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Top Things To Do in Victoria

Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, is a well-known tourist destination popular for its charming harbour, beautiful parks, gardens, and interesting history. It’s an easy day trip from Vancouver but you should definitely plan to spend a few days exploring this scenic spot.

The Legislature building in downtown Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

The local travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations help visitors to Canada plan personalized vacations. We love Victoria and highly recommend including it in your plans.  

In this comprehensive guide, we let you in on the best things to do in Victoria, BC, so you can craft your perfect Canadian itinerary. 

Reasons to Visit Victoria

Why choose Victoria, BC as a stop on your next trip? For a start, the city's mild weather allows for outdoor activities all year round.

Although the most ideal time to visit is from March to May and September to November, Victoria is still a destination that caters to every season: 

  • Visitors in the spring can enjoy beautiful gardens, thanks to Victoria's ideal conditions for flowers. It’s known as a garden city, with lots of blooms.  
  • If you arrive in the summer, prepare for fun outdoor activities. This season is also great for whale watchers. 
  • Don't worry if you can't make it in the prime seasons — there's also plenty to do in the quieter off-season. You might even catch the magical winter festivities.

No matter when you visit, there are numerous things to do in Victoria for a memorable stay. 

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Beautiful Parks, Gardens, and Ocean Views

The city of Victoria offers a haven for nature lovers with its beautiful parks and gardens, and stunning ocean views. You're given ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and sightseeing, from stunning vistas to wildlife viewing.

1. Beacon Hill Park

Located right near the city center, Beacon Hill Park is a must-visit. This park is well-known for its beautiful gardens, walking trails, and recreational areas. It's also a hotspot for wildlife sightings. 

Don't miss the water parks and recognizable landmarks such as Mile 0 and the Terry Fox statue. While there, be sure to take in the breathtaking views across Juan de Fuca Strait to the Olympic Peninsula. 

2. Goldstream Provincial Park

Another gem near Victoria is Goldstream Provincial Park. As a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, you have multiple camping and hiking opportunities at your disposal. 

One of its extraordinary spectacles is the annual salmon spawning run, where you observe different species of Pacific salmon.  

Another scenic beauty you can experience at Goldstream Provincial Park is the Goldstream Trestle Bridge and the picturesque waterfalls.

3. Mount Douglas Park

Mount Douglas Park is the largest urban forest on the Saanich Peninsula, covering 188 hectares. With 21 kilometers of scenic hiking trails available, there's something for everyone, regardless of your hiking experience. 

Not only do these trails provide exercise, but you can experience breathtaking 360-degree scenic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes from the top.

4. Hatley Castle Gardens

Hatley Castle Gardens is more than just a site of beauty; it carries considerable historical significance. Built in 1908, the castle served as a dormitory and mess hall for the Royal Roads Military College before transitioning to the public Royal Roads University. 

Known as a National Historic Site, Hatley Castle gives you a glimpse into the area's rich past, while enchanting you with its fairytale charm. And if you're a movie buff you might also recognize it as the filming location for X-Men and Deadpool! 

While the gardens are free to explore, access to the castle's interior requires a guided tour.

5. Butchart Gardens

This world-renown attraction is a horticultural tour-de-force spanning 20 hectares — make sure this garden is part of your itinerary when you get to Victoria. 

Established by Jennie Butchart in 1904, it has five different gardens — the Italian garden, the Rose garden, the Japanese garden, the Mediterranean garden, and the visually striking Sunken garden. 

The gardens also have a stage for artistic and musical performances, enhancing the atmosphere and giving you a memorable experience. 

To learn more about the gardens, visit the Butchart Gardens official website (1).

6. Thunderbird Park

Nestled next to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, Thunderbird Park is a quiet, tree-lined green space that offers more than just beautiful landscapes. It also houses a collection of First Nation monuments, including vibrant totem poles. 

The park's distinctive features include the colorful Wawadit'la and an on-site carving studio creating replicas of ancient totems. It's a perfect spot if you yearn for relaxation, appreciation of native art, and experiencing history.

Museums and Historical Sights

In Victoria, BC, numerous museums and historical sights allow you to experience the city's rich history. It boasts architectural treasures, art, and cultural life rooted in its history, as demonstrated by the following iconic landmarks.

1. Victoria Parliament Buildings

The Victoria Parliament Buildings hold an important place in Victoria's cultural heritage. If you appreciate design, then you will enjoy the buildings' exquisite architecture and their historical significance. 

In front of the buildings stands a statue of Queen Victoria, a significant landmark in Victoria, BC, which commemorates the city's connection to its namesake.

2. Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle is a noteworthy National Historic Site displaying exceptional Victorian architecture in Victoria, BC. The castle was built in the 1880s by wealthy coal entrepreneur Robert Dunsmuir and is now open to you for self-guided tours. 

This historical attraction allows you to immerse yourself in the rich history of the region. You can find Craigdarroch Castle at 1050 Joan Crescent, with operating hours from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

3. Fan Tan Alley

Located in Victoria's Chinatown, Fan Tan Alley is a must-see for visitors looking for a unique and lively experience. This intriguing lane is famous for being one of Canada's narrowest streets. Victoria's Chinatown is an important cultural hub in the city, bustling with history, architecture, and color. 

When wandering through Fan Tan Alley, take a moment to appreciate its red brick walls and the appealing boutique shops that line the alley. While you're there, don't forget to visit Kid Sister, a popular homemade ice cream shop that will add a sweet touch to your experience.

4. Emily Carr Statue on Government Street

If you're strolling down Government Street in Victoria, you'll inevitably come across the thought-provoking statue of Emily Carr. 

As a renowned Canadian artist and writer, Carr made a lasting impact on the country's cultural landscape with her vivid representations of indigenous peoples and the breathtaking West Coast scenery. Take a moment to admire this stunning monument, which is a tribute to Carr's remarkable talent and cultural influence.

5. Fisherman's Wharf

Just around the bend from Victoria's Inner Harbour, Fisherman's Wharf welcomes you with colourful float homes, local seafood eateries, and unique shops. 

Sample some of the freshest seafood the city has to offer and observe the local seals who love to bask here. Fisherman's Wharf, with its lively atmosphere and scenic bay views, is truly an experience you wouldn't want to miss.

6. Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC Museum, situated in downtown Victoria, houses a world-class collection of cultural artifacts and natural specimens. 

Permanent exhibits, such as the Natural History Gallery and the First Peoples Gallery, resonate with the museum's dedication to British Columbia's rich history. The museum also hosts notable temporary exhibitions, keeping the content fresh and exciting for return visits. 

Make sure to add the Royal BC Museum to your itinerary for a deep dive into the province's storied past.

7. Imax Theatre Victoria

When you're in Victoria, BC, you absolutely can't miss a visit to Imax Theatre Victoria. Known for its immersive movie experience, the centre features a giant screen and state-of-the-art technology that truly brings visuals to life. 

You'll find everything here from mesmerizing nature films to educational content that gets you thinking. Take your movie-watching experience to new heights with Imax Theatre Victoria.

Unique Experiences and Activities

Victoria, BC, is more than just beautiful landscapes and rich history. The city also invites you to partake in unique experiences and adventurous activities only found in this corner of the world.

1. Whale Watching

Whale watching is a popular activity in the area, with multiple local operators providing tours to see these amazing marine animals up close. Whether you spot a group of Orcas or a Humpback making a splash, these tours provide memorable experiences for all ages.

2. Miniature World

At Miniature World, you'll find an intriguing collection of tiny, detailed displays. Explore cities, castles, and fairy tale scenes all in miniature form. It's an excellent attraction for anyone with an interest in craftsmanship and imagination.

3. Malahat Skywalk

For an incredible view of the surrounding area, visit the Malahat Skywalk. This elevated walkway and spiral tower lets you take in some of the most breathtaking vistas of the surrounding forest, mountains, and the distant sparkle of the Salish Sea.

4. Victoria Butterfly Gardens

Step into a tropical paradise at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Filled with thousands of tropical butterflies and exotic plants, this indoor garden also houses various tropical birds and fishes. It's a great spot to relax and appreciate the natural beauty of the region.

5. Exploring Beyond the City

Victoria, BC is as an ideal base to explore the surrounding areas — with an abundance of outdoor activities and charming destinations just a stone's throw away.

6. Kayaking and Sailing

Take advantage of the region's beautiful waterfront by indulging in water sports like kayaking and sailing. A variety of rental and tour options are available for both beginners and experienced enthusiasts. 

Kayak tours typically range from around $85 while rentals start from $50 depending on how long you rent it for. Sailing tours can vary widely in price depending on the length and type of tour but expect to pay around $125 and up per person.

7. Nearby Hikes

The region around Victoria is home to numerous hiking trails that cater to different skill levels. Some popular options include: 

  • Gowlland Tod Provincial Park: With over 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) of trails varying in difficulty, this park offers scenic hiking amidst forests, meadows, and beautiful vistas. The Jocelyn Hill Trail Loop, 9.2 kilometres (5.7 miles) round trip with moderate difficulty, and McKenzie Bight Trail, 3.4 kilometres (2.1 miles) round trip with easy-moderate difficulty are two popular options. 
  • East Sooke Regional Park: This park features over 50 kilometres (31.1 miles) of trails, including a rugged 10-kilometre (6.2 miles) stretch along the coastal path known as the Coast Trail (difficult). However, there are also easier options like the Aylard Farm to Becher Bay Trail (6.8 kilometres/4.2 miles, easy). 
  • Mount Finlayson: A challenging 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) round trip with steep inclines but rewarding with panoramic views at the summit. This hike is considered difficult due to its elevation gain.

8. Day Trips to Nearby Islands

Victoria's coastline offers excellent access to explore the nearby islands on day trips. 

Hop on a ferry or join a guided tour to discover the unique charm and natural beauty of destinations such as Salt Spring Island, Sooke, and Mayne Island. Each island offers its own attractions, including local markets, art galleries, and pristine wilderness. 

With so many adventures waiting just outside the city limits, Victoria, BC, is a gateway to a world of exhilarating experiences.

Travel Tip: Add a wellness experience

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This West Coast oasis offers lots of opportunities for relaxation and pampering. Spend time in the rainforest, take a yoga class, get a massage, or visit HAVN, the floating Nordic spa in the Inner Harbour, for a sauna and cold plunge.

Blog Author - Athena McKenzie
Athena McKenzie
Content Manager

Historical Sites and Entertainment

Victoria, BC, showcases a rich history and a vibrant line-up of entertainment options to keep you engaged throughout your visit.

Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site

At the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, you can experience a slice of Canadian history. This coastal artillery fort, built in the 1890s, provides a glimpse into the past and Canada's role in the British Empire's defense. 

Explore the well-preserved grounds, featuring original buildings, bunkers, and gun batteries. The site also includes the Fisgard Lighthouse, the oldest one on the West Coast of Canada.

Entertainment and Tours

Victoria presents a variety of entertainment avenues and tours for diverse tastes. Some popular options include: 

  • Victoria Symphony: Enjoy classical music performances. 
  • Belfry Theatre: Catch contemporary plays in a beautifully restored church venue. 
  • Victoria Pedicab Company: Discover the city on a fun pedicab ride with a knowledgeable local guide. 
  • Food Tours: Satisfy your taste buds while discovering local culinary delights. 
  • Pub Crawl: Take in the vibrant nightlife scene while hopping across Victoria's unique pubs. 

Nighttime in Victoria

As the sun sets, Victoria comes alive with various nighttime activities and entertainment options: 

  • Live Music: Check out "Hermann's Jazz Club" for great jazz, and "Upstairs Cabaret" for a fun mix of live bands and DJ sets. 
  • Nightclubs: Dance the night away at high-energy clubs like "Lucky Bar" and "Distrikt". 
  • Breweries: Victoria is famous for its craft beer scene. Local breweries such as "Phillips Brewing & Malting Co." and "Vancouver Island Brewing" offer brewery tours and tastings. 

For a more relaxed evening, take a stroll along the Inner Harbour, where you can enjoy illuminated Parliament Buildings and beautiful water reflections. 

Historic, exciting, and uniquely charming, Victoria, BC, holds surprises for its visitors, both during the day as well as after dark.

Other Attractions and Activities

There's never a dull moment in Victoria, BC—with a variety of attractions and activities that cater to all ages and interests.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Experience historical art as well as contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. You'll find yourself marvelling at over 20,000 masterpieces, with highlights ranging from local Canadian creations to grand Asian collections. 

Don't forget to take a moment in the serene Asian garden, where you'll find a stunning Shinto shrine — an authentic testament to Victoria's diverse cultural fabric.

Family-Friendly Activities

If you're travelling with the little ones, Victoria has you covered. The city is packed with interactive museums, regularly scheduled kids' festivals, zoos, and wildlife parks that bring you and your family closer to nature. 

A stand-out favourite is the Melbourne Museum, packed with child-friendly exhibits guaranteed to spark your kids' curiosity. Or why not try meeting some of Australia's unique creatures at the Melbourne Zoo or the Healesville Sanctuary? Family adventure is never more than a stone's throw away!

Travle Tip: Look for wildlife

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This vibrant city has an active Inner Harbour that is home to many creatures, including harbour seals, river otters, and many bird species. Occasionally a pod of orcas will even venture close to the shores.

Canada Travel Blog Author - Carolyn Camilleri
Carolyn Camilleri
Travel Writer

Culinary Adventures: Food and Drink

Victoria, BC's culinary scene, is as diverse and exciting as its sights. Here are some must-try foodie activities to indulge in during your visit.

1. Afternoon Tea

Tradition comes alive with afternoon tea—a beloved Victoria experience. Feel like royalty at the iconic Fairmont Empress, or sip tranquility in the beautiful surroundings of the Abkhazi Garden and The Butchart Gardens. Every cup comes with a side of delectable pastries and a feeling of serene luxury.

2. Tour Craft Breweries

Here's a title Victoria is proud of— 'the cradle of the craft beer revolution.' Pint enthusiasts cannot pass up a tour of local breweries where you can sample a variety of craft beers and get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process. Popular stops include Phillips Brewing & Malting Co., Vancouver Island Brewing, and the older Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub & Guesthouses. 

3. Brunch Scene

Start your day right with a visit to one of Victoria's many vibrant brunch spots. Make sure to try Jam Café, known for its generous, delicious servings, or the Blue Fox Cafe, where traditional breakfast gets a quirky twist. For those looking for healthier options, Nourish Kitchen and Café promises farm-to-table goodness that doesn't compromise on taste.

Practical Tips for Visitors

Before setting foot in Victoria, it's handy to know a few practical aspects of visiting this beautiful city. Here's some essential information about transportation and ways to travel on a budget.

Transportation in Victoria

Getting to Victoria: 

  • Ferries: BC Ferries offers frequent services from Vancouver (Tsawwassen terminal) to Victoria (Swartz Bay terminal) — taking approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes. 
  • Flights: Victoria International Airport (YYJ) is well-connected to major Canadian cities, and some U.S destinations. Airlines like Air Canada, WestJet, and Alaska Airlines offer regular flights. 
  • Seaplanes: Take a seaplane from Vancouver Harbour or Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Victoria Harbour. The approximate flight duration is 30-35 minutes, with companies like Harbour Air and Kenmore Air providing services. 

Getting around Victoria: 

  • Public Transportation: BC Transit operates an extensive system of buses that covers all major areas of the city. Fares are reasonable, and a day pass is also available. 
  • Walking: Victoria has many pedestrian-friendly areas, particularly around the Inner Harbour and downtown, making it easy to explore on foot. 
  • Cycling: With ample bike lanes and bike-friendly routes, you can rent a bike or use the bike-sharing program. 
  • Car Rentals: Numerous car rental agencies operate in the city, including major companies like Avis, Budget, and Hertz. Renting a car is a great choice if you plan to explore the city and its surrounding areas at your own pace. 
  • Taxis and Rideshares: Taxis are easily accessible in Victoria, and rideshare services like Uber also operate in the city. 

Tips for Saving Money 

  • Use public transportation or bicycles over taxis and car rentals. 
  • Explore free or low-cost attractions, including the Inner Harbour, Beacon Hill Park, and Fisherman's Wharf. 
  • Many museums offer discounted or "by donation" entry on certain days. 
  • Plan your trip ahead to take advantage of seasonal deals and budget-friendly choices. 

Where to Stay and Where to Eat

Choosing where to stay and where to eat is an important part of any travel plan. In the seaside city of Victoria, you're spoiled for choice.

Accommodation Options

Victoria has accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets. 

For a luxury stay, consider the Fairmont Empress, an iconic property overlooking the Inner Harbour. The Magnolia Hotel & Spa offers a boutique experience with elegant rooms and personalized service. 

Budget travelers can look at options like the Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza Hotel, known for its value for money and central location. 

Culinary Hotspots

From water-view fine dining restaurants like Il Terrazzo to quirky local gems like Blue Fox Cafe, Victoria's culinary scene won't disappoint. You can also enjoy sweeping views of the harbour at the Aura Waterfront Restaurant.

Don't Just Visit Victoria, Explore It

From its scenic harbours to the vibrant cultural scenes, and exciting culinary diversity, Victoria, BC indeed stands as a must-visit destination. 

But why stop there when the entire Canadian landscape calls for exploration? 

For a truly unforgettable journey, create your itinerary with the local travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days is enough for Victoria?

A 2 to 3-day trip should be sufficient to cover the main attractions of Victoria.

Is Victoria an expensive city?

While Victoria can be pricier compared to other Canadian cities, planning, and budget-friendly choices can make your trip affordable.

Is there a pass for multiple attractions in Victoria?

There currently isn't a single pass that covers multiple attractions in Victoria, BC, similar to some city passes available in other destinations. However, you might find combination tickets or bundled offers for specific attractions or activities.

Are there pet-friendly activities or attractions in Victoria?

Yes, Victoria is known for being a pet-friendly city, with many parks, trails, and even some restaurants and pubs welcoming pets.

About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Content Manager at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more

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