A couple of weeks ago, Steve and I got the opportunity to get away for a few days (thanks to some generous grandparents who took our kids) and explore Victoria, BC. We had the best time. Did you know Victoria was so cool? Right now, my idea of a good vacation is some place that is fun and relaxing, without having so much to do that you feel like you have to run around and see everything. Oh, and also, good food. Victoria has it all.
We originally thought it would be fun to stay in or near Seattle, but it’s so expensive that we realized we could do way more for way less in Victoria. Plus, I had never been to Canada before. I’ve lived in the gorgeous PNW my whole life and never crossed that border. Although Banff has always, always been on my list. And Steve really wants to go to Montreal. He is practicing his French.
Anyway, Victoria is beautiful and was the perfect getaway. We stayed at a condo we found on Airbnb. It was spectacular, with a 180 degree view of the city and the harbor. Airbnb is actually my favorite thing invented by the Internet. If you have never tried it, do! You will never go back to hotels. I feel like it makes traveling so much more affordable and real – not so touristy, and I love that.
Before embarking, we didn’t realize what a cool city Victoria is, but we had so much fun exploring that I thought I’d share our favorite things to see, eat and do in this beautiful city.
1. Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel: Steve surprised me by setting up reservations here for us. It is spendy (even more so in the summer months), but it was really fun and fancy. We started with strawberries and cream and were served tea with milk and sugar and then three courses of finger foods: sandwiches, biscuits and jam, and delectable desserts. It was fun to get dressed up and pass the afternoon drinking in the view of the harbor with the tinkling of china and soft voices all around. I definitely think we should bring back tea time as a standing tradition! (And now when you come over to my house I might serve you tea in teacups. Or coffee if you prefer that kind of thing.) Fun fact: they have been using the same china pattern since 1939, so you might be drinking out of the same cup that King George drank out of! // Reservations are suggested, but walk-ins are always welcome. 721 Government Street
Breakfast at the Blue Fox Cafe: Steve and I have a pact that whenever we are somewhere new we order one sweet breakfast item and one savory and split them. The Blue Fox has the best of both worlds. They’re famous for their multiple takes on the “Eggs Benny”, so of course we had to try it. We paired the Badger Benny with the Oranges del Sol French Toast. Let me tell you that I had almost lost my faith in French toast… because I always expect it to be so delicious and too often it’s just meh. But the Oranges del Sol renewed my faith. Perfectly grilled with cinnamon, roasted pecans, orange segments and triple sec syrup. Such exquisite perfection.Oh, and the Badger Benny was top notch as well. // 101-919 Fort Street
Charlie Bowls at Jam Cafe: Imagine everything you could love about breakfast all in one bowl: hashbrowns, biscuits, cheese, ham, green onions, fried eggs and hollandaise sauce. That is the perfection that is a Charlie Bowl. I want to eat this and nothing else forever. Except also Oranges del Sol (see above) and Murchie’s Hot Chocolate (see below). So, so good. (The French toast with grilled peaches here was also good, just not on the same level as the Oranges del Sol, in case you were wondering.) // 542 Herald Street
Red Fish Blue Fish: A little food cart famous for their fish and chips, this place has a great view and relaxed atmosphere and really good seafood. My favorites were their take on clam chowder, which had a very Thai curry feel to it, and their tacones (as in a taco + a cone, a cone shaped taco, if you will). This place is popular and the wait is long, but worth it. Also there couldn’t be a much better place to wait, in my opinion. // 1006 Wharf Street
Royal BC Museum: This is one of the coolest museums I have been to. I think it would be a very ideal place to take children, as it is very interactive. You can walk up to and almost touch a life-size wooly mammoth in their natural history section. The social history floor has an extensive exhibit about the First Nations that inhabit Canada, complete with a tour of their languages. I’m a language aficionado, so I loved that part. They also have walk-through exhibits of what a main street in European settlements would have looked like, complete with a tiny theatre playing Groucho Marx movies. The backdrops and sound effects look so real! The only thing missing was the authentic smells (and that’s a good thing, because, let’s face it, none of that smelled very good). The museum is not very big, so you can easily get through it in an afternoon, which is the way I like my museums. // 675 Belleville Street
Vista 18: I heard a tip once to find out where the best place is to watch the sunset and then plan to be there to see it. (Your weather app will tell you what time sunset is.) We asked our Airbnb hosts for recommendations and they suggested Vista 18. It was right next to our condo, but with gorgeous panoramic views of the city and harbor and a live band playing. Spectacular. One of those places you never forget. // 740 Burdett Avenue
Pagliachi’s: A very romantic spot for dinner or dessert. And so… yumm. // 1011 Broad Street
Murchie’s Coffee and Tea: Steve said that the Murchie’s Best is the best coffee he has ever had. We got some for our mothers for Mother’s Day because it is so good. And as soon as I had one sip of their hot chocolate I told Steve we had to take some home. It really is good. And also, I may be an adult but I still prefer to drink hot chocolate like a child, because it tastes much better than coffee. If you dine in, they serve your drinks and pastries on a silver platter. No kidding. We’ve also heard this is a much less expensive alternative to Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel. Also, don’t leave Victoria without trying one of their almond croissants. Just don’t. // 1110 Government Street
And honestly, just walking around Victoria was one of my favorite parts. Everyone is very friendly and everything is beautiful. At night the harbor is perfection.
Travel Tips in Victoria:
If you plan on using a credit card, you need one with a chip on the front. All restaurants and stores use a handheld device that you put the card into. It’s nice because your card never leaves your sight and you can confirm right there that you are paying the correct amount. Apparently the US is way behind in these new safety measures, but we’ll be transitioning over in the next few years. We got an international credit card for this trip so we didn’t have to worry about fees and never had to exchange cash, which was very nice.
The drinking age is 19, but if you get carded (which I did almost every time… I know I look young, but I thought I at least looked older than 19…), you will need two forms of identification, one with a picture. Your name on a credit card will do for the second. Be prepared.
We parked our car for $6/night in Port Angeles, Washington and took the Coho Ferry across. Since we stayed right downtown, we never needed or miss our car (and were in fact glad to be rid of the hassle of finding parking, etc.). We didn’t go to some of the tourist attractions that are out of the main downtown area like the Butchart Gardens (Steve has terrible allergies this time of year, so an afternoon in the gardens would have made him miserable the rest of the trip), but we saw many buses that would have taken us there if we had wanted to go.
Have you ever been? Did I leave anything out? We are thinking of taking the kids maybe later this year. I think they would love it!
P.S. Victoria totally feels like a sister city to Portland. We actually heard the words “bikes” “beards” and “beer” in the same sentence and felt like we had been transported back home. Ha!