British Columbia’s charming capital city of Victoria is a fabulous and well known romantic travel destination. Though truth be told, the horse-drawn carriage rides, quaint little boutiques, cute inner harbour and floral displays galore make it a haven for all kinds of tourists. Including those embarking on a girls getaway in search of great shopping, food, libations and fun attractions. My friend Nancy of Luxe Travel Family and I did one such adventure recently, and I’m excited to share the great fun we had along the way. Behold, my tips for planning a fabulous girls getaway in Victoria, BC.
Planning a Fabulous Girls Getaway in Victoria BC
Where to Stay in Victoria BC
We had the pleasure of checking in to the chic and florally-influenced Magnolia Hotel & Spa. This pretty property is one of the most central and best hotels in downtown Victoria BC. It was chosen as the #1 City Hotel in Canada in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards two years ago.
The Magnolia is in walking distance to the Inner Harbour, the Provincial Parliament buildings, Chinatown, the shopping mecca of LoJo, and the main drag of Douglas Street. As one might expect, and in keeping with the floral theme, the sleek lobby of the Magnolia Hotel is filled with stunning flower arrangements. We visited in springtime, and the tables and walls were covered in massive bowls and vases of pink ranunculus and other blooms. It was heavenly, though if you suffer from allergies, be sure to pack your meds. One last tidbit, the Magnolia is also home to one of the best restaurants in Canada, the Courtney Room. More on that later.
Our large suite at the Magnolia was comfortable and spacious for two ladies ready to hit the city. The room included two queen beds, a large bathroom, and a comfortable seating area for two. We enjoyed some afternoon bubbly in our robes and fuzzy slippers upon arrival before heading out to explore downtown Victoria.
Shopping in Victoria
A girls getaway isn’t complete without some shopping, am I right? Head to Lower Johnson Street, or ‘LoJo’ as it’s known. This former red light district of saloons and brothels is now a trendy and chic shopping district. The general area also has some great independent boutiques like Smoking Lily, the Regional Assembly of Text, Jeni Mack, She She Bags, Silk Road Tea, Baggins Shoes, and renowned Munro’s Books on Government Street, to name a few.
Where to Eat in Victoria
Victoria’s food scene has matured enormously over the past ten years. There are incredible farm to table restaurants, cocktail bars, craft breweries and distilleries sprinkled throughout the downtown and beyond. Sadly, we couldn’t hit all of them in just one visit. But I do have some favorites to share. Here are some of the best places to eat in Victoria.
The award winning Courtney Room, just off the lobby in the Magnolia Hotel, was named as one of the top 10 restaurants in Canada by En Route magazine in 2019. This stylish restaurant was completely renovated to resemble a high-ceilinged French brasserie on the main floor. It’s a beautiful room to enjoy a Parisian-style breakfast or brunch of eggs benedict, yoghurt and granola, omelettes and a to-die-for brioche french toast. For an elevated fine dining experience, ascend the steps to enjoy an elegant supper or a family-style Sunday dinner.
‘Eat with people you love’ at Nourish Kitchen & Café. Serving vegetarian, vegan, and dishes that can include meat, the café and dining room at Nourish use ingredients from organic, natural and seasonal sources. Try savory bowls (with or without free-range eggs), Sleeping Beauty pancakes (that name alone!), and sip a booster juice or biodynamic wine with your meal.
For swish pre-dinner cocktails or an evening nightcap, head to Bodega Bar. This downtown tapas and sherry bar serves up Spanish-inflected cocktails and small tapas plates perfect for a light snack or shared dinner. Order a sherry flight to find a favorite among one of Canada’s largest sherry menus, or sample some of the rarer Spanish wines.
I’m a latecomer to the fresh oyster game, but I certainly enjoyed my share at Ferris’ Grill & Oyster Bar. Ferris’ has been a downtown Victoria staple and local favourite since 1991, and our delicious dinner of fresh and baked west coast oysters, deep fried cauliflower, grilled prawns and fatoosh was fresh and delicious. This is elevated bar food of simple prep and high quality. Important tip: save room for dessert, especially the warm salted caramel brownie. You’re welcome.
For pizza fiends, Pizzeria Prima Strada is the go-to slice or pie shop, with two locations in Victoria. Prima Strada was the first restaurant in British Columbia to serve Neapolitan wood-fired pizza. Their extensive menu also features homemade meatballs, cured olives, and salad. Try a thin-crust rucola e crudo pizza, topped with crushed tomatoes, prosciutto and arugula. It’s one of their most popular pizzas.
At Red Fish, Blue Fish, the wait only whets the appetite. The lines are long at this outdoor fish and chips shack on a wooden pier in the Inner Harbour, but it’s worth the wait, trust me. The fish is crisply fried, the tacones are tasty, and the gazpacho is among the best we’ve ever tasted. Guard against seagulls on the pier, and don’t feel too guilty as you enjoy your meal while gazing out into the harbour at the sea life below.
If you’re craving Mexican, La Taqueria has some truly authentic run-to-the-border flavours that will hit the spot. I have a thing for Carnitas tacos (pork with pickled onion) and they did not disappoint.
Unique Things to Do in Victoria
Wander Abkhazi Garden
This botanical gem is tucked away on a residential street outside of downtown Victoria. Abkhazi Garden is a garden that love built. It was established after World War II by Peggy Pemberton-Carter and her Prince, Nicholas Abkhazi, a royal couple with heritage of the Abkhazian principality in Russia. Over forty years, the Princess transformed the one-acre property into a stunning garden space in the city.
Prebook a guided 45-minute tour of the garden with one of the passionate volunteer gardeners who tend to this property of unique and rare plants. Massive rhododendrons are particularly popular here, as are rare trees and peonies. The Garden is now part of the Land Conservancy.
Of course, we cannot talk about gardens and exclude the popular – and dog-friendly! – Butchart Gardens north of Victoria. These well-known gardens are among the most popular natural attractions in the Greater Victoria region in any season. Special times to visit and stroll through the more than 100 year old gardens are during the holiday season as well as the spectacular spring blooming season.
Enjoy High Tea at Abkhazi Teahouse
The Abkhazi Teahouse that overlooks the Garden is in the former residence of the royal couple. The large windows offer views onto the Garden, and there’s an outdoor seating area in summer. We ordered the Princess High Afternoon Tea, which came with tiny savory sandwiches, blinis with caviar, vol au vent, scones and sweet treats, all accompanied by a pot of delicious Abkhazi tea.
If you’re crazy for tea, do visit the history Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria for its popular tea at the Empress. Their tea service also caters to littles, with their Prince and Princess teas. Be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Take a Taste of Victoria Food Tour
I’m a huge fan of food tours in any city. You learn so much about the culture and cuisine of a place. Owner Andy is passionate about food and Victoria, and his A Taste of Victoria Food Tour showcases both with some serious gusto. Our tour began at the Victoria Public Market where we sampled a ‘cup ‘a balls’ meatball dish at Roast, followed by teas at Silk Road Tea (one of my personal favorites). We walked through Canada’s oldest Chinatown learning bits of history along the way while nibbling on macarons from La Roux.
Turning into narrow Fan Tan Alley, we wandered into La Tana, owned by brother and sister team Claudio and Flavia, and sampled delicious Italian baked goods and pastas. We sipped matcha lemonade, scarfed down Southern-style biscuits and grits at Shireens, and finished it all off with a Rogers Chocolate, a hometown favorite. I could go on, but I’m too full to continue, LOL. Suffice to say that you will not go hungry on this excellent food tour, and you’ll learn something about one of the most charming cities in Canada.
If like me, you appreciate a good walk post-feasting, I’m delighted to note that there are many easy Victoria walks to enjoy in and around the downtown. Victoria is highly walkable, with many parks and green spaces and a spectacular oceanside stroll that reveals views of the Salish Sea and Washington’s Olympic Mountains.
Follow the Bikes, Blooms & Brews Trail
Guests of the Magnolia Hotel can reserve bikes and cycle a trail tour that includes some of the prettiest gardens, parks and brewing spots in the city. The distance is less than 10 km and the time will depend on how long you linger over brews (including coffee, tea and beer), and the blooms at Abkhazi Garden, Beacon Hill Park and Government House. There are also Craft Brewery Tours, Running Trails, a Tapas Trail, and a Beautiful Boutiques Trail. The route and trail highlights are mapped and printed on colourful cards that are easy to carry.
Pin for Later
Heading to Victoria during the Christmas holidays with kids in tow? Check out this festive post from our friends at Marcie in Mommyland.
Read more about Vancouver Island
Disclosure: The Travelling Mom thanks Tourism Victoria, Destination Greater Victoria and the Magnolia Hotel for hosting her visit to Victoria. As always, our opinions are honest and our own. This post contains affiliate links.
Photo Credits: Claudia Laroye unless noted