Visit Victoria image of teapots for high tea

Go World Travel is reader-supported and may earn a commission from purchases made through links in this piece.

The charming city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, boasts one of the mildest climates in Canada, making it perfect for exploring the city by bicycle, or sampling cider on the patio.  Here is a list of the top things to do when you visit Victoria.

1. Tea at the Fairmont Empress – Pinkies Up

Server delivers tea for afternoon tea at Fairmont Empress
Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress comes in first for things to do when you visit Victoria. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

A pianist played the theme from Downton Abbey as I walked into the exquisite lobby lounge of the Fairmont Empress for afternoon tea. Well-dressed guests chatted in murmured tones as servers presented trays of scones with clotted cream and strawberry vanilla preserves.

Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress tops the list of things to do when you visit Victoria.

The history of afternoon tea is as rich as the rum-whipped ganache. The story goes that in England, during the mid-1800s, the Duchess of Bedford ordered tea and cake to tide her over until dinner at 8. She invited friends to join her, and the tasteful tradition was born.

Afternoon Tea Amidst Elegance

Today, the menu at the Empress includes truffled mushroom quiche, cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon, and tea that ranges from the Empress Blend to Creamy Earl Grey.

Servers delivered teapots and tiered trays of delicacies that looked like dainty portions. But a friend advised me to pace myself. She added, “It feels like you aren’t eating much at first, but you probably won’t finish everything.”

As my friends and I savored tea and cake, a couple on their honeymoon—the bride, wearing a pink gown and fascinator—entered the room.

When I asked if I could take their photo, the bride told me she had dreamed of coming for tea at the Empress since she was a little girl.

Read More: Dining in Vancouver: Here’s Where You Should Go

2. See Victoria on Two Wheels

Bicycle tour with The Pedaler goes through a cemetery.
Pedaling through a cemetery is on fhe Castles, Hoods, and Legends bicycle tour with The Pedaler. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

Rain and clouds filled the sky the morning I was scheduled for a three-hour bike tour of Victoria. As it turned out, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Four customers canceled due to the weather. With only two guests, we felt like we had a private tour.

It happened to be a Sunday morning, and church bells rang as guide Michael Woodward from The Pedaler Victoria gave safety tips before we set out.

Bicycles in Victoria are as standard as fish and chips in London. People who live on the island are enthusiastic about the environment, health, and sustainability. And bicycling. There’s even a bike counter near the Visitor Center with a sensor that tracks the number of bicycles passing by.

The Castles, Hoods, and Legends tour took us through wealthy neighborhoods, a cemetery, and Chinatown, where we parked our bikes and explored North America’s narrowest street, Fan Tan Alley.

We stopped for photos at the world’s tallest freestanding totem pole and toured an artsy area called Fernwood, which Woodward described as, “where the cool kids live.”

Throughout the tour, Woodward shared history and tips (catch a water taxi to Spinnakers Brew Pub and Restaurant for a burger and a beer), all while keeping a watchful eye for traffic and our safety.

The Pedaler also offers a Happy Hour Guided Tour or a Coastal E-bike Cruise. They will also give recommendations for a self-guided tour.

3. Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse – Sip, Sip, Hooray

Closeup of bottles of cider at Sea Cider, Victoria, BC.
Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse features ciders of many varieties, from sweet to dry. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

Sitting on the outside deck at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse on a warm fall day with a flight is a glorious way to spend an afternoon.

This 10-acre organic farm grows over 50 varieties of apples that they use to craft cider.

Visitors can tour the farm before finding a seat on the deck to sample ciders from sweet to dry and take in ocean and orchard views.

I don’t know my ciders, so I picked them by name and description. Whoever wrote the tasting menu did an excellent job.

Ruby Rose is described as “A captivating semi-sweet cider infused with rhubarb; Ruby Rose is a beguiling vixen. She may be as aromatic as rhubarb pie, but her namesake is the merciless Rosa Rugosa, an invasive plant threatening many coastal regions.”

Pippins is “a juicy, expressive, and playful on the tongue; Pippins reveals why cider was North America’s favorite drink before prohibition.”

With our samplings, we nibbled on local cheeses and charcuterie, cider jelly, cider mustard, and smoked salmon dip. Staff will suggest pairings of food and ciders.

4. Whale Watching with Prince of Whales

Photo of cap with the words Prince of Whales Whale-Watching
Seeing whales (and not just stuffed ones!) is almost a sure thing with Prince of Whales, Victoria, BC. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

The waters near Victoria are one of the best places in the world to see whales in the wild.

Prince of Whales Whale Watching Adventures is so sure that guests will see whales that they offer a Whale Sightings Guarantee.  You can sign up for another tour at no charge, if you don’t see a whale.

On the day we joined the tour, we saw humpback whales, killer whales, and sea lions.

The captain knew exactly where to steer the boat to get the best angle for sightings.

Staff pointed out the whales and educated us about the magnificent animal.

The company believes in sustainable whale watching, and fees go toward conservation and carbon offset programs. 

Read More: What to Do in Victoria, BC: A 3-Day Itinerary of Fun and Food

5. Butchart Gardens – Bloomin’ Beautiful

Butchart Gardens is a top thing to do when you visit Victoria.
Butchart Gardens is serene, peaceful and beautiful and should be on your must-do list when you visit Victoria. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

Cloudless blue skies greeted my travel companions and me the day we visited Butchart Gardens. Along with perfect weather came crowds.

The lavish grounds and vibrant blooms at Butchart Gardens attract a million visitors yearly.

But with 55 acres to explore, the area is so large that we had space to take our time and delight in the gardens.           

Jennie Butchart created the Gardens in 1904, and today, her descendants operate the popular tourist site.

Visitors can explore areas like the Japanese Garden, with its red gate marking the entrance. Maple trees and Himalayan Blue Poppies blossom in the late spring. The Rose Garden is also a favorite with an “impressive collection of 2,500 ramblers, climbers and Hybrid Tea Roses.”

The gardens are peaceful and serene, and most people wander at their own pace, even though there’s a recommended route.

There’s even a Garden Etiquette policy. The day I visited, a little girl blasted music on her phone, and a staff member politely asked her to turn it down for the comfort of other guests.

The staff member explained that providing a tranquil atmosphere is important for everyone.

At the Seed & Gifts Store, visitors can buy everything from a tea towel to seeds. Staff will add a customs sticker on a bag of seeds, so there are no questions if you need to pass customs.

6. Explore Downtown When You Visit Victoria 

Downtown Victoria has outdoor cafes, a wonderful bookstore, and vintage shops.
Downtown Victoria offers outdoor dining, a fabulous bookstore, and vintage shops. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

Government Street, about a five-minute walk from the Empress, hums with shoppers, visitors, and, on many days, cruise ship passengers.

The lively atmosphere makes strolling this street–with cafes, vintage shops, outdoor gear stores, and even a cigar shop–a terrific way to spend the afternoon.

Photo of exterior of Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C.
Munro’s Books is a popular place to spend an hour or a day when you visit Victoria. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

With high ceilings, stunning artwork, and dark wood shelving, Munro’s Books is another favorite when visiting Victoria. I can spend hours in a bookstore, and Munro’s is especially welcoming and well-stocked.

Murchie’s Tea & Coffee was one of my highlights, with shelves of tea and coffee paraphernalia for sale and a café where guests linger over classic tea and scones. The line to get a table can be long, especially if you’re in Victoria when a cruise ship is in port, so it’s best to plan some extra time at Murchie’s.

Eating and drinking are part of the experience when you visit Victoria.

The Courtney Room was named Best Happy Hour and Best Sommelier/Wine Program at the 2023 YAM Best Restaurant Awards.

The restaurant is an extension of The Magnolia Hotel and focuses on ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. Fresh-shucked oysters are a popular menu item at The Courtney.

The restaurant is also known for steaks, but my friends and I ordered mainly from the small plate menu with dishes like buttermilk fried mushrooms, beef tenderloin tartare, and seared scallops.

Photo of exterior of Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C.
The Fairmont Empress is the place to stay when you visit Victoria. Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle

7. Stay at The Fairmont Empress When You Visit Victoria

The Fairmont Empress exudes elegance.

Even before walking into this distinguished hotel, the impeccably-tended grounds hint at what lies ahead.

When you walk into the main lobby,  with its grand staircase and towering ceilings, you know you are in for a luxury experience.

Fairmont Gold accommodations take it up a notch with its “hotel within a hotel” experience.”  Guests can access the private Gold Lounge with complimentary breakfast and snacks.

The hotel is known for its Empress 1908 Gin, which has a vibrant blue hue. Guests can sip a proper gin and tonic on the deck with views of the Inner Harbour.

Dining at the Q at the Fairmont Empress could have its own category. Decorated in regal violet colors in honor of Queen Victoria, the Q feels like the place to see and be seen. The Q is stylish and sophisticated, with images of the Queen throughout the dining area, cherry wood ceilings, and sleek furnishings.

You’ll feel like royalty at the Q.

If You Visit Victoria

For more information about Victoria, visit

If you overnight in Vancouver before you visit Victoria, following are hotel recommendations: JW Marriott Parq Vancouver; The DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection; and the Fairmont Waterfront.

Read More:

Sherry Spitsnaugle
Latest posts by Sherry Spitsnaugle (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *