vancouver, or the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s the heart of Victoria, and you can’t miss it.
Yes, Victoria lies on Vancouver Island. There are plenty of things to do and see on the island, including visiting Tofino, which is known for being a storm-watcher’s paradise and Canada’s surfing capital. Along the way to Nanaimo from Victoria, there are small, but nonetheless charming, towns such as Chemainus and Cowichan Bay. Vancouver Island is also home to Cathedral Grove, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, the Wild Pacific Trail, and some of the west coast’s best whale-watching locations.
Located just outside of Victoria, Hatley Castle stands on the Royal Roads University Campus. It began as a mansion, before being used as a military college and naval training facility until 1995. Now it is a National Historic Site that’s home to a museum and three beautifully manicured gardens: the Rose, Italian, and Japanese Gardens. Hatley Castle has also been used in many films and TV series, including Deadpool, UnREAL, Arrow, The Killing, and the X-Men movies.
Your taste buds are definitely in for a treat in Victoria. Jam Cafe, which has another location in Vancouver, is known for its delicious breakfast and brunch dishes. Their menu includes signature meals such as The Charlie Bowl, as well as a variety of eggs benedict options, and some delectable French toast dishes. Just like Red Fish Blue Fish, Jam Cafe is notorious for long lines. But if you rise early and get there when it opens, chances are you will be seated immediately, giving you more time to explore Victoria—it’s a win-win situation really!