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A local’s guide to the 23 best things to do in Victoria, BC

We’re true Victorians now.

After living here for five years now – and since first writing this post – we’ve discovered so many more fun things to do in Victoria, BC.

We absolutely love Victoria – and you will too when you visit!

We’re going to share all about what to do in Victoria, BC, in a minute.

But before we do, indulge us for a moment as we briefly wax poetic (or not so poetic) about why Victoria is one of the most beautiful places in Canada – and why it’s such a great city to visit when you travel to British Columbia.

Things to do in Victoria BC
The colorful houseboats at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf always put a smile on our faces

Best city to visit in Canada

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

With all its gardens, Victoria is bloomin’ pretty. (It’s known as the garden city of Canada.)

And the walks along its miles of oceanfront are lovely.

A walk by Willows Beach: One of the top things to do in Victoria, BC
A walk by Willows Beach – a pretty urban scene!

The weather is also kind to humans. Victoria boasts the best weather in Canada.

True, there are lots of fun things to do in Canada in winter. (Hello snowshoeing!)

And there are some cool places to visit in Ottawa in winter (oh, bad pun).

But to be honest, we could personally do without cold weather.

In Victoria, it’s mild in winter and it rarely snows (though we do get some thoroughly rainy and windy days).

This is winter in Victoria, BC – not too bad, eh?

The summer months are sunny, not-too-hot and dry (unlike, say, Toronto, which melts in the humidity).

It’s interesting too that even though Victoria is just under two hours away from Vancouver (by ferry), its weather is distinctly different from Vancouver’s – Victoria gets far less rain.

All sorts of flowers thrive in Victoria’s sunny and dry weather (Credit: Butchart Gardens)

The restaurant and theater scene is great here too.

For such a smallish city (population 400,000), Victoria punches high above its weight here.

Concerts, playhouses, opera, symphony and the Victoria Ballet; we have it all! (Credit: Belfry Theatre)

And it’s so easy to get around the city – you’re usually only a 10- to 15-minute drive away from anywhere.

Traffic jams? Not like you get in big cities.

Indeed, once known as a city for the “newly wed or nearly dead,” Victoria is going through a modern-day Renaissance.

Vogue magazine says that Victoria has been overlooked as a hipster-haven cousin to Seattle and Portland. (See its feature on “Why Victoria, British Columbia, should be your next weekend getaway.”)

Kinda fun to think we’re living in a newly “hip” city!

So, when you travel to Canada, be sure to include Victoria in your itinerary.

How to get to Victoria, BC

Now you need to know how to get here…

By plane:

You can fly into the Victoria International Airport (YYJ). It’s located about a 30- to 40-minute drive from downtown Victoria (depending on traffic).

From there, you can take a taxi or the public bus to downtown.

By ferry:

Many visitors come via ferry from Vancouver (on the BC mainland) or from Seattle in the U.S.

We’ve written a whole post on taking the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.

If you’re coming from Seattle, you can take the high-speed Victoria Clipper passenger ferry. The scenic cruise is a little under 3 hours and goes right from downtown Seattle to downtown Victoria.

23 Awesome things to do in Victoria, BC

Okay, let’s jump now to some of those 23 best things to do in Victoria, Canada!

1) Smell the roses at Butchart Gardens

Roses thrive in Victoria's sunny and dry summer weather
The Butchart Gardens are home to beautiful blooming roses

For most travelers, visiting Butchart Gardens is #1 on the list of top things to do in Victoria, BC.

Over 100 years old, these world-famous gardens are home to spectacular flowering bushes and plantings, including a sunken garden, Japanese garden, a magnificent Italian garden (where pink and purple tulips bloom in spring) and a prize-winning rose garden.

One of the most beautiful gardens in the world, Butchart Gardens receives one million visitors a year (Credit: Butchart Gardens)
One of the most beautiful gardens in the world, Butchart Gardens receives one million visitors a year (Credit: Butchart Gardens)

It’s blooming in Victoria! Check out these 5 Victoria gardens (including Butchart Gardens)

2) Go SUP

SUP boarding in Victoria, BC, is becoming more popular
SUP boarding in Victoria is becoming more popular (Credit: South Island SUP)

Make like a local!

Paddle boarding is one of those super fun, non-touristy things to do in Victoria, BC.

Brian, the owner of South Island SUP, will deliver paddle boards to you at the beach from his mobile SUP shop (i.e., his van).

Just call him to book a day and time.

South Island SUP will deliver a rental board to the beach for you
South Island SUP will deliver rental boards to the beach for you (Credit: South Island SUP)

Brian can give you a lesson too, and go out with you if you’d like.

Good places for SUP in Victoria, BC, are Willows Beach, Thetis Lake and Gonzales Bay.

3) Take a ride in a pickle boat

A ride on one of these “pickle boats” is always fun! (Credit: Victoria Harbour Ferry)

Victoria has a collection of pickle-shaped boats (carrying a maximum of 12 passengers) that traverse the inner waterways.

Dubbed “happy boats,” they’re run by Victoria Harbor Ferry.

Hop on one for a mini sightseeing cruise.

When we have out-of-town visitors, we like to take them on the one-hour narrated tour of the historic four-mile Gorge Waterway.

A Victoria Harbour Ferry boat goes out into the Gorge
A Victoria Harbour Ferry boat goes out into the Gorge (Credit: Victoria Harbour Ferry)

As you pass historic homes, working shipyards and kayakers on the water, your “captain” explains the history of the area.

The first time we did this tour, our cheerful silver-haired captain entertained us with tales of diving from the bridges into the Gorge as a child and hitching rides on log booms to get home.

You can also go on a pub crawl pickle boat tour and get pickled :-).

Explore the Gorge: Go on a fun pickle boat ride with Victoria Harbour Ferry

4) Kayak Tod Inlet

What to do in Victoria, BC? Go kayaking in Tod Inlet!
Look who’s hitching a ride on this kayak! (Credit: Pacifica Paddle Sports)

Rent a kayak (or SUP board) at Brentwood Bay and go for a calm safe paddle to Tod Inlet.

As you paddle out from Brentwood Bay, you’ll pass Butchart Gardens on your left (#1 above).

Along the shoreline, orange and purple sea stars (starfish) cling to the rocks underwater, and blue herons are a common sight.

A blue heron in Tod Inlet

Depending on the time of the year, you also often see lots of jelly fish in the water in Tod Inlet too.

And who knows, a seal may decide to hitch a ride on your kayak!

Kayak rentals at Brentwood Bay

Both Pacifica Paddle Sports and the Brentwood Bay Marina rent out single and double kayaks (as well as SUP boards).

5) Visit the Royal BC Museum

The museum lit up at night (Credit: Royal BC Museum)

Step back in time as you walk through reconstructions of a turn-of-the-century town, with a sawmill, mine and fish-packing plant.

Board a replica of the stern of Captain Vancouver’s ship HMS Discovery, built in 1789, upon which Captain Vancouver first arrived in British Columbia.

See inside a replica of Captain Vancouver's ship
A popular exhibit is the replica of HMS Discovery (Credit: Royal BC Museum)

See extensive displays of First Nations artifacts, a traditional “big house” and ancient totems. And watch a film in the giant IMAX Victoria theater.

These are just some of the exhibits and activities you can enjoy at the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Established in 1886, the museum – which showcases BC’s 9,000 years of human history – has some 7 million objects in its collection.

Royal BC Museum, Victoria

Hours:

This Victoria, BC, museum is open daily, except Christmas and New Years Day, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

On Friday and Saturday nights in summer, the museum is open late until 10:00 pm.

For details:

See the museum website.

6) Gawk at the British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Things to do in Victoria, BC: See the Legislative Building lit up at night
Victoria’s legislative building was built in 1893 by British architect, Francis Rattenbury

Overlooking Victoria’s picture-perfect Inner Harbor, the Parliament Buildings are quite magnificent, to say the least.

Designed by architect Francis Rattenbury, the exterior combines a Baroque façade with a mix of Romanesque details.

A statue of Queen Victoria stands on the sprawling front lawn. Crowning the central dome is a gold-covered statue of Captain George Vancouver.

Victoria Parliament Buildings

Hours:

The Parliament Buildings are open to the public from Monday to Friday between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. Free guided tours are offered.

For details:

See Visiting the Legislature on the Legislative Assembly’s website.

7) Bicycle the Galloping Goose Trail

Bicycling the Galloping Goose Trail is a great way to get some exercise outdoors in Victoria.
Bicycling the Galloping Goose Trail is a great way to get some exercise outdoors

Once a railway line, the Galloping Goose Trail is now a fabulous 35-mile (55-km) trail for hikers, bicyclists (and horses on one section), stretching from Victoria to Sooke.

There are parking lots and washrooms at different points along the way, so you can put your bicycle on your car and start at a particular point.

The trail is flat most of the way, with the occasional short uphill.

Bicycling along the Galloping Goose Trail, Victoria
We love bicycling along the Galloping Goose Trail

Best section of the Galloping goose Trail:

Our favorite section is the 11-mile (18-km stretch) between Matheson Lake and the Todd Trestle Bridge at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park.

Park at the Rocky Point Road parking lot (the 30 Km marker) to offload your bikes.

You’ll pedal along an easy, wide, well-maintained trail through forest, getting glimpses of Matheson Lake.

Coming to Roche Cove, the trail winds along seaside coves and headlands – drink in the spectacular ocean views.

Then cross Sooke Road and ride first to Charters Trestle, then Todd Trestle – two towering iron-and-wooden trestle bridges crossing the rushing Sooke River waaaay down below.

View of the water from Roche Cove

To get back to your car, turn around at the 48 Km marker and retrace your ride.

(You’ll be surprised at how different the scenery looks on the return.)

Get the Galloping Goose Trail map

Download a PDF of the official Galloping Goose Trail map.

8) Eat your way through Victoria

10 Acres Commons is one of the best restaurants in Victoria, BC
Farm-to-table dining in Victoria (Credit: 10 Acres Commons)

There’s an urban myth still floating around that Victoria has the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America.

Probably not true.

But we can tell you that there are many great Victoria, BC, restaurants.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely enjoy Victoria’s sophisticated restaurant scene.

We like Spinnakers Brewpub for fish and chips
We like Spinnakers Brewpub for fish and chips – and the views from their pub patio (Credit: Spinnakers)

Some of the best restaurants in Victoria, BC

These are some of our fave eating spots in our city:

Pagliacci’s:

Unbelievably good home-made Italian food at a great price | website

Little Jumbo Restaurant & Bar:

Cool little haunt, with cool cocktails and well-done tapas (oysters, masala lamb ribs, etc.) | website

Café Brio:

Lovely fine dining restaurant for fresh fish, pasta and meat dishes, all prepared in-house, and served in half- and full-sizes; great wine list too | website

Spinnakers:

Craft brewery and gastropub, with views of the Inner Harbor, serving good burgers, fish-and-chips and of course, wonderful beer | website

Il Terrazzo Ristorante:

Upscale Italian spot (the best Italian restaurant in Victoria, BC), with a nice garden courtyard | website

10 Acres Bistro:

Popular spot offering farm-to-plate food, a creative twist on organic farm greens and smaller sharing dishes like quinoa fritters; there’s a nice outdoor patio too | website

Fiamo Pizza & Wine Bar:

Fun resto with stylish décor, serving simple but delicious food like mussels, pizza and pasta creatively done | website

E:Ne Raw Food Sake Bar:

Not-your-usual Japanese resto offering wonderful Japanese tapas like cauliflower tempura and flaming oysters (if you can’t decide, order the Omakase box of 9 dishes) | website

Stage Wine Bar:

Award-winning, walk-in neighborhood restaurant with delicious sharing plates, close to the Belfry Theater | website

You can find more great Victoria restaurants here.

Take-out and delivery? See these best take-out Victoria, BC, restaurants for Indian food, Italian and Thai take-out

9) Spot deer in the city

How many deer in Victoria can you spot on your visit?
How many deer in Victoria can you spot on your visit?

We have deer in the city. Lots of deer.

They really shouldn’t be living in the city, but they do.

They love our back yard, and pretty well every day we see at least one (often a mom with her fawns) nibbling the bushes or resting on the lawn.

Two spotted fawns in Victoria, BC
Two spotted fawns find a good place to rest at the bottom of our garden

When driving in the city, you’ll often see signs to slow down for the deer. A good place to spot them is at the Ross Bay Cemetery (#12 below).

10) Walk the Victoria Inner Harbor

Things to do in Victoria, BC
A sea plane gets ready to take off in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

One of the best free things to do in Victoria, BC, is to walk the Victoria Inner Harbour (spelled the Canadian way) – one of the prettiest harbors in the world.

Central Inner Harbour:

Roses bloom outside Victoria’s Empress Hotel (Credit: Fairmont Empress)

Perhaps start your walk at the iconic Fairmont Empress hotel. It overlooks the middle of the harbor in the heart of downtown Victoria.

Turn left as you’re facing the water, and you’ll pass the Royal BC Museum and BC’s provincial Parliament building.

Several houseboats are permanently moored at Fisherman’s Wharf in the Inner Harbor

Continue winding your way along the waterfront until you come to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Check out the colorful houseboats floating in the water.

Perhaps buy fresh fish-and-chips to eat outside in the sun.

Floating houseboat at Fisherman's Wharf, Victoria, BC
The houseboat owners at Fisherman’s Wharf have fun decorating their floating homes

At this point, you may want to turn around and retrace your steps, continuing beyond the Fairmont Empress along Wharf Street until you reach the stylish new Johnson Street Bridge.

Or you could take one of the Victoria Harbor Ferries (mentioned in #3) over to West Bay.

Victoria Harbour Ferries map

Download a PDF of the Victoria Harbor Ferries map.

Songhees Walkway:

Songhees Walkway in Victoria, BC
A section of the Songhees Walkway (Credit: Jondolar Schnurr)

Now you can walk the flat, paved Songhees Westsong Walkway that winds along the Esquimalt/Vic West waterfront.

The Songhees walk is one of our favorite easy scenic walks in Victoria.

11) Hike up Mount Douglas

Want to delight in a little “forest bathing”?

Then get yourself to Mount Douglas Park.

On the outskirts of the city, perhaps a 20-minute drive from downtown Victoria, this lush forested park offers 13 miles (20 km) of trails winding through towering Douglas Fir and cedar trees.

Many of the trails are named after early settlers and farms in the area, and they’re rated (color-coded) according to difficulty – Green (easy), Blue (moderate) and Black (difficult).

Hiking in Mount Douglas Park (Credit: District of Saanich)

The key attraction is the spectacular 360 degree view of Victoria and the water that you get from the top of Mount Doug.

You can actually reach the top of the 738-ft (224-m) mountain (er, hill?) by car on Churchill Road.

But… How cool is this? The road is closed to car traffic every day until 12 noon to encourage people to hike up the paved road.

Even more scenic is to hike up one of the forested trails, like the Irvine Trail. Some fresh air, some exercise, and a great reward at the top!

Don’t get lost!

We actually got lost one time in the park. But you don’t have to.

Download this free GPS-enabled map of the park and its trails, available through the District of Saanich (the particular area in which Mount Doug park is located).

12) Reflect at Ross Bay Cemetery

Ross Bay Cemetery is beautiful for a quiet stroll along its tree-lined paths.

With angel statues and grand tombstones, it almost feels like a walk through a sculpture garden.

Famous Canadians and Americans buried here include Sir James Douglas (BC’s first governor), world-renowned artist Emily Carr and Nellie Cashman (a nurse and gold prospector who saved 77 trapped gold miners and was later featured on a U.S. postage stamp).

13) Chill on a beach

Peek-a-boo view of a beach along Dallas Road

When it’s hot outside, you may want to cool off at one of Victoria’s beaches.

Willows Beach is the most well-known, with half a mile of sandy beach and logs to rest against. There’s a tea room too, run by the Kiwanis Club, which is open in spring and summer.

But the water is cold (like frigid!) so you won’t be doing too much swimming.

If you want to actually swim (in water that’s not freezing), check out Thetis Lake.

It’s lovely just to sit on a log on one of the beaches along Dallas Road and gaze at the views

Recommended reading: Discover the best swimming holes and beaches in Victoria!

14) Tour Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle was built for coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his family
Craigdarroch Castle was built for coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his family

Tour this famous sandstone castle, now a National Historic Site, built between 1887 and 1890 for BC coal baron Robert Dunsmuir.

He unfortunately didn’t get to spend much time in his “castle” as he died in 1889, leaving his whole estate to his wife Joan. (They had ten children.)

Inside, you can gawk at 39 lavishly furnished rooms – over 20,000 square feet (almost 1,900 square meters) – with beautiful stained-glass windows, tile floors, ornately carved woodwork and pink granite columns.

It’s also fun to learn about the juicy family drama after Robert’s death – including a lawsuit by Joan against one of her sons, James, who was the premier of BC at the time.

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria

Craigdarroch Castle hours:

The castle is open daily (except December 25, 26 and January 1) from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.

In summer (from June 15 to September 6), it’s open longer from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.

For more information:

See the castle website.

15) Duck into a café

We love the coffee shops in Victoria, BC!
Coffee? Victoria has a happening coffee scene!

Victoria is catnip for coffee lovers.

The coffee scene here rivals that in Vancouver and Seattle.

Of course, you can find some great Starbucks cafés. But we also have many independent home-grown coffee shops, with baristas who are masters of latte art.

Best coffee shops in Victoria, BC

The following 3 are among our personal faves:

Fairfield Branch:

Neighborhood café in Fairfield with a pleasant outdoor courtyard | website

Discovery Coffee:

Hailed by many as the best coffee shop in Victoria | website

Café Fantastico:

Roastery with three café locations in Victoria (George often bicycles to the Parkside location for a good brew while reading the newspaper) | website

16) Check out the “wee” libraries

These cute wee libraries are scattered throughout Victoria.
These cute wee libraries are scattered throughout Victoria

One of the cutest things to see in Victoria, BC are the little free libraries.

You find these wee home-made book exchanges containing from 5 to 20 books in front of various homes and businesses.

People craft their own tiny library boxes, so each is different – and they’re always fun to look at and browse.

17) Enjoy afternoon tea at the Empress

You might have guessed by now that Victoria, named after Queen Victoria, has retained a “little bit of old England.” Lonely Planet says it’s North America’s “most English city.”

One of those lovely British traditions still going strong after more than a century is the Empress Hotel high tea.

Afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel
Afternoon tea at the Victoria Empress Hotel (Credit: Fairmont Empress Hotel)

Afternoon tea in the lobby lounge of the Fairmont Empress Hotel – one of the most luxurious hotels in Victoria – is an elegant affair.

We remember when ladies would wear hats and flowery dresses to tea at the Empress!

Since the Empress underwent a $60 million restoration, the lounge is more smart-modern now, but still sophisticated in royal purple colors.

You can choose from 21 international loose-leaf teas.

The food menu features delicious treats made fresh daily from locally-sourced ingredients, including smoked salmon on blinis, chevre tartlets and blackberry-and-hazelnut macarons.

This high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is a meal in itself!
This high tea is a meal in itself! (Credit: Fairmont Empress Hotel)

And, yes, you get warm scones with clotted cream and strawberry lavender preserve.

While you sip and nibble, live classical music is played on a baby grand piano. Pinkies up!

Empress Hotel tea

Make reservations:

In summer, the hotel serves high tea to more than 400 guests a day (more than most hotels in London). It’s hugely popular, so be sure to book ahead. Reserve here.

Hours:

Four seatings of afternoon tea are served from 11:00 am to 5:45 pm. See specific seating times.

Dress code:

There’s a dress code in effect. No athletic wear, flip-flops or clothes with explicit or offensive graphics. And, sorry guys, no ball caps either. (But fancy tea hats and fascinators are permitted.)

Cost:

The Empress tea is a bit splurgey at $60+ USD p.p. ($86 USD p.p. if you add a glass of champagne), but worth it.

18) Spy whales!

Adventurous things to do in Victoria? Go whale watching

Yes, Victoria has whales, and you can go whale watching in Victoria, BC, on a boat tour.

The types of whales found in the waters surrounding Victoria include orcas (killer whales), gray whales, humpback whales and minke whales.

Orcas are commonly sighted on Victoria whale watching tours.
Orcas are commonly sighted on Victoria whale watching tours (Credit: Orca Spirit Adventures)

If you’re lucky, you may see a whale breach (jump out of the water) right up close.

Then again, you may just see a whale tail in the distance.

You’re also likely to get close-up views of seals, porpoises, eagles, sea lions and other local marine life on your Victoria whale watching tour.

Sea lions love hanging around the waters off Victoria
Sea lions love hanging around the waters off Victoria

Whale sighting guarantee

Now you know, of course, that whales are wild creatures. So on the day you decide to go, they may not want to play nice and show up for you.

The good news is that many companies offer a “whale sighting guarantee” – if you don’t see a whale, they’ll invite you on another tour for free.

Tours leave from the Inner Harbor. And most tours are staffed by a marine biologist.

You can choose from different types of whale watching vessels.

Here’s a highly-rated tour in a high-speed Zodiac (3 hours) with Prince of Whales, where you travel at speeds of up to 30 knots. Guaranteed: The ride is almost as much fun as spotting whales. (You wear a warm cruiser suit, so you’re comfortable zipping outside in the open air.)

Or maybe you’d prefer going out on a covered boat. The vessel for this recommended whale watching tour with Orca Spirit Adventures has indoor and outdoor viewing, plus a bathroom. (Complimentary tea and coffee is offered.)

19) Shop Lower Johnson Street

Colorful Johnson Street is one of the best places to shop in Victoria, BC
Colorful Johnson Street is one of the best places to shop in Victoria, BC

You could shop on Government Street. There are great shops there.

But get off the tourist trail slightly and wander along lower Johnson Street (nicknamed  “LoJo”), between Government Street and Store Streets.

Here, you find colorful, early 19th-century buildings from the gold-rush era lining both sides of LoJo. They house a variety of eclectic shops and boutiques selling everything from locally designed fashions to jewelry to home décor.

Some stand-outs?

John Fluevog Shoes is the place to go for unique artistic shoes and boots (outrageously high platforms with thick heels are a signature design).

Love shoes? Then browse this shoe store on Lower Johnson Street (Credit: John Fluevog Shoes)

Pop into Lululemon for stylish, yoga-inspired athletic wear; you may know the popular chain was founded in BC (in Vancouver).

And for a pretty little succulent, bouquet of flowers or pot plant to give as a hostess gift (or to keep for yourself), browse Rook & Rose.

We’ve received sweet potted cacti from this Victoria florist as gifts (Credit: Rook and Rose)

20) Visit the Victoria Art Gallery

Nestled in the historic Rockland neighborhood, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria houses some 20,000 works of art – the largest public collection in British Columbia.

The gallery consists of an 1889 mansion connected to a low-rise concrete building, housing seven state-of-the-art galleries.

Especially on a dreary day, the Art Gallery is a great place to visit in Victoria.
Especially on a dreary day, the Art Gallery is a great place to visit in Victoria

Be sure to see the permanent display of works by BC’s beloved artist Emily Carr, who painted BC landscapes and scenes of the lives of First Nations people.

The Asian collection – including a grand Chinese bell from the Ming Dynasty along with exquisite amber and ivory carvings – is sure to catch your eye too.

In the Asian garden, you can see the only authentic Japanese Shinto shrine in North America.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Hours:

The art gallery is open daily from Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays).

Hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, except for Thursday (when the gallery is open late until 9:00 pm) and Sunday (when the gallery hours are 12 noon to 5:00 pm).

For more information:

See the Victoria Art Gallery website.

21) Bicycle the Lochside Trail

Bicycling the Lochside Trail is one of our favorite things to do in Victoria

The Lochside Trail is a lovely wide 18-mile (29-km) trail running between Victoria and Sidney.

The trail meanders through idyllic scenery – past the Gorge Waterway, country lanes, green suburban backyards, rural farms and bird sanctuaries.

It’s used mostly by bicyclists (though it’s open to walkers and joggers too). Like the Galloping Goose Trail (#7), it’s pretty well flat all the way.

See the Lochside Trail map

Download a PDF map of the Lochside Trail, with points of interest and other great info.

22) Stroll through Chinatown

Lanterns glow in Victoria's Chinatown, the oldest in Canada.
Lanterns glow in Victoria’s Chinatown, the oldest in Canada

Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in Canada – and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco.

See the ornate Gate of Harmonious Interest, flanked by two huge stone lion sculptures. Check out the Chinese restaurants.

And duck into Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in the country.

It’s lined with more than a dozen cute shops selling matcha teas, locally made jewelry and homemade ice-cream.

23) Attend a festival

Into art, sailing, music? We have several events and festivals in Victoria, BC, that are worth catching.

Fun events in Victoria, BC

We particularly love these Victoria, BC, events:

Symphony Splash:

Visitors gather in front of The Empress for the Victoria Symphony Splash
Visitors gather in front of The Empress for Symphony Splash

Held on the first weekend of August, Victoria Symphony Splash is Victoria’s marquee summer event.

The Victoria Symphony puts on a free evening classical concert from a barge in the Inner Harbor. Crowds gather all around onshore. Fireworks finish off the spectacle.

Moss Street Paint In: 

One day a year in summer, Moss Street is closed to traffic, and over 100 artists set up shop to paint and sell their work.

There’s also plenty of food, drink and music at the Moss Street Paint In.

If it’s sunny, expect more than 30,000 art lovers to be out and about!

Music on the Lawn: 

A free series of evening rock n’ roll and blues concerts is held on the lawn at the BC Government House in summer. Bring a blanket or your own chair.

Swiftsure:

The international Swiftsure race has multiple courses
The international race has multiple courses; yachts in the longest overnight race venture out into U.S. waters before finishing back in Victoria (Credit: Swiftsure)

Head down to Clover Point on Dallas Road on the morning of the annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race starts. You’ll see hundreds of yachts stream by, their billowing sails catching the wind.

Boaters come from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand to participate in this premier sailing race event in the Pacific Northwest.

Where to stay in Victoria, Canada

Before moving to Victoria, we used to visit the city for long weekends – we even spent a few days here on our honeymoon! We’ve bedded down in quite a few of Victoria’s lovely hotels and B&Bs.

Then before moving here, we stayed in several Airbnbs to figure out which area of the city we wanted to lived in.

Check out our posts, with (updated) reviews on:

Now you know what to do in Victoria, BC!

Have you visited our city? What do you love most about it?

Share your suggestions for things to do in Victoria in the Comments below.

Get the indepth Victoria, Canada, travel guides

See our free British Columbia Travel Guide! It’s packed with info on unmissable destinations, wineries, secret places in BC, beautiful hikes and more!

Also check out the Victoria and Vancouver Island travel guides on Amazon. (As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)

Experience more of British Columbia!

Read our posts on:

Telegraph Cove, Vancouver Island | From kayaking with orcas to grizzly bear viewing, Telegraph Cove offers thrilling wilderness adventures.

Salt Spring Island | Hiking through forests with fairy houses? Kayaking? These are just two of the magical things to do in Salt Spring Island.

Tofino | Wicked winter weather means it’s time for storm watching in Tofino on Vancouver Island!

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Photo credits: 2, 3, 7, 18 to 20, 24, 27, 28, 31, 33, 35, 44, 45, 47 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

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Hasanga Seneviratne

Sunday 3rd of October 2021

Great article; a lot of info. Can't wait for my trip to Victoria next week. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions.

Janice and George

Sunday 3rd of October 2021

Thanks! Glad you found this post helpful :-). And have a great trip to Victoria! (Hope the weather is good for you...)

Anda

Friday 19th of August 2016

From what you are describing, Victoria seems very similar to Vancouver. Beautiful nature, good food, art and architecture are the perfect mixture for a great city. I'd very much like to visit it. You surely make it sound very tempting.

Janice and George

Saturday 20th of August 2016

Victoria IS very similar to Vancouver - but a smaller Vancouver :-).

Suze

Friday 19th of August 2016

The pickle boats look really charming, it's nice to see that you've settled in so quickly

Janice and George

Friday 19th of August 2016

We're getting settled! Enjoying the last days of summer before we start traveling again in the fall...

Becky Padmore

Friday 19th of August 2016

Looks like a wonderful city! Everything you've listed looks lovely but I especially love to see the orcas!

Janice and George

Friday 19th of August 2016

We just asked one of the whale watching boats leaving from the Inner Harbour what the chances were of seeing whales - 90% they said! Mostly humpbacks now...

Greg Hocken

Wednesday 17th of August 2016

Don't forget the entertainment scene in Victoria. I too live here. Love this city. Savon Foods Memoria Arena, where many concerts have played, also the Royal and McPherson theatres with live shows, and Mary Winspear theatre, in Sidney with many venues. There are many play theatres also. Not too mention that downtown Victoria in the summer has the Symphony Splash, Dragon Boat races, Busker Festival and many more. Then the contrast of the many hikes and biking trails. Lots to do to keep you entertained.

Janice and George

Wednesday 17th of August 2016

We took in Symphony Splash recently by the Inner Harbour! What an amazing spectacle with some 45,000 people there - we absolutely loved listening to the Victoria Symphony play during this free outdoor concert by the water. We posted a photo on Instagram : ) We look forward to enjoying all the theatrical and other events too. Thanks for writing in!