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Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia, Canada located near the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

Victoria contains a perfect combination of the old and new Canada. Amidst the bustle of this little city, one can venture through the classical Brit architecture to the preserved Chinatown or all the way back in time to the original First Nations (Aboriginal) culture. The colorful gardens and paintings are worth admiring, while the natural beauty just a short distance away from the town is simply breathtaking.

For the purposes of this guide, Victoria includes the nearby municipalities of Oak Bay, Saanich, Esquimalt, and Brentwood Bay.

First-time visitors stepping into Vancouver Island might be surprised by the very different atmosphere as opposed to the namesake city just across the Strait of Georgia. While the island itself is mainly... Read more

Victoria, BC, Canada

Destination:
Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia, Canada located near the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

Victoria contains a perfect combination of the old and new Canada. Amidst the bustle of this little city, one can venture through the classical Brit architecture to the preserved Chinatown or all the way back in time to the original First Nations (Aboriginal) culture. The colorful gardens and paintings are worth admiring, while the natural beauty just a short distance away from the town is simply breathtaking.

For the purposes of this guide, Victoria includes the nearby municipalities of Oak Bay, Saanich, Esquimalt, and Brentwood Bay.

First-time visitors stepping into Vancouver Island might be surprised by the very different atmosphere as opposed to the namesake city just across the Strait of Georgia. While the island itself is mainly quiet and laid back, Victoria is a step up as the largest city on the island, aided by the fact that all of British Columbia's governmental offices are situated here. The quaint skylines in the city center meet with the genteel and natural design on the outskirts of the downtown, designating Victoria as a resort town for western British Columbia.

History

Victoria's prime location, right between the Canadian mainland and the Pacific Ocean, makes the area become perhaps one of the earliest modern developments of Canada. From its humble beginnings as a backup trade post for Fort Vancouver (at the Vancouver in the USA's Washington State) erected by James Douglas in 1843, the city's ports have been a witness of historic events that brought influxes of people from all over the world to Canada: from the Gold Rush to opium trade between Asia and North America. The real estate boom after World War I, however, is what gives the city its well-known character, with Edwardian skylines popping up in the city center that transitions to genteel civility in the suburbs. A trip to Victoria would not be complete without admiring its classic buildings and a trip to the park or the houses outside the city.

Victoria is named in honor of the namesake ruling queen of England in 1843 and designated as the provincial capital of British Columbia in 1871.

Tourist information center

  • Victoria Visitor Center, 812 Wharf St, ☎ +1 250-953-2033, toll-free: +1 800 663-3883. Daily 9 AM-5 PM. The visitor center contains brochures and the official tourism guide. The staff can also help with booking tours.

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Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Victoria, BC, Canada: Port Information


Your cruise ship will dock at Ogden Point, around 1.5 miles from the center of Victoria.
Public buses, shuttles, and taxis are available. Besides, you can get to the city center on foot (15-20 minutes).

Get around Victoria, BC, Canada


Walking is an easy, free, and fun way to explore the entire downtown area. Make your way from hotel to museum to shops; stop for coffee; stroll along the harborside; grab a pint and some fish-n-chips - take it in!

Buses run by BC Transit, (automated information line), form the mainstay of Victoria's public transit network. Bus tickets can be purchased in books of ten, and give a slight discount (buy 9 get 1 free). Day passes are also available. Transfers may be requested once you have paid your fare. They are good for 90 minutes of travel. Victoria, along with Kelowna, Toronto, and Ottawa, is one of only a few cities in North America which use double-decker buses in their city transit systems.

Rental Cars are available for those who need them. There are seven different car rental locations in Victoria, and their prices can be compared at places such as VroomVroomVroom.ca. All major companies such as Avis, Hertz, Budget, and Enterprise, are available.

Biking Victoria is one of the most bike-friendly cities in Canada, which may have something to do with the very mild winters. There are many places to rent bikes. One rental place that comes to mind is, CycleTreks, they are located at 1000 Warf St. right by the water. Another location is CycleBCRentals, located at 747 Douglas St. behind the Empress Hotel & in the summer at 950 Wharf St (1-866-380-2453). 

Pedicabs. Take a guided tour of Victoria with an expert pedicab tour guide. The Victoria Pedicab Company offers city tours, garden tours, and customized tours.

What to see in Victoria, BC, Canada


  • Beacon Hill Park, bounded by Dallas Rd on the south, and Douglas St. on the west. The south end is on the waterfront, with a walking path and a view of the Olympic Mountains across the strait. Beacon Hill Children's Farm, which features a goat petting area, is located within Beacon Hill Park.
  • Butchart Gardens, 800 Benvenuto Ave. in Brentwood Bay (at the westernmost point of Keating X Rd, 866-652-4422. A large garden planted in what was formerly a limestone quarry. Quite remarkable. During the summer they have fireworks set to music and during winter evenings, the gardens are lit up and include displays illustrating the twelve days of Christmas. You can reach Butchart Gardens from Vancouver and Victoria on several bus tours and also by public transit from Victoria or the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
  • British Columbia Aviation Museum, 1910 Norseman Road in Sidney on the north edge of the Victoria International Airport, +1 250 655-3300. Open 10 AM-4 PM (May 1- Sept 30) and 11 AM-3 PM (Oct 1 - Apr 30). 
  • Chinatown, Fisgard St. between Store St. and Government St. The street is decorated with Chinese ornaments including The Gates of Harmonious Interest. There are some great Chinese restaurants, Chinese fruit and vegetable stores, bubble tea and coffee shops and Canada's smallest 'road', Fan Tan Alley!
  • Emily Carr House, 207 Government Street, +1 250 383-5843. Emily Carr is one of Canada's greatest and most loved artists. Her house is within walking distance of the Inner Harbour and Beacon Hill Park.
  • Inner Harbour In the summertime the Inner Harbour is full of artists, buskers, and other entertainers. The music performers are not permitted to stay in one place for very long, so the entertainment is constantly changing. It still may seem too long with some of the Bagpipers. Many find it fascinating to watch the float planes taking off and landing also. In the springtime, the inner harbor is filled up with many beautiful flowers.
  • Legislative Buildings, at the Inner Harbour, +1 250 387-3046. At night it is lit up with 13,000 lights. Free public tours are excellent.
  • Miniature World, 649 Humboldt St. (at the back of the Empress Hotel), +1 250 385-9731. An extensive display of miniature landscapes, cities, etc., some rather bizarre or at comically mismatched scales. Includes the world's smallest working sawmill at a scale of 1:12.
  • Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Bellville St. (between the Legislature and the Empress hotel, near the Inner Harbour), +1 250 356-7226. Daily 9 AM–5 PM. This tell's BC story, especially from 1850 to 1920. It has amazing exhibits and is easily worth half a day. There are three permanent galleries: Modern History, story of the European settlement; First Peoples, pre-contact and post-contact; and Natural History, mainly oceans, large animals, and climate. All are explained with phenomenal immersive exhibits. This is one of two museums in Canada holding the 'Royal' designation. 
  • IMAX Theatre, 675 Bellville St. (part of the Royal BC Museum), +1 250 953-4629. A variety of shows on the IMAX screen. 
  • Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum, 1050 Joan Crescent (in the Rockland area), +1 250 592-5323. This castle was built in 1890 by a wealthy and powerful Scottish family who at that time owned a quarter of Vancouver Island. Great architecture. About 25 minutes' walk from the downtown core, or else take buses 11 or 14 up Fort St.
  • Victoria Bug Zoo, 631 Courtney Street, +1 250 384-2847. Open daily except Christmas and New Years, 10 AM-6 PM (extended summer hours). Looking at bugs while on holidays doesn't sound like it'd be appealing, but this is a fantastic little place filled with very knowledgeable and friendly guides, and where else would you get the chance to hold so many crazy creatures?
  • Abkhazi Gardens, 1964 Fairfield Road, +1 250 598-8096. Love affairs make great stories, and this one resulted in a great garden. Prince and Princess Abkhazi along with designer John Wade came together and created a garden that took over 40 years to come together on a beautiful property overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.

What to do in Victoria, BC, Canada


  • Harbor tours Small harbor ferries (about six passengers) provide transport around and a view of the Selkirk Waterway and Inner Harbour.
  • Galloping Goose Trail. A few places rent bikes and this is a great afternoon or day trip. The trail runs on a decommissioned rail bed from downtown to Sooke.
  • Whale Watching For those who are a bit more adventurous there are 8 Whale Watching companies which operate from the Downtown/Inner Harbour. You can book them all at the Tourist Information center Tourism Victoria. They have it either the same price or discounted. The companies offer up to three-hour trips and have a good success rate year round at finding one of the three resident pods of Orcas and in the summer transient Orcas, Humpbacks and Grey. 
  • Nature! The surrounding Victoria area is also an amazing place to explore if you're more inclined towards natural spots. From the Inner Harbour, you can walk in either direction along the water to the very popular local Dallas Road, or you can cross "The Blue Bridge" and end up on the Westsong Walkway into Esquimalt. Both have beautiful views of the Inner Harbour and even Port Angeles across the water. If you're feeling more energetic check out some of the attractive parks in Victoria's neighboring towns including Oak Bay, Saanich, Langford, Sooke, and Sidney.
  • Wine tasting There are five wineries within a 45-minute drive of Victoria, on the Saanich Peninsula, including some estate wineries. These wineries have a wide range of wines including those made from their own grapes, grapes grown elsewhere and fruit wines. Crush Wine Tours, +1 250 888-5748, offers a three-hour tour visiting three of the wineries, guided by a friendly and well-informed guide.

What to eat and drink in Victoria, BC, Canada


Eat

Victoria has the second-highest number of restaurants per capita of all North American cities! The waterfront tourist area is home to a wide variety of restaurants and eateries, including several English-style pubs. Try the fish and chips or shepherds pie for a taste of England in Canada. For a more eclectic Victoria experience, check out the classy restaurants that surround Chinatown, offering interesting west-coast fusion and Asian dishes.
  • Northern Quarter, 1724 Douglas St, +1 250 590-7702. Delicious food and drinks. Music most nights of the week.
  • Ocean Island Cafe Lounge, 791 Pandora, (250)385-1784. 5 PM-11 PM. Located inside Ocean Island Inn|Backpackers|Suites, it is priced for backpackers and probably the cheapest place in town to eat and one of the cheapest for drinks. The clientele is a mix of travelers, local downtown dwellers in the know, and bohemian/student types. They have live music several nights a week and their Wednesday Open Mic is a Victoria institution.
  • Relish Food & Coffee, 920 Pandora Ave, 250-590-8464. Beautiful lunch place. Great food, coffee, and treats. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday until 2:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday until 2 pm.
Pubs
  • Canoe Brewpub, 450 Swift St, +1 250 361-1940. Brewpub with good food and fantastic outdoor waterfront patio, great for a sunny afternoon in summer. Also has beautiful and spacious indoor seating, good for a large group.
  • Garrick’s Head Pub (est. 1867), 69 Bastion Square, +1 250 384-6835. A simple pub — and “One of the oldest English pubs in Canada” according to their website — but with excellent food and amazing friendly service. As is typical in such pubs, not a great selection for veggheads, but their veggie burger (nuts and chickpeas) is really fantastic. The fries are beer-battered to a lovely crispy dark golden color and the fish is cooked really well, flaky, not squeaky. Mushy peas that come with the steak pie are very tasty. Lots of traditional British food… but with taste. Not enough for you? How about that fireplace?
  • Bent Mast Pub and Restaurant, 512 Simcoe St. in James Bay, +1 250 383-6000. A great place to drink, eat, make friends, and have fun. Talk to the staff for a bit of the history of this old Victorian house and invite your friends!
  • Irish Times, 1200 Government St, +1 250 383-7775. Wonderful pub meals, good beer and lots of seating.
  • Spinnakers Brewpub, 308 Catherine St, +1 250 386-2739. Within walking distance of downtown. A great place to go for a drink or a meal. Pub: 7 days a week, 11 AM-11 PM. Restaurant: 7 AM-10:30 PM. There is a restaurant on the main floor and a brewpub upstairs. Great atmosphere and a nice view of the inner harbor, especially in the evening. A variety of in-house brews, as well as whatever else you want to drink.
  • Swans Restaurant and Hotel, 506 Pandora Ave, +1 250 361-3310. Swans brews their own beer and features live music every night of the week. Also worth checking out for the awesome art collection in the pub, including First Nations' art.
North American Cuisine
  • Blue Crab Bar & Grill, 146 Kingston St, in The Coast Harbourside Hotel & Marina, 480-1999 Beautiful harbor-view dining with an elegant atmosphere.
  • Fairfield Fish and Chips, 1277 Fairfield Road, +1 250 380-6880. They are closed Sunday and Monday and most holidays. Get your chips to go and take them 4 blocks down to the waterfront and enjoy the view of Juan De Fuca Strait. They do an especially light and fluffy batter.
  • Ferris' Oyster Bar & Grill, 536 Yates St, +1 250 360-1824. A large menu and classy atmosphere, perfect for first dates or nights out with friends. Even the burgers are good.
  • John's Place, 723 Pandora Ave, 1-250-389-0711. A local favorite with some of the best staff in town and excellent food at decent prices. The Eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce is to die for! Great place for Saturday or Sunday brunch. Comfortable, casual family & friends atmosphere. Open 364 days/year, M-Th 7 AM-9 PM, F 7 AM-10 PM, Sa 8 AM-10 PM, Su 8 AM-9 PM.
  • Shine Cafe, 1458 Fort St. and 1320 Blanshard St. A very popular brunch spot located at Oak Bay Corners (Fort and Pandora), outside of downtown and a new location in downtown. A particularly interesting dish they make is Scottish breakfast with black pudding and potato scones. Expect a long wait after 11 AM on weekends.
European Cuisine
  • Brasserie L'ecole, 1715 Government St, +1 250 475-6260. Open Tu-Sa 5:30 PM-11 PM. A highly-acclaimed fine dining destination with the atmosphere of a classy but comfy Parisian restaurant. Probably the best food in Victoria.
  • Cafe Brio Restaurant 944 Fort St, Victoria - Cafe Brio is open seven nights a week for dinner from 5:30 PM - Advance reservations are highly recommended; phone +1 250 383-0009 or Toll-Free at 1-866-270-5461 "Cafe Brio, the hottest restaurant in Victoria, is a destination for serious diners from all over the U.S. and Canada." writes Northwest Palate Magazine.
  • Il Terrazzo Ristorante, 555 Johnson St, Off Waddington Alley. Great Italian in a charming patio atmosphere.
  • Oh Gelato! Italian Ice Cream, 1013 Government Street. 66 flavors of beautifully-presented gelatos, garnished with bits of fruit or chocolate to illustrate their flavor. Also snacks and Canadian food souvenirs. Worth a stop to photograph the gelato.
  • Pagliaccis, 1011 Broad St, +1 250 386-1662. One of the most popular Italian restaurants in town. Intimate settings and addictively scrumptious endless free bread. Always a good experience.
  • Rathskeller Schnitzel House, A taste of Bavaria, best German food and beer in town; authentic interior and atmosphere! Live accordion music most nights.
West Coast Fusion
Rebar Modern Food, 50 Bastion Square, +1 250 361-9223. M-W 8:30 AM-9 PM, Th-Sa 8:30 AM-10 PM, Su 8:30 AM-3:30 PM (brunch). A partially vegetarian restaurant with a diverse modern menu, and a nice location. Limited vegan options and many menu items contain fish. 
The Mint, 1414 Douglas Street, between Pandora and Johnson, 386-6468 & 361-9223. Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine in a swanky atmosphere, DJs included. A popular spot for students.
The Noodle Box, 626 Fisgard St., +1 250 360-1312, and 818 Douglas St., +1 250 384-1314. Hours M-Sa 11 AM-9 PM, Su noon-8 PM. Another very popular spot for locals. Serves southeast Asian food fresh and in a takeaway box. Wait times vary depending on the time of day (for example, 20-25 minutes during lunch hour rush), but the meal is worth it. Minimize the wait by phoning in your order in advance. The boxes look deceptively small, but they make a very filling meal.
Mo:lé, 554 Pandora, between Government and Wharf, +1 250 385-6653. A trendy restaurant serving fusion breakfast, lunches, and dinners.

Other cuisines
  • Afternoon Tea at Venus Sophia Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery, in the heart of Chinatown on 540 Fisgard Street. Charming tea room with unique decor and ambiance. Offers a fresh twist on traditional afternoon tea. Generous portions of finger sandwiches, dainty tarts, shortbread, fruit, scones and more to be enjoyed with a fresh pot of organic loose leaf tea from an extensive selection. Tea is served in antique English teacups and teapots. Served daily from Tuesday to Sunday between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dress code: Casual/Smart-casual. Telephone: (250) 590 - 3953. Reservations recommended, walk-ins welcome.
  • Afternoon Tea, at the Empress Hotel (see under "Lodging"). This is quintessentially Victoria or unbearably kitsch, depending on your taste. Afternoon Tea, served from 12 noon on, includes fine teas, fruit with cream, and elegant petite sandwiches. Altogether it is a full meal. Price changes with the season. West Coast Tea, served Th-Sa from 7 PM on during the summer only, builds on the concept but is designed for cruise ship visitors. Reservations required and should be made 1-2 weeks in advance at (250) 389-2727. Dress-code is "smart casual": dresses and ties not required, but avoid tank tops and flip-flops.
  • Green Cuisine, #5-560 Johnson St., in the Market Square center, tel +1 250 385-1809. Vegetarian Restaurant offers a buffet of 100% vegan dishes. Open 10-20h daily in the summer, M-Sa 10-20h and Sun 10-17h in the winter.

Drink

Cabs aren’t too expensive and there isn’t too far to go to get from point A to B. Victoria's police force has an aggressive crackdown on drinking and driving, so take a cab, all you have to do is stumble to Douglas and eventually you will grab one before someone else. Most bars have cash machines inside and accept only cash as payment.
  • Lucky Bar 517 Yates. A bit small, but not nearly as costly as others.
  • Upstairs Cabaret (in Bastion square).
  • Distrikt is probably the largest club in Victoria, with a sunken dance floor and multiple bars. Used to be called Legends and was very popular. in the basement of the Strathcona hotel which also features the Clubhouse, Rooftop and Big Bad John's.
  • Victoria's gay crowd, although usually more comfortable at Lucky or Hush, will occasionally show their support and hang out at Paparazzi (formerly known as Prism) the “official” gay bar on Johnson St. The music is pumping and special drag shows or karaoke contests are often. Straight people are welcome…sort of…if they are willing to have a little fun anyway.
  • Redd's Roadhouse Pub (Redd's Pub), 3020 Blanshard Street (In front of Topaz Park), 250-382-4400. 11 am-11 pm. Sports bar featuring all sports events in huge TV screens, daily specials, game nights and live bands.

Shopping in Victoria, BC, Canada


Victoria is full of little shops tucked away in every nook and cranny in the center. Souvenir shops are all around the Inner Harbour. Although people generally think Victoria is a tourist destination only, there are more than just tourist shops.
  • Americans so inclined may want to take the opportunity to pick up a Cuban Cigar or two. Just don't expect to be able to bring any back with you through Customs.
  • Government Street, from the Inner Harbour up to Chinatown, is the biggest (and rather touristy) shopping drag. The best way to go is just to wander the streets but make sure you check out some little gems like Market Square, at the bottom of Johnson St. In the summertime there's live music here.
  • Fort Street is otherwise known as Antique Row. From Blanshard to Cook Streets, Fort Street is lined with small antique shops and auction houses.
  • The Inner Harbour has artisans selling their crafts during the summer (and part of spring and fall as well sometimes), and Bastion Square (off of Government Street) often has a summer craft market as well.
  • LoJo or Lower Johnson Street has several higher-end fashion boutiques. It's a good place to find local and international designer clothes.
  • Fan Tan Alley is an alley in Chinatown. It was originally a gambling district with restaurants, shops, and opium dens. Today it is a tourist destination with many small shops including a barber shop, art gallery, Chinese cafe, and apartments. It is the narrowest street in Canada. At its narrowest point, it is only 0.9 meters (35 in) wide.

Safety in Victoria, BC, Canada


There is a drug presence among people living on the streets and in the bars. This means that panhandling can be a problem. Panhandlers are aggressive despite laws against this behavior. You may wish to avoid Pandora Street between Cook and Quadra as this is where a huge majority hang out. Do not walk around parks and grassy areas in sandals or bare feet as there are many needles discarded in these areas, city workers are quick to clean them up but it is always a good idea to be precautious in these areas. However, there is a strong police presence on downtown streets during the summer, especially on weekends at night. This problem is generally confined to the tourist area bounded by Blanshard Street.

Victoria is in an active seismic zone; in the unlikely event of a major earthquake, duck, and cover and stay where you are during the shaking, then go outside once the shaking stops. Buildings and other structures are unlikely to collapse. Your largest threats come from broken glass and falling objects such as ceiling tiles and content from shelves. Try to get under a table or desk to reduce your exposure to these threats. You are more likely to be injured if you try to run during the shaking.

Language spoken in Victoria, BC, Canada


Although Canada is officially a bilingual French/English country, you would be hard pressed to find many French-speaking people in BC. Services from the federal government are officially available in both English and French. Provincial and municipal governments operate in English only. So some people speak French and a lot of people speak English in British Columbia. Some businesses, especially in Vancouver and Victoria offer services in a number of languages (primarily Asian ones). Banks sometimes indicate by a sign in the window which languages are offered.

At one time Chinook Jargon, a bridge language for trading between English, French and First Nations peoples in the late 1800's and early 1900's, was common and almost became the official language of BC. Now there are very few speakers of the language, but many terms from the language are common slang terms in parts of BC.

Cheechaku - Newcomer (more common in Northern BC and the Yukon).
Saltchuck - The ocean.
High Muckamuck - The chief, or boss.
Kultus - Bad or worthless.
Skookum - Strong, powerful, or impressive.
Skookumchuck - "strong water", used for rapids, especially saltwater rapids

LOCAL TIME

7:10 am
October 18, 2019
America/Vancouver

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10.38 °C/51 °F
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