Historic 19th-century architecture. The stately Parliament Buildings. The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Suffice it to say, Victoria’s Inner Harbour has no shortage of Old World charm. While it is easy to spend a day soaking in the majestic beauty, there is also a trendy, burgeoning shopping scene just around the corner waiting to be explored.

The best part? With more than a handful of unique boutiques within easy walking distance from each other, navigating this growing selection of independent stores requires little more than your own two feet. Get to the heart of this creative community with the help of local shopping expert and owner of That Girl in Victoria, Michele Davis, who provides the lowdown on Victoria’s shopping hot spots.

According to Davis, starting your shopping adventure with a hearty breakfast is a key part of a successful trip. A mere four-minute walk from Clipper’s Victoria terminal, Nourish Kitchen and Café is the perfect spot to grab a bite once you have arrived in the city. “They’re vegetarian and they make beautiful, nourishing meals that are not big and crazy,” Davis says.

Sleeping Beauty pancakes at Nourish, with melt-in-your-mouth whole oat pancakes, bee pollen sprinkles and seasonal fruit compote. Credit: Nick Bentley
Sleeping Beauty pancakes at Nourish, with melt-in-your-mouth whole oat pancakes, bee pollen sprinkles and seasonal fruit compote. Credit: Nick Bentley

If you’re looking for something lighter, Davis suggests making the 20-minute trek to Pour Coffee and Tea on Government Street for exceptional espresso, made-to-order waffles or steel-cut oatmeal. Prefer tea? Wander down the block to Murchie’s Tea & Coffee to pair a hot cuppa with an amazing selection of baked goodies.

Once you’re sufficiently fueled, begin your shopping stroll with a three-minute walk down to Munro’s Books, which National Geographic named as one of the world’s top 10 bookstores in 2015. With rows upon rows of bookshelves, there is no better place to find the next book on your reading list inside this peaceful shop.

Comb through the excellent selection of books in this beautiful bookstore.
Comb through the excellent selection of books in this beautiful bookstore.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Stroll one block south on Government Street to Chocolats Favoris. The first location to open in Western Canada, the local shop has the same Willy Wonka vibe, as the original Quebec store, famous for its dipped ice cream cones.

Speaking of chocolate, Davis says Rogers’ Chocolates downtown heritage store is a must-visit for chocoholics. As Canada’s first chocolatier, they know a thing or two about crafting irresistible sweets. Sample a piece of chocolate history and bite into the shop’s most famous creation, the Victoria Cream. Featuring a thick, rich chocolate shell with a decadent, creamy center, it is a little piece of heaven.

Scamper Down Victoria’s Hidden Alleys

Continue north to Bastion Square to soak in some extra vitamin D as you peruse the square’s open-air public market. Brimming with an endless supply of fresh produce and handcrafted goods, the market brings vibrancy to the city every Thursday-Sunday from May to the end of September. Next, make your way to the edge of Trounce Alley and pop into Sitka for Pacific Northwest-inspired finds, such as environmentally sustainable Canadian-made clothing and outdoor accessories.

Travel a block-and-a-half further north, and you’ll intersect with Johnson Street. Hang a left and walk along the boutique fashion haven of Lower Johnson, affectionately known as LoJo to locals. Davis recommends, “If you stumble upon any little alleyways that look like you can wander down them — go, because there are lots of tiny little shops hidden up and down the streets.”

Market Square's airy Tonic brims with a carefully curated selection of delicate jewelry.
Market Square’s airy Tonic brims with a carefully curated selection of delicate jewelry.

Keep an eye out for the adorable Tonic jewelry store housed in Market Square to snag handmade, locally-sourced jewelry. (Inside tip: Be sure to also stop by Oscar & Libby’s, which is chock-full of quirky gifts that are perfect for that hard to buy for friend.)

Another one of Davis’ favorite LoJo haunts is John Fluevog Shoes, which opened its Victoria location in 2017. The store was something of a homecoming for Fluevog, who briefly partnered in a Fox & Fluevog Victoria store back in the 1970s. Since then, Fluevog has soared to international footwear stardom. “He’s become very popular with Lady Gaga, Alice Cooper, Madonna,” Davis says. “So we’re lucky to have a shop here in Victoria.”

Pick up gifts that range from wacky to whimsical inside Oscar Libby's vibrant boutique. Credit: Tourism Victoria
Pick up gifts that range from wacky to whimsical inside Oscar Libby’s vibrant boutique. Credit: Tourism Victoria

A Bounty of Locally-Crafted Apparel

For unique threads, head across the street to pay a visit to LoJo’s the Flavour Upstairs, where you can find vintage gems at great prices. Or venture three blocks down the street to the edge of Victoria’s Chinatown neighborhood to Smoking Lily for nature-inspired garments sewn by hand at the shop’s Wharf Street studio.

All that shopping cause you to work up an appetite? Davis recommends heading around the corner for afternoon tea at Venus Sophia. The family-run café offers a new twist on an old classic – a mouth-watering lineup of entirely vegetarian eats, made from scratch using the freshest ingredients.

Head south on Government Street and cap your day with dinner and drinks at Chateau Victoria’s Vista 18 Westcoast Grill & Wine Bar. Davis says, “Sit on the park side of the restaurant and soak in vistas of Craigdarroch Castle on the hill. It is absolutely stunning.”

Take in breathtaking, wraparound views of downtown Victoria from Vista 18's roof top eatery. Credit: Tourism Victoria
Take in breathtaking, wraparound views of downtown Victoria from Vista 18’s rooftop eatery. Credit: Tourism Victoria

With a rapidly growing shopping scene, Victoria is the perfect place to experience the latest fashion trends. Bring home some chic new designs and you’re sure to be the envy of all your friends.

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Contributing Author: Keith Norbury

Feature Photo: Tourism Victoria