12 Best Things to Do in Victoria, BC

No trip to British Columbia is complete without digging into all the best things to do in Victoria. Located on the rugged and beautiful Vancouver Island, the city of Victoria, BC, is one of Canada’s most stunning urban centres.

Victoria is often touted as the most British city in North America, and as you wander among its top tourist attractions, you’ll quickly see why. Visit sprawling parks with English gardens and stately castles that look like they’re torn from the English countryside, all while admiring Victoria’s distinctive Canadian West Coast vibe.

Need help planning out what to do? Get your trip off to a running start with help from this guide to the best places to visit in Victoria, British Columbia!

Top tourist attractions in Victoria

Royal BC Museum

Among the best museums in Canada, the Royal BC Museum walks through the natural & human history of British Columbia, Canada, and the world within its world-class exhibitions.

Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC Museum features both permanent and temporary exhibitions ranging from dazzling at the Canadian indigenous relics and treasures in the First People’s Gallery to immersing yourself in the coastal forests of British Columbia in the Natural History Gallery.

As part of the museum’s re-opening, you’ll need to purchase timed tickets for your visit. Current hours of operation (as of summer 2020) are Saturday to Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm and Friday from 10 am to 8 pm. The museum is closed on Wednesdays.

Parliament Buildings

Since their completion in 1898, the Parliament Buildings of British Columbia have formed one of the most iconic scenes of the B.C capital city.

The eye-popping historical government buildings are home to B.C. Parliament and the Legislative Assembly. They sit upon a sprawling 5 hectares perched on the edge of Victoria’s Inner Harbour on the Downtown Victoria waterfront.

BC Parliament Building

One of the best ways to discover the British Columbia Parliament Buildings is on a guided tour. The tours depart hourly from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday, and last about 45 minutes.

Craigdarroch Castle

Even if you only have one day in Victoria, a visit to Craigdarroch Castle is a must. This National Historic Site of Canada, built by coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir between 1887 and 1890, is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in Victoria.

Craigdarroch Castle

As you explore the Scottish Baronial mansion, you’ll get to see intricate woodwork, antique furnishings, and ornate stained glass windows. The best experience at Craigdarroch Castle, however, is to climb up the manor’s tower for spectacular views over Victoria.

Butchart Gardens

Escape the urban buzz of Victoria with a quick detour over to Butchart Gardens, one of the most spectacular public gardens in the world.

Sprawling across a whopping 55 acres, this National Historic Site of Canada is one of the most-visited attractions in Victoria. When in bloom, the breathtaking gardens feature hundreds of thousands of flowers bursting with colour, punctuated by Victorian fountains and meandering paths.

Butchart Gardens

Among the most popular areas of Butchart Gardens are the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and the fantasy-inspiring Sunken Garden.

The gardens are at their most beautiful from mid-April to mid-May when the spring bloom is in full effect.

If you’re visiting Victoria in summer (July and August), spend your Saturday evening at Butchart Gardens to witness its famous weekly fireworks display and concerts.

Juan de Fuca Provincial Park

Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just over an hour from downtown Victoria, Juan de Fuca Provincial Park is one of the most popular day trips from Victoria and is the perfect natural escape from the bustle of the city. The park is famous for its breathtaking hiking trails, towering trees, and windswept Pacific Ocean beaches.

Juan de Fuca Trail

One of the area’s most popular activities is hiking the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Winding through 47 kilometres of coastline and wilderness, this multi-day trail is one of the best places to hike in Victoria and offers spectacular views of the coast and forest.

The park is also home to China Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches around Victoria, and a favourite outdoor escape for locals looking to add a little Pacific Ocean magic to their lives.

Juan de Fuca Park is also a great place for scoping out marine life, including sea lions, grey whales, and killer whales. The best time of year for whale-watching is March and April when the grey whales are making their annual pilgrimage from Mexico to Alaska via the Pacific Northwest.

Beacon Hill Park

Draped over almost 200 acres southeast of the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria, Beacon Hill Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Victoria for visitors & locals alike.

Meandering through Beacon Hill Park, you’ll stroll among perfectly manicured gardens, bridges, lakes, fountains, and ponds alongside tower native B.C. tree species including Garry Oak, Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedar.

Beacon Hill Park

The park is also home to the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, a petting zoo that’s one of the most kid-friendly activities in Victoria.

While visiting, be sure to check out the park’s famous totem pole. Marking a former First Nations Coast Salish burial ground and an important symbol of native Canadian culture, this 52-metre-high totem pole is one of the tallest in Canada.

Hatley Castle

Yet another National Historic Site of Canada in greater Victoria, Hatley Castle is one of the most stunning examples of Victorian architecture in Canada. The “castle,” now home to Royal Roads University, dates back to 1910 and is impressive inside as outside with its deep oak and rosewood panels, teak floors, and custom lighting fixtures.

Hatley Castle

Thanks to its opulence & grandeur, Hatley Castle is a popular filming location, doubling as Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men movies and the Luthor Mansion in Smallville—among many others!

Besides the manor itself, the grounds are full of Edwardian-style Japanese, Italian, and Rose gardens, 15 kilometres of hiking trails, and even a bird sanctuary.

Fan Tan Alley

Cutting through the heart of Canada’s oldest Chinatown, Fan Tan Alley is one of the most popular places to go in Victoria for shopping or a quick Asian-inspired snack.

Fan Tan Alley

The slender alleyway, the narrowest street in Canada, is flanked by more than a dozen small local boutique shops, tea shops, and ice cream parlours. Whether you’re looking for skincare products, trendy clothing, vintage vinyl records, or a cup of matcha, you’ll find it among the red-brick heritage architecture on a stroll through Fan Tan Alley.

After exploring the historic street, take a walk through the rest of Victoria’s Chinatown National Historic Site. The city’s Chinatown is packed full of restaurants, cafes, and bars. Grab a cup of coffee at Bean Around the World or enjoy delicious Asian fusion cuisine and drinks at Bao.

Miniature World

Dubbed “The Greatest Little Show On Earth,” Miniature World is one of the city’s most popular family-friendly tourist attractions and an absolute must-see if you’re visiting Victoria with kids.

Miniature World, Victoria, B.C. (8458995481)

The museum hosts over 85 miniature dioramas in stunning detail. Some of the most popular exhibits at Miniature World include exploring the final frontier at Space 2201, wandering among glorious European castles at the Enchanted Valley of Castles, and watching wood pop out of the World’s Smallest Operational Sawmill.

Victoria Harbour Ferry

Whether you’re a local or just passing through, one of the coolest things to do in Victoria is to take a Victoria Harbour Ferry to explore the Inner Harbour and downtown waterfront.

There are a handful of transportation options for getting around Victoria Harbour on the ferry. The 45-minute Harbour Tours and 75-minute Gorge Tours are the most popular for visitors.

Harbour Ferry

The intimate 12-person Victoria Harbour Tour skates through thousands of years of Victoria’s history, from the Coast Salish people to early European explorers to the city’s modern age, as you float among some of the best sights in Victoria.

On the 10-person Gorge Tour, you’ll float past Victoria’s historic neighbourhoods and shipyards along the Gorge Waterway between Victoria Harbour and Portage Inlet while learning more about the history of the city’s first settlers and local marine ecosystems.

If you’re looking for something a little cheekier, head over to the Steamship terminal every Sunday at 10:30 am to catch the famous Water Ballet, where ship captains twirl their vessels in tandem.

Fisherman’s Wharf Park

Located around the corner from the Inner Harbour, Fisherman’s Wharf Park is one of Victoria’s most interesting corners. The seaside park is chock-loaded with small shops, food kiosks, and even a few friendly resident seals to snag a photo with.

Fisherman's Wharf

If you’re yearning for a relaxing lunch by the harbour, the wharf is the perfect spot. Among the food vendors, you’ll find fish & chip stands, captains selling seafood fresh off the boat, and even a Mexican restaurant. The wharf also houses a few eco-adventure outfitters that offer fishing tours and other boat excursions.

For an extra special experience on your Victoria itinerary, book a whale-watching tour with Eagle Wings Tours. Running year-round, these boat tours ply the Salish Sea in search of dolphins, humpback whales, orcas, and grey whales Besides whale watching and soaking up the beautiful coastal scenery, you’ll also spot other marine wildlife like sea lions, otters, and seals. 

Victoria Ale Trail

For beer drinkers, there’s hardly a better destination in British Columbia—or even Canada!—than Victoria. The British Columbian capital is often touted as the birthplace of the Canadian craft beer scene—which, in case you weren’t aware, has truly been thriving in recent years! And there’s no better way to experience it than by taking on the Victoria Ale Trail.

Ale Trail

Canada’s first brewpub, Spinnakers, calls Victoria home and is still a popular beer-drinking getaway for locals and visitors alike.

To get the most out of your Victoria craft beer experience, start with strolling around the Beer Mile, a collection of brewpubs & breweries around the Upper Harbour. One of the easiest ways to get around the Beer Mile is with the Pickle Pub Crawl ferry or with a pub crawl biking tour.

Where to stay in Victoria for sightseeing

Thanks to being one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, there are plenty of options when you’re choosing where to stay in Victoria. For most travellers, the areas in & around downtown Victoria, including the Inner Harbour, Chinatown, and James Bay, are the best places to start your accommodation search.

  • Spinakers Gastro Brewpub & Guesthouses: One of the most unique stays in Victoria, this guesthouse features an on-site brewery and gastropub with some superb local food selections. It’s located on Lime Bay in Victoria West, just 1.5 kilometres from the city centre.
  • Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel & Suites: Set on the edge of the Inner Harbour, these delightful suites are spacious and offer private patios or balconies for guests to enjoy fine city and harbour views.
  • Fairmont Empress Hotel: One of Canada’s most legendary hotels, this 5-star gem salutes guests with its elegant Victorian architecture reigning along the harbourfront. Updated for modern times while still retaining a splash of their heritage, rooms at the Fairmont Empress Hotel are simply spectacular, as is the breadth of amenities, including Willow Stream Spa and The Empress tea room.
Treksplorer

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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