Choose from 21 Fun Things to Do in Victoria
Though it's hard to top the bay's natural beauty, the dramatic coastline is aptly framed with more delightful Victorian homes, watched over by winsome Craigdarroch Castle, completed in 1890 by a Scottish coal billionaire with a taste for luxury. There's plenty of culture (and even more tourist claptrap, including a wax museum, aquarium, IMAX theater…you get the idea) to keep you busy. Consider strolling vividly landscaped Buchart Gardens, or taking a whale watching (April through October) cruise, then finishing your day with a meal in Victoria's vibrant Chinatown.
Though the Pacific Northwest is notably rainy, Victoria is generally sunny and dry, in summer at least. It gets chilly and wet in winter, but temperatures rarely drop below freezing.
There's a useful tourist bureau InfoCentre with maps and brochures galore on the inner harbor; you can download a free phone app with maps and information at their official website.
- Allow at least one hour to properly explore.
- Volunteers are stationed throughout the castle and can answer questions regarding its history.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as there are lots of stairs to navigate.
- Craigdarroch Castle is not accessible to wheelchair users.
A mix of styles come together at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, from Asian and Latin American, to contemporary and ethnic artworks.
The gallery exhibits a wide range of sculptures, textiles, prints, paintings and weaving, focusing in particular on Japanese and Canadian works.
An Asian garden surrounds the gallery, underscoring the gallery’s highly prized collection of Asian art inside.Guided tours, events, classes and educational programs round out the gallery’s cultural calendar.
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is a few streets east of Victoria Harbour.Buses run here from downtown, or it’s around a 20-minute stroll from the waterfront.
Fluttering butterflies and moths flit amid a rainforest environment at the popular Victoria Butterfly Gardens.
The indoor butterfly house is a tranquil tropical retreat for butterflies and visitors alike, with a waterfall and stream, exotic plants and warm humid atmosphere.
Around 75 species of butterflies and moths live here, and you can even see the young butterflies fluttering into life in the nursery.
The tropical orchid gardens here are also justifiably famous, with ponds filled with golden carp and tropical birds like parrots and flamingos in residence.
The Victoria Butterfly Gardens are 20 km (14 miles) north of downtown Victoria, on the Saanich Peninsula. The Butchart Gardens are just five minutes away.
It’s a 30-minute drive from Victoria if you’re driving. Buses run here from downtown Victoria, as well as from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.Why not combine two of Victoria’s major highlights on an organized tour taking in both the Butterfly Gardens and the Butchart Gardens?
- Tours generally depart from downtown Victoria, not the cruise port.
- Dockside you will find gift shops, a currency exchange, and pay phones.
- The climate in Victoria is mild but tends to be rainy. Bring an umbrella or rain jacket.
- Butchart Gardens, a Victoria highlight, requires a tour or taxi to get there, as it is about a 20-minute drive.
The grand lady of Victoria, the Fairmont Empress Hotel was built in over-the-top French chateau style by the Canadian Pacific Railway company, opening in 1908.
Victoria’s first hotel is still the grandest, and one of the most highly awarded hotels in the country. Over the last 100 years, all manner of famous people have stayed here, including Edward Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth and Shirley Temple.
Taking afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is an experience not to be missed, complete with Edwardian style service, clotted cream, scones and pots of tea. Bookings are essential.The style is more subcontinental colonial in the Bengal Lounge restaurant, where the menu features a curry buffet.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel has a grandstand location on Government Street smack bang in the city center, with front-seat views of the inner harbor.
- Beacon Hill Park is perfect for families with kids, gardening enthusiasts, and anyone who loves the outdoors.
- The park is generally accessible for wheelchair users, with paved pathways and accessible bathrooms.
- Pack swimsuits for the kids—if it’s hot they’ll want to splash in the water parks.
Even if you normally give museums a miss, you won’t want to leave Victoria without dropping into the highly acclaimed Royal British Columbia Museum.
From big-screen IMAX movies to the re-created First Peoples village, this imaginative and creatively curated museum will have you thinking and engaging with the past.
The First Peoples Gallery provides insights into life before the arrival of Europeans, while the Modern History Gallery vividly re-creates colonial life. In the Natural History Gallery, seals, grizzly bears and seabirds fill dioramas re-creating the region’s ecosystems.Big-screen films are screened in the on-site IMAX cinema.
The Royal British Columbia Museum is in downtown Victoria, on the inner harbor waterfront opposite the Fairmont Empress Hotel.