As the ferry came close to the dock, I peered out of the giant window. Victoria looked pretty. Many confuse the name with the Australian state but I was at the capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia, at the tip of Vancouver Island. Named after Queen Victoria, of course, at first sight, the city looked quaint. From the ferry I saw old palatial buildings; manicured lawns and pretty peonies; tourists and locals walking by, some hand in hand; I was eager to soak in it all. I had just about 48 hours to explore Victoria, and had much to see!
If you find yourself in Victoria for a weekend break from Vancouver, anywhere in the United States and Canada, or maybe even during a long trip to, here’s what I recommend you do to pack in a true essence of the place:
Check out the Parliament Building and Inner Harbour
The large neo-baroque buildings can be seen from miles away. The blue domes make them stand out against the crowd. The green lawns and pretty flowers give the place a very homely yet tourist feel. Why? Because the area sees a large number of tourists walking up and down, taking pictures from every angle, and posing with the buildings in the backdrop. The inner harbour, in front of the Parliament building, is well-loved. With boats, yachts and ferries, the harbour makes for a pretty picture. One can also see seaplanes! At night, the parliament building lights up and makes for pretty Instagram posts against the night sky. The area has a ton of cafes and restaurants which are mostly full all day. Red Fish Blue Fish , located in the inner harbour, has become extremely popular and the line often snakes towards the edge of the pier. I waited in line for over an hour to see their take on the plain ol' fish and chips and left with a massive wild salmon sandwich and an additional plate of fries. All for just $16 CAD.
Walk down Government Street and browse through books
I don't know about you, but I love bookstores. I found a great one on Government Street, one of the city's most well-loved touristy and commercial streets. Munro's has been serving bookworms for over 50 years in the city of Victoria and is a delight for visitors. Started by Jim and Alice (wait for it - the 2013 Nobel Prize-winning author) Munro, in the 1960s in another location, it's current location is a gorgeous neo-classical building in Old Town. Now deemed a heritage building, Munro's is often named among 'the most beautiful bookstores' in the world. I could see why as I browsed through the different sections for hours and bought myself stationery (instead of the eight hard-covered books I'd initially thought of getting) to remind me of the gorgeous evening I spent in the old-fashioned shop with high ceilings.
Be merry in China Town
Canada's oldest China Town is in Victoria. Located just off Government Street, it's the second-oldest in Northern America. The China Town is typical of many found around the world - dragons, red lanterns and Chinese restaurants. However, what makes it stand apart is the fact it has the narrowest commercial street in Canada! Fan Tan Alley runs from Pandora Avenue to Fisgard Avenue and hosts shopping stores, cafes and an art gallery. Don't forget to walk through it in the evening as red lanterns light up above the street. It's pretty unique!
Say hello to beautiful whales
Have you ever been what watching? If not, I suggest you go. Though its a matter of luck, seeing whales in the open sea is something you'll remember for ages. Take a whale watching tour in the morning. There are various operators so choose the one you think best. Leave the harbour and make your way towards Race Rocks where an old lighthouse stands. Though the setting makes for pretty pictures, its the seals, sea otters, and sea lions found on the rocks of the now-ecological reserve, the main attraction. A little further away, you maybe in luck if you sight orca whales. I did and was delighted. I managed to see at least six whales and it definitely made my day! The whole tour takes about three hours and do carry a warm jacket on the boat.
Fly with butterflies (in your mind of course)
The Victoria Butterfly Gardens isn't that old but has become a must-visit destination in the vicinity. Enter a tropical climate, a world of butterflies and flamingos, of toads and birds, of tortoises and insects; it is child-friendly and a place of wonder for adults. As you enter, there are over 70 species of butterflies that fly around you. The colours are stunning - from bright blues to vibrant yellows, you will leave awed. I for one got so involved with a tortoise trying to climb a small rock, that I cheered it on till it reached its goal as butterflies flew past it! The adult tickets are priced at $16.50 CAD.
Enter a magical world at Butchart Gardens
If you want to visit one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, this is it. The Butchart Gardens have been in bloom for a 100 years, sculpted and created over an old quarry by Jennie and Robert Butchart. Right from the Sunken Garden to the Japanese Garden, there are 55 acres of natural beauty and over 900 varieties of plants to gaze at. Do make it a point to visit the Rose Garden when in full bloom. With over a million visitors each year, one can spend hours and hours here. Apart from the natural beauty, be a child and take a ride on the Rose carousel. And don't forget to take home a souvenir from the gift shop!
This itinerary will be more than enough for 48 hours. Though these may not seem like a lot, trust me it will be more than enough for a weekend getaway in Victoria!
Getting there: Air Canada flies directly from New Delhi to Vancouver. Take a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island after that.