Published February 17, 2017 by Alexandra Grant on To Vogue or Bust
Back in January, Matt and I got to take off to somewhere that’s very near and dear to our hearts: beautiful Victoria! As you might already know, we started dating there 9 years ago (more on our story with a special Flytographer shoot that we got to experience while in Vic next Friday!), so needless to say it’s somewhere we really love. Even if I hadn’t gone to university, met my longterm partner and had basically the best uni experience ever there, I would still be head over heels for Victoria though, and I think that’s really evident once you watch the video below – hit play then carry on reading the rest of my guide!
It’s got history and it’s got elegance through and through, but it’s also becoming an increasingly young city, with lots of cool restaurants, bars, pubs, festivals and cafes sitting side-by-side with Victoria institutions. For those of you who don’t know, Victoria is the capital of BC so it’s also home to our provincial government HQ’s, and it’s named after Queen Victoria so like its namesake, it’s got an element of British charm. Whether it’s the famed gardens throughout the whole city to it lovely cobblestoned alleyways, it’s got that Brit vibe while also being home to a thriving multicultural scene (its Chinatown is the first one in all of Canada!).
Needless to say, we had the best time ever visiting our old hometown with Tourism Victoria. It’s all in that video above but wanted to make sure I shared even more tips so that you’re fully prepared for your next trip there! Just a note as well that while Vancouverites have likely headed out to Vic, for those visiting Vancouver or the west coast of Canada for the first time, you must pencil in Victoria as well! And you’ll see in one moment just how easy it is to get there, so without further ado…
How to get there
Harbour Air has to be one of my absolute favourite ways to travel. Not only do you get the most incredible views on your way to your destination (and I mean, you can’t really beat views in the west coast – always takes my breath away) but the whole travel experience is beyond easy, efficient and just downright lovely. Check in right in downtown Vancouver’s Coal Harbour (another major plus, central locations are so key!) and relax in the luxe Harbour Air lounge until you board. Hop on the sea plane (super cozy despite its petite size!) and then make sure you have your camera ready because you’ll want to document the whole trip. From stunning views of Vancouver on take off to beautiful island and coastal views on the 30 minute trip to Victoria, I can promise you’ll be enthralled the whole time. And there’s something about travelling in a sea plane that I find very soothing! Again, all around the trip is 30 minutes which sure beats the hours-long journey on the ferry (I did that journey far too many times as a student) and not only is it more efficient, but incredibly beautiful and comfortable. Can’t recommend Harbour Air enough!
What to see
Victoria is an incredibly walkable city and mercifully minimal on the hill front so while you should have comfy shoes on (especially if you do one of Magnolia Hotel’s city tours on foot or bike [PS they have bikes at your disposal to use for the day]), don’t worry about needing to sort out transportation – your own two feet or bike should be all that you’ll need! Start at the harbour and wander along the parliament building’s front lawn, visit the beautiful harbour and keep your eyes peeled for seals or stop by the museum! Then take in the historic downtown centre, which is so beautiful and really easy to meander around. Take in some serious Victoria institutions dotted along the Bastion Square area or Trounce Alley (Irish Times was a staple when we were younger, as was Pagliacci’s for Italian!) then head towards Chinatown. As I mentioned above, Victoria’s Chinatown is the first in Canada and you can really get a sense of history as you wander its streets, dipping into the famed Fan Tan Alley off of Pandora to check out the eclectic shops there. Continue east to take in some of the newer developments happening in Vic near Rock Bay – so many cool breweries, cafes, etc!
Where to stay
I adore Magnolia Hotel. Located right in the centre of downtown, it’s close to everything but because it’s tucked up just on Courtney Street, you feel like you have a little sanctuary in town. I’ve stayed here twice and I’m always so impressed by their stunning decor, their beautiful views of the harbour and city, their pillow-like beds and serious attention to detail. Take their city guides for instance – I love that they take on the work of planning out themed itineraries for their guests so that they can have the best possible experience in Victoria, from the brewery tour that Matt and I did to Bikes, Beans & Blooms (dying to do this in the summer!) and the Tapa Trail tours! Speaking of tapas, their in-hotel restaurant Catalano Restaurant & Ciccheti Bar provides the perfect first stop for a Mediterranean culinary experience – love all their tapas and their breakfast is incredible too. Really can’t recommend it enough!
Where to eat
There are so many great places to eat in Victoria but I have to say our experience at Nourish Kitchen & Cafe this time around really blew us away. It was literally one of the best meals we’ve ever experienced. In a beautiful James Bay heritage house, you immediately feel as if you’re walking into a good friend’s house (albeit a beyond beautiful house!). From the bone broth bar (which was so perfect as we were freezing) to its selection of local and absolutely delectable appies and entrees (their cashew cheese has forever changed my life), you get to really walk through Victoria plate by plate, getting to try beyond fresh dishes that are all created with local produce and ingredients. Their selection of drinks was also unparalleled and got us so excited to try some local breweries and mead (yes mead!) producers. You must go. Trust me.
As mentioned above, we also got to experience both tapas and breakfast at Catalano and were blown away by both. We also had breakfast at Blue Fox Cafe (a serious Victoria institution) on our last day and absolutely loved it. Discover Coffee was our favourite pick for an afternoon pick-me-up and we really loved Parachute’s eclectic offering of ice creams (and think this would be the perfect spot for a summer treat if you took on biking the city, which you really should!).
Not pictured was our trip to UVic where I got to go back to my favourite desk in the library (such a nerd), walk around the SUB and by all our buildings. I know it’s not for everyone but I’m someone who truly loved being in school. I wish I could go back to university all the time for another degree but since it wouldn’t really apply to my current career, keep putting it off…one of these days though! I’m just a naturally scholastic type and those years where all I really had to do was to learn as much as I could, hang out with my friends, bike to the beach and work a couple shifts a week at Cactus Club were some of the best years of my life. I just get so overwhelmed with emotion whenever I go back and have all those amazing memories come back, and I’ll always love this special town so much. A big, huge thank you to Tourism Victoria for such an amazing experience and again, can’t stress enough how much you’ll fall for this town – you must visit!
Make sure you’re subscribed to my YouTube channel for even more travel diaries, beauty tutorials, style tips and so much more! I have some really special fitness/health content coming your way next week, can’t wait to share it! And with that, happy Friday everyone! Have an amazing weekend!