7 things to do in the Garden City
Victoria is stereotypically known as “the city of the newlywed and nearly dead”, but you’ll be surprised by just how hip and happening it actually is. Here are seven must-dos that will make for a memorable and worthwhile visit to British Columbia’s capital.
1. Stop and smell the roses at Butchart Gardens
Once you’ve laid your eyes on these 22 hectares of breathtaking landscape, it’s easy to understand why the Gardens have been designated as a National Historic Site. Though open year-round, the most stunning times of the year to visit are in the spring, when tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are in full bloom, and in the early summer, when the Rose Garden is at its most magnificent. Allow at least half a day for your visit in order to enjoy all of the Gardens’ splendour.
2. Wander around Chinatown
Though only a few blocks, Victoria lays claim to the country’s oldest Chinatown and the second oldest in North America (San Francisco’s is the first). Discover places to shop for art, home décor, food, and other Asian wares. Search for Fan Tan Alley, North America's narrowest street, which was originally the locale for gambling houses and opium dens, but is now lined with a barber shop, art gallery, café, and other interesting (and legal!) retailers. Be sure to look closely, or you just might miss it—at its narrowest, the alley’s width is just 10 centimetres short of a metre. In the summer months (June to September), a night market event once a month celebrates Chinese culture with vendors selling arts, crafts, jewellery, food, as well as live entertainment focusing on traditional dance and music. For exact dates and more details, check out Chinatown Night Market.
3. View the city from above at Vista 18
If it’s a panoramic view of the city you’re looking for, this elegant—and the city’s only—rooftop restaurant and bar is where you’ll want to be. Located on the top floor of the Chateau Victoria Hotel, Vista 18’s décor is modern and elegant, and there’s live entertainment on specific evenings of the week. Make a dinner reservation, or head here after your main meal for drinks; one of the many offerings from their lengthy martini list is sure to tempt you. Prefer a view of the city horizon in the daytime? Drop by from 3 to 5 pm to take advantage of the 2-for-1 special on their small bites menu.
Photo credits (from l- to r-): Christine Wagner/Flickr Creative Commons, Martha Li, Martha Li, firepile/Flickr Creative Commons, Martha Li.
4. Eat fresh seafood for cheap at Red Fish, Blue Fish
For a yummy seaside lunch, head to the city’s Inner Harbour and seek out this funky, outdoor waterfront eatery that serves local, 100% sustainable seafood. Housed on a wooden pier in a converted steel shipping container, the gourmet fish shack’s menu is made up of such offerings as Wild Pacific fish and chips (choose from halibut, salmon, or cod) and fish “tacones”, a Japanese hand roll and Mexican taco hybrid invented by Kunal Ghose, RFBF’s co-founder and Executive Chef. There’s often a line-up, but it’s well worth the wait. And though everyone raves over the tacones, we say the Pacific Rim Chowder is a must-try!
5. Stroll along the Dallas Road Walkway
West coasters are known for being active and staying fit, and with stunning ocean views and year-round mild temperatures, it’s no wonder why. Along Victoria’s southern boundary is Dallas Road, a four-mile stretch of paved oceanfront walkway where you can look across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and gaze at Washington State’s snow-capped Olympic Mountain. Along the walkway are also a number of wooden stairways that lead down to beach areas where you can sit or stroll among boulders and large uprooted trees that have washed ashore. A relaxing way to spend a sunny day with a coffee—and your camera—in hand.
6. Go for afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel
If there’s any place that does afternoon tea well, it’s The Empress. The famed hotel’s opulent tea lobby is decorated with antiques and vintage furnishings, and the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, John Travolta, Shirley Temple, and Nelly Furtado have stopped by for tea. So, treat yourself to a royal experience of sipping tea and nibbling on tea sandwiches, petit fours, and, of course, the quintessential tea accompaniment: freshly-baked scones with Jersey cream.
7. Shop on Trounce Alley
Named after Thomas Trounce, a prominent architect and one of the city’s early pioneers, this historical alleyway is filled with great gift shops and trendy, one-of-a-kind fashion boutiques including the cute She She Shoes (616 Trounce Alley) and its nearby, equally adorable sister store, She She Bags (616 View Street).
For more ideas or to plan your visit, check out Tourism Victoria.
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