Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and located on Vancouver Island. Compact, colorful and creative, Victoria is the perfect weekend getaway from Vancouver. It doesn’t matter if you have one day in Victoria or an entire week, Victoria is packed with fun things to do for the entire family.
Victoria frequently features in Top Places to Visit lists from popular travel magazines and websites such as Condé Nast Traveler and TripAdvisor and rightly so: Victoria is very much worth to visit!
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- Victoria 3-day itinerary with the best things to do in Victoria
- How to get to Victoria
- Where to stay in Victoria
The best things to do in Victoria
- Get breakfast at the Crust Bakery
- Tour the British Columbia Parliament Building
- Walk around Victoria Old Town and Chinatown
- Enjoy the famous Tea at the Empress
- Hike around Beacon Hill Park
- Watch the sunset from the Inner Harbor
- Visit the Royal BC Museum
- Stroll around Fishermans’s Wharf
- Admire Craigdarroch Castle
- Enjoy delicious tacos at Tacofino
- Take a day trip to The Butchart Gardens
- Go on a whale watching tour
Victoria itinerary day 1
On the first day of this 3-day Victoria itinerary there is no better way to start your day than by getting a coffee from Canada’s famous coffee chain Tim Hortons. For breakfast, pick up some (or a lot;-) of the freshly bakes goodies at the Crust Bakery (opens at 8am).
Head to the British Columbia Parliament Building and join one of the free tours. The British Columbia Parliament is not only an impressive building, the story about how this building came to be is a very amusing one…
Back in the 1890’s the British Columbia government held an architectural competition. Whoever won this competition would be the architect of their new legislative building.
There was one requirement though: the architect needed to be Canadian. But… Francis Rattenbury, a young and aspiring architect who had just emigrated from the U.K., entered the competition under a false name and won! To be fair, he designed a beautiful building that’s still in use.
I learned all this on a free tour around the Parliament Buildings which may have been the funniest tour I’ve ever taken… The tour was led by a young actor playing the role of Francis Rattenbury, complete with a British accent and historic costume. He led us around the building whilst sharing his life story and telling us more about the construction process.
Spoiler: the life of Francis Rattenbury was filled with scandals. He divorced his first wife and eventually was murdered back in England by his second wife’s lover…
Anyway, not only did I laugh throughout the entire tour, I also learned a lot about the building. Altogether a highly recommend activity! You can find more information about the free tours in the British Columbia Parliament Buildings here.
After the tour it’s time to head to Victoria Old Town which is just a short walk from the Parliament Buildings.
Victoria has one of the largest historic areas in British Columbia with many beautiful old buildings. There are three distinct areas in Victoria Old Town: Chinatown, the old commercial district and buildings along the waterfront from the Gold Rush era (the Inner Harbour).
Quick tip: pick up a free map of the historic area at the Visitor Center which contains lots of information about the Old Town and make it easier to find the must-see historic buildings.
The area belonging to Victoria’s Old Town is located in the area between these streets: Chatham Street (north border), Humboldt Street (south border), Douglas Street (east border), the Wharf and Store Streets and Waterfront (west border).
You can easily spend the entire afternoon here as Victoria Old Town is a really nice area to wander around. If you have limited time, be sure to at least grab a bite to eat at one of the many (Chinese) restaurants!
Circling back to the Inner Harbour it’s time for a traditional Victoria activity: Tea at the Empress at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
Fun fact: this building was also designed by the ‘presenting to be Canadian architect’ Francis Rattenbury!
Another fun fact: during the summer months, the Empress serves more afternoon tea than most hotels in London!
The Fairmont Empress Hotel opened her doors in 1908 and is a city icon. Their famous high tea is served in the beautiful Lobby Lounge, over 21 different kind of teas are available (all of which are ethically produced). The tea is accompanied by freshly prepared scones and other pastries made with locally sourced ingredients.
For example, the strawberry jam is made in-house from local berries, the honey comes from the Empress Hotel bee hives and the lavender from their own rooftop garden.
Altogether, Tea at the Empress is a unique tea drinking experience and one that cannot miss on your Victoria itinerary!
If you feel like burning off some calories after your sumptuous high tea, head to Beacon Hill Park for some of the best walking trails in Victoria. Within the park, there are several hiking tracks, a lovely pond, and beautiful gardens.
You will also find the world’s tallest free-standing Totem Pole and a viewpoint overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Quick tip: visiting Victoria with kids? In Beacon Hill Park you can find two playgrounds as well as a petting zoo!
After all this walking it’s time to relax. Head back to the Inner Harbour and have a pint at one of the cafes or watch the sunset from the grassy field in front of the British Columbia Parliament Building.
Victoria itinerary day 2
On your second day in Victoria it’s time to visit the Royal BC Museum, which was founded in 1886. In this great museum you can learn about the history of British Columbia.
There are three permanent galleries (about the First People, Natural History and Modern History) and several temporary exhibitions. Check the website for more info about the current exhibitions.
The next item on your ‘things to see in Victoria list’ is Fisherman’s Wharf, a very colorful and fun neighborhood.
In this floating village you can admire the beautiful house boats, explore quirky shops and grab some lunch at one of the cute (floating) restaurants.
Located a bit further from downtown Victoria (3.5km from Fisherman’s Wharf, 2.5km from the Inner Harbour) is Craigdarroch Castle, an impressive mansion built by self-made millionaire Robert Dunsmuir who made a fortune from Vancouver Island coal.
Throughout the years the mansion served as a house, institutional school board office, the Victoria Conservatory, movie set and wedding location.
After all this walking you are probably getting hungry! There are lots of great restaurant options in Victoria, but if you like Mexican food you will love Tacofino.
This lively taco bar with super helpful staff serves delicious tacos, burritos and nachos for very reasonable prices.
Victoria itinerary day 3
On your third day in Victoria it’s time to leave Victoria city center and visit the famous Butchart Gardens. Located only 20km north of Victoria these beautiful gardens are the perfect place to spend a day!
The Butchart Gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada and the result of the vision, passion and dedication of Jenny Butchart.
There is the Sunken Garden (the first garden planted by Jennie Butchart, back in 1904!), the Japanese, Italian and Mediterranean gardens and the fragrant Rose garden.
Another highlight, especially for families with kids, is the Rose Carousel with 30 hand-carved wooden animals. A ride on the Carousel is only 2CAD!
Furthermore, there are also a coffee shop, restaurant and gift store (where you can buy lots of seeds!). Read more about the Gardens and how to get there here.
The easiest way to visit (if you don’t have your own transport) is by booking a bus tour. If you are looking for a more unique way to travel to the Butchart Gardens, check out this tour which includes a scenic seaplane flight from Victoria to the gardens, a three-course meal and a limo ride back to town.
Staying in Victoria a bit longer? If you have four days in Victoria I’d definitely recommend to add a whale watching tour to your Victoria itinerary!
Victoria is one of the top spots to see killer whales (orca) but you’re also likely to encounter humpback and gray whales.Click here to book an environmentally responsible whale watching tour!
How to get to Victoria on Vancouver Island
Since Victoria is located on an island you either have to take a ferry of flight to get there.
If you are traveling from Tsawwassen, the closest ferry port to Victoria is Swartz Bay (about 30km north of Victoria). With BC Ferries Connector you can effortlessly travel directly from downtown Vancouver to Victoria City Center.
The other option is to arrive by plane. Victoria has an International Airport located about 20km from the downtown.
Where to stay in Victoria
Now that you know what to do in Victoria and how to get to Victoria you are probably thinking: where should I stay when visiting Victoria? No worries, there are is plenty of accommodation available in Victoria, ranging from budget hostels to luxury (boutique hotels).
If you are prepared to splurge, I’d recommend to stay at the luxurious five star Fairmont Empress Hotel. As I mentioned above, they serve a wicked high tea and it’s one of Victoria’s most famous buildings.
If available, book a room overlooking the Inner Harbour. You’ll be able to watch the sunset from your window!Click here to book the Fairmont Empress Hotel
There are nice mid-range hotels as well, such as the Helms Inn and this lovely one bedroom heritage apartment in Chinatown.
Budget travelers don’t need to worry, the HI-Victoria, Ocean Island Inn and Mayfair Motel are just a few of the well-reviewed affordable options in Victoria. Alternatively, there are lots of reasonably prices rooms on Airbnb as well.
Accommodation discount: if you have never traveled with Airbnb before you can get €30 of your first Airbnb stay with this link!
Things to do in Victoria – printable checklist
Victoria trip: in conclusion
I hope you will love Victoria as much as I did! We had a great couple of days in Victoria and I would love to return for another visit. Below you can download the Victoria things to do checklist.
Be sure to take a look at my other Canada posts as well!