There’s a certain je ne sais quoi in the air at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Some might call it chilled-out island lifestyle; others might call it passionate living. This could be why Amazon.ca crowned Victoria as Canada’s most romantic city, based on the high numbers of romance novels, sex and relationship books, romantic comedy DVDs and Michael Bublé CDs purchased by residents.
All I know is when I get off the BC Ferries’ jaunt from Vancouver to Victoria, my mind is weekend-primed. I'm not sure how you can travel 24 nautical miles through the Gulf Islands and past pods of orcas without being lulled into relaxation mode.
Once in the city, British Columbia’s capital reminds me of a polished business woman by week and cabin gal by weekend. The city centre is manicured, historic, easily walkable and hip, while the outlying areas are beachy, casual and beg to be biked. People don’t stroll and ride Victoria’s seaside and country roads because they have to; they do it because they want to.
Bard and Banker
Victoria’s je ne sais quoi can also be attributed to its location. This relatively small, walkable city is surrounded by ocean, farms and wineries. As a result, the locals have come to know today’s catch, artisan cheeses and fresh produce as the rule, versus the exception. I’ve never had just-caught halibut, just-made havarti or just-picked haricot beans I didn’t like in Victoria. Fresh is best, right?
Victoria sets the bar high, making this weekend destination the perfect escape for romantics, exercise fanatics, foodies and everyone in between.
Top-rated things to do in Victoria
SIP: Afternoon Tea – Taking tea and crumpets to a whole new level, The Fairmont Empress’ Afternoon Tea is a celebrated tradition that started when the hotel first welcomed guests in 1908. The refined ritual offers seatings from 12 to 4:45pm daily.
WALK: Beacon Hill Park – Stroll Beacon Hill Park’s gently rolling hills and bridged streams.
BROWSE: Chinatown – Covering only two city blocks, Victoria’s Chinatown, which is the second oldest in North America, is packed with tradition, art, live-work spaces and alleyways, the most famous of which is Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada.
PICK UP: Rogers’ Chocolates – You can’t visit Victoria without being lured into Rogers’ Chocolates for at least one coveted treat. It’s no wonder the chocolate is so good – they’ve been working at it since 1885.
Where to dine in Victoria, BC
The Fairmont Empress
COFFEE: Habit Coffee and Culture – The coffee is smooth, the decor minimalist, and the staff cool.
BREAKFAST & BRUNCH: Jam Café – All day breakfast featuring morning madness like red velvet pancakes and huevos rancheros.
LUNCH: Red Fish Blue Fish – Set in a converted shipping container, there’s something to the Ocean Wise fish and chips served on the boardwalk hugging Victoria’s waterfront. With line-ups often 50-plus people long, it’s become both an institution and a spectacle, featured on the Food Network’s Eat Street.
DINNER: Brasserie L’Ecole – A new daily menu focuses on wholesome food with French flare in an old Chinatown schoolhouse.
Stylish accommodations in Victoria
Downtown Victoria has an abundance of hotels anchored by the ivy-covered landmark: The Fairmont Empress. Staying there makes you feel like you’re participating in Victoria’s bustling past and present all at the same time.
Vancouver-based TripStyler Trish Friesen is editor-in-chief at TripStyler.com, a website that’s full of daily trip-style tips for aspiring jetsetters.