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The historic city of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Canada, is located on the southern end of Vancouver Island. It’s an ideal vacation destination for three days.
The quickest way to get there is by commercial flight from Vancouver International Airport or by floatplane from downtown Vancouver. However, the most popular way to get to Victoria, B.C. is by BC Ferries from Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver. The 1 hour and 35-minute ride is beautiful and relaxing and is usually cheaper than flying to Victoria.
Victoria’s British colonial past dominates its architecture and old-world charm. Along the edge of Victoria’s sparkling Inner Harbor is Canada’s ‘Castle on the Coast’, the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Celebrating its 115th anniversary, the award-winning luxury hotel and National Historic Site is an alluring blend of both classic and contemporary elements.
The most popular time to visit Victoria, B.C. is from May to October. This is also when the cruise ships stop on their way up or down from Alaska. During the summer months, the streets will be full of visitors strolling the pretty streets around town and the harbor.
Where to Stay in Victoria, BC
The stunning and iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel is a top place to stay in Victoria. The Grand Dame of Victoria has colorful gardens, multiple dining options, and an award-winning Spa. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, consider going in to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea that will transport you to England.
Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip
The luxury property recently completed a $60 million+ restoration in 2017, revamping its Fairmont Gold Experience. Besides major renovations to the Fairmont Gold Lounge, they converted 22 rooms into Gold Experience rooms. Fairmont Gold guests receive complimentary breakfast, snacks, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails with small plates and desserts throughout the day inside the Gold Lounge.
What to Do in Victoria, BC
Victoria is a lovely harborside city with lots of things to see and do and a big array of restaurants and pubs. Following is a 3-day itinerary with suggestions for activities, sightseeing and places to eat and drink.
Take a Walk
Victoria is a very walkable city, and the Inner Harbor and downtown Victoria are best explored by foot or bicycle. So, grab a map from the tourist center or pull one up on your phone and enjoy some exercise while seeing the sights. If you’re not up for walking, other modes of transportation to explore the city are horse-drawn carriage and double-decker bus.
Get pampered after your walk and make a reservation at Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Empress for a deep cleansing facial or massage. Facials include a professional skin analysis, gentle exfoliation and a facial massage to promote circulation. A nourishing masque with antioxidant-rich products will restore the skin’s balance after a day of travel.
Dinner in Victoria
Dine at the hotel’s Q at the Empress for a step back in time to a 1908 experience. The iconic dining room’s eye-catching cherry wood ceiling and detailed moulding provide an elegant and warm ambiance. Modern design and decor include bold strokes and purple colors and artwork featuring images of Queen Victoria throughout her reign.
The menu offers a modern twist of culinary delights inside the 88-seat restaurant. Executive Chef Morgan Wilson celebrates the freshest regional ingredients in partnership with local farmers and artisans. Honey is from the hotel’s beehive garden, and British Columbia wines are featured, as well as vintages from around the globe.
After dinner, take a walk along the waterfront to see the Inner Harbor and Parliament Buildings lit in twinkling white lights. During the day, the buildings are open for free guided tours to learn about British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly.
Take a Bike Ride
After breakfast in the Fairmont Gold Lounge, take one of the hotel’s bicycles for a ride to Beacon Hill Park. Victoria’s compact urban environment and relatively flat topography make cycling a popular way to see the sights.
There are dedicated bike lanes and carless pathways to add to the ease of biking in Victoria. Take the 2.7-mile loop trail through the historic Beacon Hill Park where Winston Churchill planted a tree in 1929. Peacocks hang out on pathways around the Children’s farm, while Canadian Geese reside around the park’s ponds. Visit the rose garden, display gardens, fountains and cross over a stone bridge.
Be sure to make a reservation for Afternoon Tea at the Empress. The formal sit-down venue has served famed royalty, celebrities and dignitaries throughout the years. Live piano music plays as guests enjoy pots of tea and flutes of champagne with three-tiered towers of delicate and delicious sweet and savory bites.
See Marine Life Up Close
Rent a kayak at Ocean River Sports for a guided tour to see marine life. Paddle along the coastal crags and cliffs to see seals and their pups at rookeries as well as sea otters and a variety of sea birds viewed at water level.
The Fairmont Empress Lobby Lounge turns into Sunset Sips in the early evening. It’s a new evening cocktail and culinary and beverage program featuring playful cocktails and spirit-free tea-infused libations. Beverages are served in beautiful china teapots and teacups.
Classic three-tiered tea stands display tapas-style white-cheddar and chive biscuits, grilled avocado and heirloom tomato tartine and roast beef stuffed Yorkshire pudding. To set the ambiance, the lounge plays upbeat tempos and beats of the 1920s for guests to enjoy while indulging in a Prohibition-style evening. It’s an ideal spot to watch the sun set beyond the harbor view.
Visit Butchart Gardens
Since Victoria boasts the mildest climate in Canada, the city is green and blooming year-round. In the spring, between February and May cherry blossoms drop pink petals on View Street. Since mature cherry or plum trees can boast anywhere from 250,000 to 750,000 blossoms, the city’s streets bloom at different times.
To witness more blooms and color, rent a car to drive about 30 minutes from the hotel to Butchart Gardens. What was once a former limestone quarry, is now a National Historic Site of Canada. Jennie Butchart envisioned turning a sunken garden in her backyard into a kaleidoscope of blooming colors.
In Spring, countless tulips, daffodils and hyacinths provide a rainbow of fragrance and colors. During the summer months, highlights include the breathtaking Rose Garden, picturesque Night Illuminations and fireworks on Saturday evenings in July and August.
Perennial and Dahlia borders thrive in the late summer months, just before the Japanese maples turn to russet, gold, and red in the Fall. The Magic of Christmas offers festive decorations and expansive lighting installations. Be sure to take a ride on the Rose Carousel and reserve a table in one of three restaurants for a meal in the park.
Award Winning Gin Tasting
Along the waterfront in nearby Sidney, Victoria Distillers is a family-run small batch maker of premium spirits. They offer a small tasting room and retail shop. Bottles of their premium bold indigo colored 1908 Empress Gin, along with rum and liqueurs line the walls.
The distillery collaborated with the Fairmont Empress Hotel Butterly Pea Blossom Tea to make a beautiful purple-hued gin. Robust citrus notes from grapefruit peel and floral rose petals from the tea, plus exotic warm spices from cinnamon and ginger give this gin an herbal, warm earthiness. This lovely gin earned a Gold Medal at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition. Visitors can taste the spirits and purchase bottles at this location.
Walking Food Tour
Take a Taste of Victoria Food Tour with Andy for an informative walking tour exploring downtown Victoria. Make a reservation online to secure a spot starting at Victoria Public Market for a taste of Italian meatballs. Then discover Asian delights near The Gates of Harmonious Interest.
Explore the oldest Chinatown in Canada while sipping a refreshing matcha drink near Fan Tan Alley. Indulge in savory Pierogis down the street before tasting chocolates that Queen Elizabeth loved from Rogers Chocolate Shop.
After three days in Victoria, you will have a better understanding of why this capital city is a British-inspired wonderland along the Pacific coast of Canada.
If You Go:
Butchart Gardens – https://www.butchartgardens.com/
Fairmont Empress – https://www.fairmont.com/empress-victoria/
Ocean River Sports – https://oceanriver.com/
Taste of Victoria Food Tour – https://www.atasteofvictoriafoodtours.com/
Twa Dogs Brewery – https://macaloneydistillers.com/
Victoria Distillers – https://victoriadistillers.com/
Visit Victoria – https://www.tourismvictoria.com/
Author Bio: Jill Weinlein is a food, wine and travel expert writing about thousands of vacation venues, vineyards and culinary adventures for Go World Travel, Beverly Press and her own Dine and Travel Blog. When not traveling she rides her e-bike and hikes with her dog Peanut.
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