Britain is famous for its royal family, magnificent castles with colorful gardens, and fish and chips. Nearly 40 million tourists are expected to enjoy its many delights in 2024. But if this isn’t your year to splurge on a far-flung getaway, you can easily visit Victoria, British Columbia instead. In fact, it’s often referred to as a city that’s more British than Britain itself. You’ll see its British heritage everywhere from traditional afternoon tea and a castle to spectacular Butchart Gardens, and even authentic British double-decker buses.

Visiting this slice of Britain along Canada’s Pacific coast is not only a lot less expensive than booking a flight to London, but it comes without the stress of long-haul travel. Forget about dealing with airport security, delayed flights, and all the other hassles. Instead of driving to Seatac, head to the Seattle waterfront for a scenic 3-hour ride on the elegant Victoria Clipper.

For the quintessential British experience on a visit to Victoria, these are some of the top things to consider for your itinerary.

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria Overnight

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria Day Trip

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Discover Butchart Gardens

Many visit Victoria to enjoy Butchart Gardens. It’s often named the world’s most breathtaking display gardens with some 900 different varieties of plants. While you may not be able to visit England’s classic castle gardens, Butchart won’t disappoint with its cascading sea of colors. The 55-acre expanse dates to the early 1900s, birthed by Jennie Butchart who used horse and carts to transfer fresh top soil onto the once depleted land.

Soak up the culture of Victoria as you stroll the picturesque winding paths through five different gardens and over 300,000 blooms. Instagrammers and photography enthuasiasts of all types will have nearly endless photo ops to take advantage of.

INSIDER TIP: Add this tour to your reservation, or bundle and save with a package!

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria overnight with the Butchart Gardens

 Seattle to Victoria Day Trip with the Butchart Gardens


It’s Not British Without Afternoon Tea

You can’t go to Britain without enjoying afternoon tea, and the same can be said about a visit to Victoria. There are plenty of venues to enjoy it, including Butchart Gardens. Jennie Butchart herself once welcomed her friends and strangers with a warm cup. Serve-yourself tea houses were strewn about the property, supplied with hot water and tea. Ultimately, that welcoming gesture became Butchart’s award-winning afternoon tea. And, the experience comes complete with mouthwatering sweet and savory culinary treats.

Just steps from the FRS Clipper’s Victoria terminal along the Inner Harbour is the stunning 1890 Pendray Inn which hosts the Pendray Teahouse. Here, you can enjoy Traditional Afternoon Tea with an impressive lineup of locally-produced eats like the Chicken, Brie, Pear-Thyme Jam along the freshly baked scones and macarons. Or, visit the iconic Fairmont Empress which serves an astounding 500,000 cups of tea every year. Surrounded by opulence, sip one of over 20 different loose-leaf teas and then indulge in incredible bites fit for a queen. Some of the ingredients, like lavender and local berries, are grown right in the hotel’s rooftop garden.

INSIDER TIP: Add one of these to your reservation, or bundle and save with a package!

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria Overnight with Tea at the Fairmont Empress

Seattle to Victoria overnight with Tea at the Butchart Gardens

Seattle to Victoria overnight with tea at the Pendray Inn and Teahouse

Experience Life as a Royal in Victoria’s Castles

Victoria even has a few castles of its own, inclugrading Craigdarroch. For fans of Downton Abbey, this is the closest you’ll get to exploring a regal castle. Unless you travel all the way to the UK, of course. Built in the late 1800s by Scottish immigrant Robert Dunsmuir, it was meant to showcase his family’s social status and wealth. It’s a magnifcent example of Victorian architecture with towers and turrets. Visitors are now welcome to tour the interior, including the drawing room and grand staircase, among over 20,000 square feet of living space. A symbol of the power of the industrial elite during the period, it provices a good glimpse of the royal-like lifestyle the wealthy enjoyed.

You can visit castle gardens right in Victoria! Most notably, at historic Hatley Castle. It includes an Italian garden, a Japanese garden, and a rose garden. Guided tours of the estate are available between May and September and include the first floor of the 1908 castle. Additionally, you can explore the museum in the lower level, and, of course, the surrounding grounds and gardens. Film buffs might be interested to know that the castle has served as a filming location for several movies, including “Deadpool” and “X-Men.”

INSIDER TIP: Add The Pedaler, Castles, Hoods and Legends Tour to your itinerary onboard. You’ll get to explore the city on two wheels, including Craigdarroch Castle.

Indulge in Classic British Eats

You can indulge in plenty of classic British eats in Victoria, including fish ‘n’ chips. You’ll find them everywhere from seaside shacks and pubs to upscale restaurants. One of our favorites is Red Fish Blue Fish which sits along the Inner Harbour. On a sunny day, dig into the sustainably-minded, fresh takes on fish ‘n’ chips classics while gazing out at the playful harbor seals.

Nosh on delicious eats while enjoying harbor views at Red Fish Blue Fish. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Of course, there are plenty of British pubs as well. In the mood for a pint of British ale with those fish ‘n’ chips? In that case, the Penny Farthing Public House is the place to go. There are other tasty British dishes too, such as the Chip Butty, a classic English snack with toasted brioche.  Plus, this old English pub is fun to hang out in. It’s got that classic rich, dark wood, Victorian-etched glass doors, an impressive collection of memorabilia, and four fireplaces.

INSIDER TIP: Foodies who want to sample a wide range of offerings in Victoria, including British dishes, should take the Chinatown, Old Town, and Inner Harbour Food Tour.

Tour the Parliament Buildings

The grand collection of Parliament Buildings on the Inner Harbour are truly a sight to see as a tumble of domes, turrets, and stained glass. Home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, tours are free, available May through September. As the system of government is basically based on Britain’s, it’s almost like you’re there. The guided 45-minute tour allows you to peek behind the facade, learn about its architecture, the parliamentary process, and the history of British Columbia.

First stop, the British Columbia Parliment Buildings. Credit: Tourism Victoria
British Columbia Parliment Buildings. Credit: Tourism Victoria

You might even dine at the “secret” politicians’ restaurant, the Parliamentary Dining Room. It’s open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.

INSIDER TIP: Be sure to view the buildings after dark too – they’ll be lit up like a Christmas tree.

See Stonehenge (Almost)

Britain’s iconic Stonehenge, a prehistoric megalithic structure built around 3000 BC, is closer than you think! Now through January 5, you can see over 400 Stonehenge artifacts at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, just a few blocks from the FRS Clipper terminal. Interactive installations and immersive videos shine a light on the science and people behind this ancient monument.

Explore Chinatown

How about mixing things up to enjoy a bit of exotic China too? In London, England, you’ll find a Chinatown just as you will right in Victoria, B.C. In fact, it’s the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second-oldest in North America behind only San Francisco’s.

A National Historic Site, Victoria’s Chinatown was birthed in 1858, with the massive influx of miners from California to what is now British Columbia. It’s fun just to wander through and shop for unique items. But there are also some impressive landmarks not to miss. Some of our favorites include:

  • The famously narrow Fan Tan Alley
  • The magnificent Gate of Harmonious entrance arch
  • The historic Chinese Public School building
  • The “Apology Plaque” issued by the provincial government to Chinese citizens

INSIDER TIP: If you’re up for a Chinese meal, Don Mee is iconic as the longest-serving Chinese restaurant in Victoria. From the second-floor dining room you’ll enjoy a fabulous view of Fisgard Street below.

I don’t know about you, but for our next trip, we’re saying no to jet lag! Meet you in Victoria?