With SO MANY things to do downtown Victoria BC, it is one of the reasons I love to call this town home. Our busy, vibrant and beautiful town centre never disappoints.
No trip to Victoria is complete without a visit to the Inner Harbour – it is the hub of the city! If you fly here on a seaplane or come on either the vehicular ferry Coho or passenger ferry Clipper from the United States, then you will arrive in the Inner Harbour. It is one of the most beautiful and busiest harbours in the world. And the list of things to do downtown starts with the harbour.
On any given day the harbour traffic consists of:
And that’s just the activity on the water!
The Victoria BC Inner Harbour is surrounded by a scenic causeway that is bustling with activity, especially in the summer. You’ll find the First Nations Artists Causeway Gallery featuring members of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations who create and sell traditional Aboriginal artwork and crafts on site. In fact they have the exclusive ability to sell their art on this section of the causewy. Other street vendors, musicians and artisans are permitted to sell elsewhere on the causeway and at Ship Point.
Follow the causeway in one direction and you’ll soon find yourself on the David Foster Harbour Pathway that will take you to Fisherman’s Wharf and beyond to Ogden Point and along Dallas Road. If you follow the causeway towards downtown, you will discover Ship Point. The area is being developed with a vision of becoming a waterfront park, festival and event site. It has long been home to markets and temporary viewing for annual events such as the Dragon Boat Festival held in August. Now it becomes more permanent.
The development to the area includes improvements to the infrastructure, ensuring an enjoyable waterfront experience for years to come. I highly recommend you stop by the Songhees Tours kiosk to participate in an authentic “Signs of the Lekwungen” walking or canoe tour, that departs from Ship Point (closed during winter). I did the canoe tour earlier in the fall and it was so informative - even for a local! And the bannock snack at the end was outstanding!
If you follow the walkway beyond Ship Point, you can cross the Johnson Street Bridge (also known as the blue bridge), onto the West Bay Walkway and past the Victoria International Marina.
Just when you start thinking that a delicious snack and a cold brew would be perfect, you’ll come across Spinnakers. Stop to re-fuel and enjoy some local craft beer and then either continue into historic Esquimalt, hop on the water taxi to take you back into the Inner Harbour to discover more things to do downtown.
The Victoria BC Inner Harbour is a special place because it seems there is always something going on, especially in the summer. Annual events held in the inner harbour include Symphony Splash, Dragon Boat Races and Buskerfest to name a few. With a walkability score of 99 in the downtown core, it is a walker’s paradise!
Known for their grand stature and prominent location in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the British Columbia Parliament Buildings welcome visitors year-round. It is one of my favourite places to take visitors because I find the free guided tour so fascinating no matter how many times I hear it. A special treat is having lunch in the Parliamentary Dining Room. Check the schedule for hours of operation.
The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel takes centre stage in the downtown Victoria BC Inner Harbour. Enjoy the luxurious Willow Stream Spa, indulge in the grand tradition of afternoon tea or simply stroll through the building and admire the majestic 1908 architecture. Directly in front of the Empress Hotel, you can get onboard the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing buses. Find tickets here.
Robert Bateman is a renowned Canadian naturalist and painter. The Robert Bateman Centre is located in the former steamship terminal at the Inner Harbour and is a permanent home of his works. The Robert Bateman Gallery is on the second and third floors while the first floor houses the Steamship Grill & Bar (one of the best restaurants with a view in Victoria).
For a cultural experience unlike any other, a visit to the Royal BC Museum is one of the best things to do downtown Victoria BC. The museum was founded in 1886 and is home to archives, artifacts, documents and specimens that tell the story of British Columbia’s history and its people. The permanent galleries are the First Peoples Gallery, the Modern History Gallery and Natural History Gallery. Travelling exhibits are also hosted at the gallery periodically; check their website for details.
Excellent shops and restaurants – many housed in well preserved and maintained circa 1880s buildings - line Government Street and Bastion Square. A very walkable district that is sure to impress historians and architectural enthusiasts alike. This area is one of the highlights of the walking tours I started offering due to the historical significance of area.
Plus, there’s lots of chocolate, a really cool book store, awesome Indigenous art and locally made unique gifts – something for everyone.
Read more about shopping on Government Street.
The Victoria Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America behind San Francisco. It is a vibrant neighbourhood, designated a National Historic Site in 1995 and still proudly showcasing excellent examples of Chinese architecture and culture. Be sure to discover Dragon Alley and Fan Tan Alley during your visit, take a selfie with the Gates of Harmonious Interest and snack on authentic pork buns at Victoria BBQ House & Bakery on Government Street.
Thunderbird Park sits beside the Royal BC Museum and is home to a significant collection of totem poles. Each of the towering cedar carvings depicts a unique story that represents the ancestry of a particular individual or family. Learn more about Indigenous Culture at the First Peoples Gallery at the Royal BC Museum.
Beacon Hill Park is a 200+ acre park located just outside of downtown Victoria BC. It is a magnificent example of woodlands, shoreline trails, landscaped gardens, a children's petting zoo and much, much more. It is a beautiful park to take a stroll through or better yet, hail a horse-drawn carriage ride, sit back and enjoy a narrated tour of the area.
We are blessed with fantastic weather, beautiful scenery and an incredibly long and diverse list of things to do downtown Victoria and in the region. Book your West Coast adventure now.
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