With its mild and sunny climate, there’s no shortage of things to do in Victoria.
The British colonial charm that put British Columbia’s capital on the map now wrestles modern foodie culture, intruiging ethnic enclaves, and once in a lifetime outdoor escapes – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Let’s head over to Vancouver Island and take a deeper look at the top Victoria BC activities.
Things to Do in Victoria
Visit Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens is the most popular tourist attraction in Victoria BC.
This world-renowned Vancouver Island garden features over 55 acres of stunning floral displays, making it a must-see for any nature lover. The lush greens and colourful blooms of this urban oasis attract over one million people a year.
If you’re visiting Victoria in the spring, be sure to check out the annual tulip festival. Over one million tulips bloom in Butchart Gardens during this time, making for a truly breathtaking sight. However, this National Historic site remains popular year round.
Have Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel
Want to immerse yourself in Victoria’s unique colonial charm? Afternoon tea at the Empress is the best way to do it.
At Victoria’s most iconic building you’ll enjoy the hotel’s famous flakey scones and scrumptious pastries alongside loose-leaf tea served in royal china provided by Queen Elizabeth herself in 1939. For true decadence, finish up with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose.
This stately ritual has been a Vancouver Island staple for 114 years and counting – and it’s the ultimate in vacation pampering.
Walk or Bike through Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park is a 150-acre park located in the heart of Victoria. This scenic spot for a leisurely stroll or a vigorous bike ride offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
This ocean-front park also features a number of historic monuments, like the world’s 4th tallest totem pole (127 feet) carved by Kwakwaka’wakw craftsman Mungo Martin.
Furthermore, it holds an important status as Mile 0, the western terminus of the 8,000 kilometre long Trans-Canada Highway.
Take a Victoria Hop on Hop off Tour
If you’re looking for a quick way to check off numerous items on your Victoria clipboard of fun? See the entire city on a Victoria Hop on Hop off tour.
For one low price you’ll ride a UK style double-decker bus to 15 of Victoria’s best attractions.
This tour is perfect for families, the elderly or hurried cruise passengers.
Eat at Local Victoria Restaurants
Victoria lives by a simple motto: eat, drink, and discover.
That’s why I want you to experience truly unique dining experiences like 10 Acres. This farm-to-fork ‘slightly finer dining’ restaurant shows off the best of ethically raised local ingredients. In fact, most of them are sourced from their own farm!
For something more casual the area’s British heritage comes to light: fish and chips is a popular choice for visitors strolling the city.
I recommend the wharf-side Redfish Bluefish for a modern take on this traditional favourite.
Paddle Around Victoria Harbour
The city of Victoria is essentially one giant peninsula made up of the Inner Harbour and the Gorge Waterway. Expect a series of small bays, offering protected waters to be explored during the Summer months.
The result? A SUPing and kayaking paradise – you can get rentals right in downtown Victoria with Victoria Kayak.
Toss in the area’s mild climate and abundant wildlife, and you have the recipe for a killer afternoon. You won’t even realize you’re getting in some exercise.
Attend a Performance at the Royal Theatre
The Royal Theatre is one of the best places to catch a concert or performance in Victoria BC.
This historic theatre has been hosting live shows for over 100 years and features a variety of performances from concerts to ballet to stand up comedy.
However, if you’re visiting Victoria in the summer, be sure to check out the Victoria Symphony’s free concerts. These outdoor concerts are a great way to enjoy some live music under the stars.
This culminates in the Symphony Splash, where the Symphony plays live from a barge in the Inner Harbour to over 50,000 spectators. The event even includes a fireworks display and live cannon fire!
Shop at Market Square
This pedestrian-only market features over 100 shops and stalls, selling everything from hand-crafted jewelry to locally made food products.
Admire the Views of the Inner Harbour
The Inner Harbour is without a doubt the centerpiece of Victoria and a great place to admire the city’s stunning colonial architecture.
The highlights here are provincial legislature and the iconic Empress Hotel. The area is also home to a number of restaurants, cafes, and shops.
If you’re looking for things to do in Victoria BC at night, the Inner Harbour is a great option. The area is lit up with colourful lights and there are often street performers and musicians too.
The city’s best bars and clubs are also nearby at Bastion Square or along Douglas Street.
Visit the Royal British Columbia Museum
The Royal BC Museum is a world-class museum featuring exhibits on local history, natural history, and First Nations culture.
The museum is also home to the IMAX Victoria Theatre, which screens a variety of educational and entertaining films.
Also, with the current Royal British Columbia Museum price just $5.00 it’s one the cheapest things to do in Victoria hands down.
*Most exhibits are currently closed for renovation – I’ll write shortly with any updates.
Have Lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-visit for anyone visiting Victoria.
Located just around the corner from the Inner Harbour, this historic area is home to a number of seafood restaurants, as well as a public market where you can buy fresh fish and produce. If you’re a seafood lover, Barb’s Fish and Chips is a favourite with locals.
Those looking for things to do in Victoria with kids will love the Victoria Bug Zoo and the penny-farthing bicycle rides.
Ride the Victoria Clipper to Seattle
The Victoria Clipper is a high-speed ferry that runs between Victoria and Seattle. This is a great option for anyone looking to do some exploring outside of Victoria. It’s a much more exciting journey than driving from Vancouver to Seattle.
The ferry ride takes just over two hours and offers stunning views of the coast.
Stroll along Dallas Road Waterfront Trail
Luckily, the city’s founders ordered the land between Dallas Road and the ocean to remain park land in perpetuity.
As a result, this stunning seaside route offers uninterrupted views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. Think Victoria’s answer to Vancouver’s Seawall, but with half the traffic.
The paved path snakes through Beacon Hill Park towards Clover Point Park, a scenic peninsula that juts dramatically out into the Pacific.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
The Victoria Butterfly Gardens is one of the best things to do in Victoria BC for nature lovers.
As its name suggests, this tropical garden is home to over 500 butterflies. However, it also contains thousands of tropical birds, reptiles, turtles and plants.
In addition, the gardens also have to a number of educational exhibits, so it’s the perfect place for your children to learn more about these amazing creatures.
Conveniently, the attraction is located relatively close to Butchart Gardens.
Tour Craigdarroch Castle
Craigdarroch Castle is a historic castle built in the late 19th century by wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, and it features a Victorian-style design.
Located just outside downtown Victoria, the castle is open for tours, which allow you to explore the building’s many rooms and learn its history.
Now a national historic site, a complete restoration now allows visitors a glimpse into the privileged life of colonialists in the 1890s.
Visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
This world-renowned gallery features a collection of over 16,000 works of art, from paintings and sculptures to textiles and photographs.
Notably, the Greater Victoria Art Gallery hosts of the largest collections from venerated Victoria artist Emily Carr.
You’ll also find one of the largest collections of Asian art in Canada, including a large Japanese-style shinto shrine. The gallery also offers a variety of educational programs.
Go on Victoria Whale Watching Tours
As much was we love the whale watching tours in Vancouver, Victoria might be the best major city in British Columbia for whale watching.
On your tours you’ll be able to see a variety of whales including orcas, humpbacks, and gray whales. You may even spot some dolphins, seals and sea lions. You’ll also learn about the life cycle and migration habits of these magnificent creatures.
Victoria is home to a number of tour operators that offer both boat and seaplane tours right from the city’s Inner Harbour.
Head out to Goldstream Provincial Park
Goldstream Provincial Park is one of the best things to do in Victoria BC for outdoor lovers, especially ones looking for hiking and biking trails – there’s even a beautiful waterfall.
If you find yourself in town between October and December, you can witness one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles anywhere in North America. These majestic creatures return every year to feast on spawning chum salmon.
Located 16 km north west of the city, the park is also a great place for camping if you’re dying to spend a night or two under the stars.
Watch the Sunset from Dallas Road
Dallas Road Waterfront Trail is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Victoria.
This seaside route offers stunning views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. Stretching from Clover to Ogden Point, there is a seemingly endless selection of isolated spots to watch the sunset over the Pacific.
For this reason, it’s one of the best things do in Victoria for couples. Make sure to head there for golden hour – you’ll thank me later.
Sample Victoria’s Craft Breweries
Victoria may be the most important stop on BC’s Ale Trail. There are just so many great breweries and even a few distilleries for local spirits.
Visit the British Columbia Parliament Buildings
It sounds almost strange to say, but if you’re a lover of politics this will be one of the best things to do in Victoria hands down.
These historic buildings are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, as well as a number of other government offices.
The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are open for tours, which allow you to explore the chambers and learn about the history of the building. But most locals simply prefer to employ the grounds as a picnic spot, due to their fantastic location at the heart of the Inner Harbour.
Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site
Located just outside Victoria in a suburb called Colwood, Fort Rodd Hill is a National Historic Site that was once a fort that defended the city from a potential attack by the Americans (hard to believe, I know).
Now it allows visitors to tour historic battlements, weapons depots, and other displays.
Better yet, Fort Rodd Hill is right next to the Fisgard Lighthouse and Hatley Park – two more National Historic Sites.
Hatley Park Castle / Gardens
Hatley Park is home to some pretty glorious gardens based on international themes (Japanese, Italian etc.). It’s also here that you can find the beautiful Hatley Park Castle. This building is near and dear to my heart due to its location on the campus of my alma matter, Royal Roads University.
The park is also home to a number of trails, so it’s the perfect place to go for a walk or a bike ride.
Furthermore, it leads down towards Esquimalt Lagoon which houses one of Victoria’s nicest beaches along Ocean Boulevard.
Cool Off in Sooke Potholes
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park is one of the best things to do near Victoria BC for outdoor lovers, especially those who don’t mind getting a little wet.
The potholes are about an hour West of Victoria near Sooke. This park is home to a number of hiking and biking trails, as well as a beautiful river.
The area’s unique rock formations was sculpted during the last ice-age. The crystal clear pools are a terrific place to cool off in the summer heat.
Explore Victoria by Bike
BC’s capital city is renown for its incredibly high bike participation rate. In fact, many would claim biking to be he preferred method of local transport. And why not? With its seemingly never ending network of urban bike lanes and trails the area is a true biker’s paradise.
Whether you’re looking to simply explore the City Centre, encircle the stunning Seaside Loop or do some hard core mountain biking, the area is assured to satisfy anyone traveling on two wheels.
You can rent a bike in Victoria using the orange button below.
Wander Through Canada’s Oldest Chinatown
Located on the Northern edge of downtown Victoria, this historic enclave of Chinese culture dates back to the mid 1800’s after gold was discovered in BC’s Fraser Canyon.
The area’s beating heart is the quaint Fan Tan Alley, which is the narrowest street in Canada. Formerly chocked full of gambling and opium dens, it now houses a variety of shops, galleries and cafe’s catering to the tourist crowd.
Today the area’s cheap rents have proved attractive for a diverse blend of artists, restauranteurs and bar owners. For the visitor, this combination leads to a great place to kill a lazy afternoon.
Looking for the Top Things to Do in Victoria?
So there you have it. Whether you’re headed to the Royal BC Museum, visiting the Victoria Bug Zoo, or chowing down on local food you should be loaded with Victoria activities.
That said, if you need any additional tips I’m here for you in the comments below.
Also don’t be afraid to hit us up Vancouver Planner Facebook page. Either way, we get back to all our readers in 24 hours or less.