Long known as Canada’s most British destination, quaint Victoria is Vancouver Island’s largest city, famous for its flowers and gardens. Founded in 1843 as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, Victoria became the capital of British Columbia in 1871 when this Western province joined the Canadian Confederation. Today, it’s a cosmopolitan hub of cuisine and culture. Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in the Inner Harbour is one of Victoria’s regal traditions. The harbor also attracts 40,000 spectators to the annual Symphony Splash classical music concert each August. The Royal BC Museum includes native totem poles, a replica Old Town, and a stuffed woolly mammoth. At Canada’s oldest Chinatown, you can walk through the Gate of Harmonious Interest, and, in the Rockland neighborhood, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria features Canadian painter Emily Carr’s iconic landscapes.
More than a century old, the Butchart Gardens, north of downtown, stun visitors with their romantic Sunken Garden in a former limestone quarry. Spot sea lions and porpoises during an orca whale-watching tour. Or stroll through Beacon Hill Park, boasting a petting zoo and a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. Sports fans can head to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre for a Victoria Royals hockey game, showcasing future NHL stars. Looking to toast a big win? Year-round, beer fans enjoy exploring a vibrant craft brewing scene that emerged in the 1980s.