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Victoria is a beautiful city located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. In fact, it’s actually the capital of the whole province. As one of the best places to visit in BC, Victoria is known for its stunning architecture, friendly people, and amazing restaurants – did somebody say “seafood”?
What’s really cool about Victoria is the contrast between its old-world charm and its modern vibes. You can explore centuries-old buildings and then walk right into a trendy café or bar straight afterward.
Heritage charm meets cosmopolitan cool – what’s not to love?
Victoria also has plenty to offer those who love spending time outdoors. There are lots of great hikes, parks, and gardens to explore, and thanks to the city’s temperate climate, you can do this pretty much all year round. Plus, it’s full of amazing tours that help you discover the city whether you’re here for the day or a week.
So, if you’re taking a trip to Victoria, BC, or even just thinking about it, here are 33 things that you definitely need to do while you’re there.
- The BEST Things to do in Victoria, BC
- 1. Check out the Legislative Building
- 2. Eat at the Parliament Dining Room
- 3. Explore castles
- 4. Head up Mount Douglas for sunset
- 5. Visit the famous Butchart Gardens
- 6. Steamship Water Ballet Performance
- 7. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
- 8. Whale watching
- 9. Take a scenic flight
- 10. Go to Miniature World
- 11. Explore Chinatown and Fantan Alley
- 12. Goldstream Provincial Park
- 13. Malahat Skywalk
- 14. Visit Beacon Hill Park
- 15. Explore the Fairmont Empress Hotel
- 16. Check out the bug zoo
- 17. Visit Cook Street Village
- 18. Visit the Royal BC Museum
- 19. Go on a wine tour
- 20. Go on a sightseeing tour
- 21. Rent a hot tub boat
- 22. Walk the Breakwater
- 23. Enjoy the local cafes and brunch!
- 24. Wander Government Street
- 25. Visit the Butterfly Gardens
- 26. Enjoy craft breweries
- 27. Horse-drawn carriage tour
- 28. HCP Gardens and Charlotte & the Quail Cafe
- 29. Attend a festival or event
- 30. Enjoy a beach day
- 31. Golf
- 32. Day trip to Salt Spring Island
- 33. Eat an amazing meal
- Where to Stay in Victoria, BC
- Thanks for reading!
The BEST Things to do in Victoria, BC
1. Check out the Legislative Building
The Legislative Building is one of the most iconic buildings in Victoria and is definitely worth a visit. It was built in the 1890s and is located right in the heart of the city. You can go on a guided tour, explore by yourself, or simply stand outside and admire the facade.
If you’d like a guided tour, they’re available for free all year round. During the summer, tours are offered around five times per day, seven days per week. They run less frequently during the winter but are still available most days.
The free tours last around 45 minutes and the schedule for the following week is posted on the official website every Friday. We did the tour the last time we were in town and were very impressed. The guide was super informative and interesting to listen to as he guided us into various rooms in the building.
Alternatively, you can take a self-guided tour. Free tour books are available at the information desk, or you can download them before you go.
There’s plenty of street and paid parking available close to the Legislative Building, and lots of bike racks behind the East and West Annexes. You can also take a BC guided transit bus to Government Street if you don’t have your own wheels.
No matter how you choose to visit, be sure to check out the Legislative Building while you’re in town – it’s easily one of the most popular things to do in Victoria!
Related read: Looking for more activities in BC that won’t break the bank? There are lots of free things to do in Vancouver!
2. Eat at the Parliament Dining Room
Given how popular the Legislative Building is, you might be surprised that the Parliamentary Dining Room is a bit of a hidden gem that lots of visitors miss. This is a cozy and charming restaurant where politicians regularly grab a quick bite, but it’s open to the public too.
The restaurant is tucked away inside the basement of the Legislative Building. It offers not-for-profit fine dining, which is certainly not something that you come across every day! You can get a fine-dining experience for $15 CAD per person, which is insane value for money.
The menu is seasonal, so you can expect things like roasted lamb and wild salmon, depending on when you visit. We ordered two soups, seafood linguine, steak, and a pot of tea, and our bill came to a grand total of $40 CAD for both of us. We couldn’t believe it!
If you’re visiting Victoria, BC, the Parliament Dining Room is a must. It’s a real “local secret”, which is precisely the kind of thing we love to discover when we’re traveling.
Although tourists often miss the dining room, the locals know what’s up, so it can get busy. As a result, it’s necessary to book a table in advance, which you can do on the restaurant’s website.
During the summer months, it can book up weeks in advance, so we highly recommend making a reservation the second you decide you’re going to visit Victoria, BC. You won’t regret it!
3. Explore castles
Yup, there are castles in Canada. In fact, exploring castles was one of our favorite things to do in Victoria, BC! There are two castles that you can visit, and we had a great time exploring them both.
The first is Craigdarroch Castle, which is a beautiful Scottish Baronial mansion that was built in the late 1800s. It’s located on a hill in the city center and offers stunning views over Victoria.
When it was built, Craigdarroch Castle was known as a “bonanza castle”, which was a term for sprawling homes that wealthy industrialists built with their newfound wealth during the Victorian era. It was sort of like an 1800s version of a McMansion, only with much more interesting architecture.
The castle was designed by Scottish architect Robert Dunsmuir, who made his fortune in coal mining. He wanted to create a lavish home for his family that would rival the grandest mansions in England. Basically, the castle was built to prove to everyone that Dunsmuir was the richest man in Canada. However, in a cruel twist of fate, he actually died before it was finished.
You can either visit Craigdarroch Castle on a guided or self-guided tour. Self-guided tours are available from 10 am to 4 pm from Wednesday to Sunday, and they last for around an hour. Adult tickets cost around $20 CAD, while the price is $10 CAD for children aged 6-12 and $15 CAD for teens.
You can also visit Craigdarroch Castle as part of a guided tour. For $60 CAD, this bike tour starts at Huntingdon Manor and then takes you to the Legislative Building, Craigdarroch Castle, and Beacon Hill Park. It’s a great way to see some of Victoria’s top sights in one fell swoop, all while getting some exercise in.
The other castle that you can visit in Victoria, BC is the stunning Hatley Castle. It was actually built by James Dunsmuir, the son of Robert Dunsmuir, who built Craigdarroch Castle. That family really made their mark on the city!
The castle was intended as a retirement home for James and his wife, Laura, to be a symbol of the family’s immense wealth – James was very much his father’s son. In fact, legend has it that Dunsmuir Jr. told the lead architect “it doesn’t matter what it costs, just build me what I want.”
Hatley Castle is located around 30 minutes outside of downtown Victoria, but it’s definitely worth the trip. You can’t actually go inside the castle, but exploring the outside is one of the best free activities in Victoria – especially if you’re an X-Men fan since it was used as a filming location for the movies!
4. Head up Mount Douglas for sunset
Mount Douglas (or Mount Doug, as the locals affectionately call it) is the best spot in Victoria for enjoying the sunset. At 225 meters (738 feet) above sea level, it offers stunning 360-degree views of the city, coastline, and mountains.
To get to the top of Mount Douglas, you have two choices: you can either drive almost to the top and then walk 2 minutes to the summit, or you can tackle one of the many hiking trails.
If you choose to drive, bear in mind that it’s a pretty steep road so make sure your car can handle it. Parking is limited, so it’s best to arrive well before the sun starts to set, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend. Alternatively, you can go during the week when it’s likely to be quieter.
If you opt for a hike, there are several different trails to choose from. One of the most popular is the Irvine Trail, which is a 4.5-km (2.8-mile) trail. There are a few challenging sections, but it’s not too strenuous and the views from the top are definitely worth it. It should take you around 90 minutes to reach the top of Mount Doug, so leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy the sunset.
Related Read: For more amazing hikes, head on a road trip to nearby Nanaimo, BC and explore the activities there including hiking trails!
5. Visit the famous Butchart Gardens
Even if you’re not a gardener, you will want to visit the incredible Butchart Gardens. There are 900 types of plants spread across different gardens, each with its own theme – it’s beautiful in every direction you look! Plus, it’s open all year long so that you can enjoy it in any season!
You’ll feel the personal touches around this huge garden as it’s still owned by the family who originally created this space more than 100 years ago! It started after Jennie Butchart transformed a former limestone quarry into a sunken garden. Then as her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren took over, additional gardens were added (like a stunning rose garden) and special features like outdoor concerts and a carousel.
Plan to spend at least a couple of hours here as you explore all the gardens and walk the paths to see ponds, fountains, and flowers galore.
You can also have afternoon tea in the restaurant housed in the original Butchart residence or pick up some gelato from the Gelateria which has 18 flavors that change throughout the year.
If you’re here in the summer, there are evening concerts throughout July and August that are included with your admission to the garden. Or come during the Christmas season when the gardens are decked out with colorful light displays around a “12 Days of Christmas” theme.
You can purchase tickets online or when you arrive. It’s a bit pricey, but these gardens are totally worth seeing and one of the most popular attractions in the city! The ticket prices vary depending on the season ranging from $22-38 CAD for an adult admission. Children are only $2-3 CAD, so it’s a great family activity in Victoria!
If you just need a ride, this handy express shuttle to the gardens is a popular choice. You’ll have roundtrip transportation taken care of for only $50 CAD per person and it leaves from the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel (#15 on our list!).
For more of a VIP Victoria experience, this luxury half-day tour gets you your own private tour guide and driver. You’ll start with time to stroll through Butchart Gardens before driving around to see the city’s best sights. While a “luxury” option, it’s actually decently affordable if you’re traveling as a group since it’s $550 CAD for a group of up to 7 people.
Related read: Another one of our favorite places to escape into nature (with an epic suspension bridge too!) is at Lynn Canyon in Vancouver.
6. Steamship Water Ballet Performance
The Steamship Water Ballet performance is a super fun experience that will leave you with a huge smile on your face – and it’s free!
So, you’ve probably heard of synchronized swimming. This is the same thing – except that it’s performed with yellow steamship boats rather than people.
At 10:45 am every Sunday morning (more frequent shows take place in the summer months), the captains of these boats perform a highly choreographed routine set to music, and it’s really quite something to behold.
This all started back in 1990 when harbor ferries first came to Victoria. The local skippers were amazed at how maneuverable the boats were. They decided to amuse themselves by creating a little water ballet routine, and it quickly became a lighthearted local tradition.
The performance lasts about 10 minutes, and it’s really funny to watch. When we went, everyone in the crowd had huge smiles on their faces. You can even meet and greet the captains after the performance is over.
This is precisely the kind of quirky and unique attraction that makes Victoria, BC such an awesome city to visit.
7. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf was originally built after the Second World War as a place for commercial fishermen to unload their catch. Since then, it has evolved into a bustling hub of activity with food kiosks, a playground for the kids, and of course, plenty of working fish boats around.
In the wharf’s commercial plaza, you’ll find lots of charming restaurants, cafes, and shops. Meanwhile, at the eastern end, you’ll see colorful floating houses where people live year-round. It’s even possible to stay at a float home B&B!
The highlight of the wharf for us, though, was seeing the adorable resident seals frolic around.
Fisherman’s Wharf is located about a 15-minute walk from Victoria’s Inner Harbor or 30 minutes from downtown.
You can also catch a water taxi to the wharf from a variety of stops around Victoria. Each stop has a QR code that you scan to summon a boat, which is super handy. An adult one-way ticket costs around $12 CAD.
If you’re short on time, you might want to consider booking a private day tour that will show you many of the best things to do in Victoria, including Fisherman’s Wharf. The price is around $422 CAD per group and covers all transportation, as well as an expert local guide.
Related read: Another fun place with lots going on is the Richmond Night Market in Vancouver. It’s like a festival that lasts all summer long and well into the evening too!
8. Whale watching
Getting a glimpse of these magnificent creatures will truly be a highlight of your trip to Victoria! What’s great is that you will often see much more than whales too. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of sea lions, elephant seals, or different types of whales like the orca, humpback, and minke.
The best way to go whale watching from Victoria is on a guided boat tour. You’ll have a knowledgeable guide to help you find whales and fill you in on facts about these amazing creatures along the way. We always see kids on these tours too, and little ones love helping spot wildlife!
Peak season for whale watching is typically between April-November with a 95% success rate of whale sightings. Even outside of peak season, the success rate is still high at 79%.
Rest assured that all these tours include a guarantee of seeing whales and will offer you another tour completely free if you happen to not see any.
With so many tours to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to our top three including picks for the adrenaline junky or the romantic choice if you’re planning a honeymoon around Vancouver and Victoria.
Traditional boat tour:
This half-day whale watching adventure takes you through the Strait of Juan de Fuca as you look for orcas and humpback whales. The boat is “semi-covered” so you have the option to get out on the open sun decks or stay warm and dry in the heated indoor cabin.
The marine naturalists on board are so good at explaining what you’re seeing and keeping you entertained on the search for whales. Plus, if you don’t see any whales, you get to come back on another tour for free.
One of our favorite parts of this tour is the complimentary photo package that comes along with the $152 CAD tour cost. It includes photos of whatever whales you spot along with photos of you with your family. Such a nice keepsake!
This tour is great for couples and families and typically leaves around 12 pm, so it’s a nice thing to fit into your day while you’re exploring Victoria.
Zodiac boat tour:
An adventurous choice for our fellow adrenaline junkies, or those that want a closer look at marine life, this zodiac boat tour is one that will knock your socks off! All jokes aside, the water is quite chilly even in the summer months, so be sure to dress warmly (and possibly wear another pair of socks).
This is a smaller speedboat that only holds 12 passengers and your guide. Keep in mind that because the boat is smaller, it will be a much more exhilarating experience and you’re out in the open in this one … so prepare to get wet! Luckily the tour offers an “all-weather floatation suit” that while not very fashionable, definitely helps keep you dry.
You can grab your spot on the zodiac boat for $147 CAD. Because this tour is a more intense option, it’s not recommended for small children, pregnant women, or those with health conditions.
Sunset boat tour:
This sunset whale watching tour is the perfect way to end an evening or a great romantic idea for a honeymoon or anniversary. It’s also one of the very best whale watching experiences on all of Vancouver Island!
You’ll leave from the dock in downtown Victoria to enjoy sunset aboard a catamaran while looking for whales. There are three different viewing decks to watch for whales and enjoy watching the golden colors of sunset over the Salish Sea. The $166 CAD tour also includes a free photo package and a whale sighting guarantee.
This larger boat lets you stay dry and cozy inside with lots of windows or venture out onto the deck if you choose. Coffee, tea, and restroom facilities are offered on the catamaran that gives you a 360° view of the beautiful sights!
Related Read: If you run out of time in Victoria, you can also go whale watching in Vancouver where there are some pretty great tours to choose from!
9. Take a scenic flight
One of the best ways to see Victoria is undoubtedly from the sky! You have the opportunity to witness panoramic views of the city and its coastline, all from the comfort of a small seaplane.
This Victoria Seaplane Tour lasts around 20 minutes and prices start at $143 CAD. The meeting point is conveniently located at the Victoria Harbour Airport, where you will meet your pilot who will let you know all the areas you will get to see during your trip! Taking off and landing on the water was definitely a highlight for us, you never get used to landing on the water!
We LOVED our Vancouver seaplane flight to get a new perspective on that city too. You can even take this one-way seaplane flight as one of the options to get from Vancouver to Victoria so you get a great view and a change of locations all in one! You’ll see fantastic scenery including Stanley Park, the Gulf Islands, and British Columbia’s parliament buildings. It’s the perfect way to both bid farewell to Vancouver and say hello to Victoria. This flight is around $267 CAD.
If you have a slightly larger budget for your trip to Victoria, the Butchart Gardens Experience is definitely worth treating yourself to. Start your evening with an incredible seaplane flight from Victoria to the stunning Butchart Gardens, where you will enjoy a three-course meal at the garden’s restaurant.
After some drinks, you can take a stroll around the gardens and witness the evening’s special light displays before returning to your hotel via limousine. Prices for this experience start at $327 CAD, but it is the perfect romantic evening in Victoria.
Related Read: Not far from Victoria is the popoular vacation spot of Lake Cowichan where there are lots of fun things to do and see!
10. Go to Miniature World
Miniature World is one of the best attractions in Victoria for families. If you’re visiting with kids, you can’t miss this one! The museum is home to not one but two of the world’s largest dollhouses, which date all the way back to the 1880s.
In total, there are 85 miniature displays to see at the museum. These include a detailed replica of a World War I battlefield, a spaceship exhibit, a miniature Camelot, and so much more. This really is a place where kids can let their imaginations run wild.
Miniature World is open Sunday to Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm and until 9 pm on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $19 CAD for adults, $11 CAD for teens, and $9 CAD for children aged between 5 and 12 – under 5s go free. You can book in advance online.
11. Explore Chinatown and Fantan Alley
Dating back over 150 years, Victoria is home to the second oldest Chinatown in North America – only San Fransisco’s Chinatown is older.
The gold and railway industries invited tens of thousands of Asian immigrants in the mid-1800s. This sudden increase in Chinese immigration created what is now known as Victoria’s Chinatown. Prior to the boom of Vancouver in the 1880s, Chinatown was the biggest city in BC.
Beginning at Fisgard Street, you will see the entrance of Chinatown proudly marked with the beautiful Gate of Harmonious Interest, a decorated archway. Victoria’s Chinatown features an authentic Chinese architecture style that beautifully accents the tree-lined streets. It’s a great place to grab some bubble tea and do some people-watching.
Be sure to walk through Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada which is only 6 feet wide. Once an underground area for drugs and gambling, it is now home to different little shops. It kind of has a Harry Potter feel to it! Make sure to stop into The Turntable to check out some great vintage vinyl. We also like Just Matcha Tea Shop – the only Matcha shop in Canada. Try the matcha tea with caramel – yum!
While you are wandering down Fan Tan Alley, pop into the Chinese Canadian Museum. It’s completely free to wander around – although you can book tickets to guarantee a spot. The museum looks to honor Chinese Canadian history with a variety of rotating exhibits. It’s open Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
If you’re hungry, restaurants serving authentic Chinese food line the streets and alleys of Chinatown. Trying dim sum at either Don Mee or Golden City Restaurant will have you eating a variety of different popular Chinese food. One of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown is Bao on Fisgard Street. Make sure to try their Vietnamese coffee too!
12. Goldstream Provincial Park
Goldstream Provincial Park lies only 16 km (10 miles) from downtown Victoria. This beautiful park is home to waterfalls, old-growth forests, and a huge variety of wildlife. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Victoria for anyone who loves exploring the great outdoors.
Between October and December, you can spot Chum salmon as they return to the Goldstream River to spawn. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles during the winter too – there’s a good chance you’ll see one or two swooping down to catch the salmon.
If you visit during the summer, we definitely recommend bringing your swimwear and taking a dip in the Goldstream Falls. These gorgeous waterfalls are the perfect spot to cool down on a hot day and really soak in the natural beauty of the area.
There are several other waterfalls in the park – in fact, there’s even a Niagara Falls! But don’t get confused, this waterfall is only a fraction of the size of the real Niagara Falls. However, it’s really pretty and definitely still worth seeing if you’ve got the time.
Goldstream National Park also has many hiking trails to explore. You’ll pass by 600-year-old Douglas fir trees venturing through forests on a series of paths. What’s great is that there are accessible pathways good for strollers or wheelchairs as well as more challenging hikes where you’ll pass by abandoned gold digging sites from the Gold Rush.
If you’re a camping enthusiast, you can stay overnight in the park’s campground which, again, we highly recommend. Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis so it’s best to get there during the week, especially if you’re visiting during peak season (between May and September).
13. Malahat Skywalk
Malahat Skywalk is a huge, spiraling wooden ramp that takes you high above the Malahat forest, where you can enjoy incredible views of the trees and the Salish sea.
Going to visit the Malahat Skywalk is easy by car. If you’ve got your own wheels or a rental car in Victoria, it’s a 35-minute drive north of the city along the Malahat Highway. If not, there’s a shuttle from downtown that departs every day at 11 am.
The Skywalk is open every day, all year round, although admission times do vary according to season. It can also get a bit chilly at the top, so it’s a good idea to bring an additional layer of clothing, even if you’re visiting on a warm day.
You can book your tickets in advance via the official website, and you can use them anytime for up to a year after the date of purchase. It’s $35 CAD for an adult ticket and $21 CAD for an under-18 ticket and children under 5 can enter for free. There’s also a $95 CAD family pass for two adults and two kids, which could be a budget-friendly option if you’re visiting as a family.
We’ve saved our favorite detail about the skywalk until last: the HUGE slide!
Once you’ve soaked up the views, you can take a ride all the way back down to the ground on a 20-meter-high (65-foot) spiral slide. You’ll feel like a big kid as you whiz down – honestly, the slide alone is worth the entry fee.
14. Visit Beacon Hill Park
If you are looking for things to do for free in Victoria, Beacon Hill Park is a great option. With its 200 acres of green spaces and footpaths, the park is the perfect destination for a whole day’s worth of activities while visiting the city.
In this park, there is something for everyone – you can enjoy your favorite sports (be it baseball, cricket, or tennis) on any one of the many courts built in the park or walk along the beautiful flower gardens and admire the local flora and fauna.
You can’t miss seeing the Story Pole in Beacon Park. It’s SO tall, you’ll likely spot it – even from a distance. This totem pole towers over the park at an impressive 127 feet (38.5 meters). It was put up in the 1950s and is the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole. It has beautiful carvings on it, and if you stand right next to it, you will barely be able to see the top!
Inside the park, you can also admire the well-known Moss Lady, a statue depicting a lady sleeping on the ground with flowers and moss growing around her. Although this statue is relatively large – about 11 meters (36 feet) long, it blends in so well with the surroundings – really the perfect combination of art and nature.
For kids, a stop at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm is a local favorite. The goats are the stars of the show here! There’s a pen full of goats you can visit including some cute babies. If you can, catch the “running of the goats” which is basically an adorable stampede at 10:10 am or 4:10 pm daily. Admission is by donation with a suggested amount of $5 CAD per person.
15. Explore the Fairmont Empress Hotel
The Fairmont Empress Hotel – often just referred to as “The Empress”- is a Victoria institution. It’s one of the oldest luxury hotels in the city, and some very famous guests have stayed here, including Shirley Temple and King George VI.
The Empress offers an amazing high tea, which you’ll need to book in advance via the website since it’s so popular. And with Alberta beef striploin, Pacific sockeye salmon, and strawberry-rose macarons on the menu, it’s no wonder it’s such a hit!
At $89 CAD per person (or $128 CAD if you want to add a glass of Veuve Clicquot), this is not a cheap activity in Victoria, but it’s a lovely way to treat yourself.
If you’re not planning on staying at the hotel or splurging on high tea, you can still explore some of the public areas, including the immaculate gardens, which are free to walk around.
One thing we highly recommend doing is visiting the basement! This is one of the Empress’ best-kept secrets, so you’ll need to ask the staff how to get there, but they’ll be happy to do so.
In the basement, you’ll find a treasure trove of artifacts from the hotel’s history, including old photographs, menus, cutlery, and press clippings. The Empress opened in 1908, and so the basement archives offer a fascinating insight into what life was like at this grand hotel over a century ago and show how it changed over the course of the 20th century.
Related Read: Combine a stay at the Fairmont Empress or some sightseeing on these day trip tours from Vancouver to Victoria!
16. Check out the bug zoo
Fans of all things creepy and crawly will love the Victoria Bug Zoo. As the name suggests, this place is home to a huge range of different bugs from across the globe, from tarantulas to glow-in-the-dark scorpions. It also has the largest ant colony in Canada!
The bug zoo is open from 11 am until 4 pm during the week and opens an hour earlier at 10 am on the weekends.
Entry costs $16 CAD for adults and $8 CAD for under 18s, and children aged 4 and under go free. You can book your tickets in advance here.
17. Visit Cook Street Village
Cook Street Village is an uber-cool area with a European feel to it. You’ll find plenty of trendy coffee shops, hipster bars, and elegant restaurants. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon or evening exploring and doing some people-watching.
Cook Street Village is 1.7 kilometers (just over a mile) outside of downtown Victoria, so it’s easily accessible on foot or by bike. If you’re driving, be aware that parking can be tricky to find and your best bet is to look for a spot down a side street.
The Collective Wine Bar and Kitchen is one of the best places for dinner and a drink in Cook Street Village. It’s an elegant spot that serves craft beers, specialty cocktails, and wines from all over the world alongside locally-sourced, seasonal food. They sometimes host ticketed events, too, like Chef’s Table dinners, live music performances, and wine tastings.
If you’d rather just grab a coffee and watch the world go by, Bubby Rose’s is hard to beat. This local family cafe has five locations across Victoria, but the Cook Street Village one is extra special. With amazing cinnamon rolls, wood-fired pizza, and, of course, incredible coffee, you really can’t go wrong here.
18. Visit the Royal BC Museum
Located near the historic James Bay, this scenic and absolutely stunning Royal BC Museum is just $5 CAD per person (even for adults!).
You’ll get to observe the BC archives, immerse yourself in the lives of Indigenous people with thousands of photographs and objects showcasing the many First Nations cultures in BC, admire the detailed natural history exhibit, and so much more.
Be sure to regularly check out the current exhibitions page, as new displays get put up monthly! I highly recommended setting aside a morning or afternoon to look around, as it will easily take 3-4 hours or more to fully appreciate it. And don’t bother bringing your own lunch! The museum has a lovely outdoor dining area complete with food trucks for a little pick-me-up.
For movie lovers, the museum features an IMAX Theater with a variety of popular movies or educational classics – everything is pretty spectacular on the big screen! Tickets start at $12 CAD and make a great option for kids. Fun fact: the Royal BC IMAX Theater is the largest screen in British Columbia!
Of course, no museum trip is complete without picking up a souvenir and a few gifts! Stopping by the gift shop is a must for a variety of books, jewelry, and other knick-knacks to remember your visit.
Lastly, you can arrive by bicycle, public transport, or opt to find street parking. There are also plenty of accessibility features, but we recommend speaking to a staff member if you need special accommodation.
Note: The $5 admission price is temporary. Once the entire museum re-opens, the price will go up.
19. Go on a wine tour
Enjoy the finer things of life with an escape to a winery just outside the city. You don’t have to go far – only 15 minutes from downtown Victoria, on the Saanich Peninsula, you will encounter the mildest temperatures and lush valleys that produce award-winning wines.
Church and State Winery is on the way to Butchart Gardens, so you know it’s going to be a scenic spot! You can create your own wine tasting here for only $10-20 CAD by trying a flight of some of the wines they carry. We ordered a sampling of 5 different wines and sipped them while taking in the stunning views of the vineyard and mountains.
For another great stop in wine country, Unsworth Vineyards has an award-winning winery and a cute restaurant in a restored farmhouse from the 1900s. They have a beautiful patio to enjoy wine tastings on and the pizza and clam chowder at the restaurant are popular picks if you’re hungry!
For a personalized experience (with a built-in designated driver), this private winery tour is the way to go. You can customize your tour to visit different vineyards, distilleries, cider-house farms, and craft breweries in the area. It definitely feels a bit like you’re a celebrity as you’re chauffeured around! The tour price varies depending on the stops you choose, so expect to pay anywhere from $400-700 CAD for this one.
For a more budget-friendly option, join this small group wine tour around the Cowichan Valley outside of Victoria (on the way towards Duncan.) The tour stops at several family-owned wineries where you’ll sample some of the best wines they have to offer. You’ll also get a yummy farm-to-table lunch along the way. All the tastings and transportation from Victoria are included in the $159 CAD cost, but if you decide to purchase a bottle (or two!), that’s on you.
Related read: If you’re doing a wine tour across BC, don’t miss Kelowna! There are so many beautiful Kelowna wineries and wine tours to check out.
20. Go on a sightseeing tour
A sightseeing tour will let you get acquainted with Victoria and help you see as much as possible if you’re short on time. But even if you have plenty of time to spend in the city, a sightseeing tour can still be a great option!
There are lots of different companies offering tours, so you can choose the one that best suits your interests and preferred style.
A hop-on, hop-off bus tour lets you take things at your own pace, and you get to pick and choose what you want to see and do. Plus, the view is great from the top of these double-decker buses!
However, if you want someone else to do the planning for you, this guided food and history tour will take you to some of Victoria’s top attractions, such as the Parliament Buildings, Trounce Alley, and the Harmonious Gates of Interest. All of these highlights will be ticked off in between tasting sessions where you can discover excellent local specialties, from craft beer to tapas. You can choose a morning or afternoon tour for around $85 CAD.
If you’re short on time, this whistlestop tour will take you past many of the top attractions in Victoria, including Mount Tolmie Park, Chinatown, Dallas Road Beach, and the floating homes on Fisherman’s Wharf – to name but a few! For $140 CAD, you’ll see practically everything Victoria, BC has to offer in just two hours. Plus, you’ll do it in style riding around in a 1997 Bentley built by Rolls Royce.
21. Rent a hot tub boat
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, a hot tub boat is exactly what it sounds like.
What could be better than grabbing a handful of your closest buddies and floating along the Upper Harbor and Gorge Waterway? This is a super unique way to see Victoria and it’s definitely a really memorable experience.
Each tub has hot water so you’ll stay nice and warm as you cruise down the river, and your boat also comes with a Bluetooth speaker and a dry bag for your belongings. It costs $420 CAD for a six-person boat, which works out to $70 CAD per head.
This is definitely one of the best activities in Victoria for groups. If the idea of drifting down the river with your friends on a balmy summer day floats your boat, you can book your experience here.
Related Read: If you’re headed to Vancouver and want to get out on the water this Vancouver Sunset Dinner Cruise is one of our all-time favorite experiences in the city!
22. Walk the Breakwater
Ogden Point Breakwater is a 1.6-kilometer (1 mile) long pier that juts out into the water from downtown Victoria. It’s a popular spot for strolling and watching the harbor traffic, and it’s dog-friendly, which is great news if you’re traveling with a furry friend (or just want to pet other people’s dogs).
The walk is even better if you do it at sunset, which is what we did. We grabbed takeout from the Breakwater Bistro (which serves pretty great burgers, just FYI) and then went and ate it on the benches by the water. Then, we walked off our dinner by strolling along the breakwater as the sun slowly set.
There’s plenty of parking nearby if you want to drive to Ogden Point Breakwater, or you can take bus #31 from Douglas Street downtown.
23. Enjoy the local cafes and brunch!
Victoria is full of amazing brunch spots. You’ll never run out of new cafes to explore in this city, but we did pick out some firm favorites during our time there.
Jam Cafe on Herald Street captured our hearts in no time. From Fat Elvis waffles – which are every bit as decadent as they sound – to chicken French toast, this is the place to go when you really want to indulge. It’s also got a really rustic, cozy decor that makes you feel right at home.
We also loved Shine Cafe, which has appeared multiple times on the Canada Food Network. Everything here is fresh, delicious, locally sourced, and it’s always plated to perfection, which is great news for your Instagram feed.
Last but not least, we absolutely loved John’s Place, which has been around for over 40 years. John’s Place is unpretentious with super friendly staff and awesome comfort food. The menu is extensive, to put it mildly, but everything is made from scratch. This homestyle spot will definitely put a smile on your face.
Related Read: Jam Cafe also has locations in Vancouver. In fact, it is one of the best restaurants in Yaletown!
24. Wander Government Street
Admiring Government Street’s many historical buildings is certainly an enjoyable way to pass the time, and no trip would be complete without eating and drinking in the street’s old pubs.
The Irish Times Pub is one of the best pubs in the whole of Victoria, BC – in fact, it was even named the best Irish pub in North America! The building dates back to 1897 and was originally a bank, but it’s been serving pints since 2004. There’s live music every day and a happy hour from 3-5 pm, and if you’re feeling peckish, we highly recommend the stew!
Other great pubs on Government Street include Bard and Banker, which is said to be the oldest pub in the whole of British Columbia, and Garrick’s Head Pub in Bastion Square.
Government Street is also home to lots of old-timey stores, which are fun to explore – especially the chocolate and cigar shops! Ambling around here will really take you back in time.
25. Visit the Butterfly Gardens
You might not expect to find a rainforest in Canada, but that’s exactly what you get at the Butterfly Gardens in Victoria. These lush indoor gardens are home to over 3,000 butterflies, as well as a range of other tropical animals such as iguanas, flamingos, and poison dart frogs.
My favorite part was strolling through the huge facilities (the size of 3 basketball courts!) with thousands of tropical butterflies around me. There’s even a waterfall here too!
This is definitely one of the best activities in Victoria for families, and it’s also perfect for anyone who loves nature and wants to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours.
The Butterfly Gardens are open from 10 am until 4 pm during July and August and close at 3 pm for the rest of the year. Tickets cost $18 CAD for adults, $6.50 CAD for under 12s, and under 5s go free. Students and seniors receive a reduced rate of $114 CAD.
26. Enjoy craft breweries
For all of you beer lovers, Victoria is a hub of local craft breweries, with no shortage of places to go to quench your thirst.
With an underwater theme and a mural that wraps around the whole building, Driftwood Brewery has a great atmosphere to go along with drinks. Build your own flight by choosing 4 different beers to taste or get the ever-popular Fat Tug – an India Pale Ale with fruity notes of grapefruit, mango, melon, and passionfruit.
If you’re brewery hopping along one of the Victoria Ale Trail routes, you can also pop into Whistle Buoy Brewing for a drink on the fantastic patio, Vancouver Island Brewing on Government Street, or try the mysterious (and delicious) Dark Matter beer at Hoyne Brewing.
With that said, arguably, the most popular is Phillips Brewing. The tasting room is great with a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process through giant windows. There’s a good selection of beers on tap along with their own gin and whisky if that’s more your style. Pair one of their brews with a fresh giant pretzel and you’re good to go!
Take any of the guesswork out of where to go by joining a Craft Brewery tour. For $120 CAD, you will get to visit a carefully chosen lineup of popular breweries, learn about the brewing process as well as sample some of the best local drinks. You’ll enjoy a flight of four samples at each brewery and have transportation between them all. No real beer lover should miss this chance.
27. Horse-drawn carriage tour
A horse-drawn carriage is always a romantic and enchanting experience, although, of course, it’s always important to use an ethical company that takes good care of their animals.
We went with Tally Ho Tours, Victoria’s longest-running horse-drawn carriage company, which is widely recognized for its excellent animal care. Tally Ho offers a variety of tour options, from a quick 15-minute spin around the Parliament Buildings to a 90-minute bespoke tour of the city, which you can tailor to your own interests.
With a range of prices, you can pick what best suits your budget with the 15-minute ride coming in at $65 CAD all the way up to 90-minute tours for $315 CAD – the price covers the carriage and isn’t per person. Whichever tour you choose, it’s a great way to see some of the top attractions in Victoria while enjoying a bit of old-fashioned charm.
28. HCP Gardens and Charlotte & the Quail Cafe
While exploring Victoria, we’ve got a great money-saving tip for you.
The Butchart Gardens are one of the most popular attractions in Victoria, but the entrance fee (which is over $30 CAD) is pretty steep. If you don’t want to pay this, you can still enjoy some beautiful city gardens for a fraction of the price by visiting the HCP Gardens.
The HPC (Horticulture Centre of the Pacific) is a non-profit educational organization, and its gardens are open to the public every day. They’re smaller than the Butchart Gardens but just as beautiful, and significantly cheaper to visit at $12 CAD per adult.
Better still, if you visit the onsite cafe, which is called Charlotte & the Quail, you’ll get 50% off of your admission fee – and trust us, it would still be worth visiting the cafe even if that wasn’t the case.
The food is fresh, locally made and it tastes even better when you eat it out on the patio while enjoying the surrounding view of the gardens. Everything comes with a flower garnish taken straight from the garden, which we thought was a really nice touch, even if it did mean that our food was almost too pretty to eat!
29. Attend a festival or event
Victoria absolutely loves a celebration, and it shows with a jam-packed annual events calendar!
One of the most famous festivals in Victoria is Symphony Splash (or Splash Around Town). This summer music festival brings live music to the city with a mix of free and paid concerts.
The main attraction of the festival is the grand symphony which is set in the middle of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The event is completely free and is best enjoyed from a boat as it concludes with a canon display and a huge firework show! You can also catch one of the free outdoor concerts at Beacon Hill Park or the signature Mozart and Martinis show.
If, like us, you’re a foodie, do not miss the famous Dine Around Victoria! Held annually in late January, the city’s top restaurants, as well as some hidden gems, create a special menu with some unbeatable offers! This festival unites the city’s food fanatics and gives chefs a chance to show off their skills and guests opportunities to try some of Victoria’s top dishes.
Of course, with a city named after Queen Victoria, the holiday of Victoria Day in May is a big deal! Don’t miss the huge Victoria Day Parade – the largest parade of the year here. Watch more than 150 entries go by from marching bands and floats to clowns.
If you’re here in the winter, after checking out all the best winter activities in Vancouver, come to Victoria to see the lights on the Parliament Buildings, wander through Butchart Gardens’ holiday displays, and pop into the Festival of Trees! You’ll see tons of spruced-up trees displayed throughout downtown and the Bay Center and can vote for your favorite.
30. Enjoy a beach day
While there are plenty of rainy day activities to do, if it’s sunny and summertime, you just have to hit the beach! There are lots of beaches to choose from, so you can even visit a couple while you’re here if the weather cooperates.
Cordova Bay Beach is a long, wide beach that you can walk along while admiring the fantastic view. You can swim or sunbathe here or just walk along the sand. Kids especially have fun here climbing on the driftwood and looking for clam holes (they’ll squirt water at you!). This beach can get pretty windy – so pack accordingly!
Alternatively, if you are keen to go for a swim in warmer, calmer waters and then rest on a sandy shore, Gonzales Beach is a perfect option. Popular with the locals, there is lots of soft sand here or you can swim, snorkel, or stand-up paddleboard in the water. Some people say it’s like a little piece of Hawaii in BC!
For a quiet beach that’s also good for birdwatching, Esquimalt Lagoon is a great option. It’s a shallow lagoon that’s connected to the ocean with a tidal channel on the northeast side. The lagoon is surrounded by some of the oldest Douglas Fir trees in Victoria and has a stunning view of the Olympic Mountains. With so many birds stopping by here, it has been designated a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Victoria is every golfer’s paradise with mountain views, coastal seascapes, and mild temperatures that mean you can golf almost year round! There are golf courses throughout Victoria and Vancouver Island to challenge the most seasoned pro or just provide some nice scenery for us amateurs.
Victoria is actually the passageway to the Vancouver Island Golf Trail which features 13 scenic courses across 250 km (155 miles). While you don’t need to play them all, stopping into a couple is a great way to slow down and take in the beauty of this area.
I suggest trying to grab a tee time at Highland Pacific Golf where the course looks out onto the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Thetis Lake Park. There’s also a driving range and golf academy if you want to practice before hitting the links. It’s known as the “friendliest public golf course” so don’t worry about being a beginner here. You can choose to play 18 holes (around $80-90 CAD during peak season) or 9 holes (around $50 CAD during peak season).
If you’re lucky enough to know someone who is part of the Victoria Golf Club, there’s a beautiful course there that’s the oldest in Canada. It’s pretty exclusive, though, as you need an invitation from a member.
A nice option for families or those of us not ready to tackle a professional course is the Henderson Par 3 Golf Course. It’s a walk-on course which is really unique – no need to book a time, just show up! It’s open daily from mid-March to mid-November and you can play 9 holes for around $10 CAD. Don’t have equipment? No problem – rentals are available too for $6 CAD. Such a good deal!
32. Day trip to Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is a charming Gulf Island located in the Salish Sea. It’s an artsy, laidback island where lots of artists head to find inspiration from the gorgeous scenery.
The easiest way to get to the island from Victoria is to take a ferry from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour. The route is operated by BC Ferries and boats run every two hours, from 7 am to 9 pm. Tickets cost $12 CAD per person (it’s more for a veihce) and it’s not always possible to book in advance, so show up at the terminal at least 30 minutes early to secure your ticket.
Once you get to Salt Spring Island, you’ll find plenty to see and do. The island is home to some picturesque vineyards like Salt Spring Vineyards where you can enjoy tastings and learn more about the winemaking process. The island wines are more dry and crisp and pair great with picnic goodies that this vineyard stocks for you!
It’s also now possible to rent e-bikes and cycle around the island from a spot like OutSpokin’ Bike Shop. Maybe don’t do it straight after a wine tasting, though!
Meanwhile, Lavender & Black farm is a must for anyone who loves the soothing scent of lavender (or just wants to snap some epic pics for the ‘gram).
Hiking Mount Erskine or Ruckle Provincial Park is another great way to spend a few hours on the island. Both routes offer stunning views and are excellent for wildlife spotting, but thankfully aren’t too difficult. Scuba diving is also popular in the waters off of Ruckle Park – there are castle-like caves around here and tidal pools full of creatures like crabs and starfish.
If it sounds like there’s a crazy amount to do on Salt Spring Island, that’s because there is! If you’re short on time, a guided tour can help you make the most of your visit and ensure that you see all of the island’s highlights.
You can also book a hotel and spend a few nights. The last time we visited Salt Spring we spent two nights and it was the perfect amount of time to explore and relax.
33. Eat an amazing meal
A big part of traveling is tasting local cuisine and Victoria is a great place to do just that. One of the top things to do in Victoria is to enjoy a tasty meal at one of the city’s many restaurants. In a city built along the harbor, downtown restaurants often come with inviting patios and ocean views.
Here are some of the best restaurants in Victoria to try:
- If you’re a seafood fan, Red Fish Blue Fish is a top-rated restaurant in Victoria. Its location is unbeatable right on Wharf Street. Another great Victoria restaurant for fish and chips served up with ocean views is Spinnakers Brewpub.
- Italian more your style? Pagliacci’s is one of the best Italian restaurants in downtown Victoria. You’ll love their outdoor patio, authentic Italian dishes, and eclectic decorations. Get there between 3-5 pm for happy hour!
- Farm-to-table restaurants are super popular in BC. Just a couple blocks from the water, 10 Acres Bistro is a romantic setting to have an amazing meal. It has a garden patio with a chic upscale feel.
- Enjoy a meal at the Empress Hotel, located right on the inlet. Q At The Empress is the hotel’s restaurant and one of the top dining experiences in Victoria. Or you can sip Tea at the Empress and brunch like a royal.
- For fine dining with fresh local ingredients, Nowhere *A Restaurant is the place to go. They have a different tasting menu every month, so you can show up and surprise your tastebuds with culinary delights.
If you want to take your culinary experience up a notch, this Gourmet Dinner and City Tour is great. Eat, drink and take in the best sights in Victoria on this downtown walking tour. Leaving from the Fairmont Empress at 7 pm you will be escorted by a guide for an insider’s look at some of the top places and restaurants in the city complete with a 3-course meal, local craft beer, and delicious BC wine. The $299 cost includes all your food and alcohol, so it’s a fun night out!
Related read: Keep enjoying awesome local cusine and check out the best restaurants in Gastown, Vancouver!
Where to Stay in Victoria, BC
If Victoria has already won you over with its charm, history, and stunning greenspaces (it’s not called the “Garden City” for nothing!), you’re going to want to spend some time here. While you could easily stay a week, even just a few days or a weekend will leave you enough time to check off some of the things we’ve mentioned above.
Victoria is most popular during the warm, summery months (think May to August), so if you’re planning on coming then, make sure to book a hotel well in advance.
Some great hotels and hostels in Victoria that we love are:
Ocean Island Backpackers – $
Ocean Island Backpackers Inn is a budget hostel located in downtown Victoria, close to lots of bars and restaurants and within walking distance of the harbor. The best part is that breakfast, dinner, and one free drink every night at the pub downstairs are included in your stay!
It’s perfect if you’re backpacking across BC on a budget – a bunk here is around $44 CAD. Private rooms are also available (more around $130 CAD) if sharing isn’t your thing. Book a stay on HostelWorld.com or Booking.com.
Helm’s Inn – $
For a budget-friendly hotel with space to spare, Helm’s Inn has you covered. This all-suite hotel means you have plenty of space with kitchenettes so you can cook up a quick meal before heading out to explore. Some of the best sights are SO close with Beacon Hill Park across the street and the Legislature and Royal BC Museum only a stone’s throw away. Rooms here start at $140 CAD and can be booked online here.
The Embassy Inn – $$
Stay in the heart of Victoria’s harbor at The Embassy Inn. If you’re taking the ferry here, this hotel is so convenient with its location right near the docks. You can easily walk around to see the sights nearby and grab the included breakfast before you head out every morning. Rooms here are around $170 CAD and you can check availability and book on Booking.com.
Fairmont Empress Hotel – $$$
This hotel is so beautiful, we had to mention it twice! Coming here, it will be no surprise why staying at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is one of the top things to do in Victoria. It’s one of those grand railway hotels built across Canada that looks more like a castle than a hotel!
The rooms here are elegant and luxurious – you’ll see why this is where royalty stays when visiting Victoria. Grab afternoon tea, book a spa treatment, or just wander around the gardens. Staying here is an experience! Rooms here start around $350-400 CAD per night and you can check availability online here.
Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort – $$$
As soon as you see “resort” in the name, you know you’re in for a treat with this one! Enjoy a bit of luxury at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort located near the harbor. The view is spectacular here looking out onto the water during the day or seeing the lights of the parliament buildings at night.
Once you’re done exploring the city, come back to the hotel for a dip in the indoor pool or head out on the tennis courts. Rooms here are more around the $300 CAD range. Check out all the different rooms available and book your stay here.
For even more options, click here to browse all hotels in Victoria!
Related Read: While expaloring Vancouver Island, be sure to check out Parksville and Qualicum Beach, as well!
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Victoria, BC is one of those cities you’re going to want to visit more than once. The architecture, history, waterfront, and flowers upon flowers, make it a perfect place to get a mix of city and nature in the same place. There’s so much going on or it’s easy to find a spot to relax, I love that about Victoria. Hopefully, you are full of ideas for your own trip here!
No matter how you’re planning on exploring Canada, we’ve got you covered! Make sure to check out our road trip blogs for some of the best routes and stops along the way. Then, come back after your travels and leave us a comment about your favorite spots in Victoria or all of BC!
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Tuesday 21st of February 2023
Thanks for the fantastic ideas! Unfortunately, we only have 3 days in Vancouver and definitely want to visit the wilderness but also the city. Your blog was so helpful and full of many ideas! Thank you so much !!!