- Liz Laing checks into the Magnolia Hotel and checks out British Columbia’s revitalized capital, Victoria.
The best way to get to Victoria from Vancouver is to take a seaplane with Harbour Air Seaplanes, which will take you directly from harbor to harbor in about 30 minutes. All flights are carbon neutral and offer amazing aerial views of British Columbia’s islands, sea and mountains.
Just a short walk from Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the award-winning Magnolia Hotel, an elegant boutique hotel located conveniently in downtown Victoria. All 64 guestrooms have been beautifully renovated with plush textures and wall treatments in a soothing color palette of taupe, smoke and pearl. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase scenic views and marble bathrooms with deep soaker tubs offer a relaxing way to end a busy day. The hotel’s new Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar offers small plates of Mediterranean cuisine and craft cocktails. The house made gnocchi with roasted walnuts, spinach, and Gorgonzola cream is both decadent and satisfying, and the polenta fries with piquillo aioli make a great side dish. Hotel guests will enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet served daily at Catalano.
A stay at the Magnolia Hotel will put you right in the center of the city’s best shopping, dining and entertainment options. Government Street, a main artery of downtown, is only one block from the hotel with countless bookstores (Munro’s), handcraft jewelers and clothing boutiques to choose from. Just a few blocks up Government Street is Trounce Alley, a short stretch of unique shops, charmingly lit by gas lamps and decorated with hanging baskets of flowers. Continue up Government and stop in for a tea tasting at Silk Road Tea, a fabulous teashop, which has received much acclaim for their organic and locally made teas, bath and body products.
Just around the corner at Fisgard and Government streets, is the entrance to Canada’s oldest Chinatown. Step through the Gate of Harmonious Interest to shop for all sorts of Asian curios. One fun discovery: Squeeze your way into North America’s narrowest street, Fan Tan Alley, which measures only 3 feet across and once housed gambling houses and opium dens. Check here for more shopping recommendations.
A walk to the Inner Harbour is a relaxing way to see the highlights of Victoria. You can go whale watching or kayaking in the harbor or take a horse-drawn carriage ride past the Parliament Buildings and through Beacon Hill Park. The Royal British Columbia Museum is a must-see with interactive exhibits exploring Canada’s history and boasts having the largest IMAX screen in BC. One of the newest attractions in Victoria is The Robert Bateman Centre, named after the renowned wildlife artist and naturalist, located in the historic CPR Steamship Terminal building in the Inner Harbour. Over 100 pieces of Bateman’s art is displayed throughout 10 different galleries, two of which will appeal especially to children.
When hunger strikes, look no further than Rebar for delicious and healthy dishes. Located on the corner of Bastion Square and Langley Street, this hippy-chic restaurant takes the utmost care in providing and preparing food responsibly from farm to table. Exotic dishes from around the globe, as well as local culinary gems are nourishing to the body and soul.
For more culinary goodies, visit the new Victoria Public Market, recently opened downtown in the historic Hudson building, only 100 yards from where a farmers’ market operated from the late 1800s. Modeled after the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the market is a treasure trove of local food products from farmers, butchers, bakers and cheese makers. Pyramids of vibrant produce appear at the Farmers’ Market each Wednesday and on the weekends. The public market also hosts community events and performances with local musicians and is closed on Mondays.
If you’d like to explore more of the city’s unique neighborhoods while getting some exercise, rent a bike or take a cycling tour with The Pedaler. On one of their specialty tours, your guide will introduce you to some of the best coffee roasters, bakeries and brew masters in town. For more ideas, visit Tourism Victoria.
Photos by Liz Laing.