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Victoria, British Columbia

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Enjoy afternoon tea, a tradition at The Fairmont Empress Hotel
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Take a stroll along Victoria’s Inner Harbour and you’ll soon notice that there’s something distinctly English about British Columbia’s capital city. This charming seaside city that sits on the sunny southern tip of Vancouver Island is full of Victorian buildings, including Craigdarroch and Hatley castles. Bright red double-decker buses and elegant horse-drawn carriages trundle along the streets. Boutiques on Government Street sell fine china and woolen items from England. People visit the Fairmont Empress Hotel for afternoon tea, or duck into a pub for a pint of English beer. And the Parliament buildings are at the centre of it all, with a statue of Queen Victoria stands in the front lawn.

There’s Asian and Aboriginal heritage here too. Chinatown offers a taste of Asian culture with its grand Gate of Harmonious Interest and shops full of curios. As North America’s second-oldest Chinatown, it’s also home to the continent’s narrowest street: Fan Tan Alley. Symbols of Aboriginal culture are also found throughout the city. Look for striking big houses at Thunderbird Park, and walk to nearby Beacon Hill Park to gaze in wonder at the world’s tallest freestanding totem pole carved from a single log.

The City of Gardens, as Victoria is known, also has a fresh and youthful vibe. The beaches and waters are always busy with people strolling or sunning themselves, kayaking to nearby neighbourhoods or setting off on a cruise ship or boat tour. Sidewalk cafes come alive in summer, and Bastion Square becomes a hotspot for vendors selling local arts and crafts. Find cool boutiques on Lower Johnson Street (“Lo Jo” to locals) and in Market Square, along with galleries and theatres.

Throughout the city, modern hotels with posh spas are at home among charming B&Bs housed in old mansions. Hip restaurants, chic nightclubs and plenty of pubs nestled against one another are lively places to visit and mingle with locals. And be sure to explore Victoria beyond the city core. Cycle the 55-km-long Galloping Goose Trail, spend a few hours at Butchart Gardens, set sail on a historic tall ship and golf at one of Victoria’s championships courses.

 

Top places to go and things to do:

 

 

1. Victoria's inner harbour - Take a stroll along Victoria's inner harbour and visit the Parliament buildings.

 

2. Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel - Arrive early and snag a window seat so you can enjoy views of the Inner Harbour while sipping tea and nibbling on cream scones in the hotel’s elegant tea lobby.

 

3. Cycle the Galloping Goose Trail

 

4. Visit Butchart Gardens - Spend a few hours at the world famous gardens.

 

5. Go on a whale-watching adventure - With three families of resident orcas (killer whales) living in Victoria’s waters, a sighting is almost guaranteed.

 

6. Indulge in a West-Coast inspired spa experience - Sapphire Day Spa brings the beach to you, with facials, body wraps and massages featuring seaweed harvested from Sooke’s shores.