Our partner from GLG Seattle, Lindsey Miller, recently hopped on the Victoria Clipper IV for a weekend escape in Victoria to celebrate his 10th wedding anniversary and was kind enough to write a guest post for us about his experience. Here are his top picks for where to stay, eat, shop and explore the next time you’re in British Columbia’s capital city. 

As the sun sets over Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the light rippling across the water like golden dragon scales, I pull my bride of 10 years closer to me. We share a moment, one of many that we’ve shared throughout the weekend. If there’s one word I could use to sum up my Victoria experience, it’s “discovery.” Even having visited the city a few times before, there is no shortage of new locations to explore and new experiences to be had around every corner, which is how I found myself sitting and watching a romantic sunset, already reminiscing on what we’d done in our short time there.

Discover Victoria Getaways

What’s truly amazing about Victoria is that there are hundreds of different types of experiences to be had within the city’s relatively small footprint. With an incredible variety of shops, restaurants and things to do, you can easily draw comparisons to some of the larger, more prominent cities on the world stage.

Having gotten married at the Fountain of the Basilica du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre in Paris, France, and spending our first half-decade as a couple living in Brooklyn, NY, I know a few things about cosmopolitan cities. The biggest difference with Victoria is that all that cultural divergence is packed into about a 15-square block radius.

With many competing sights, sounds and especially smells, it’s a symphony for the senses. It’s glorious and awe-inspiring all at the same time. The city will reach into you and call out to you, and that’s the most extraordinary part: Victoria’s richness enables you to make the experience your very own. It’s as if invisible strings reach out and draw you into the boutiques and restaurants that cater to what you love personally. You don’t have to try to fit yourself into a different mold to enjoy the city. You can enjoy it for you, plain and simple, which makes it a perfect place to celebrate an anniversary.

Start with the Accommodations

Victoria is a great city to simply discover by walking around, but picking a place to stay while you’re in Victoria is one of the few things you really do need to do before you arrive. With many different hotels within walking distance of the harbor, it’s the first thing you can do to make your trip your own.

The Fairmont Empress is the most famous of options, and for good reason, with its rich history and prominent placement within the harbor. However, when visiting Victoria, you have more than one great option for a hotel pick. My wife and I decided to go with the Huntingdon Manor, because not only does the property have a rich history, but also because it’s cozy rooms reminded us of a B&B we stayed in for our first anniversary in Mystic, CT called the House of 1833.

Soka in stunning views of the Inner Harbour and original frescos and stained glass in the Huntingdon Manor Hotel. Credit: The Huntingdon Manor
Soak in stunning views of the Inner Harbour as well as original frescos and stained glass in the Huntingdon Manor Hotel. Credit: The Huntingdon Manor

Not only was breakfast included, but they also serve high tea at the Pendray Teahouse, one of the historic buildings on their premises. As suckers for history, we were also able to talk the staff into giving us a full tour of the buildings and the grounds free of charge.

Afternoon tea is a white cloth experience inside the historic Pendray Teahouse. Credit: The Huntingdon Manor
Afternoon tea is a white cloth experience inside the historic Pendray Teahouse. Credit: The Huntingdon Manor

Bonus: If you’re on a budget, the Days Inn Victoria on the Harbour and the Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza are both centrally located and easy on the wallet.

Shopping – Boutiques Galore

It’s hard to imagine a Gap sandwiched between a year-round holiday-themed store named The Original Christmas Village and a trendy local women’s boutique named Spank Clothing, but Victoria is chock-full of these kinds of juxtapositions. As a result, shopping for anything and everything is one of Victoria’s strongest allures.

Looking for imported olive oil used by the Pope himself?

Look no further than The Tuscan Kitchen, a seller of imported Mediterranean tableware, culinary tools and gourmet foods. The shop is located outside The Bay Centre, a high-class shopping mall in a brick building that looks like it used to be a newspaper factory.

Want mouth-watering macarons as authentic as those in Paris?

Bon Macaron Patisserie is owned and operated by native French pastry chefs Yann Fougere and David Boetti. Where else can you find an Eiffel Tower made from macarons?

Feast on an amazing lineup of fresh, melt in your mouth treats at Bon Macaron Patisserie. Credit: Lindsey Miller
Nibble on an amazing lineup of fresh, melt in your mouth treats at Bon Macaron Patisserie. Credit: Lindsey Miller

How about your own set of custom printed Converse or Vans as a memento?

Baggins Shoes, nestled in the long-forgotten Paperbox Alley near Market Square, specializes in custom-printed artwork on Converse All Star High Tops, Low Tops as well as classic Vans slip-ons.

Wander down Victoria’s cobbled streets and you’ll find hundreds of unique boutiques waiting for you to discover them. There’s the Little Shop of Strange, where you can take taxidermy classes. The Regional Assembly of Text, which brims with cards and stationery of all kinds and features a dedicated craft-making space complete with an antique typewriter. Last, but not least, there’s West Coast Refill in Dragon Alley, a store that sells refillable, environmentally friendly, sustainable household and body cleaning products. The list goes on and on, so be sure to take the journey yourself and check out a few new locations.

Go old-school and craft up a quick letter in the Regional Assembly of Text's writing station. Credit: Lindsey Miller
Go old-school and craft up a quick letter in the Regional Assembly of Text’s writing station. Credit: Lindsey Miller

Victoria is Delicious

I don’t mean that literally. The buildings are old and beautiful but not made from gingerbread, so you shouldn’t eat them. You should, however, explore all the different restaurants throughout the city. Victoria, like its Pacific Northwest sister cities, is known for its seafood. Here are a few spots we enjoyed and that I would highly recommend checking out:

Ebizo Japanese Restaurant

Near historic Chinatown, Ebizo Japanese Restaurant looks like little more than a hole in the wall, but served us some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten.

Feast on some of the freshest salmon around at Ebizo Japanese Restaurant. Credit: Flickr/Wyn Lok
Feast on some of the freshest salmon around at Ebizo Japanese Restaurant. Credit: Flickr/Wyn Lok

The Tapa Bar Restaurant

Tucked in Trounce Alley, The Tapa Bar Restaurant is a great place to share smaller bites in the afternoon.

Fan Tan Cafe

Found in Victoria’s historic Chinatown, the diminutive Fan Tan Cafe has amazing food.

The Fan Tan Cafe's iconic neon sign is sure to catch your eye. Credit: flickr/bestape
The Fan Tan Cafe’s iconic neon sign is sure to catch your eye. Credit: flickr/bestape

Steamship Grill and Bar

Located in the Heritage Steamship Terminal building, the Steamship Grill and Bar boasts local seafood “reminiscent of the steamship era.”

Saveur

With an amazing lineup of delicious creations (think floral inclusions on salads and main dishes) prepared by award-winning chef Robert Cassels, Saveur is a must-visit for foodies.

Sample Sauver's tasting menu for phenomenal farm-to-table eats. Credit: flickr/albedo20
Sample Sauver’s tasting menu for phenomenal farm-to-table eats. Credit: flickr/albedo20

Of course, if you can’t make up your mind or want someone else to guide you to spots that brim with some of the city’s tastiest eats, there’s always the Victoria Food Tours and the Pickle Pub Crawl (a bar tour facilitated via the Victoria Habour Ferry boats).

Other Places to Explore

With any trip to Victoria, you shouldn’t shun the classics. Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress, a tour through The Butchart Gardens, the Royal BC Museum, Victoria Parliament Buildings and Beacon Hill Park are all bucket list-worthy experiences. However, that’s not all Victoria has to offer. Here are some other experiences I’d recommend:

Water Taxis

These little boats are a fun way to get around and won’t break the bank. If nothing else, Victoria’s Water Taxis are a great way to soak in city views from the harbor. Catch a ride to the Westsong Walkway and take a nice stroll along the water and across the Johnson Street Bridge into the shops in Market Square.

Hop on one of Victoria's cheerful Harbour Ferries and zip across the Inner Harbour. Photo: Tourism Victoria
Hop on one of Victoria’s cheerful Harbour Ferries and zip across the Inner Harbour. Photo: Tourism Victoria Credit: Tourism Victoria

Victoria’s Alleys

Exploring Victoria’s alleys is a great way to find off the beaten path experiences. Walking around the city in just one day, I found several lively and forgotten alleys that featured five different types of cobblestone, including one made entirely of wooden blocks!

Fan Tan Alley

The gateway to Chinatown, Fan Tan Alley is the most famous of the Victoria alleyways. Only three–feet-wide with little shops and cafés littered throughout, it’s one of Victoria’s defining experiences.

A treasure trove of shops line the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley. Photo: Tourism Victoria
A treasure trove of shops line the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley. Photo: Tourism Victoria

Waddington Alley

The only street in Victoria paved entirely using wood blocks! Packed to the brim with history, Waddington Alley is about as close as you can get to experiencing what Victoria looked like in 1908.

Dragon Alley

Victoria’s other famous alley in Chinatown, Dragon Alley boasts its own shops and interesting historical architecture. If you’re looking for a café featuring the unique flavors of Boba tea and authentic Thai massage, check out The Bubble Tea Place, which sits at the corner of the alley.

The seemingly magical Dragon Alley will lead you to some of Chinatown's unique spots. Credit: Lindsey Miller
The seemingly magical Dragon Alley will lead you to some of Chinatown’s unique spots. Credit: Lindsey Miller

Trounce Alley

Trounce Alley holds a special place in my heart because of all the galleries housed there. My personal favorite is Wolf/Sheep, an edgy gallery/tattoo parlor in the gritty underground of the alley.

Wander through Trounce Alley to explore an array of hip shops and restaurants. Credit: Lindsey Miller
Wander through Trounce Alley to explore an array of hip shops and restaurants. Credit: Lindsey Miller

Bonus: Bastion Square, okay, so I know this is cheating since it’s technically a square, but it looks very much like an alley. An excellent spot for music lovers, Bastion Square is known for its live street musicians as well as its outstanding public market.

No matter the time of year, Victoria is always a great place to visit for an anniversary celebration or for any other reason. I guarantee that Victoria will call to you as it did to me, resonating to the beautiful things within myself, my wife and our lives together.

Book Your Victoria Trip Now

Feature Photo: Tourism Victoria

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