• Claire

Exploring Victoria B.C | 9 Top Things to Do Downtown

Updated: Apr 20, 2019

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia on Vancouver Island. Dubbed the 'City of Gardens', leafy, flower-filled Victoria has a relaxed island feel and ocean-front setting. The small city of less than 100,000 has an interesting historical and cultural makeup influenced by First Nations, British Colonial settlers and Asian immigration. I've created a list of the top 9 things you must do when visiting downtown Victoria!



My favourite thing about Victoria is that it's a super small city - it's close to nature on beautiful Vancouver Island and has a super relaxed atmosphere which most cities lack. There are no sky scrapers, but many beautiful gardens and historic buildings. The downtown area is easily explored by foot - or bike, as Victoria is known as Canada's top bike-friendly city!


Getting to Victoria


Victoria is located on the southern trip of Vancouver Island - between the BC mainland and the north shore of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula. Victoria does have an international airport and ferries connect the city to Vancouver, Seattle and Washington State.


1. Go for brunch


A day of sightseeing is best fuelled by a hearty brunch and Victoria is home to some awesome brunch spots. Popular places include Blue Fox Cafe and Jam Cafe. I had a delicious brunch at vegan-friendly Mo:Le - you have to get there early as there's usually a line out the door!


Mo:Le

Mo:Le


2. Inner Harbour


Victoria's Inner Harbour is a seaplane airport and a ferry/cruise ship terminal and also home to many recreational vessels. The grand, chateau-style Empress Hotel overlooks the Inner Harbour, an iconic image of downtown Victoria.


The Empress Hotel hosts the 110 year old Victorian tradition of Afternoon Tea daily in its Lobby Lounge - a great way to get the quintessential English experience!


Victoria's Inner Harbour

Victoria's Inner Harbour - The Empress Hotel

Victoria's Inner Harbour


3. B.C Parliament building & Historical Sites


The B.C Parliament building is one of Victoria's most well-known landmarks. The Parliament buildings are open to the public and free tours run regularly enabling you to admire the 19th-century architecture up close and learn about the Legislative Assembly of B.C in more detail.


If you're interested in more of Victoria's historic sites you could also check out:

  • Government House

  • Royal BC Museum

  • Craigdarroch Castle

  • Thunderbird Park

  • Emily Carr House

  • Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

  • Maritime Museum of BC

  • The Robert Bateman Centre


B.C Parliament


4. Coffee


If you're needing a caffeine hit to keep you going while you explore downtown Victoria Habit Coffee is your place for a great cup. As a barista, I'm super fussy with my coffee and Habit is one of the few places in Canada I've found that does a decent chai latte - most places make them watery using a tea bag!


Habit Coffee


5. Go for a wander


The city's British colonial past shows in its Victorian architecture and a wander around the streets of Downtown Victoria is a great way to admire the historic buildings, colourful street art and stumble across hidden gems! The downtown area is small so everywhere is easily walkable.


Downtown Victoria

Downtown Victoria

Downtown Victoria


5. Downtown to Ogden Point Breakwater Walk


The walk from Downtown Victoria to Ogden Point follows Dallas Road along the harbour waterfront to the Ogden Point Breakwater Jetty. You can walk all the way to the end of a pier to a small lighthouse, watch sea planes take off and if you're lucky, spot some killer whales!


You could also extend your walk along the ocean and continue down Dallas Road to Beacon Hill Park. The whole loop is around 7km:


Downtown Victoria to Ogden Point Walk Route

Dallas Road Waterfront Walk

Dallas Road Waterfront Walk

Dallas Road Waterfront Walk - Ogden Point Jetty

Dallas Road Waterfront Walk


6. Beacon Hill Park


Beacon Hill Park is 75 hectares of parkland within easy walking distance of downtown Victoria. There are plenty of walking tracks to explore the park's gardens and the park’s south end offers sweeping views of Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Range in Washington, USA.


Beacon Hill Park is also the western terminus of the 8,000 kilometre long Trans-Canada Highway and home to the world's tallest free-standing totem pole.


Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park


7. Victoria Public Market


There is an abundance of farmland in the areas surrounding Victoria and the Victoria Public Market is a great way to sample produce from the island's local artisans, farmers, bakers and restaurateurs. Although it's quite small, there are heaps of interesting vendors - including a Vegan faux butcher - and often live music performances. A great place to grab a bite for lunch!


Victoria Public Market

Victoria Public Market


8. China Town


Victoria's Chinatown is the oldest in Canada - an influx of of Chinese immigrants arrived in Victoria during the mid-nineteenth century. Make sure to check out Fan Tan Alley - the narrowest street in Canada - and browse the many shops, restaurants and galleries!


Chinatown

Chinatown - Fan Tan Alley


9. Whale Watching


Victoria is a popular destination for whale watching as the surrounding waters of the Salish Sea are home to three resident pods of orcas and migrating gray and humpback whales are regularly spotted from March - November.


The picture below is from when I went whale watching in Tofino - it was an incredible experience!


Whale watching


I wrote a blog post on all my favourite things to do in Greater Victoria. See: 12 GREAT Things to Do in Greater Victoria - Saanich Peninsula | Hikes, Cafes, Beaches + more!


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Check out all my other adventures in Canada here!