Perched on the edge of the ocean at the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is surrounded by the sparkling sea, rolling hills and majestic forests. For years, Victoria has been one of the top rated cities in the world to visit, not only because it has the mildest climate in all of Canada, but because this stunning city is the perfect balance of forward-thinking urban spaces, graceful heritage buildings and breathtaking natural beauty. Plus, from as early as February and as late as October the city is filled with blooming flowers, trees and every public and private garden is alive with colour – it’s no wonder Victoria is known as The Garden City. Downtown Victoria also has more restaurants per-capita than any other Canadian city, an incredible shopping district filled with unique, high-end, local and sustainable items, stunning heritage sites, and urban trails that meander along the coastline. One of the best parts about Victoria is that as a relatively small city, the downtown core is completely accessible on foot and each area of downtown is as beautiful as the next! So when you’re planning your next holiday, choose one of the incredible EMR Vacation Rentals downtown Victoria and explore everything the Garden City has to offer!
While Vancouver Island was first explored by European settlers in the late 1770s, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the southern tip of Vancouver Island, where the city of Victoria is now located, was discovered by Europeans. For thousands of years before that time, the area now called Victoria was home to the Coast Salish First Nations who lived in harmony with the environment. The ocean provided plentiful fishing, the forests, ample hunting and the natural resources such as cedar bark were used to build canoes, weave baskets, hats and so much more. When James Douglas came to the area in 1841, it was to establish a fur trading post that would coincide with the 1846 signing of the Oregon Treaty. This post became such a profitable trading centre that it officially became the capital of a newly-founded British crown colony that would later officially become a part of Canada as the province of British Columbia. During the gold rush of 1858, Fort Victoria, as it was called, grew into an established city that drew people from all over Canada and the world to seek their fortune in the west. By the early 1900s, Victoria was home to the stunning Empress Hotel and Parliament Buildings, and many wealthy Canadians called this city home creating vast wealth from the Island’s natural resources and building stately private residences around the city – which you can go visit today!
Victoria Heritage Sites
While there are certainly many incredible heritage sites to see all over Greater Victoria, the ones downtown are some of the most impressive and important! For more heritage tourist attractions outside the downtown core to check out including the world famous Butchart Gardens click here!
721 Government St, Victoria
Built in 1908 by Sir Francis Rattenbury, The Empress Hotel is a stunning piece of Victorian architectural history. When you visit the Inner Harbour you cannot help but marvel and the Empress’ soaring spires and majestic chateau-style architecture that overlooks the water and encompasses an entire city block.
501 Belleville St, Victoria
Built by the same architect as the Empress, Sir Francis Rattenbury, this stately, turquoise-domed building, also known as the BC Legislature located in the Victoria Inner Harbour, has been one of Victoria’s landmarks since 1897 when it was completed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Take a free guided tour to marvel at the structure, learn about the building, see historical pictures and artifacts and you can even watch when the Legislative Assembly is in session! At night, thousands of lights strung all over the exterior light up creating an air of whimsy and majesty to the Inner Harbour.
638 Douglas St, Victoria
Right outside the doors of the Royal BC museum, in Thunderbird Park sits the small, unassuming, Helmcken House. While it may not look like much, this structure was the home of Dr. John Helmcken, an incredibly important figure in Canadian history, and is officially the oldest house still standing in Victoria! It has been preserved in its entirety and stands on the site that it was originally built. As a visitor, you can tour the house and see how people in 1920 Victoria lived as well as getting a glimpse into the medical bag of a 19th century doctor!
Book your stay at the Landmark Executive Sub Penthouse to be right near these stunning sites and the Inner Harbour!
500 Fisgard St, Victoria
Victoria’s Chinatown, which initially was just a collection of crude wooden huts at the edge of a trading post-turned-burgeoning city during the gold rush of the mid 1800s, soon evolved into an area that was densely populated with thriving businesses, theatres, schools, temples and a hospital. You can still find North America’s second oldest Chinatown at the north end of Government Street, downtown Victoria but unlike 1911, today’s Chinatown only occupies the 500 to 600 block of Fisgard St. Both locals and visitors love visiting this National Historic Site famed for the incredible history, food, shopping and beautiful Gate of Harmonious Interest.
Looking for a rental near Chinatown? Book your stay in Victoria at The Corazon and be right near all the action!
207 Government St, Victoria
Right in the heart of the beautiful downtown neighbourhood of James Bay, sits the childhood home of the famous Canadian painter and author, Emily Carr. Known best for her abstract painting of the wilderness and First Nations totems and villages of BC, Emily Carr provides an invaluable voice to an era of Canadian history. While there is seemingly no end to the Emily Carr paintings at galleries and museums in BC, the Carr house provides something different – an intimate, interpretive look at the life, work, passions and legacy of this beloved artist.
Have a look at these James Bay properties to find your perfect rental!
Coffee in Victoria
If you’re wandering around Victoria downtown, you’ll quickly see how important great coffee is to this little capital city. With tons of locally owned and operated coffee shops, and incredible, locally roasted coffee you’re spoiled for choice when looking for great coffee in the city! Here are a few of our favourites that’ll get you feeling ready for a day out downtown Victoria!
552 Pandora Ave & 808 Yates St, Victoria
For years, Habit Coffee has been a local favourite coffee spot. With gorgeous, flavourful coffee and a dedicated carbon neutral business model, Habit is a must when you’re visiting downtown Victoria.
537 Herald St, Victoria
This warm, friendly coffee shop in a gorgeously refurbished heritage warehouse offers incredible coffee as well as a large breakfast and lunch menu, plus freshly baked, local goodies, yum!
560 Johnson St #122, Victoria
This funky coffee shop right in the heart of the shopping district is a relatively new coffee shop but already has a dedicated following! With great coffee and scrumptious, healthy snacks and small bites, Hey Happy is a great place to check out!
10 Bastion Square, Victoria
Located right in Bastion Square, Farmhouse is the place locals go to get big cappuccinos and even bigger burgers! The perfect place to enjoy the sun and your coffee in Bastion Square and people watch!
1001 Blanshard St & 281 Menzies St, Victoria
For decades, Discovery Coffee has been serving incredible, ethically sourced, locally roasted coffee! If you’re looking for a reliable and well established local coffee place, this is it!
Restaurants in Victoria
Finding incredible food in Victoria couldn’t be easier! Choosing which restaurant you want to go to – now that can be a challenge! We’ve rounded up our favourite downtown Victoria spots to make your decision a little easier!
490 Pandora Ave, Victoria
Located in a renovated heritage building on the edge of the water, Nubo offers guests elegant cocktails and stunning dishes inspired by global cooking techniques and seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.
1011 Broad St, Victoria
For years, Pagliacci’s has been a local staple for incredible, filling Italian food and friendly, European style service.
555 Johnson St, Victoria, BC
For over 30 years, this lovely, fine-dining Italian restaurant has been the place to go for a delicious, upscale meal with an impeccable atmosphere, right in the heart of Old Town.
536 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8W 1K8
While Ferris’ has been around for ages and delighting locals and visitors with scrumptious and healthy burgers, salads, soups and more, today, there’s so much more to Ferris’. Ferris’ Grill & Garden Patio is perfect when you’re in the mood for casual dining or a fun happy hour spot, there’s Ferris’ Upstairs Seafood & Oyster Bar for upscale and intimate dining and Perro Negro for a dash of Spain in the hear of Victoria!
Breweries in Victoria
If there’s one thing that Victorians love almost as much as food and coffee, it’s beer. For years, Victoria has had a passion for the microbreweries in the city, flocking to breweries to try a flight and buying locally made and produced beer to take home. If you’re in the city and want to go on your own walking tour to see what all the fuss is about, these are the breweries to check out downtown!
Market Square, Lower Courtyard, #63, 560 Johnson St, Victoria, BC
This tiny brewery has only 600sqft of space to create their beers, brews only 800L batches at a time! Because of their small capacity, their focus is on brewing incredible, small batch experimental beers with the highest quality ingredients.
517 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC
Known as Victoria’s craft beer parlour, this is the ultimate place to find an incredible selection of local and imported craft beer sourced solely from independently owned breweries.
1601 Store St, Victoria, BC
As one of the most well-established breweries and one of the most beloved pubs in Victoria, Swan’s has a spot in every local’s heart.
506 Herald St, Victoria, BC
This brewery is the newest on the Victoria beer scene and while they had som stiff competition in town, they’ve quickly become a local favourite and a must-visit for visiting beer lovers!
2000 Government St, Victoria, BC
With a scrappy history, a lot of dedication, passion and time, Phillips has become one of the most well-known and beloved beers in Victoria.
Have Fun in Victoria!
When you’re travelling, doing a little shopping is a must! Whether you’re looking for gifts to bring back with you or you’re ready to splurge on yourself, downtown Victoria has incredible shopping! Check out Government Street for boutiques and some of the oldest stores in the city, head to Pacific Centre for a classic mall experience and if you’re looking for more unique items, go straight to Lower Johnson – or LoJo as locals call it – where you’ll find high-end boutiques, curated vintage, unique housewares, children’s toys and so much more!
These tiny little boats skim across the ocean taking passengers all over the Inner and Upper Harbour in Victoria. If you’re looking for a fun way to explore more of Victoria’s downtown without breaking a sweat, this is a great way to do it!
Walking in Victoria
One of the best ways to explore this incredible city is by walking! Victoria is an incredibly walkable city and has gorgeous urban hiking trails all over the city! Here are our top walking trails in downtown Victoria:
- Dallas Road: Starting at Fisherman’s Wharf just past the Inner Harbour, you can walk along the seaside looping around the neighbourhood of James Bay. On this walk, you’ll see where the cruise ships come in at Ogden Point, have spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains across the Salish Sea/Strait of Juan de Fuca and can go all the way to Beacon Hill Park!
- Songhees Walkway: Starting at the Johnson Street bridge at the bottom of Johnson Street, you can cross using the pedestrian pathway and continue walking along the oceanside path all the way to the West Bay Marina. This walk gives you unique and stunning views of the Inner harbour and downtown Victoria.
- Beacon Hill Park: While this park isn’t technically in the downtown core, it’s a must-see when you’re in Victoria, especially if you’re looking for a beautiful place to stretch your legs. Here you can find cultivated and wild natural spaces, gnarly Garry oaks, graceful bridges and waterways and the second tallest totem pole in the world!
Get Out on the Water around Victoria!
If there’s one thing that you have to do when you’re visiting Victoria is take advantage of the incredible ocean access all around the downtown area! You can whale watch or kayak and get up close and personal with the abundant marine life just off the shore of the capital city! Whether you want to catch a glimpse of the orcas, grey and humpback whales that pass through these waters on their migratory journey or if you’re happy to see some harbour seals, cormorants and starfish, it couldn’t be easier to get out there from downtown Victoria!