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The top 10 attractions in Victoria

The top 10 attractions in Victoria

Many have heard of VictoriaExternal Link Title, a Travel + LeisureExternal Link Title Top 10 North American cityExternal Link Title with quaint British flair. That's because it's beautiful, charming, and artsy, not to mention surrounded by passionate locavore farmers and craft brewers. Also on offer? Scenic coastal hiking, biking, and marine sea life all within striking distance.


Though you might not realize it, Victoria is British Columbia's capital. It's also situated on the southern tip of giant Vancouver IslandExternal Link Title, and is just a short float plane ride away from the mainland's city of Vancouver. Victoria's sunny climate -- Canada's mildest -- means a visit any time of year is pleasant. Scan this quick guide to Victoria so you don't miss out on these top 10 attractions.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens
Tulips at the Butchart Gardens - credit: Butchart Gardens

Arguably the area's biggest draw, the celebrated Butchart GardensExternal Link Title offer 55 acres of showy displays of flowers, blossoms, shrubs, and trees meticulously manicured and landscaped, plus an enormous dragon fountain gifted from China. It's a delight to stroll or sit among the classic rose garden or under a fragrant vine-draped pavilion. If you're up for something else, Butchart also hosts all kinds of workshops, walks, dining and afternoon teaExternal Link Title options, boat tours, lawn concertsExternal Link Title, and events, including the summer Saturday evening fireworks showsExternal Link Title. Allow time to browse the art-filled Seed and Gift StoreExternal Link Title.

Ale Trail

Canoe Brewpub, Victoria
Canoe Brewpub - credit: Tourism Victoria/Alexia Foster

Victoria claims its part in the craft beer revolution as the site of Canada's first brewpub, and things have come a long way since then. Follow the Ale TrailExternal Link Title to ensure you don't miss any staples -- Canoe BrewpubExternal Link Title, Swans BrewpubExternal Link Title, Vancouver Island BreweryExternal Link Title, Spinnakers BrewpubExternal Link Title -- and mix it up with some up-and-comers, matched with outstanding Vancouver Island fare.

Inner Harbour

Victoria’s Inner Harbour
Victoria’s Inner Harbour - credit: Kathryn Burrington

Beautiful is no exaggeration when referring to the postcard-perfect Inner HarbourExternal Link Title. It's a historic fishing and shipbuilding area with distinctive architecture rooted in trade dating back to the coastal First Nations. Today, the Harbour a bustling place with cruise ships, recreational boats, ferries, and float planes gliding in and out. It's your starting place for a kayaking or whale-watching excursion, an ideal spot for walking and people or busker watching, and it's within walking distance of the 200-acre, oceanside Beacon Hill ParkExternal Link Title and the city's historic downtown core. Check the events calendarExternal Link Title for summer events, outdoor concerts, shows, and festivals.

Prince of Whales Whale Watching and Marine Adventures

Prince of Whales Whale Watching and Marine Adventures
The Ultimate Day Tour - credit: Prince of Whales Whale Watching

A North American No. 1 whale-watching destinationExternal Link Title according to Travel + Leisure, you want to see Vancouver Island's gargantuan marine creatures in action. The pros at Prince of WhalesExternal Link Title will take you out on the water to spot acrobatic humpback, pods of up to 100 leaping orcas, and mink whales, plus bald eagles, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, and harbour seals. Though you can consistently see whales from March to October, go in March and April to see migrating gray whales or in May and June for humpback.

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum
Do the Behind the Scenes Tour of the Royal BC Museum - credit: Royal BC Museum

Known for its superb collection of First Nations artExternal Link Title, the Royal BC MuseumExternal Link Title focuses on natural and human history through a social and environmental lens, with 7 million artefacts, specimens, and documents on display. The approach is immersive, so you'll get to experience what it was like in Victoria in the 1920s or how it might've felt standing next to a hulking woolly mammoth. Learn about British Columbian royaltyExternal Link Title, like iconic painter Emily CarrExternal Link Title, or watch an immersive IMAX movieExternal Link Title.

Eating local

Gourmet food at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse
Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse - credit: Tourism Victoria/Alexia Foster

Victoria's rural Saanich PeninsulaExternal Link Title is locavore haven, dotted with rolling hills, green fields, farms, boutique wineries, and cideries. Bonus: Most spots out here are mom-'n-pop type operations devoted to organic, sustainable practices. The city celebrates its producers, proudly showcasing area suppliers and labels. Dine at a local favouriteExternal Link Title, taste some Vancouver Island wine or ciderExternal Link Title at the source, or pick up the catch of the day from the wharfExternal Link Title near downtown. There's also the Victoria Public MarketExternal Link Title, which has it all under one roof.

The Spa at Brentwood Bay Resort

Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa
Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa - credit: Brentwood Bay Lodge

Add West Coast-style R&R to your itinerary. Not only is Brentwood Bay Resort and SpaExternal Link Title stylishly perched in the trees overlooking the ocean, it's also home to a tranquil, full-service spaExternal Link Title offering hot stone and traditional Thai massage, plus an outdoor hot tub and pool. Top rated by Cond? Nast Traveler and others, the resort leads acclaimed Pacific foraging and seafood eco tours and paddling adventure packagesExternal Link Title, too.

Legislative Buildings

BC’s Legislative Buildings at night
BC’s Legislative Buildings illuminated at night

British Columbia's graceful Parliament BuildingsExternal Link Title are a signature Victoria landmark. Overlooking the harbour, the legislature is open year-round to the public including seven days a week in summertime. Take a guided tourExternal Link Title to learn more about BC's provincial government or explore the buildings on your own. You can even dine there and rub elbows with VIPs or pick up a souvenir in the gift shop. The 45-minute tours are free.

Cook Street Village

Cook Street Village
Cook Street Village

Charm? Victoria's got it in spades. Historical Cook Street VillageExternal Link Title, with its European feel, eclectic stores, coffee houses, gourmet grocers, clothing boutiques, Brit-style pubs, and creative eateries, is a good example. The Old World ambiance is leisurely, so you can take your time browsing the neighbourhood, which spans five blocks between Oscar and Leonard streets. You'll also want to shop Johnson StreetExternal Link Title, with its handsome heritage buildings and overflowing flower baskets, and Canada's oldest ChinatownExternal Link Title. While you're at it, rentExternal Link Title and ride bikes. Victoria is a fantastic cycling city.

Afternoon Tea at the Empress

Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel
Tea and crumpets time at the Fairmont Empress Hotel

High tea in Victoria is a long and storied tradition. And it's especially great at the Fairmont EmpressExternal Link Title hotel, a stately brick Edwardian frequented by royalty, where traditional English afternoon teaExternal Link Title is served in the elegant dining room. Skip breakfast so you can fit in all the pastries, finger sandwiches, and flaky scones with clotted cream and jam.