Victoria isn’t like the rest of West Coast Canada. It lacks the modern, glassy feel of Vancouver and instead feels like you’re travelling back in time to an old English town. Being an ex-pat myself, I feel a certain guilt and predictability for liking its charm and quaint, old-worldiness, but it’s more than that. Victoria is a small, old city amid the beautiful mountainous backdrop of British Columbia, which creates a unique vista you can’t find in any English town.
Aside from this, one point to note about Victoria is that it was the provincial capital of BC long before Vancouver existed, and still is. Parliament still sit here, which lends it a little more significance than other cities.
It’s easy to get lost amid the alleyways of Chinatown (North America’s second largest) and lose hours wandering through old streets. In truth, I have so many recommendations for this city that I’ve had to narrow them down to just a few I particularly love. As for the food – there are far too many good plant-based options to mention, so I’m offering up three firm favourites. Enjoy!
Be Love – Hands down my favourite eatery in Victoria. With a seasonally-changing, mostly vegan and gluten-free menu, Be Love offer up delicious options such as pesto gnocchi, raw Black Forest Gateau and house-made botanical elixirs. If I could go here every day I would.
Cafe Bliss – As the more casual, almost fully raw sister to Be Love, Cafe Bliss has a very different feel. A little less pricey and more nutrient-dense, dishes here are colourful and leave you feeling refreshed. Go on a day when they have a fully-stocked raw dessert counter.
Green Cuisine – A staple among local Victorians, this self-serve vegan buffet has been open for over 25 years and has a wide range of savoury dishes and desserts daily. While not luxurious, Green Cuisine offers tasty options, is great value for money and deserves its loyal following.
Silk Road Tea – I didn’t realize tea-buying could be addictive until I was introduced to this beautiful shop. All organic, teas are imaginatively named (Alchemist’s Brew) and smell divine.
Rook & Rose – This florist on Johnson Street do things to flowers that blow my mind every time. It’s worth visiting just for their window displays.
Munro’s Books – Opened in 1963, and housed in a majestic old building on Government Street, the architecture and warm light will make you want to cosy up with the books and stay all day.
Fan Tan Alley – Enter this alley and you could be in Yorkshire or Scotland, such is the feel of its cosy shops and narrow passages. Signalling the start of Chinatown, this street is a must for any historical tour of Victoria.
Legislature Buildings – An underrated attraction, the elegant Legislature Buildings are where parliament sit, and tours are offered free of charge. Go back to view the exterior in the evening when the building is beautifully illuminated.
Craigdarroch Castle – Craigdarroch is a strange building. Stark and odd-looking from the outside, the inside is like a luxurious Victorian wood-panelled home – small, yet intricate. Built for the Dunsmuirs of Scotland, it’s fascinating to explore and offers unparalleled views of the city.
Hatley Park – Worth the journey from Downtown, Hatley Park is a gorgeous old estate, containing an Edwardian conservatory, Italian and Japanese gardens, and a castle open only by appointment. It backs onto the water and is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Empress – If you can, spend a night at this historic hotel. Built initially for the Canadian Pacific Railway, The Empress housed European travellers who were used to opulence and splendor, and hosted guests such as Katharine Hepburn and Rita Hayworth. It’s still possible to view iconic rooms such as the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom, and view photographs of glittering days gone by.