Above photo: Parliament Buildings in Victoria
Story and photos by Emma Skye
Emma is a freelance photographer specializing in travel, lifestyle and adventure photography.
Food, attractions and friendly community draw visitors to British Columbia’s capital city.
When I moved to Victoria five years ago, I expected it to be just another town. Instead, I found a small city with a big heart. Victoria is warm not only in weather but also in character. Cars stop for jaywalkers — usually — and people who tell you to “Have a good day!” genuinely mean it.
Here are a few places you shouldn’t miss when visiting this friendly place.
Explore the Inner Harbour
Take a tour of the Parliament Buildings, visit the Royal BC Museum, or stop by the iconic Fairmont Empress for tea. In summer months, colorful 3D chalk drawings decorate the streets, and it’s not uncommon to spot a busker dressed as Darth Vader playing the violin at one corner and a bagpiper playing the haunting melody of the “Skye Boat Song” at the next.
Brunch and Beyond
On Sundays, I love eating brunch at Pagliacci’s, better known to locals as “Pag’s.” Memorable artwork decorates the walls, and the staff serves deliciously cheesy Italian food. If you’re looking for a more traditional brunch menu, the Blue Fox Cafe is another favorite that almost always has a line out the door. For dinner, head to Rebar, a colorful restaurant with an imaginative take on healthy food.
On summer weekends, you can pick up a variety of freshly baked goods and artisan crafts at the Bastion Square Public Market. Alternatively, the Victoria Public Market is open year-round. Be sure to try a croissant from The French Oven Bakery.
Gardens and Parks
Exciled Prince Nicholas Abkhazi and orphaned girl Marjorie (Peggy) Pemberton-Carter first met in the 1920s but were separated by World War II. After reuniting and getting married in 1946, they built Abkhazi Garden as a testament to their love.
The garden, shielded from the outside world by a hornbeam hedge, includes everything from native Garry oaks to 100-year-old rhododendrons that surround the original Abkhazi home. At the Teahouse, enjoy seasonal menus of beautifully presented treats in what was once the Abkhazi’s living room. It’s a perfect stop if you’re short on time and aren’t able to make it to the better-known Butchart Gardens farther north.
Usually overlooked by visitors, Beacon Hill Park is home to a rose garden, a water park and even a petting zoo. Be sure to keep an eye out for the 36-foot sculpture known as the Moss Lady.
If you’re searching for adventure, Victoria is home to hundreds of hiking trails. Hike to Jocelyn Hill, in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, for stunning views of Finlayson Arm fjord. For a shorter hike, head to Goldstream Provincial Park and visit Vancouver Island’s Niagara Falls. While much smaller than their eastern cousin, they are almost as high. Continue up the hill to your right to get to the Niagara Trestle where you’ll be rewarded with views of the surrounding area.
Stroll through the City
Walk through Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in the country, where a variety of souvenir shops and restaurants have replaced the opium dens of the early 1900s. If you’re claustrophobic, the lesser-known Dragon Alley offers more room to breathe.
Stroll through downtown to see the purple glass paving bricks. But don’t forget to look up once in a while or you’ll miss the best part of Victoria: the incredible community of friendly locals.
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