Weekending in Victoria

[trip style = urban + weekend getaway]

There's a certain je ne sais quoi in the air at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Some might call it the chilled-out island lifestyle, others might call it romance or passion-filled living. This could be why Amazon.ca crowned Victoria as Canada's most romantic city, due to the copious amounts of romance novels, sex and relationship books, romantic-comedy DVDs and Michael Bublé CDs purchased by residents on a per capita basis. All I know is the moment I got off the hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Vancouver, my mind, body and soul had somehow decided to take it down a notch and relax. Weekending at its best!

British Columbia's capital reminds me of a polished and highly educated business woman by week and cabin gal by weekend, who appreciates a good romcom in her free time. The city centre is manicured, historic, easily walkable and hip, whereas the outlying areas are beachy, casual and beg to be biked, ran and kiteboarded. People don't race, ride and board Victoria's seaside and country roads because they have to; it's because they want to. This passion-filled living is evidenced by the most Canadian national athletes per capita of any city in Canada. Even the Harbour Ferries take an activity-oriented break from their usual commute to perform a weekend water ballet {more on this below}.

As much as Victoria is fit, it's also chilled-out. Whether re-caffeinating at a coffee shop or refueling at a pub, there's always a hint of patchouli in the air. This scent, usually found in the presence of hippies, serves as a fragrant reminder of the slower-paced island lifestyle that balances the task-oriented, government-filled buildings throughout the capital region.

Victoria's je ne sais quoi can also be attributed to its location. This relatively small, walkable city is surrounded by ocean, farms and wineries, and locals have come to know today's catch, artisan cheeses and fresh produce as the rule, not the exception. I've never had just-caught halibut, just-made Havarti or just-picked haricot beans I didn't like in Victoria. The bar is high, making this weekend destination the perfect escape for romantics, exercise fanatics, foodies and everyone in between.

Trip Styler Tip: Take advantage of spring's blossoms and fall's colors and visit in early May or late September. Fewer crowds, warm weather and lower rates await visitors just outside the summer peak season.


  • Watch - Harbour Ferry Ballet - Intended to show the agility of the little pickle-shaped ferries, captains convene and dance in perfect formation. This unconventional ballet is in its 20th year! Every Sunday at 10:45am from May to September.
  • Sip - Afternoon Tea - Taking tea and crumpets to a whole new level, The Fairmont Empress' Afternoon Tea is a celebrated tradition that started when the hotel first welcomed guests in 1908. The refined ritual offers seatings from 12 - 4:45pm daily.
  • Walk - Beacon Hill Park - Stroll Beacon Hill Park's gently rolling hills and bridged streams. Don't miss a morning or evening walk along Victoria's multi-kilometre waterfront.
  • Browse - Chinatown - Covering only two city blocks, Victoria's Chinatown--the second oldest in North America--is packed with tradition, art, live-work spaces and alleyways, the most famous of which is Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada.
  • Shop - Still Life - With a ladies boutique on one side of Johnson Street and a men's boutique on the other, try on the curated and casual clothes in a teepee dressing room. Sorry men, you'll have to settle for a traditional changing room.
  • Pick up - Rogers' Chocolates - You can't visit Victoria without being lured into Rogers' Chocolates for at least one coveted treat. It's no wonder the chocolate is so good - they've been working at it since 1885.


  • Coffee - Habit Coffee and Culture - The coffee is smooth, the decor minimalist and the staff cool.
  • Baking - Willie's Bakery & Cafe - Founded in 1887, this historic eatery offers generously portioned baking and hearty take-away and eat-in plates with a casual inside and secluded sunny patio.
  • Breakfast & Brunch - Lady Marmalade - With foods like aged white cheddar and spinach waffles churning out of the kitchen, one meal at this moderately-priced, central and funky bistro will make you want to come back for more.
  • Lunch - Red Fish Blue Fish - Set in a converted storage container, there's something to the Ocean Wise fish and chips served on the boardwalk hugging Victoria's waterfront. With line-ups often 50+ people long, it's become both an institution and a spectacle, featured on the Food Network's Eat Street.
  • Dinner - Brasserie L’Ecole - With a new menu daily focusing on wholesome food with French flare, this restaurant welcomes guests in an old Chinatown schoolhouse.
  • Drinks - Bengal Lounge - Drink cocktails and eat curry on tufted leather chairs under the glare of a Indian tiger, cooled by the breeze of vintage brass and tasseled fans, while listening to the sounds of a jazz trio.


Downtown Victoria has an abundance of hotels to choose from, but the city's ivy-covered landmark property is The Fairmont Empress. Staying at the Empress makes you feel like you're participating in Victoria's bustling past and present all at the same time.

30 Hours in Victoria