Welcome to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria is a picturesque destination brimming with lush landscape, scenic views, and stately Victorian architecture. While the city atmosphere may come across as cool, calm, and collected, it’s a vibrant city abuzz with quaint places to visit, fine dining, scenic trails to explore, sea views, and an exciting nightlife.

Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC.

Things to Do in Victoria

Morning: It’s Breakfast Time

Get off on the right foot with an early morning start to sightseeing adventures by fueling up with big breakfast portions at John’s Place or the Blue Fox Cafe. If a lighter fare of freshly made pastries and freshly roasted coffee is what your taste buds are craving, start the morning at the Fernwood Coffee Company, or choose your pleasure at Murchie’s Tea & Coffee.

At Cora, it’s all about good food, and breakfast is the first meal of the day. Just a few of the menu items to tempt your palate include savory crepes, eggs Benedict, French toast, fluffy pancakes, omelettes, and fruit. Dine in or order from the take-out menu and be on your way to enjoy mid-morning activities with food in hand.

If you plan to be out and about all day checking the sights and sounds of Victoria, plan ahead and reserve a table for lunch. While you’re at it, make dinner reservations, too, to ensure your dining pleasure is assured before heading out to nighttime events, activities, or late-night entertainment. OpenTable has thousands of restaurants to choose from in Victoria to please every type of palate. Just sign up and sign in to make a free reservation.

Mid-Morning Activities

By mid-morning your palate is pleased, and a little exercise will jump-start your internal motor. Victoria has plenty of places to take a leisurely walk. Consider one, or all, of these parks for strolling, viewing, and picture-taking.

There’s Fisherman’s Wharf Park filled with an array of colorful houseboats and opportunities for kayaking and whale watching excursions. At Cadboro-Gyro Park, there’s a bit of everything to experience with its oceanfront location. Enjoy walking along the beach, letting the kids play at the playground, and finishing a cup of coffee or tea at the picnic area.

Situated along the Trans-Canada Highway, Goldstream Provincial Park is a lovely respite with bubbling waterfalls, hiking trails, a scenic train trestle, and old gold mine. At Beacon Hill Park, you’ll get a complete workout with its 200 acres to explore with landscaped Victorian gardens, complete with lush foliage, serene ponds, and strutting peacocks.

At The Butchart Gardens, feast your eyes on a colorful panorama of buds, blooms, and lush greenery. Take a leisurely tour and enjoy the monthly events such as fireworks displays, boat tours, concerts in the garden, and tasteful summer dining. Enjoy an early lunch at The Experience, an early romantic dinner in The Dining Room, casual fare at The Blue Poppy Restaurant, or coffee, lattes, espresso, sandwiches, and pastries at the Coffee Shop throughout your visit.

Noon: It’s Time for Lunch

After exploring the nooks and crannies of Victoria’s many interesting locations, it’s time to settle down for an exquisite lunch with a menu of delicious delights from area eateries. If you didn’t satisfy your breakfast cravings in the morning, head to the Jam Cafe where breakfast is served all day in a casual and rustic atmosphere. Sample the tastes of Italy, from fresh pasta and meatballs to eggplant parmesan, at Il Terrazzo set amid a warm decor of friendly servers, brick fireplaces, and an impressive list of wines.

For a flavorful meal of fresh seafood, indulge your taste buds at Red Fish Blue Fish. Sit dockside and soak up the atmosphere and aromas wafting through the air. Their menu offers a variety of seafood dishes such as fish and chips, barbecue wild salmon, freshly-made fish tacos, oysters on the half-shell, and deep-fried pickles. Just think “delicious” and you’re in the right frame of mind. Burger lovers will hit the jackpot at The Pink Bicycle with its selection of plump, juicy sandwiches like the wild salmon burger accompanied by an assortment of sides.

One of the best ways to end a meal is with a little something to satisfy the sweet tooth. With this thought in mind, try a scoop of Cold Comfort ice cream. It is a “must do” for anyone who enjoys the smooth, cold, delectable goodness of freshly made ice cream. This is not your standard cone with ice cream venue. Explore the many flavors they’ve created using natural ingredients. There’s something for everyone including those who prefer dairy-free. Envision sea salt, caramel, honey, vanilla beans, organic chocolate, assorted fruit, coffee, spices, and more, to get a picture of what to expect. They even make tasty sorbets with a zing like the Avocadive Margarita with tequila, lime, triple sec, and avocado.

Afternoon: More Attractions to Explore

The British influence on Victoria is clear when you pay a visit to Craigdarroch Castle. Tour the beautifully detailed historical Victorian mansion and get up close and personal with history. Listed as a National and Provincial Historic Site, the Emily Carr House and Gardens reflect the personality of this visionary who was ahead of her time as a Modernist and Post-Impressionist painter, social justice advocate, writer, a voice for the people, and an environmentalist. Tour the home, then sit in the garden or on the veranda to soak up the atmosphere.

One of Victoria’s oldest hotels, The Empress, which opened in 1908, has played host to dignitaries, royalty, and celebrities in its long history. Experience the grandeur of the Lobby Lounge and step back in time enjoying the ritual of afternoon tea.

The Fairmont Empress.

The Royal British Columbia Museum is an adventure unto itself. Experience and learn about natural history through a variety of exhibits and films. Victoria’s Parliament Buildings are in downtown and overlook the Inner Harbour. The buildings are a smorgasbord of stunning architectural detail and design. Guided and self-guided tours are free and available Monday through Friday. Stop by the gift shop or visit the Parliamentary Dining Room for a before dinner snack or refreshments.

Sit back and relax and leave the driving to someone else when you book a tour. Several tours to choose from include dolphin and whale watching excursions, ferry tours, bus tours, and scenic bike tours. For an unusual outing, visit the 50 species residing at the Victoria Bug Zoo.

If you’re adventurous, rent a bike and pedal your way around town, to the harbor, and for picture ops at the Johnson Street Bridge.  If you’d like to put the pedal to the pavement, head to the Galloping Goose Trail for a smooth ride along a paved old rail line where you’ll arrive at the Selkirk Trestle that spans the scenic Gorge Waterway. Make your way to the Brewery District where local brewers ply their goods. Stop by Moon Under Water for refreshments and snacks before continuing your sightseeing adventure by bicycle. The pub is three minutes from the trestle.

Late Afternoon: Shopping for Hidden Gems

Late afternoon is the perfect time to put on your favorite walking shoes and make your way along the main streets, side streets, and off-the-beaten-track shopping venues. Victoria is a gold mine of interesting shopping options from big shopping malls such as Mayfair, small specialty shops, clothing boutiques, handmade sweet shops, and handcrafted items. Take a walk along Fort Street and satisfy your interest in old world decor along Antique Row.

While looking for the perfect souvenir, checking out vintage books, or purchasing specially blended teas and coffees, take a moment to have a light refreshment at one of the cafes located in one of downtown’s historic buildings. A visit to Old Town is recommended for your late afternoon itinerary. Here, you’ll find Market Square, a vibrant and colorful addition to your shopping extravaganza. Within the 19th-century courtyard, you’ll come face-to-face with creative artisans and intriguing shops.

Plan to spend some time at the Victoria Public Market in downtown in Victoria’s historic Hudson building. Here, you’ll have access to a menu of interesting venues. The market is set within a community where food, entertainment, and art are the main courses. On Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the market becomes a bustling haven of fresh seafood, handmade pies, gourmet foods, oil, and vinegar selections, lovely fresh picked flowers, farm-fresh items, and a French bakery.

Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria.

Dinnertime: Satisfy Cravings for Fine Dining

For a taste of the Orient, make your way through the Gate of Harmonious Interest and enter Chinatown where you’ll find Don Mee Seafood Restaurant, a staple of Victoria’s Chinatown for over 80 years. Also in Chinatown, experience French-inspired cuisine at Saveur Restaurant where you can enjoy a set menu coupled with a wine pairing. Saveur Restaurant is also open for brunch.

For a romantic dinner, Cafe Brio has the setting and a sumptuous menu of Italian and Mediterranean fare. The Blue Crab Seafood House has a charming atmosphere with window seats overlooking the harbor. Watch the sun set gently on the horizon while sipping a glass of wine with someone special. Your taste buds will be tantalized to the max with dishes such as British Columbia halibut grilled to perfection, savory duck, succulent steak, and microbrews and handcrafted cocktails at AURA with its cozy waterfront restaurant and patio. Like the Blue Crab, enjoy the views of the harbor and water activities.

You’ll eat well when dining at Rebar located downtown in Bastion Square. From Rebar poutine and eggs Kurosawa to wild salmon burgers, rockfish tacos, and huevos rancheros, your taste buds are in for a treat. Expect freshly-made gourmet fare with exciting and flavorful ingredients that are meticulously prepared to please and nourish each patron.

Late Night: Entertainment Venues

Cultural venues have ongoing entertainment year round. At the Royal Theatre and McPherson Playhouse, each has served the community with ongoing performances since the early 1900s. Their calendar of events lists upcoming attractions such as plays, ballets, comedy, musicals, fashion, and much more.

The Belfry Theatre opened its doors for contemporary performances in 1976. The theater company is housed in what was once a Baptist church, hence the name, that was built in the late 1800s. The building, renovated in 2000, is listed on the heritage register. Throughout the year, the company puts on a series of plays with innovative, educational, cultural, and alternative themes.

If you just want to relax after the day’s adventures, enjoy the latest flick at the Cineplex Odeon Victoria Cinemas or watch independent art films at the Vic Theatre.

After Hours: Fun in the Midnight Hours

Victoria’s late-night scene is vibrant until the wee hours of the morning with live music, dancing, DJs spinning tunes, sports bars, film screenings, live theater, open mic, and karaoke. You name it, and it’s happening somewhere in Victoria.

For starters, head downtown to Darcy’s Pub in Bastion Square and go Upstairs for entertainment and specials. Each night, there’s something going on such as live music, craft brew specials, DJs spinning classic and trending hits, and dancing.

At the Paparazzi Nightclub, the party is always going on at the alternative venue with music, dancing, DJs, and special shows and events.

End the evening on a high note at the Lucky Bar where the vibe is always hot and the music is, too, from pop, rock, and hip-hop to head-banging metal, punk, and techno.

Where to Stay in Victoria

From budget to upscale pricing, Victoria offers a wide variety of choices in rooms and suites. Enjoy the convenience of a room with a kitchenette at a reasonable price at Howard Johnson Hotel Victoria, featuring an indoor pool and restaurant. Accent Inns Victoria also has kitchenettes and shuttle service.

Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour features an indoor pool, gym, restaurant, and an airport shuttle. For sightseeing adventures around Victoria, Hotel Zed offers loaner bikes and a free local shuttle. Days Inn Victoria Uptown offer studios and one-bedroom suites, full kitchens, restaurant, coin-operated laundry, and views overlooking the harbor.

Parliament in Victoria.

Victoria International Airport

When flying into Victoria International Airport (YYJ), you’ll be arriving at an airport that has been recognized for its service and is the recipient of The Airports Council International Award for Airport Service Quality. In 2014, Victoria International was ranked in first place over all North American airports that had carried an estimated two million passengers in a year. The award is based on 30 areas of customer service, including security screening, airport cleanliness, efficiency, courtesy of staff, the atmosphere of the airport, and dollar value for airport services, such as retail shops, food, and beverages. Victoria International Airport also won the award in 2012.

Airport Services

For passenger convenience, Victoria International is equipped with two automated teller machines (ATM), family room when waiting to board, children’s play area, business work stations and vending machines in the departure lounge, free baggage carts, and kiosks for self-serve check-in. For travelers accompanied by service animals, the airport has a designated area for the animals to take a break. The International Currency Exchange is available, offering full-service foreign exchange, international phone cards, and travel insurance. Travelers can stay connected with complimentary Wi-Fi available throughout the terminal.

Dining and Shopping

Whether you need a sit-down meal, a quick snack, cup of coffee, or something while you’re on-the-run between flights, Victoria International Airport takes care of your needs. Several venues are available that include Starbucks Coffee, Tim Hortons, Spinnakers on the Fly, and White Spot at the Airport Restaurant.

For a last-minute gift item, souvenirs, or to catch up on the latest news, stop by the Breakwater Boutique, accessible pre-security check, and Harbour Walk Shops, accessible post-security.

Airport Art

To enhance a passenger’s time spent at the airport, the Victoria Airport Authority authorized the display of work of local artists within the terminal. Pieces include commissioned collections, rotating collections, and special exhibits using art mediums including murals, sculptures, paintings, ceramic pieces, carvings, and wall hangings.

The British Columbia Aviation Museum is located next to Victoria International Airport. It is one of Vancouver Island’s main attractions. The museum features a variety of aircraft, pictures, memorabilia, engines, aircraft models, historical displays, and many artifacts.

Transportation

You’ll have a choice in transportation options getting to and from Victoria International Airport. At the airport, Avis, Hertz, National Car Rental, and Budget are in the Arrivals area. Off-airport service is also available through Enterprise. Alternate transportation includes Yellow Cab of Victoria and YYJ Airport Shuttle. For travelers with special needs, accessible transportation is available.

Public transportation is also available via BC Transit to and from the airport, as well as travelers using the McTavish Transit Exchange to and from Victoria International. For travelers who bring their bicycles, the airport has a designated facility with a bicycle assembly station with an air pump, bench, storage shed, and bicycle parking. A tool set is available for check-out if your bike needs repair. Bikes can also be stored in a secure area at the airport for a nominal daily fee.

Make your visit to Victoria one to remember with an itinerary that lets you explore, discover, and experience the culture, beauty, and robust atmosphere of this capital city.