British Columbia’s capital city of Victoria is one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Located right on the ocean, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, it is easy to see why it has become such a popular destination for both local and international tourists. The city is charming, the people are friendly and there are plenty of awesome things to do in Victoria, BC.
The main hub of the city is the inner harbour which is a spectacular setting for a city centre. The bustling waterfront is full of boats and seaplanes and several grand buildings line the harbour, including the Fairmont Empress and the Parliament building.
Victoria is ideal for not only weekend escapes (although it is one of our favourite weekend escapes from Vancouver) but can also be included in longer trips, such as our Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary. Whether you have just 2 days to explore or an entire week, you will find lots of awesome things to do in this fabulous city.
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Where to Stay in Victoria
Budget: Ocean Island Inn – A perfect spot for a budget trip to Victoria. This hostel is right in the heart of Victoria and won’t break the bank.
Mid-range: Helm’s Inn – Situated right on the corner of Beacon Hill Park and just minutes away from the inner harbour, this is an amazing location. The rooms are fantastic and select rooms also come with a kitchenette so you can cook your own meals.
Luxury: Fairmont Empress – There is only one choice for a luxury stay in Victoria and that’s the Fairmont Empress located right in the inner harbour. There are stunning views of the harbour, the location is as central as possible and the hotel rooms are on another level.
Things to Do in Victoria BC
1. Whale Watching
The west coast of Canada is famous for its massive population of whales, the most exciting of which are the elusive killer whales. There are also grey whales and humpbacks swimming in the local waters. Head out on a whale watching day tour to spot these amazing animals in their natural habitat. There are few places in the world that are quite as spectacular as the waters around Victoria to enjoy a whale watching tour.
Book your Victoria whale watching tour here!
2. Parliament Building and the Inner Harbour
As we already mentioned, the inner harbour in Victoria is one of the highlights of the city. Few places in the world can boast of a city centre this spectacular and you could easily sit for hours here watching the world go by. It is a very busy harbour with whale watching tours, seaplanes and boats coming and going every few minutes.
The Parliament building which overlooks the harbour is also an impressive sight and the sprawling green grass that runs down to the water is the perfect place to relax and soak in some sun on a sunny day here.
3. Butchart Gardens
The Butchart Gardens is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Vancouver Island. They are just a short drive from Victoria’s city centre and the 5 different gardens span 55 acres. There are millions of bedding plants in over 900 varieties.
While gardens and flowers aren’t typically our thing, Butchart Gardens is without a doubt worth a visit. The vast array of colours and smells is incredible and it’s easy to spend hours walking through all of the different gardens. If you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to check out their impressive Saturday night firework show.
Get your tickets online for Butchart Gardens here.
4. Fisherman’s Wharf
The mini floating community of Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the best and most unique places to visit in the city. The wharf is made up of a multitude of floating homes and restaurants all of which are uniquely designed and decorated. It is such an awesome place and there is a cacophony of colours on display here.
Most of the homes actually have people living in them full time and you can see them sitting on their porches soaking in the sun. If you are lucky, you may also see some of the local seals who like to swim right up to the wharf to get a look at all of the tourists walking by.
A few of the floating homes have been converted into food kiosks and offer everything from fish and chips to sushi.
5. Explore Chinatown and Fan Tan Alley
Although Victoria’s Chinatown is quite small, it is not to be missed. This neighbourhood in Victoria is Canada’s oldest Chinatown and offers some amazing restaurants, lots of boutique shops and some beautiful architecture.
The hidden gem of Chinatown is Fan Tan Alley which is one of Canada’s narrowest streets. The small, red brick alley is extremely picturesque and there are several boutique shops located along the alley. Our personal favourite place in Fan Tan Alley is Kid Sister ice cream shop which does the best home-made ice cream we have ever had. Try the salted caramel and thank us later!
6. Beacon Hill Park
Just a few minutes’ walk from the inner harbour will take you to Beacon Hill Park. This vast expanse of greenery is a fantastic getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. There are several charming gardens, sports pitches, endless green space and it is also home to what was once the tallest totem pole in the world.
7. Visit Craft Breweries
Victoria is home to many excellent craft breweries and we made sure to test them all out for you. The majority of them are situated quite close to the city centre, just north of downtown.
We recommend actually renting a bike or taking a tour to all the different breweries to sample the local goods. Our personal favourite is Phillips Brewing, which is a west coast favourite. They have a great tasting room, light snacks and an awesome atmosphere.
Keen to try a brewery tour? Join fellow beer lovers on this craft brewery tour around Victoria.
8. Hike Mount Douglas
A short ascent will take you to the top of Mount Douglas. From here you will get the most stunning 360 degree views of the city and all the surrounding landscapes. The views are incredible and you can see for miles in every direction, including out over the water.
Quick tip: If you’re pressed for time, or if you are feeling lazy you can actually drive all the way to the top of Mount Douglas.
Download your FREE day hike packing list here!
9. Willows Beach
As Victoria is situated right on the water, there are several beaches which you can enjoy. One of our favourites is Willows Beach in Oak Bay which has plenty of sand for you to relax on and the water is always nice and calm, making it ideal for a swim. Beware though, even in the midst of summer when the temperatures are high, the water is still quite chilly.
It is also worth walking along Oak Bay Avenue as there are some great boutique shops and restaurants in what is one of Victoria’s nicest neighbourhoods.
10. Mystic Beach
To discover some of the more rural and rugged areas of the coastline, head west along the coast to Mystic Beach. The drive out here is awesome and be sure to keep an eye out for black bears as they are not uncommon in the area.
Mystic Beach is located along the shores of the Juan de Fuca Strait and is one of the most scenic beaches on Vancouver Island. From the parking lot it is around a 30-minute walk along a trail through the trees to reach the beach. The beach is beautiful and feels completely isolated from the outside world with tall trees running along the shoreline.
As you walk further along the beach you will come across a small waterfall flowing from the rock high above down onto the beach and into the sea. It is a stunning beach and definitely worth the trip out here. If you do make this trip then we also recommend checking out Sombrio Beach which is nearby.
11. Goldstream Provincial Park
On the outskirts of the city is Goldstream Provincial Park which is great to get away for a night of camping or simply to enjoy a few hours out of the city surrounded by nature. Our favourite part of the park is the Goldstream Trestle which is a short but steep climb from the carpark. At the top of the short hike you will find an old wooden trestle bridge that used to be an old train line. The scenery up here is amazing and the trestle bridge is awesome.
If you are visiting during the fall season, it is also a great time to visit as you can witness the annual salmon run. This is when thousands of salmon return home and battle their way upstream to lay their eggs. From the banks of the river you get an awesome view of the fish and this amazing display of animal instincts and Mother Nature.
12.East Sooke Park
Another awesome activity just outside the city is exploring East Sooke Park. The park has a long stretch of rugged coastline, incredible walking and hiking trails, lush fields, an old growth forest and some beautiful beaches dotted along the way.
Some of the beaches have impressive white sand and clear blue water that you would associate more with the Philippines than with Canada, but don’t let the tropical colours fool you. The water will be cold all year round.
13. High Tea at The Empress
The Fairmont Empress is an iconic building located right in the inner harbour of Victoria. A visit to the famed tea room at the grandiose hotel has become almost synonymous with a trip to Victoria and is high on most people’s bucket list.
They also distil their own Empress gin which is a local favourite and is purple in colour. What is really cool is that it also changes colour depending on what you mix it with and the bartenders here will be happy to mix you up a special drink using the famous Empress gin.
14. Enjoy the Local Cuisine
Victoria has an amazing food scene and has options for every type of taste. One of the most popular places to eat here is Red Fish Blue Fish which can be found in a shipping container down on the docks. The food is delicious and the fish tacos are what they are renowned for. As this is such a popular spot be prepared to wait in line for a while. Luckily the food is worth the wait.
Another of Victoria’s famous eateries is Jam Café which serves the best brunch in the city and probably on the whole island. Much like Red Fish Blue Fish you will need to be prepared to wait in line for quite a while to get a table here.
If you don’t fancy waiting in line check out our other recommendations for Victoria’s best brunch!
15. Go for Patio Beers
There are few better ways to end the day than watching the sun go down on a patio with an ice cold beer. Victoria has loads of awesome patios and our two top picks are Canoe Brewpub and the Local.
Canoe Brewpub is right on the water and has a huge patio with a great atmosphere. The Local is a more intimate patio on the edge of the inner harbour and it is one of our top picks because of all of the flowers they have hanging around the patio creating an amazing array of colours.
Victoria is such a picturesque city with plenty of character. It’s easy to spend a few days exploring the city and its surroundings. There are lots of awesome things to do in Victoria, it has a great local food scene and the West Coast island vibes make for an incredible trip.
Been to Victoria before? Let us know in the comments your favourite thing to do while you’re here.
Planning a trip to Vancouver Island? Check out our other blog posts on the area: