Victoria, British Columbia – Top Things To See and Do
The hubs and I snuck away for a quick 3-day romantic retreat in the City of Love, Victoria, BC to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary (and a mini-babymoon). Victoria ranks as Canada’s ‘most romantic’ city (#1 and rightfully so) and I couldn’t think of a better place (especially at this stage in my pregnancy when traveling too far isn’t really a great idea) to celebrate this special occasion. We have been to Vancouver a few times and absolutely love it over there, and have had Victoria on our list ever since but somehow our plans never transpired (even after having booked everything to visit this place back in Sept 2016, we ended up having to cancel our plans last min). Now I realize that it was for good after all, cuz it gave us the opportunity to make our visit to the island even more memorable – for that, we have Clipper Vacations and Tourism Victoria to thank!!! More on that later …
Victoria is a perfect ‘meet cute’ of old world charm and contemporary urban city vibe. With its ‘Victorian’ architecture and buildings, and quaint cobblestone streets and cafes, you are bound to fall in love with the place. And I am sure you will keep going back for more as I hear that Victoria’s outdoors (and the adventures and activities it offers) are just as enticing and captivating as the city.
Our trip began on that cold and foggy morning not when we reached Victoria but when the hubs and I boarded the high-speed Victoria Clipper passenger ferry here in Seattle – I say that because the 3 hr relaxed cruise ride itself provides such scenic views of the Puget Sound, the water and the mountains that you are bound to feel as such. I bet it would have been even more spectacular on a sunny day, and who knows, maybe an opportunity to spot some of our ocean friends (oh well, there’s always a next time!). I have to tell you though, that we were taken by surprise when we realized that the ferry was full (down to the last seat). Given it is still winter here, I didn’t think there would be many people on the ferry – but was I wrong or was I wrong – goes to show just how popular this island destination is!!!
After a comfortable and smooth sail on the ferry, as we got closer to Victoria, we were greeted by stunning views of Downtown Victoria and the harbour, which means that the place is already setting its bar too high and building up our expectations (trust me, it didn’t let us down). And by now, this pregnant mama was hungry :). After clearing customs, we headed straight to one of the best restaurants in Victoria, Pagliacci’s. They had exactly two vegetarian dishes on their menu and both tasted uber-delicious, and their hot chocolate was to die for (we went back again and again just for the hot chocolate;)).
After a sumptuous lunch, we quickly made our way to the Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort located on the harbour and checked into our beautiful room where we were welcomed with sweet treats and an even sweeter note (anniversary special!). The room we stayed in offered one of the best views of Victoria – overlooking the city’s stunning harbour and downtown (we were blown away, and mind you, these pics do not do any justice to the spectacular views we woke up to and slept to). The hotel itself it quite modern with contemporary and tasteful decor, the hotel staff were all very friendly and courteous. We thoroughly enjoyed all their complimentary services – evening snacks, drinks and breakfast on their club floor (again, with stunning views), and shuttle service pick ups/drop offs from/to downtown. We also spent ample time by the fireplace in their lobby admiring the night lights and the views. If you are ever in Victoria, I highly recommend you consider this hotel for your stay. After treating ourselves to some evening snacks, it was time to deck up and set out to explore the city.
And here are my recommendations for Top Things To See and Do in Victoria on a weekend…
Downtown Victoria & Inner Harbour: It’s the sight that welcomes you as you ferry into Victoria. It’s the heart of the city bustling with energy anytime of the day, it’s where all the action is. Check out the many historic buildings and sights as you make your way from the harbour to the quaint cobblestone streets.
The Butchart Gardens: It is one of the most iconic and popular sights just outside of Victoria. This 55-acre garden has such a wonderful setting that despite the lack of a full bloom of flowers this winter (as it had snowed just a few days before our visit), it was well worth the visit. The Spring Prelude section within the garden gave us a good peek into what a stunning visual a blooming garden would be like.
Royal British Columbia Museum & IMAX Theater: This museum has a lot of unique galleries and a wonderful display of artifacts and exhibits. What we loved the most were the life-like settings of natural habitats along with the corresponding animal specimens. The building also houses a 4K laser projection IMAX theater which plays several short films throughout the day.
Afternoon Tea At The Fairmont Empress: You can’t go to Victoria and return without indulging in some royal experience at the Empress hotel (which was in fact perfect to celebrate our anniversary afternoon!). You can choose from a selection of 21 teas (served in custom Royal Doulton china, apparently used since 1939), and the menu also includes a variety of finger sandwiches, desserts and scones (#mouthwatering!). They even customized the sandwiches for our vegetarian palates 🙂
Victoria Harbour Ferry: Cute tugboat-shaped ferries offer a 45-60 min tour to discover the city from the water. And apparently one can also spot some friendly animals in the water. We skipped this one as it was too cold to fully enjoy a nice ride.
Chinatown & Fan Tan Alley: This Chinatown is apparently the second oldest in North America. Though not particularly a big one, it sure is one of the cleanest Chinatown’s compared to the many others we have been to. Make sure you don’t miss Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada (less than a meter wide in some sections!) which is a sight to see with its brick walls, Chinese decorations and variety of shops.
Feast for the senses: Victoria offers an endless option of Food, Chocolate, Wine and Brewery tours to choose from. We were unable to indulge in any of these experiences as I am pregnant but definitely something we will do when we go back. But that didn’t stop us from exploring the other many restaurants and cafes around the city – we really loved the food in every place we ate at. Do go to Victoria Public Market.
Live Music: Music is certainly one of the best things about Victoria and it makes for a vibrant and lively experience. Many restaurants around the city have live music during the night and it is definitely a great way to enjoy dinner by flickering candlelights and sway (or even dance) to some soulful music and singing. We loved it at the Bard & Banker restaurant and bar and Irish Times Pub.
Shopping: Victoria has many locally owned boutiques, vintage shops and thrift stores. Take a stroll along some of the popular shopping streets (Johnson Street, Government Street, Bastion Square) and pick out some fabulous fashion pieces or home decor.
Other Things To See and Do: Victoria seems to be home to many festivals and festivities, so be sure to check out their calendar in advance as you plan your trip. And if time permits, check out Miniature World, Craigdarroch Castle, take a romantic walk along the boardwalk, watch the sunset or make your way to enjoy the outdoors by the beach or an adventure within the woods.
All in all, we loved celebrating our wedding anniversary in this charming city and can’t wait to go back to explore and experience more of what Victoria has to offer when the weather is warmer.
Special thanks to Clipper Vacations and Tourism Victoria for planning this wonderful trip for us – our experience with the ferry ride, accommodation at Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and Tea at the Fairmont Empress were all top notch. I highly recommend you reach out to Clipper Vacations to plan your Pacific Northwest adventures. They also currently have a spring sale going on, so be sure to take advantage of that. And once you are in Victoria, do stop by Tourism Victoria office in downtown for some excellent suggestions and tips!
Thanks to Clipper Vacations and Tourism Victoria for sponsoring this amazing trip! As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are unbiased and my own.
“Dear Winter, I am breaking up with you. I think it’s time I start seeing other seasons. Summer is hotter than you.”