Victoria, one of the West Coast’s oldest cities, was given its moniker after the long-reigning Queen Victoria of Great Britain. With its stunning, colonial-era architecture and serene, natural beauty, this southernmost Canadian city is surrounded by the Salish Sea to its East and the vast Pacific Ocean to its West. A visit to Victoria will leave guests feeling more connected to the Pacific Northwest: it’s a beacon of history, politics, and, of course, the eco-tourism industry. Here is our list of the top 7 things to do when you make it to the capital of beautiful British Columbia.
1) Prince of Whales Whale Watching Overnight Tours from Vancouver
We just had to! The Pacific Northwest is known for its fresh air and biodiverse waters. We’re known around the world for our southern resident killer whales, bald eagles, sea otters, and the great return of the magnificent humpback! Whale watch from Vancouver to Victoria on the Ultimate Day Tour aboard our Salish Sea Dream, which then takes you up to the Butchart Gardens. Later, take the sunset tour back to the mainland. You can also stay the night and experience more of what Victoria has to offer. After you’ve had your Island fill, connect back to Vancouver or head up to Whistler via Harbour Air. Otherwise continue down south through Clipper Vacations’ ferry transfer to downtown Seattle! Who doesn’t love a good city-hop?
2) Visit the Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs Exhibit at the Royal BC Museum
Just launched last month, Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs, is a great jaunt for those captivated by history, and proves itself a delight to behold for everyone else. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibit takes visitors back into a time when civilization united upper and lower Egypt, agriculture reinvigorated the formerly uninhabitable Nile, pharaonic burial places led to the explosion of historical masterpieces–the pyramid–and gods were believed to have lived among the populace. “With more than 300 original artifacts, some an astounding 4,500 years old, this exhibition covers all aspects of ancient Egyptian life, from the emergence of ancient Egyptian civilization,” the museum states, “to the Ptolemaic and Roman eras.” Rare artifacts that don’t often make their way to North America are truly a gift to observe.
3) View the Valley of Castles at Miniature World
Picture yourself as a medieval knight clad in shining armor, or imagine your kids as mini Joan of Arcs and Robin Hoods while visiting this nostalgic dreamland of rolling hills and romantic, awe-inspiring mini-castles. Let the enchantment bring you back through time, into a world where screens didn’t occupy your days and galavanting through vast farmland on horseback with sword in hand was commonplace. Next up … Fantasyland and Frontierland–it’s a mini-marathon!
One of the oldest Chinatowns in North America (only second to San Francisco’s), this historic, Victoria neighborhood is an array of antiquated buildings, rich culture, and fascinating history. The Goldrush during the mid-1800s in the Fraser Canyon led to an explosion in immigration to the area, while famine, poverty and political strife led others to make the long trek across the Pacific Ocean from mainland China. The result was a dramatic era of opium use, gambling dens, and later, a social progression that led to self-determination and artistic entrepreneurship. Now filled with delicious cuisine, captivating culture, preserved traditions, and vivid, picturesque sights, Chinatown is certainly a place to see. Insiders tip: be sure to stop by the picturesque Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in North America!
5) Eat with Victoria Food Tours
Simply googling where to eat in a given city can often show you who has the biggest advertising budget, not who has the best food. Heading out on a foodie tour will open the door to a world where locally-kept secrets are now yours to try. In a two hour wander through the city, Victoria Foodie Tours will bring you to the most scrumptious spots. From nouveau coffee-roaster-cafés to the most whispered about new chef to the most cutting-edge, farm-to-table dining rooms, let your foodie guides take you on a time-stopping excursion of gastronomic delight.
6) Get Inspired at Night Illuminations in Butchart Gardens
Let the magic take you away while you stroll peacefully at the end of your day through the multicolored luminescence arising from the floral sensations dancing below you. The Butchart Gardens lights up its world-renowned flora for visitors to experience, bringing you on a magical tour of succulent smells and incomparable sights. Daily music concerts from their open-air stage offer an additional draw to these ethereal gardens and summer offers the unique opportunity to catch fireworks at the Garden, which display every Saturday. (All is possible via our Whales and Gardens Tour.) Night time is always when the magic happens, isn’t it?
7) Cycling the City with The Pedaler Tours
We all know that one of the best tips for health and happiness is not only to get exercise but to break a sweat in the great outdoors. Discovering Victoria by bicycle is an experience that offers both. Pedaler stints are not too vigorous so are easy enough to do, but they still offer more physicality than sitting on a tour bus. These local-led bicycle tours unveil the territorial Galloping Goose and Lochside trails that are popular in the region. They take you to picturesque views, historic sites, and bring you through the unique neighborhoods and distinctive architecture that makes Victoria so culturally rich and easy on the eye. Now let’s get outside!