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Exploring the many things to do in Victoria, British Columbia, reveals a treasure trove of cultural and natural wonders waiting to be discovered. Victoria (and the surrounding Vancouver Island) is unlike anywhere else in Canada thanks to heavy English influences and a focus on retaining its late-19th-century charm.

Victoria’s nickname is the “Garden City,” and all it takes is a quick stroll through town to see why. Some of the best things to do in Victoria, B.C. involve nature, like cycling through a park or enjoying a classic tea service in a botanical garden. Whale watching and tours through temperate rainforests are also just a quick drive away.

Here are some of the best things to do in Victoria for all kinds of travel styles.

Have Tea in Butchart Gardens

Couple having tea in Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Arguably the prettiest place in Victoria—and there are quite a few contenders—Butchart Gardens is a massive botanical garden just outside the city limits. The gardens have been open to the public for more than 100 years, and they’re a lovely place for anyone with even a passing interest in plants.

While you’re here, be sure to make time for an afternoon tea service. Because the city has such a strong English culture, afternoon tea is a tradition. And there’s no better place to experience it than at Butchart Gardens while enjoying the stunning views. You can opt for a single tea or coffee at the Garden Cafe, but a full tea service will also include small sandwiches and sweet snacks—and if you ask a born-and-raised Victorian, they’ll tell you that sweets are a non-negotiable part of a proper tea time.

Sample Spirits at the Victoria Distillery

Have you ever tried hemp vodka? Or oaked gin? Whether you say yes or no to that question, a visit to the Victoria Distillery is one of the most fun things to do in Victoria, provided you like spirits or cocktail mixing of any kind. You’ll have your choice of a few different tours and tasting pairings, where you can learn how they make their beloved spirits (and taste a few yourself).

Once you’ve taste-tested the options and figured out which you like best, be sure to order a cocktail in the distillery’s cocktail room. Opt for an indulgent drink made with their dark chocolate liquor, or choose something with Sidney Spiced to warm your soul if it’s chilly outside. The entire operation has won awards for its sustainability and eco-friendly production methods.

Fly Down a Rainforest Zipline

Lush rainforest of Sooke

Sooke, BC

Just outside of Victoria, a bit further out into the wilderness of Vancouver Island, lies a high-octane and high-elevation adventure. On a zipline canopy tour, you’ll soar through the temperate rainforest in Sooke. With a knowledgeable safety instructor, you’ll slide across eight zip lines and cross two suspension bridges, all with fantastic views of the forest and ocean beyond.

Whale Watch around the San Juan Islands

Humpback whale spotted in San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands

One of the absolute best things to do in Victoria, B.C. is to head out on the water in search of humpback whales. The waters around Vancouver Island are a summer home for migrating whales before they head to Mexico or Hawaii for the winter. You could also see grey whales, which follow a similar migration pattern as the humpbacks.

Along with whales, the Salish Sea and the northwest Pacific Ocean are also home to marine species like California sea lions and harbor seals, as well as more unique pinnipeds like the massive elephant seal (which you can often hear from a mile away).

Read: Things to Do in the Pacific Northwest

Stroll Along the Inner Harbor

Beautiful view of Inner Harbor

Inner Harbor

As you might imagine from Victoria’s geography, access to water has always played a considerable role in the city’s development. Long before it was a city, Canada’s First Nations people relied on the water for transportation, trade, and as a plentiful food source. Once the British arrived with the Hudson Bay Company, the waterfront played a similar role, though it also became a hub for naval defense and, eventually, yachting and recreation.

Now, there’s a lovely walking and jogging path along the Inner Harbour that goes past some of the city’s most notable buildings. That includes the Fairmont Empress Hotel (a former railway hotel opened in 1908 and now a National Historic Site,) the pseudo-Renaissance-styled Parliament Buildings, and the Royal British Columbia Museum. The Inner Harbour is an excellent place for an afternoon walk or morning jog.

Go Back in Time at Craigdarroch Castle

Beautiful exterior of Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Despite the fact that Victoria is a city full of beautiful architecture, there’s one particularly unique building worth a trip for anyone who loves history: Craigdarroch Castle. The castle was built in the late 1800s for Robert Dunsmuir, a coal baron and member of Victoria’s high society. The sprawling home is more than 25,000 square feet and remains as it was during the 19th century, right down to the stained glass and ornate woodwork.

A historical society now manages the home, and taking a tour there is one of the most fun things to do in Victoria for history buffs. Tours are self-guided, and staff are on hand to answer questions and paint a portrait of what life was like in that era.

Cycle through Beacon Hill Park

Pathway in Beacon Hill Park with view of the water

Beacon Hill Park

Victoria has quite a few urban parks, but the most well-loved among them is undoubtedly Beacon Hill Park—think of it as Victoria’s Central Park. The communal space covers more than 182 acres and includes meadows and footpaths, gardens, lawn bowling, picnic areas, a playground, performance areas, and protected habitats for some of B.C.’s rare plants.

One of the best ways to see the park is from the saddle of a gentle road cycle or cruiser bike. The park is a trendy biking destination, so it’s quite safe and motorists are used to cyclists. You can bike along the water (where you’ll often see kitesurfers and windsurfers) or pedal past meadows and huge native trees. There’s also an area of the park once used by First Nations People (specifically the Lekwungen People) with exhibits and preservation efforts underway.

Taste Your Way Through the City

Couple eating pastries in Victoria

For many travelers, tasting local cuisine is the best way to get to know a city. And if you’re one of those travelers, then taking a food tour downtown will definitely be one of the most fun things to do in Victoria. The city’s food scene blends all the best of European cuisine along with some Eastern influences, since the city is becoming more and more diverse by the day.

Where exactly a food tour will go depends on what company you travel with and what foods are in season, but popular destinations include the Victoria Public Market, town squares like Bastion Square or Market Square, Chinatown, and small mom-and-pop places you’d likely never find on your own. In addition to various drinks, you might be able to try meatballs and French pastries, chocolate, street food, seafood, and (of course) Canadian classics like gourmet poutine.

Hike Mount Tolmie

View from Mount Tolmie

Mount Tolmie

Even though Victoria is a city, there’s excellent hiking just a few minutes from downtown. Taking a hike up Mount Tolmie is one of the best things to do in Victoria, B.C., as it gives you a bird’s-eye view of both the city and the entire Saanich area.

For a longer hike, start from a lower elevation and hike to the summit. The journey gains about 400 feet of elevation and is only about a mile long, though it’s uphill most of the time. If you’re more interested in the views than the hiking, you can drive most of the way up and explore some of the paths closer to the top rather than starting at sea level. There are several relaxing picnic areas and information at the top about the area’s history and what peaks and waterways you’re looking at in the distance.

Explore Old Town Victoria

Colorful buildings in Old Town Victoria

Old Town Victoria

Victoria was established in the 1800s, and while trading and trapping were big industries back then, so too was something a bit more lucrative: gold. The Old Town of Victoria retains much of the same look it did back in the gold rush days, right down to the historical buildings that once served as hotels and saloons. Many of them have since become funky shops and cute cafes, and there’s even a maritime museum if you’re interested in the city’s nautical history.

View of Chinatown in Victoria


Also in Old Town are two must-see sights: Chinatown and Centennial Square. Be sure to check out the First Nations Totem poles and City Hall in the latter. Victoria’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America, just after San Francisco’s. It’s worth a visit as it seamlessly blends Chinese history and architecture with modern-day cuisine and crafts. Fan Tan Alley is an especially great place to shop if you’re keen to explore some small, internationally sourced boutiques.

Admire Architecture & Harbor Views at the Fairmont Empress

Fairmont Empress, one of the best things to do in Victoria

Fairmont Empress

At the Fairmont Empress, you’ll be treated to a world of timeless elegance. Admiring the hotel’s stunning architecture (a blend of Edwardian and châteauesque styles), including its majestic domes and intricate details has to be one of the best things to do in Victoria, BC.

The luxurious setting here will offer you breathtaking views of Victoria’s wonderful harbor. A visit to the hotel will also afford you the chance to watch buzzing back and forth across the water against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State in the U.S.

Exterior of Fairmont Empress

Fairmont Empress

Explore the hotel’s history, dating back to 1908 when the property was built. The hotel has hosted royalty, celebrities, and dignitaries, including the likes of Rudyard Kipling, John Wayne, and Winston Churchill.

Factor in some time to discover the hotel’s elegant ballrooms, historic artifacts, and charming gardens as well.

You can even indulge in the quintessentially British tradition of afternoon tea in the elegant lobby lounge, where you can savor delicate pastries and teas while soaking in the ambiance of this legendary hotel.

Take a Scenic Hike Along the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail

Dallas Road Waterfront Trail, one of the best things to do in Victoria

Dallas Road Waterfront Trail

As you ramble down the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail, you’ll get to enjoy captivating views of the Juan de Fuca Strait, which is a narrow, island-specked channel dividing Vancouver Island from the mainland of British Columbia, as well as the Olympic Mountains.

This scenic pathway is a perfect escape for nature lovers. You’ll get to breathe in the fresh ocean air as you walk, jog, or cycle along the paved trail, flanked by lush greenery and rugged coastline.

Seagull spotted in Victoria


Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that Canada is known for, including seabirds, seals, and even whales during migration seasons.

Also, try to take a few breaks at various points along this four-and-a-half-mile-long trail to admire the incredible vistas. You can snap images of the natural splendor surrounding you as you enjoy the rugged cliffs and pebbly beaches that characterize this picturesque stretch of coastline.

Read: Best Place to See Orcas in the Wild

Visit Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf, one of the best things to do in Victoria

Fisherman’s Wharf

If you’re looking for fun and some “fishy” things to do in Victoria, BC, you can’t beat Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll encounter a vibrant waterfront destination humming with activity.

Wander along the floating boardwalks here, lined with eclectic and colorful shops, eateries, and houseboats, all helping create a unique and charming seaside ambiance.

While you’re by the water, indulge in some freshly caught seafood straight from the fishermen’s boats and sample local delicacies like fish and chips or seafood chowder. Don’t miss out on the renowned fish tacos, either.

Harbor seal spotted in Victoria

Harbor seal

Stay on the lookout for the local harbor seals, frequently spotted lounging around on the docks or frolicking in the water.

You can also book a boat tour from the wharf for scenic views of Victoria’s coastline and wildlife. Be sure to stop for a photo with the iconic “Fisherman’s Wharf” sign to capture your visit to this enjoyable maritime enclave.

Take a Victoria Parliament Buildings Tour

Parliament Buildings, one of the best things to do in Victoria

Parliament Buildings

As you approach Victoria’s Parliament Buildings, among the most interesting things to do in Victoria, plenty of impressive architecture will greet you. Admire the majesty of the neo-baroque design, characterized by domes, intricate stonework, and stunning façades.

Step inside the buildings to explore the Legislative Assembly Chamber, where important decisions shaping British Columbia’s future are made. You can marvel at the ornate décor here as well, including stained glass windows and elaborate woodwork.

If you’re interested in local governance, join a guided tour to learn about the history and political significance of the Parliament Buildings; well-informed guides will offer you insights into the legislative process, the building’s construction, and its role in managing British Columbia.

During your visit, check out the iconic statue of Queen Victoria outside as well, along with the outstanding views of the Inner Harbour seen from the grounds.

Study Creepy Crawlies at the Victoria Bug Zoo

Insects inside the Victoria Bug Zoo

Victoria Bug Zoo

Welcome to the Victoria Bug Zoo, where you’re invited to delve into the captivating realm of insects and arachnids.

If you decide to immerse yourself in this playful attraction, worth considering if you’re traveling with kids, you’ll come face to face with a diverse array of live bugs from across the world, ranging from beetles and tarantulas and praying mantises.

You’ll be surprised by the remarkable variety of bug shapes, dimensions, and colors you’ll encounter here as you learn about the vital functions these creatures play in global ecosystems.

Person holding tarantula


The staff offers invaluable insights into insect behavior, delving deeper into the fascinating world of bugs through interactive activities and engaging insect-themed presentations that blend learning with fun.

A visit here is a good chance, too, to start overcoming fears and misconceptions about insects and spiders while discovering their intricate beauty and fascinating complexity.

Experience Diverse Plant Life at Abkhazi Garden

Water lily at the Abkhazi Garden

Abkhazi Garden

Acquaint yourself with the hypnotizing allure of Victoria’s Abkhazi Garden, a secluded space embraced by verdant landscapes. Stroll through meticulously tended gardens graced with colorful blossoms, peaceful ponds, and trails, providing a retreat from the urban clamor.

The Abkhazi Garden, created by Prince and Princess Abkhazi in the mid-20th century, stands as a testament to the couple’s journey of love, as well as their passion for horticulture, transforming the property into a botanical utopia. Prince Nicholas Abkhazi was an exile from Georgia, and the pair’s story, which local guides will tell you, is fascinating.

Within the garden, you’ll also find the Abkhazi Garden Tea House, where you can enjoy a fine culinary experience amid lush surroundings. Treat yourself to a traditional afternoon tea service, complete with a variety of teas, pastries, sandwiches, and sweet treats.

Savor Coffee & Donuts at Tim Hortons

Coffee from Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons

When you’re in Victoria, BC, visiting Tim Hortons for coffee and donuts is a must for several reasons. First and foremost, Tim Hortons is an iconic Canadian brand renowned for its delicious coffee and freshly baked goods.

With a wide selection of coffee blends and flavors, along with classic donut varieties, there’s something to satisfy every craving here. And beyond the tasty treats, Tim Hortons holds a special place in Canadian culture and in people’s hearts.

View inside Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons

The chain, founded in 1964 by hockey legend Tim Horton, has grown to become a beloved national institution. Its commitment to quality, affordability, and community has endeared it to generations of Canadians.

For many folks, a trip to Tim Hortons transcends mere coffee; it’s a cherished ritual. Whether kickstarting your day with an infusion of caffeine or stopping for a midday treat, make sure you carve out some time from your busy day to drop in here.

Stop by the Trans-Canada Highway’s Mile Zero Monument

View of the Trans-Canada Highway Mile Zero Monument

Trans-Canada Highway Mile Zero Monument

When you visit Victoria’s Trans-Canada Highway Mile Zero Monument, you’ll be standing at the symbolic beginning of Canada’s cross-country road network, marking the starting point of a journey spanning thousands of miles across the country.

Capturing a photo or two of the Mile Zero plaque, tucked between two stone pillars, is a fun thing to do in Victoria. This plaque not only commemorates the historic origins of the highway but also celebrates its vital role in connecting Canada from coast to coast.

Lush landscape of Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park

The Mile Zero Monument is close to Beacon Hill Park’s tranquil gardens and ponds, as well as the Children’s Farm, where you can mingle with goats, sheep, and miniature horses if you’re looking for other activities in the vicinity.

When you’re standing at the monument, try to reflect on the Trans-Canada Highway’s role in connecting Canada’s diverse regions, indicative of the nation’s vastness and unity, created through travel, trade, and communication.

Enjoy Scenic Vistas From Ogden Point Breakwater and Lighthouse

White and red facade of the Ogden Point Lighthouse

Ogden Point Breakwater and Lighthouse

If you can’t get enough time by the wild ocean, Ogden Point Breakwater and Lighthouse should be added to your list of things to do in Victoria, offering you vistas of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the grandeur of the Olympic Mountains.

This locale is steeped in maritime allure. As you walk along the long breakwater, you can feel the power of the ocean pushing up against the historic stone structure here, which will also offer you amazing vistas of the coastline and local surroundings.

For over a century now, the Ogden Point Lighthouse has steadfastly guided ships into the harbor with its striking red and white colors and design, symbolizing unwavering maritime service.

As you explore the breakwater, be on the lookout for some of the marine wildlife that inhabits the area, including seals, otters, and seabirds.

Discover Local History at the Royal BC Museum

Exterior of Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum Photo by Michal Klajban on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Visit the Royal BC Museum in Victoria to take part in a mesmerizing odyssey through British Columbia’s history. The museum houses immersive exhibits detailing the province’s cultural and natural legacies.

From the intricate craftsmanship of Indigenous artifacts to the pioneering spirit of early settlers, the museum’s vast treasury of fossils, minerals, and other specimens will unveil many of British Columbia’s secrets, along with its biodiversity.

You’ll be greeted by exhibits highlighting the region’s wildlife, from ancient dinosaurs to present-day species, including a commanding, life-sized wooly mammoth and massive totem poles, integral parts of the museum’s fascinating collection.

Make sure you check out the museum’s “Old Town” exhibit as well, which recreates a bustling Victorian-era street scene complete with shops, homes, and businesses.

Shop at Historic Bastion Square

Bastion Square, one of the best things to do in Victoria

Bastion Square

In the heart of Victoria, you’ll find the historic Bastion Square, brimming with heritage, food, and shopping. Take in the square’s exquisitely maintained historic structures, including the stately former Victoria Law Courts and Customs House, embodying the maritime history of the city.

In and near the square and public market, you’ll find handmade crafts and locally sourced goods, plus a variety of boutiques, galleries, and restaurants, making it a favorite destination for shoppers seeking one-of-a-kind finds.

While exploring the area, you may want to check out Bastion Books, a local bookstore with diverse genres, plus the Fan Tan Gallery, just north of the square, which carries playful artwork and gifts.

Empress Hotel, one of the best things to do in Victoria

Empress Hotel

Victoria is an amazing city and truly one of the most unique on the West Coast. You can explore this beautiful destination on a luxury cruise that also travels to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. Browse cruises to Victoria on our website and book an unforgettable vacation today.

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