Victoria :: A TS Guide


[trip style = weekend + urban + food + steals + luxury]

Tucked into the southern end of Vancouver Island in a protected harbor, Victoria, Canada, is a small city of fairy tale proportions. Setting the scene with ships bobbing in the bay, street performers strumming a tune, and grand, ivy-covered buildings watching over the waterfront, every angle feels as though it has been imagined by Broadway set designers.  

If this description seems a tad too ideal; it’s real, and is the reason we're smitten with Canada’s mildest city. Case in point: Any time we meet travelers on the road and mention we're Canadian, they tell us with their lips and their body language how much they adore Victoria {read: their heads tilt to the side, their lips lock into a smile, and they breathe a little more deeply}.

Here's a TS Guide to the petite city with grandiose charms; enjoy.

Jam Café - Victoria is a breakfast town, where Saturday mornings spent lining up in the cold for pulled pork pancakes is a right of passage. My shared dishes this weekend included pan-fried oatmeal with blueberries and lemon curd and a blackstone avocado benny. Jam's morning cocktails, which include gin cucumber lemonade and bourbon caesar, take the edge off after a wait outside.
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.
Fishhook - If you don't want to wait in line at Red Fish Blue Fish, walk up to the chef’s newest venture, where a more intricate menu of tartines and salads means your dockside fish fry just got elevated.
Sutra - Located in the Victoria Public Market, Sutra is a new addition to Vij’s family restaurants, take-home food and cookbooks, offering ready-to-eat Indian dishes served at large communal tables.  
MEAT & BREAD - Started in Vancouver, this lunchtime institution survives {and thrives} on four type of sandwiches, the most popular of which is porchetta: Slow-roasted overnight for juicy perfection.
fol epi - A local bakery by the sea that grinds gains on-site for its loaves of artesian bread.
OLO - Focusing on BC-fresh ingredients served in a wood- and brick-built setting, OLO pays homage to the region’s trade roots as a cultural melting pot.
Tacofino - From Tofino taco truck to West Coast taco empire, Tacofino's newest Commissary location is shaking up the downtown dining scene. You can never go wrong with the fish taco and chocolate diablo cookie.
Kid Sister - Victoria's newest ice cream shop on the block, actually opened three years ago as a fruit pop shop serving paletas, until the family-run business expanded into new territory with flavors like roasted rhubarb and vanilla creamsicles. 

Browse Chinatown - Once the main entry point for Chinese miners and railway workers, Canada's oldest Chinatown is at once steeped in tradition and today, juxtaposing tea emporiums and herbalists with organic juice shops and bamboo markets. Covering only two city blocks, it's easy to spot the signature red and yellow lanterns suspended over the street, vintage neon signs signalling Szechuan and dim sum, and the world-famous Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada {so small you need to step aside for other passersby}.
Bike the Galloping Goose Trail - As the cycling capital of Canada, Victoria takes two wheels to the next level with its network of bike lanes and the conversion of the "Galloping Goose" railway into a 60-kilometer cycling and walking trail. Easily accessible from downtown, the bike routes can be conquered for one hour or an entire day with a bike rental from Cycle BC (just behind The Fairmont Empress). Everyone from Lance Armstrong wannabes to young families can "gallop" on two wheels under a canopy of trees, over wooden bridges, and through paved residential trails.
Watch the Water Ballet - A tradition spanning a quarter century performed by a quintet of Victoria Harbour Ferry skippers who maneuver their boats like ballerinas every weekend {Saturdays at 10:45 a.m., July-August; Sundays at 10:45 a.m., May-September}.
Afternoon Tea - One of Canada's most iconic hotels has been welcoming guests and serving tea on its very own Royal-appointed china since 1908. Feast on a tiered tray of cucumber finger sandwiches—crust off, of course!—raisin scones perfected over the past century, and treats such as rose crisps.
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.

Hey Happy - The city's newest caffeine hot spot brews single-cup coffee in gorgeous ceramics by Mazama Wares with beans from Phil & Sebastian (Calgary), Ritual Roasters (San Francisco) and Heart (Portland). The hipster factor is high, with baristas in toques, a Gremlins thermos for cream and A Clockwork Orange screenplay for perusing.
Habit Coffee and Culture - Sip where the coffee is smooth, the decor minimalist and the staff is cool.
Bodega - From the owners of the always-hopping Tapa Bar comes bar-next-door Bodega. Open from lunch till late, this tapas, wine and sherry bar boasts friendly service, delicious cocktails and gorgeous charcuterie boards.
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.

Reunion - Formerly known as Rebel Rebel, this shop is stocked with some of our favorite brands like Cheap Monday, Pendleton, Levi's and Malin + Goetz. 
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.
Sitka - This local success story/surf shop/café is a must-visit for anyone looking for super-soft sweatshirts, waxed-cotton outerwear and locally roasted coffee.
Victory Barber & Brand - OK, OK, this is a barber shop, but they've got an incredible selection of grooming products in store and they're the nicest guys in town {OK, OK, they're Sis Styler's friends}. 
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. 
Paboom - A playful home goods and accessories store that's impossible to browse without buying something. 

The Fairmont Empress {Gold Floor} - Nicknamed “Castle on the Coast” for its prime piece of real estate fronting the Inner Harbor, staying at the Empress makes you feel like you're suspended in another era, hanging on the cusp of history.
Inn at Laurel Point {Erickson Wing} - Also blessed with a prime location hugging the Inner Harbor, the Inn at Laurel Point skews zen and contemporary featuring a seaside Japanese garden, a gallery-level art collection, and sea views from every room.

Trip Styler Tip: Want more of Victoria? Read my latest piece in the Expedia Viewfinder: 48 hours in Victoria

Wintery Weekend in Victoria