Before coming to Canada we’ve heard of Vancouver Island but imagined it to be a small island near Vancouver with a few holiday houses and beautiful nature. While the second part is true, Vancouver island is with 31.285m² actually about as big (even bigger) than Belgium and many other entire countries. It takes roughly 6 hours by car to get from one side of the island to the other (top to bottom).
In the southern part of this island the beautiful capital of British Columbia can be found. Though most people visiting Canada explore Vancouver, many skip Victoria- a big mistake as we think.
It is easy to spend a perfect day in Victoria BC as this city has something for everyone! The ocean, mountain views, city life within the CBD, big green parks, many cafés and cute houses. On top it is a vibrant city which highly values sustainability: very bike friendly, a city wide plastic bag ban and monthly ocean clean-ups in the area organized by the ‘Surfrider Foundation’ are some of the great steps towards a greener future.
Did we convince you yet?
We have lived for four months in this amazing city, loved it from the very first day and could have imagined living there forever if we wanted to move to Canada. With this blog we hope to add Victoria, BC to your bucket list (if it’s not already on there) and help you have the best time in one of our favorite cities in the world.
Itinerary for the perfect day in Victoria BC
We have laid out an itinerary for the perfect day in Victoria BC – for you to explore this amazing city ‘like a local’. It is all walkable, however, some parts will require a lot of walking. Nonetheless, you can rent a bike for more comfort – especially for the afternoon section of our itinerary. Click here to see more information under ‘Biking around Victoria BC’.
Start your perfect day in Victoria BC with a delicious breakfast at the Jam Café on Herald Street. Whatever it is your craving- if savory or sweet, meaty or vegetarian you won’t be disappointed! As this café is one of the popular breakfast spots in Victoria and doesn’t take reservations, be there when the café opens (8am) to avoid queuing.
After breakfast you can easily walk to Canada’s oldest Chinatown and see it slowly waking up. Within a few minutes on foot you’ll reach Fisgard Street- the main street of Victoria’s Chinatown. Looking to your left you will see the ‘Gate of Harmonious Interest’ a typical Chinese style arch – this is the beginning of the Chinese district. Make sure to walk through the Dragon Alley which opens after 9am and the Fan Tan Alley after 9.30am/10am. The Fan Tan Alley is a super narrow passageway – according to Tourism Victoria the most narrow one in Canada- with different stores alongside. Walking through it has a beautiful charm – with Chinese lanterns and colorful signs above you.
Next on the agenda is our favorite street of Victoria – the cute buildings of lower Johnson Street or ‘LoJo’ as the locals call it definitely can’t be missed when visiting BC’s capital. The best way to get there is walking down Pandora Avenue towards the water, turning left on Store Street and left again at the end. Here you are: standing right across from Victoria’s most colorful and unique facades. If you haven’t had coffee yet, or have your standard two coffees each morning like Dan, Hey Happy is the place! This is where Manu tried latte with honey for the very first time and immediately fell in love – honey is available in most cafes in Canada to add to your coffee.
From here you also have access to the Market Square – Victoria’s ‘heart of the old town’. The square is surrounded by heritage brick buildings in which you can find local boutiques and eateries. We especially love the with flower decorated fountain at the entrance.
Another square which can’t be missed when walking through the historic part of Victoria is the Bastion Square. It is best accessible from Government Street. This way you get to walk through its entry arch and have a beautiful harbor view revealed to you while walking toward the square. Due to its history as a place of public execution the square with its connecting streets is said to be the most haunted place in Victoria. However, we thankfully couldn’t feel anything of this dark past while strolling and sitting on it.
Make your way down to the city harbor. We recommend walking back to Government Street as this is the nicest and most popular street leading to the Marina. If you, however, are interested in planes walk down Wharf Street and check-out the harbor Air-Seaplanes. Seeing them take off from the water is pretty cool!
Arriving at the Inner Harbor you will see two of the most impressive and popular buildings of Victoria: the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel and the beautiful British Columbia Parliament building. We loved sitting on the grass in front of the Parliament and absorbing Victoria’s beauty from this viewpoint – it’s also a great place to have some snacks, which you hopefully packed 🙂 If interested, you can visit the inside of the parliament building free of charge: Public tours are offered from 9am to 5pm daily. For more information: https://www.leg.bc.ca/content-peo/Pages/Public-Tours.aspx
After a quick rest on the grass it’s time for another highlight of this wonderful city: Fisherman’s Wharf. Only half an hour on foot until you reach the wharf with its cute boat houses. To get there follow Belleville Street to the left and make sure to continue on the David Foster Way for a beautiful walk along the water. Besides the colorful boat houses, the wharf is famous for the freshly caught fish dishes.
We recommend ‘the Fish Store’ for some nice fish. We had fish & chips with halibut and a ‘fishwich’ with salmon’, both were amazing! Be, however, careful of the many hungry seagulls flying around. If you’re lucky you can see a more pleasant visitor: seals like to swim near the wharf in hope of some leftover fish.
For dessert check-out the Jackson’s ice cream float. We spotted ‘the Danny’.
To get back to the city center, you can either walk the same way you came or take a taxi boat back to the ‘Empress Dock’. It costs $7 and is so worth it! We absolutely loved feeling the salty breeze on the tiny boat, having a chat with the captain and experiencing the Inner Harbor through this unique viewpoint from the water.
In about 10minutes walking distance from the Inner Harbor, you get to Beacon Hill Park. Spend the afternoon strolling through the park, relaxing in the sun and enjoying the many flowers, trees and ponds. Located quite central in the park, you’ll find the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. Be there at 5.10pm to see the Goat Stampede – goats and many baby goats running back to their barn for overnight.
Another attraction located in the park is the world’s tallest free standing totem pole. On its top you might see a bald eagle who likes returning to this spot – and was sitting on the top most times we passed the totem pole.
Walk along the ocean on the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail with a beautiful view towards the United States. The mountain range in the background belongs to the Olympic National Park near Seattle, US. Great spots for you to check-out are Finlayson Point, the Mile Zero Monument and a statue of Terry Fox, a young Canadian who ran cross-Canada to raise money for cancer research.
You will for sure have built up some good appetite after spending this perfect day in Victoria BC exploring around the city so here are several dinner options for you. If you like to stay in the area get a yummy Pizza from Prima Strada – either dine-in or take away to enjoy it at Dallas Rd with ocean view or for a more exotic dinner experience check-out the Messob Ethiopian Cuisine with its cute backyard to dine in. They also deliver if you prefer sitting at the ocean. If you choose to have dinner in the CBD we recommend Darcy’s, The Local, 10 Acres, Island Poké, Baan Thai Wok & Bar – there are many more and in the end it is up to you what you feel like 🙂
Unfortunately, there is no good public transportation from Dallas Road back to the CBD. You can either walk back to town which takes about half an hour/40mins depending on where you’re heading or get a taxi for approx $15. If you finish your exploration at the Mile Zero Monument/ Terry Fox statue you can catch a bus for most of the way from further up Douglas Street.
Go to the bus stop Douglas at Beacon- Beacon Hill Park with stop ID 100080, which is located about 5 minutes walking distance from the monument in opposite direction of the ocean. Bus route 2 towards Oak Bay Village gets you to the city center. Get off at Douglas at Fort (stop ID 100032) or the one after Johnson at Douglas (stop ID 100063) to be most central. https://www.bctransit.com/victoria/schedules-and-maps/route-overview?route=2 .
To end your perfect day in Victoria BC grab a drink in town- we recommend the Irish Times for some live music, Mondays to Saturdays – or challenge your travel partner at the Interactivity Board Game Cafe. Besides local beers and wine they serve the yummiest milkshakes and bowls of gummies to share 🙂 The awesome staff has a great knowledge of board games and is eager to give recommendations/ help out with the rules. We found Kahuna as new two person game for us. You should give this competitive game a go!
If you have more than a day we suggest adding the following to your Victoria-visit:
- TO SEE
- Art Gallery of Greater Victoria: the regular admission fee is $13. If you happen to be in Victoria on the first Tuesday of any month, you can enter by donation
- Craigdarroch Castle: you can admire its beautiful architecture free of charge while walking around the mansion. If you’d like to enter, there is an admission fee of $14.60/adult
- Gardens surrounding Government House: there are many different gardens surrounding BC’s government house, which are free to visit. For some refreshment, you can pop in to Cary Mews Tea House
- Mount Douglas: from here you get the best view over Victoria. You can drive to the top and walk the last bit up to the lookout point
- TO EAT
- Chocolats Favoris: this place is heaven for people with a sweet tooth like Manu. Here you can find with chocolate and other toppings covered ice cream .
- Red Fish Blue Fish: according to many locals we spoke to, this is where you find the best fish & chips. Be prepared to stand in line!
- Shanzee’s Biscuit Café: great place for brekkie or lunch. We especially loved the interior and beautiful, quiet outdoor seating area
- El Furniture Warehouse: you probably won’t find a place offering better lunch or dinner deals. Can you beat a $5.95 all day everyday food menu?
- Fol Epi: check out this bakery/café for their amazing organic bread and various other bakery goods. This is where Manu went for her German bread cravings.
Top 3 sunrise and sunset spots away from the Inner City hustle and bustle
Being located at the ocean with big hills within the city Victoria is a great place to watch the sun rise and set. We have outlined our favorite spots and added coordinates for you to easily find the viewpoints. Just copy & paste them to google and get directed to our most-loved locations to enjoy the daylight come and go. No matter what time of year, we recommend bringing a jacket as Victoria’s weather can change quickly and exposed spots like these are often windy.
- Trafalgar Park 48°24’28.9″N 123°19’10.5″W
- Perched by the seaside this rocky/bushy park was our favorite to see the sunrise. The contrast of the sounds of the waves rolling closely below and the backdrop of the distant Washington State mountain range slowly becoming illuminated make this spot so special.
- Mt Douglas Lookout Point 48°29’34.6″N 123°20’48.3″W
- Standing above the city, this lookout offers a 360 degree view of the stunning landscape surrounding Victoria. It is easily accessible by car, with parking close to the summit.
- Finlayson Point near Dallas Road 48°24’24.0″N 123°21’52.8″W
- The Dallas Road Waterfront Trail is great to watch the play of colors in the sky and mirrored in the ocean with the distant American mountain range in the background. You can either go for a morning run along the trail facing east to see the sunrise or sit down on one of the many benches. Our favorite spot is Finlayson Point – a little section going out towards the water. Having to go between some bushes, the spot seems quite secluded. There is a grass patch and a bench you can sit on.
- Moss Rock Park 48°24’43.2″N 123°20’46.4″W
- You would never expect a towering rocky hill to be nestled between suburban houses. However, the top of this place offers gorgeous views towards the ocean and city especially during sunset. We learned about this spot from a colleague and definitely would have not discovered it without local knowledge.
- Gonzales Observatory 48°24’48.6″N 123°19’31.3″W
- Standing at 66m above sea level this viewpoint is absolutely stunning as you can see as far west over the island as Sooke Hills (17km away), and of course over the strait towards the Olympic Mountain Range (on the US mainland). It’s the perfect spot to crack open a beer, recline on the naturally formed ‘coach shaped’ rocks and watch the sun fade away.
- Holland Point Shoreline Trail 48°24’33.5″N 123°22’36.1″W
- To get to this location on the beach, you’ll have to leave the trail and walk down some stairs. You’ll be sitting on a rock at the beach, watching the waves come and go. Seeing the sun set behind some distant hills, hearing the water near you and feeling the ocean breeze is simply wonderful
- art gallery
- bastion square
- beacon hill park
- chocolats favouris
- city trips
- craigdarroch castle
- dallas road
- fairmont empress hotel
- fan tan alley
- fishermans wharf
- hey happy
- interactivity board game
- irish times
- jam cafe
- johnson street
- market square
- mile zero monument
- mt douglas
- north america
- parliament building
- red fish blue fish
- terry fox
- totem pole
- tourism victoria
- vancouver island