Victoria is fabulous city with a variety of ways to treat and pamper yourself, for instance you can relax with a luxurious spa treatment, snack on delicious goodies at afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress or indulge in a shopping spree. However, if you are on a budget, there are plenty of free things to do in Victoria that will allow you to take in the city’s history, culture and outstanding views.

1. Walk Through Chinatown

Gates of Harmonious Interest. Credit: Brenna Ciummo.
Gates of Harmonious Interest. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

Take a self-guided walking tour of Canada’s oldest Chinatown – there are maps placed at the Gates of Harmonious Interest on Fisgard Street. You can visit historical landmarks such as the Chinese Public School, Ta, Kung Temple and Fan Tan Alley, which at about 1-2m/3.2-6.5 ft. wide is the narrowest street in Canada.

2. Explore Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park. Credit: Vadym Graifer.
Beacon Hill Park. Credit: Vadym Graifer

Covering an expansive 200 acres, Beacon Hill Park has a lot to offer. The park is found between Douglas and Cook Street and is filled with woods, gardens, ponds and playing fields. There is also a water park with a giant watering can that squirts out water and is a great way to cool off on hot days and even a petting zoo (Beacon Hill Children’s Farm) filled with goats, sheep, chickens, peacocks and donkeys. You can also spot wildlife from the many trails that wind through the park. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and orca whales if you are along the shoreline.


3. Spook Yourself on a Ghost Tour

Ross Bay Cemetery.
Ross Bay Cemetery

Victoria is full of notable landmarks and fascinating old buildings, which also help make Victoria the most haunted city in British Columbia. Give yourself a thrill by picking up a ghost hunting guide at the Inner Harbour Visitor Centre and explore the town’s spookiest spots, such as the Old Burying Ground, Ross Bay Cemetery, Bastion Square and Roger’s Chocolates. If you are lucky, you may even run into some of Victoria’s oldest citizens.

4. Ride the Galloping Goose Regional Trail

Created from an old railroad route, the Galloping Goose Regional Trail is one of the most popular trails in Victoria. The 55km/34 mi trail begins just over the Blue Bridge and runs from Victoria to Sooke, allowing travelers to enjoy a range of scenic landscapes as they bike, walk, run or ride on horseback from the city to the country.

5. Tour the Parliament Buildings

The Parliament Buildings. Credit: Anne McKinnell.
The Parliament Buildings. Credit: Anne McKinnell

Learn more about British Columbia’s government by paying a visit to the province’s Parliament Buildings. You can explore the 12 ½ acre property on your own self-guided tour or join a free guided tour, which are available throughout the year. If you plan your visit right you can even observe debates in the Public Galleries when the Legislative Assembly is sitting. There are also an impressive number of landmarks around the building’s exterior, such as Chinese empress tree, Queen Victoria statue, knowledge totem pole, sequoia tree, fountain, rose garden and Speakers’ chair as well as the beautiful stained glass and paintings inside the buildings.

6. Check the Houseboats on Fisherman’s Wharf and Breakwater at Ogden Point

The Breakwater at Ogden Point. Credit: Vadym Graifer
The Breakwater at Ogden Point. Credit: Vadym Graifer

Visit the 30 brightly colored (and even creatively decorated) floating houses near Fisherman’s Wharf and then feed the local harbor seals, which also provides a great opportunity for photos. While you are in the area, stroll over to Ogden Point Breakwater and walk the half mile to the end for fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains.

7. Rent a Car and Go for a Scenic Drive

The Breakwater at Ogden Point. Credit: Vadym Graifer.
The Breakwater at Ogden Point. Credit: Vadym Graifer

The lush green scenery, wooded forests, mountains and surrounding waters make Victoria the perfect place to go for a scenic drive. Journey along Marine Drive to enjoy views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Finlayson, Clover Point, Oak Bay, San Juan Islands and Cascade Mountain Range. Another option is Malahat Drive, which runs along the west side of Saanich Inlet and offers views of old growth forests, salmon streams, Saanich Peninsula and the Gulf Islands.

8. Wander the Finnerty Gardens

The Butchart Gardens are not the only place in town with splendid flowers, if you love fauna, pay a visit at the University of Victoria to wander through the famous Finnerty Gardens. The gardens contain over 4,000 different trees and shrubs but they are most well-known for their rhododendrons, as they have 200 rhododendron species and feature over 1,500 rhodies and azalea plants collectively. In addition to plant life, the gardens feature ponds, path and a variety of benches from which to view the grounds.

9. Experience Victoria’s Farmers Markets

While farmers markets are often only open during the summer months in other parts of the world, they are such a big part of Victoria’s culture that there is at least always one market running at any given time of year. There is a special winter market that is open from November to April, and the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson that is open year round. Make sure to experience this part of the community and stop by one of the Victoria Public Markets for a free sample or two to snack on.

10. Take in Natural Sights with a Hike

Goldstream Provincial Park. Creative Commons Licensed by: Brandon Godfrey.
Goldstream Provincial Park. Creative Commons Licensed by: Brandon Godfrey

Discover Victoria’s natural beauty by going for hike in one of Victoria’s parks. A few popular treks, which also happen to have great views, are Goldstream Park, Avatar Grove, Mystic Falls, Fort Rodd Hill, Mt. Douglas and Mt. Tolmie.

11. Visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Admission to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, is free on the first Tuesday of every month, making this a great time to view works created by Victoria’s Emily Carr and other famous Canadian artists.

12. Bike Victoria

Bikers looking out to sea. Photo courtesy Pedaler Tours
Bikers looking out to sea. Photo courtesy Pedaler Tours

Hiking and driving are not the only way to see the sights in Victoria, there are also many fun bike rides that will take you past historic monuments and neighborhoods or provide scenic water views. Try the Cowichan Valley Wine Bike and sample wine along the 12 km route or try the Seaside Touring Route, which is designed specifically for bike riders who want to see scenery and landmarks along Victoria’s coastline.

13 – Tour Government House


Pick up some Victoria history and stop by the Government House, which is the office and the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor and the ceremonial home of all British Columbians. Wander through the expansive gardens on the grounds and the go a guided tour (plan carefully as they are only offered on one Saturday per month) of the interior of the house to view the stunning ballroom, dining room, drawing room and Rattenbury Room (it was named after the famous Francis Rattenbury, one of the architects of the 1903 Government House, and contains one of his personal dining room sets).