Things to do in Victoria

Things to do in  Victoria

Edge of culture, edge of the earth

Perched on the southeastern shores of Vancouver Island, Victoria—the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia—has a rich colonial history dating back to the 19th century. Bus and walking tours take Garden City visitors to top attractions such as Antique Row, Beacon Hill Park, Craigdarroch Castle (a National Historic Site of Canada), Oak Bay Marina, and Mount Tolmie, while the famous Butchart Gardens delight travelers from across the world with their enchanting floral displays. Food tours showcase the region’s diverse cheeses, fine chocolates, craft beer, and divine seafood; while overhead, sightseeing seaplane flights offer bird’s-eye views over the coastal scenery. For many visitors to Victoria, though, one activity stands out among all the others: whale watching. Cruises depart from Victoria and head into the deep waters of the Salish Sea, where gray, humpback, killer, and minke whales can be seen breaching and crashing through the waves. Travelers also regularly spot other native wildlife such as marine birds, otters, porpoises, sea lions, and seals. For visitors with a little more time on their hands, three- to eight-day tours hit farther-flung destinations such as Barkley Sound; Strathcona-Westmin Provincial Park; and the snowy peaks—or summery hiking and mountain biking trails—of Whistler, where travelers can experience the best of the Canadian wilderness.

Top 15 attractions in Victoria

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens, established in 1904, treat visitors to an enchanting floral show that changes with the seasons. Covering 55 acres (22 hectares) on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the botanical space is intricately laid out into separate themed gardens with landscaping that impresses and inspires gardeners and nature lovers alike.More

Victoria Inner Harbour

A trim wedge of water rimmed with top landmarks, Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the city’s bustling port. Whether you’re hopping a whale-watching cruise or enjoying a sea breeze, the Inner Harbour is an essential stop when exploring Victoria. Among its highlights are the elegant Fairmont Empress hotel and the narrow streets beyond.More

Craigdarroch Castle

In 1890 Scottish coal baron Robert Dunsmuir built Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia, to showcase his inordinate wealth. This 39-room hilltop mansion is rich with opulent details, including multiple turrets and chimneys, a red slate roof, stained-glass windows, wood carvings, antique furnishings, and gold-framed paintings.More

Fairmont Empress Hotel

The grand style of the Fairmont Empress hotel sets the tone for Victoria’s Inner Harbour, where boats tie up just steps from the city’s most historic landmarks. Visiting the Fairmont Empress is not just for overnight guests; afternoon tea here has been a Victoria tradition for more than a century.More

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Constructed in the 1890s, the British Columbia Parliament Buildings still serve as home to the province’s legislature. Built according to the designs of young British architect Francis Rattenbury, the neo-Baroque complex’s imposing size, copper domes, turrets, and stained glass ensure a commanding and stately presence.More

Victoria Chinatown

First established in the mid-19th century, Victoria Chinatown is among North America’s oldest. Now a National Historic Site, Victoria’s Chinatown is home to cafes, studios, herbalists, tea rooms, and shops, as well as the narrow Fan Tan Alley, which measures 35 inches (88.9 centimeters) wide at its narrowest point.More

Beacon Hill Park

Sheer natural beauty is just the start of the appeal of of Beacon Hill Park, which sprawls across the southern edge of Victoria, British Columbia. It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors alike, with a petting zoo, splash parks, playgrounds, sports fields, seemingly endless footpaths, and one of the tallest totem poles in the world.More

Sidney (Sidney-by-the-Sea)

Life revolves around the water at this laid-back coastal community north of Victoria. The action centers on the seafront where you’ll find a sculpture-dotted walkway, a beach scattered with sea glass, and a pier where locals crab and cast fishing lines, as well as an aquarium housing marine life native to the Salish Sea.More

Fisherman's Wharf

Houseboats bob alongside shops, food kiosks, and commercial fishing vessels at Fisherman’s Wharf near Victoria’s Inner Harbour. A former hub of the city’s once-industrial shoreline, the wharf is now a popular hangout.More

Royal British Columbia Museum

From totem poles to ancient fossils, British Columbia’s history is on display at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. Explore vast collections covering the natural world and human heritage, with dioramas that place historic artifacts in context. A soaring IMAX screen and special exhibitions add to the museum experience.More

Government Street

Running through the heart of Downtown Victoria, Government Street is home to plenty of shopping and local history. Along the Victoria Harbour front, the British Columbia Legislature Buildings and the Fairmont Empress are important historical landmarks, both designed by the untrained British architect Francis Rattenbury. His design for the BC Legislature Buildings, which uses white marble, a massive central dome, and lengthy façade to create an architecturally impressive home for the provincial government, was his first project. This early success led him to be awarded the contract to design the Empress Hotel, which is now one of the oldest hotels in Victoria. Between these two buildings lies the Royal British Columbia Museum, which houses a natural and human history museum and the British Columbia provincial archives.Heading north from the Empress Hotel, Government Street soon becomes an iconic shopping street. Native artwork, high fashion, and a variety of specialty stores holding everything from handcrafted jewelry to handmade chocolate take up the storefronts. More shopping is found just off Government Street, too, including Trounce Alley, known for its European fashion stores; Bastion Square, where local artisans sell handmade arts and crafts; and Johnson Street, which is a local’s favorite for exclusive design boutiques.The corner of Government Street and Fisgard runs beneath the Gate of Harmonious Interest and the entrance to Victoria’s Chinatown. Founded in 1858, it’s the oldest Chinatown in Canada and second only to San Francisco in North America.More

Emily Carr House

The childhood home of Canadian painter Emily Carr is a historic site dedicated to her adventurous life and beloved work. Period decor in the old-fashioned gingerbread house evokes 19th-century life in Victoria, and a carefully tended garden comes to life each spring. Rotating exhibits feature the work of local contemporary artists.More

Mt. Tolmie Park

A popular destination for residents and tourists alike, Mt. Tolmie Park is widely recognized as the best place for panoramic views of the city of Victoria. Viewpoints from the summit (approximately 120 meters above sea level) offer 360-degree vistas of the Gulf Islands, Saanich, and the city of Victoria across to the Olympic mountain range and even Mount Baker in the distance on a clear day. Mt. Tolmie is located near the University of Victoria, making it an often-visited stop along the Beach Drive coastal route.Located about a 15-minute drive from downtown Victoria, the park features numerous trails for visitors to walk on. Alternatively, travelers can drive up the windy road to the summit for a fast track to the views. Plenty of picnic tables and places for drivers to pull over offer different viewing areas, and about a mile’s worth (more than 1,500 meters) of trails within the park lead hikers through meadows and up rocky slopes, with many of them going directly to the summit. The adventurous traveler can follow the trails to numerous secluded natural areas and various bird-watching outlooks.More

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Established in 2003, this national park encompasses 8,896 acres (3,600 hectares of forested islands and marine habitats between Vancouver Island and Vancouver city. Wildlife thrives in its Mediterranean-like climate with bald eagles, cormorants, and hawks patrolling the skies and orcas, porpoises, and seals occupying the waters.More

Old Town Victoria

With heritage architecture and cobbled streets, Old Town Victoria exudes historic character. The area sprang to life in the 19th-century gold rushes, and today it encompasses the city’s commercial core, Canada’s oldest Chinatown, and the waterfront. Visit to see its brightly painted Victorian buildings, which house shops and restaurants.More

Trip ideas

Zoos Victoria Animal Livestreams

Zoos Victoria Animal Livestreams

The National Gallery of Victoria: A Virtual Channel

The National Gallery of Victoria: A Virtual Channel

Top activities in Victoria

Whale-Watching Cruise with Expert Naturalists
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Half-Day Whale Watching Adventure from Victoria
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Victoria Panorama Seaplane Tour

Victoria Panorama Seaplane Tour

Victoria Guided Food and History Tour
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3-Hour Bike Tour of Victoria City & the Coastal Shoreside
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Ultimate Marine Whale & Wildlife Tour
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Victoria Bites & Sights

Victoria Bites & Sights

3-Hour Street Art & Craft Beer Tour of Victoria, Brewery Tour & Tasting included
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All about Victoria

When to visit

Summer is peak season in Victoria, with dry, sunny weather perfect for harborside events including the Symphony Splash and Victoria International JazzFest. If you don’t mind crowded paths, it’s also the best time to catch Butchart Gardens in full bloom. Fall has fewer tourists and discounted hotel rooms, though watch out for closed attractions around Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October.


A local’s pocket guide to Victoria

Margot Bigg

Victoria is one of Margot’s favorite spots in Canada, and she lives just close enough to be able to take regular-ish weekend road trips up to the city.

The first thing you should do in Victoria is...

head straight to Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in the country, and don't leave before taking a stroll through the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley.

A perfect Saturday in Victoria...

includes a morning stroll in pretty Beacon Hill Park, an afternoon exploring the grandiose Craigdarroch Castle, and an evening walking along Government Street in the heart of downtown.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Butchart Gardens. Even if you aren't into plants, you can't deny how beautiful this spot is, no matter the season.

To discover the "real" Victoria...

get away from downtown and head up to visit the numerous parks and beaches in the Gordon Head neighborhood near the University of Victoria.

For the best view of the city...

head to sea! Victoria is, after all, a port city on an island, and you’ll be able to get some fantastic photos of the skyline from aboard a sailboat or ferry.

One thing people get wrong...

is assuming that Victoria is boring. While the city is not as big or lively as Vancouver, it’s still a great place to stroll and people-watch. There are also plenty of fantastic restaurants.

People Also Ask

What is Victoria known for?

The oceanside city of Victoria, located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is known for mild weather, and it's earned the nickname the City of Gardens. It is bike-friendly with an extensive network of bike paths, plus it's got Canada’s oldest Chinatown and an impressive number of charming pubs.

What is there to do in Victoria?

There's plenty to do in Victoria: explore Fisherman’s Wharf, wander the galleries of the Royal BC Museum, and see a variety of landscapes in Butchart Gardens. Visitors can also shop downtown, feast on fresh seafood, explore Canada’s oldest Chinatown, and ride the ferry for scenic views.

How many days do I need in Victoria?

Some travelers spend a single day in Victoria, and a day trip provides a good introduction to the oceanside city's natural beauty. But Victoria has more to offer, and it can easily entertain tourists for two or three days with its attractions, from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Inner Harbour.

What is there to do in Victoria in the fall?

In fall, visitors can enjoy seasonal activities such as admiring the vibrant colors in Butchart Gardens. Fans of spooky history may want to book a ghost tour in Victoria, while foodies may want to celebrate cider season with a tasting at a local cidery.

What can you do in Victoria for free?

There are many free things to do in Victoria. Travelers on a budget admire views at the Inner Harbour, explore Chinatown, picnic at Beacon Hill Park, or listen to live music in Market Square. Free tours are also available at the Parliament Buildings.

Is Victoria worth visiting?

Yes. Victoria is worth visiting. This charming oceanside city offers plenty to do for travelers including Butchart Gardens, the Royal BC Museum, and Canada’s oldest Chinatown. It is also home to a big network of friendly pubs and areas for exploring on foot including Fisherman’s Wharf and the Inner Harbour.

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