Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, exudes old-world charm, set against a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and lush rainforests. For those contemplating things to do in Victoria, wandering through the historic Inner Harbour, with its iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Royal BC Museum, and exploring the world-renowned Butchart Gardens, a sprawling oasis of floral displays and themed gardens, are top activities.
The city’s Craigdarroch Castle offers a glimpse into Victorian-era opulence, showcasing intricate woodwork and stained glass. Nearby, Beacon Hill Park provides a serene escape with its manicured gardens, ponds, and views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Beyond its historical landmarks and natural beauty, Victoria is a hub for marine adventures, from whale-watching tours to kayaking in its coastal waters. For those seeking the best places to visit in Canada, Victoria’s blend of British colonial heritage, vibrant arts scene, and stunning natural surroundings makes it a must-visit destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Victoria, Canada
1. Royal BC Museum
The Royal BC Museum is one of Canada’s most significant cultural treasures in Victoria’s Inner Harbor. Its exhibits showcase millions of years of natural history and British Columbia’s human history from the First Nations peoples to modern times.
Travel Tip: To make the most of your visit, consider joining one of the guided tours available and check for any special exhibitions or events during your stay.
2. Butchart Gardens
Nestled in Brentwood Bay near Victoria, Butchart Gardens is a beautiful collection of gardens spanning 55 acres. The gardens, which transition with the seasons, feature a range of plant collections from Japanese gardens to rose gardens.
Travel Tip: Visit during different seasons to see the changing displays, and if you’re there in summer, don’t miss the Saturday evening fireworks.
3. Fairmont Empress
Overlooking Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour, the Fairmont Empress is an iconic Edwardian-era hotel known for its stunning architecture and legendary afternoon tea service. While staying overnight is a treat, simply taking tea or exploring the hotel’s public areas can be delightful.
Travel Tip: If you plan on indulging in the afternoon tea service, make a reservation beforehand, as it’s a popular attraction.
4. Craigdarroch Castle
This Victorian-era mansion offers a glimpse into the privileged life of the late 19th century. Built for a coal baron, the mansion is rich in history and is known for its intricate woodwork and beautiful stained glass.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes as you climb several stairs while exploring the multiple floors.
5. Beacon Hill Park
Spanning 200 acres, Beacon Hill Park is Victoria’s premier urban green space. From the manicured gardens to the wilder natural areas, the park has various plants, animals, and recreational facilities.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the world’s fourth-tallest totem pole, and if you’re traveling with kids, be sure to visit the petting zoo.
6. Inner Harbour
Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the heart of the city. Here, you can watch seaplanes take off and land, explore historic buildings, or take a harbor ferry tour to get a unique city perspective.
Travel Tip: The harbor is lively in the evening, with street performers and musicians adding to the atmosphere, so consider an evening stroll.
7. Victoria Butterfly Gardens
This tropical oasis houses thousands of butterflies from around the world. The lush environment, with tropical flowers, trees, and even flamingos, offers a unique experience unlike any other region.
Travel Tip: Bring your camera! The gardens offer excellent opportunities for macro photography, especially of the butterflies.
8. Fisherman’s Wharf
A vibrant and unique area, Fisherman’s Wharf is home to floating houses, seafood vendors, boutiques, and eateries. This working harbor is a great place to sample local seafood or enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Travel Tip: Consider trying a bowl of clam chowder or fresh fish and chips from one of the local vendors while taking in the waterfront views.
Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and the second oldest in North America. This lively district offers a mix of history, culture, and cuisine. Walk through the narrow Fan Tan Alley, once the center of the city’s opium trade and now home to boutique shops and eateries.
Travel Tip: Visit during the Lunar New Year for special festivities and a vibrant atmosphere.
10. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
This gallery boasts an impressive collection of Asian art, contemporary art, and works by prominent Canadian and Indigenous artists. Located in a historic mansion, the gallery offers a unique blend of old and new.
Travel Tip: Check the gallery’s calendar for special exhibitions or events that might coincide with your visit.
11. Miniature World
Located in the heart of downtown Victoria, Miniature World offers visitors a chance to step into tiny realms, from historical dioramas to fantasy landscapes. Each display is meticulously crafted with attention to detail.
Travel Tip: This attraction is perfect for rainy days, and while it’s captivating for all ages, children especially find the miniatures magical.
12. Victoria Public Market
A vibrant hub of local cuisine, artisans, and farmers, the Victoria Public Market is the perfect place to sample the flavors of Vancouver Island. From fresh produce to gourmet foods and unique crafts, there’s something for everyone.
Travel Tip: Visit on weekends when local musicians often play, adding to the lively atmosphere.
13. Hatley Castle and Gardens
Originally built as a residence for a coal baron, Hatley Castle now stands as a testament to Edwardian design. The surrounding gardens, spread over 565 acres, include Japanese, Italian, and rose gardens. The castle has also served as a set for several films and TV shows.
Travel Tip: Fans of X-Men might recognize this as Professor Xavier’s school, so watch for familiar views!
14. Ogden Point Breakwater
Ogden Point Breakwater is a popular spot for both tourists and locals, offering scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and distant mountains. The breakwater, stretching out into the ocean, is a perfect place for a leisurely walk.
Travel Tip: Visit during sunset for particularly stunning vistas and photo opportunities.
15. Government House Gardens
The official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Government House is set amidst 36 acres of beautifully maintained gardens. While the house isn’t always open to the public, the gardens are free to explore.
Travel Tip: The gardens change with the seasons, so there’s always something new to see throughout the year.
16. Gorge Waterway Park
This beautiful urban park is centered around the Gorge Waterway, a tidal inlet. With walking paths, bridges, and opportunities for kayaking or paddleboarding, it’s a serene spot to enjoy nature without leaving the city.
Travel Tip: Rentals for water activities are available nearby, so consider spending an afternoon on the water.
17. Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse
This coastal artillery fort, built in the late 19th century, offers a glimpse into Canada’s military past. Nearby stands the Fisgard Lighthouse, the oldest on the Canadian west coast, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Travel Tip: Wear sturdy shoes, as there are several uneven paths and staircases to navigate, especially if you climb the lighthouse.
18. Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
This historical observatory, located on Observatory Hill, played a crucial role in Canadian astronomy during the early 20th century. Today, visitors can explore the telescope and learn about the universe’s mysteries.
Travel Tip: Check the observatory’s schedule for public viewing nights, where you can peer through the telescope and gaze at the stars.
FAQ About Things to Do in Victoria, Canada
What are the top attractions to visit in Victoria?
Some of the top attractions in Victoria include the Royal BC Museum, Butchart Gardens, Inner Harbour, Beacon Hill Park, and Craigdarroch Castle.
Is it worth visiting the Butchart Gardens?
Absolutely! The Butchart Gardens is a National Historic Site of Canada and offers stunning floral displays, themed gardens, and seasonal events. It’s a must-visit for nature and garden enthusiasts.
Can I go whale watching in Victoria?
Yes, Victoria is one of the best places in Canada to go whale watching. Several tours operate from the Inner Harbour, offering the chance to see orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, and minke whales, among other marine life.
What historic sites can I explore in Victoria?
Victoria is rich in history. You can visit the Craigdarroch Castle, Hatley Castle, and the historic Chinatown, the second oldest in North America. The Royal BC Museum also offers insights into the region’s history and culture.
Are there any beaches near Victoria?
Yes, there are several beautiful beaches around Victoria. Some popular ones include Gonzales Beach, Willows Beach, and Esquimalt Lagoon.
What activities can families do in Victoria?
Families can visit the Victoria Bug Zoo, explore the Pacific Undersea Gardens, take a horse-drawn carriage tour, or spend a day at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm.
Where can I experience local art and culture in Victoria?
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria showcases local and indigenous art. Additionally, the Inner Harbour often has street performers and numerous theaters and live music venues throughout the city.
Is it possible to take a day trip from Victoria to other parts of Vancouver Island?
Yes, Victoria serves as an excellent base for exploring Vancouver Island. Popular day trips include the Cowichan Valley, known as the “Napa of the North,” and the city of Nanaimo, famous for its namesake dessert bar.