Travel blogger Kelly Stilwell is heading back to Victoria BC for the third time in a year because she can’t get enough of the scenic beauty, fabulous food, and friendly people. We’ve partnered with Kelly to share what to do in Victoria so you’ll know what to book before you go.
Being the capital of British Columbia, Victoria BC is a popular destination. Add in the incredible natural beauty of the region, the mildest temperatures in the entire country, and the increasingly popular foodie scene, and you’ve got a perfect vacation in the making.
Influenced not only by First Nations history but also British Colonial and Asian culture and traditions, Victoria BC truly is a fascinating city. If history is what you’re seeking, you’ll find a myriad of ways to learn, from the Parliament Building to the beloved Emily Carr House, a Canadian National Historic site. If an active vacation enjoying the outdoors is more your style, hiking, kayaking, and even whale watching is easily booked.
Things to Do in Victoria BC
Explore the City
1. Visit Victoria BC Museums
There are many local museums you can explore while visiting Victoria. Don’t miss taking a tour of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings. Overlooking the Inner Harbour, this gorgeous work of architecture was completed in 1893 and combines Romanesque and Baroque design.
Check out the Royal British Columbia Museum with their giant wooly mammoths or tour the Emily Carr House, celebrating Canada’s most famous painter. Experience a majestic royal palace by touring the Craigdarroch Castle. For history or architecture fans it is a must! Love museums? Spend the day on the Historic Landmark Tour.
2. Walk Through Chinatown
The oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America, this is a fun walk. Chinatown is located on Fisgard between Government and Store Streets.
Walk through narrow Fan Tan Alley and take a photo at the very Instagrammable red door. You’ll know it when you see it! Remember to snap a shot of the Chinese Public School, too.
3. Go Shopping in Victoria
Shopping in the Victoria area is so much fun. You’ll notice the British influence at Market Square, the three-level shopping plaza. I love the local shops, like Munro’s Books and Olive the Senses where you can choose your own blends to take home or ship as gifts.
Food Scene in Victoria BC
4. Visit a Historic Tea House
Murchie’s Tea Shop in Bastain Square has been importing and blending teas and coffees from around the world since 1894. John Murchie delivered tea to Queen Victoria while working for Melrose’s of Scotland, and after learning and experimenting with tea on his own, he decided to start Murchie’s after moving to the West Coast of Canada. The bakery case is enough to make you skip dinner and go straight for dessert!
5. Take a Victoria Food Tour
A Food Tour gives you a sampling of all Victoria has to offer. I booked a tour through A Taste of Victoria Food Tours and they did an incredible job. This is a fantastic way to explore Victoria history while tasting your way around the city. We started with a tasting of different blends of olive oils, and then took our own blends to the bakery for dipping. So clever! I think my favorite food was the pierogies at SüLT Pierogie Bar. You can also get a taste of Victoria’s nightlife with a visit to one of the downtown pubs or craft cocktail bars.
6. Have Tea at the Fairmont Empress
In true Fairmont fashion, tea is served at the Fairmont Empress Victoria in four seatings from 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. so there’s plenty of time to work in your afternoon tea time. Choose from a variety of over 21 loose leaf tea blends that are all ethically sourced and certified. Tea at the Empress is an experience you don’t want to miss!
Just a short trip north along the Saanich Peninsula gives you access to some of the most notable wineries in the region. BC wines are absolutely wonderful, so if you are a wine lover, add a wine tour to your itinerary.
Relax in Victoria BC
8. Willow Stream Spa
Don’t miss the amazing Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Empress, ranked as one of the top spas in all of Canada by Condé Nast Traveller. The Spa features a huge variety of packages and treatments to suit every guest, including authentic Salish seaweed treatments using locally sourced ingredients.
Local Diane Bernard, known as the Seaweed Lady, harvests fresh seaweed of BC for her Seaflora Product line used all over the world in elite spas. It’s really special to be able to get a facial or massage with products sourced right in Victoria BC!
The spa is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and every treatment includes the Spa Ritual; Finnish style sauna, steam inhalation room, and soothing mineral bath followed by refreshments in the Lounge.
Get Outside in Victoria BC
9. Sunset Cruise
If you do one of the sunset cruises, you’ll get the chance to see the incredible Victoria sunsets. If you’re really lucky, you may even be able to see whales in the sunset!
10. Whale Watching
My first whale watching cruise was in Victoria, and I was thrilled when we saw whales! Though you are not allowed to get close to the whales by law in Canada (which is a really good thing!) they may come to you. Unfortunately, they were not feeling friendly that day, but to this girl who had never seen a whale before in her life, it was thrilling!
Again, with the extraordinary scenic views of the coastline in Victoria, outdoor activities are spectacular.
12. Visit Butchart Gardens
Explore 55 acres of flowers, streams, birdhouses, Japanese gardens, and so much more. Butchart Gardens has been one of Victoria’s most beloved destinations since the early 1900s. It’s truly a must when visiting Victoria.
13. Take a HeliJet Ride
If you’re traveling from Vancouver, one of the best ways to get to Victoria is by Helijet. To those who use this form of transportation daily to get to and from business appointments or work, it’s just a commuter ride. For me, I couldn’t stop taking photos!
On this particular day, there was a cruise ship in port. If you happen to be cruising to Alaska, you may be stopping in Victoria for the day.
14. Take a Seaplane Ride
Flying to Victoria in a Seaplane is another way to get to and from the city. You can also simply do a Victoria Aerial Tour while you’re visiting. Again, the views are spectacular and taking off and landing is quite an experience! If you can’t decide between doing the seaplane or whale watching, there’s a whale watching tour that returns by seaplane so you don’t have to choose!
15. See the City by Horse-Drawn Carriage
You’ll clip-clop by the Parliament Building, the stunning Empress Hotel, the Royal British Columbia Museum, and other not-to-miss sights, all in the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Have you been to Victoria BC? What would you do first when visiting? Share in the comments!
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