As a child, my father worked on Vancouver Island for a period of time so we would spend many a summer exploring the beauty of Victoria and the surrounding areas. Victoria is one of my favourite cities in British Columbia. It has a rich history, a wonderful social culture, and is small enough to walk everywhere in the downtown core.
Victoria has a vibrant eating and drinking scene. Every time we get ourselves over there, we are always trying a new restaurant or bar. Little Jumbo remains my favourite place to eat AND drink in Victoria (two gold stars!). The food is always creative and delicious, the service is standout (seriously the best staff). But what does continue to draw me back is their ever-changing cocktail list. The bartenders always produce excellent cocktails and anyone I drag to this delicious restaurant is always in agreement with me! On an ever changing drink list, it’s hard to recommend one, however, feel free to ask the bar staff what they are enjoying on the menu.
Agrius continues to draw praise from many sources (like here) and for good reason. The food is always on point (go for brunch!) and the service is parallel to none. I had the kale and mushroom benny (with pickled mushrooms) and would happily order it every time I return. They also have their own bakery, Fol Epi, and I highly recommend picking up a loaf or a few treats to take with you on your way out.
While slightly off the beaten track, Part & Parcel is my favourite for an inexpensive comfort food meal. I often will eat here on my own when I am travelling for work. They have delicious beers on tap and the menu changes often enough that I’ve never eaten the same thing twice (except for the ras el hanout fries which are so so good).
Nourish Cafe is perhaps the sweetest, cutest, loveliest cafe in Victoria. Set in an 1888 heritage home, the first floor has full service dining as well as a large patio and upstairs contains their cafe lounge. They have great wifi upstairs to get some work done (and some lovely wine options as well). They also have a sister restaurant, Charlotte & the Quail, that is nestled in farmland (and named after their kitten!). If you have a vehicle, I would highly recommend making the trip out to this little gem.
I was introduced to Cold Comfort through a couple of locals recently and I have been completely enchanted with this little scoopery. Specializing in ice cream sandwiches with flavours like Gin and Tonic and Hoyne (a Dark Pilsner beer), its hard to find something wrong with the concept!
In my opinion, Crust Bakery produces the best sweet treats in Victoria. The large selection of tartlets alone is enough to make a 5-minute visit turn into a 20-minute decision making nightmare. They usually also have doughnuts that are out of this world. I can often be seen in the ferry line with a Crust pastry (or two) in my passenger seat.
If wine is your drink of choice then I would recommend checking out Stage Wine Bar. The menu is oriented towards sharing dishes (which is my favourite way to eat) but the servings are large enough to have your own if you are protective over your food. The real highlight here is the wine board. They have small tasting pours of at least 15 wines, which means you can sample a few as you slowly eat your meal.
Love Beer? Victoria has some amazing offerings for you to sample. My personal favourite is Driftwood Brewery which produces the Fat Tug IPA (a multi-awarding winning brew). Hoyne brewery produces another of my favourite beers, Dark Matter, and is always on my list of stops. The Drake is a sit down restaurant/beer hall in downtown that has tons of local selections on tap and serves great sharing plates.
Any visit to Victoria would not be complete without a visit to the Royal BC Museum. I particularly encourage you to visit the exhibitions on the First Nations People; they have a rich and lengthy history in BC and it is fascinating to learn about. The Imax theatre in the museum is also a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
If you are a garden/flower/green thumb type then Butchart Gardens will be your idea of a perfect afternoon. Covering about 55 acres, the gardens are a Canadian National Historic site with the Butchart family beginning the project in 1912. Be sure to visit when it’s not pouring! Note that most summer evenings end with a lovely firework show you can admire from the grounds.
WHERE TO STAY
I typically love staying in Airbnb’s when I travel, and Victoria is no exception. There is no shortage of great apartments right in the center of town. When you are looking at Airbnb’s, look for those located close to Government Street and no further than Fisgard Street. I often try and stay close to Johnson and Pandora Street. As always, if you are new to Airbnb use my link to get a discount for your first time use (find the link here)
If you are feeling like exploring elsewhere, try the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. A beautiful area that’s only a 15 min. drive from downtown Victoria. If you stay in Oak Bay, make sure to try Vis a Vis (a cozy little French restaurant).
Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa is located in Brentwood Bay and is phenomenally romantic and cozy. Located right on the water, the hotel has a marina that you can boat to if that is your mode of transportation. There are several great food options nearby (Bayou Café and Café Zanzibar).
Victoria has many amazing shops to explore (and is home to a few of my favourite shops ever). In the downtown, I would recommend heading over to Little Gold which carries wonderful jewelry pieces. Think delicate, understated and hand crafted designs. If you are looking for something handmade and local, head over to Picot Collective; I am currently saving for a hand woven blanket from there. A little further in is Green Kiss, an amazing green beauty supply store. If you are thinking of or interested in making the switch to green make-up, their staff is by far the best and most knowledgeable.
Folk Apparel carries some amazing clothes that are both comfy and elegant at the same time (which is winning!). Pigeonhole Home Store is another standout shop in Victoria. Located in Fernwood, Pigeonhole is the place to get some home design inspiration. They carry everything from small pieces of furniture, candles, amazing pottery, and kitchenware. Stage Wine Bar is fairly close and is the perfect end to a shopping day.
As always happy adventuring!