Victoria is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in all of Canada. But, you should know, when it comes to BC’s distinguished capital there’s a whole lot more than just pretty facades and cobblestoned streets. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a dynamic city where beautiful sights, untamed nature and cool hangouts collide for a unique Vancouver Island vibe. What most people don’t realise is that in addition to the (admittedly awesome) touristy sights, there are a lot of cool things to do in Victoria. Here’s our pick of the best.
A beautiful place to catch the sunset, and definitely one of my favourite places to visit in Victoria. Be sure to walk along the 700m+ breakwater, which is a narrow walkway that extends from the shore towards a cute little lighthouse at the end. Fun fact: up until a few years ago, this walkway had no railings! Dangerous, much?!
📷: Evelyn Proimos
Binge on board games at Interactivity Board Game Cafe
$5 is all you need to gain access to over 800 board games, and yes – you can order food/drinks and play for as long as you want. TIP: Take advantage of their ‘before 3’ special – if you leave before 3pm, entry is only 3 bucks!
Colourful houseboats are the main draw for those visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s also a lovely place to grab a quick bite to eat and enjoy the sunshine on a warm day. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some of the adorable seals who frolic in the area. Be careful though – these guys like to splash!
The Inner Harbour
Victoria’s ridiculously picturesque Inner Harbour is a sight ripped straight from a postcard. A stroll here should be your #1 priority! Enjoy the many street performers, artists and vendors that set up shop here, and take a moment to appreciate the flawless waterfront view. TIP: Be sure to take a walk here at night, when the vibe is even more magical.
The BC Parliament Building
Located right at the Inner Harbour, this quintessential Victoria landmark is impossible to miss. It’s a gorgeous Neo-Baroque building with 33 bright copper domes and a façade lined with over 3000 lights, so yes, be sure to return after dark. Bonus: you can even tour the inside for free!
This Victorian era mansion is one of Victoria’s most famous landmarks, and is well worth a visit if you like cool architecture and lavish décor! You can do a self-guided tour of the castle, but beware, some believe it’s one of the most haunted places in Canada
The Fairmont Empress
One of the most iconic buildings in Victoria, ‘The Empress’ is more than just a luxury hotel; it’s a National Historic Site of Canada, and has been around since 1908. It’s a beautiful spot to check out and it’s right by the harbor too. For a real (pricey) treat, get dolled up and splurge on their world-famous afternoon tea.
The Butchart Gardens
Out of all Victoria attractions, this one is among the most famous. These perfectly manicured gardens span over 55 acres and are open year round (although spring/summer are of course, ideal times to visit). The cheapest way to get here is public transit, but there are plenty of affordable tours as well.
Goldstream Provincial Park
Though about 17km away from downtown, this park is a must for nature lovers. Besides trails, majestic old trees and epic landscapes, from December to January the park is also home to hordes of bald eagles (who come to feast on salmon). For an extra scenic adventure, be sure to do the Goldstream Trestle Hike. There are roughly 2000 trail in and around Victoria Park.
Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and is home to tons of authentic shops, restaurants and cafes. While here, be sure to stop by the ornate Gate of Harmonious Interest, whose stone lions were donated by Victoria’s sister city, Suzhou.
Beacon Hill Park
Located right in downtown Victoria, this park is a great place to enjoy BC’s world-famous nature. With over 200 acres of trails, gardens and even a petting zoo, there’s plenty to ensure you won’t get bored. While here, don’t forget to stop by the world’s 4th tallest totem pole and say hi to the peacocks too, who can often be seen strutting around.
If you’re craving a unique shopping experience full of fun and local boutiques, then you need to head to Market Square. Their open air courtyard is also a great place to relax in the sun and enjoy an al fresco snack.
Located right in the heart of downtown Victoria, Thunderbird Park has been home to a diverse display of totem poles since the 1940s. If you’re lucky, you might even catch some demos by local artists.
📷: Evelyn Proimos
Though a bit far from the city centre, this historic castle has been made famous by many movies (yes, it’s the school from X-Men!) and features beautiful gardens and a museum. Have I mentioned how gorgeous it is…?
Rent A Bike
There are plenty of bike lanes and trails in Victoria, which is known as the cycling capital of Canada. So, why not enjoy the gorgeous scenery of this city by bike (or scooter)?
📷: John Luton
The Royal BC Museum
This massive museum covers both natural and human history, with an impressive collection boasting over 7 million objects. Definitely one of the best places to learn about the city and (country’s) history.
Explore the haunted side of Victoria
Some say Victoria is the most haunted city in Canada… So why not see for yourself? There are guided tours you can pay for, or you can download the map and take a self guided tour!
📷: Blake Handley
Take a walk down Canada’s narrowest street
One of the most random but fun things to do in Victoria is to take a stroll down Fan Tan Alley, aka the narrowest street in the country. A pretty random honour, but the alley itself is adorable and dotted with some lovely shops. A worthy stop for sure, especially when exploring the Chinatown area.
📷: Neil & Kathy Carey
Get a real dive bar experience
Big Bad John’s is a proud self-proclaimed “authentic hillbilly bar” where guests are encouraged to let their hair down and chuck peanut shells on the floor. It’s not the classiest of digs, but hey, drinks are cheap! Just watch out for the many bras hanging from the ceiling.
Enjoy an on-the-water pub crawl
Imagine hopping on a little ferry that drops you off at different bars, where you then get a free appetizer! That’s the idea of the Pickle Pub Crawl, which is run by the folks at Victoria Harbour Ferry. One wristband will get you 4 ferry hops and a free appy (for each group of 4) at participating pubs. TIP: Go on Mon-Wed when wristbands are only $20.
📷: Marc Bruxelle
Test out the craft beer/cider scene
Victoria is a haven for craft beer lovers. The city even has an annual beer week where they put the spotlight on BC’s best craft breweries. In Victoria, there’s 13 craft breweries to choose from and plenty of awesome brewpubs to try; but if you want a real fun experience, grab a tour at Vancouver Island Brewery to see how it’s all done!
PS: If beer isn’t your thing, you’ll be happy to hear that Victoria is also home to some pretty amazing cider too. Sea Cider Farm is a must-visit for cider fans, with a gorgeous orchard and seaside location.
Test out a Virtual Reality arcade
Vic VR is a Victoria virtual reality arcade and game development studio where you can immerse yourself in the wonders of VR! It’s not super cheap ($30 per machine hour + $5 a person) but a very cool and unique experience worth trying.
Last but not least, check out some markets
Foodies will love browsing the Victoria Public Market (found in the Hudson building downtown), where fresh food, entertainment and art come together in a pretty indoor setting. They have day vendors from Wed – Sun from 11am-3pm. During the summer, the Sunday Market at Bastion Square is also a fun spot to check out for cool crafts and artisan products. Of course, there’s a lot of smaller markets running all the time, so be sure to check Tourism Victoria’s event calendar for the latest updates.
📷: Blake Handley
As you can see, there are plenty of cool things to do in Victoria, so don’t miss this gorgeous city on your next Canada trip!
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