History, elegance, and kindness: a timeless recipe, readily available in British Columbia’s quaint capital. Nestled at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria, BC is closer to America than its own mainland. But don’t let its proximity to the USA fool you — it’s rife with old-world charm and cultural diversity. Comfort abounds in this urban jewel, where a temperate climate offers strollable streets and a seasonal bounty that spans all four seasons.
Top Victoria, BC Recommendations This Winter
Victoria BC Restaurants, Bars & Bakeries
- Bon Macaron Patisserie offers the ultimate selection of macarons.
- Chorizo & Co. craft cocktails and sharable plates.
- Crust Bakery + Dutch Bakery & Diner turn out a daily selection of house-made sweet and savory delectables.
- Dumpling Drop vegan and pork dumplings.
- Fuego Old Town Eatery a Mexican twist on brunch.
- Jam Cafe a brunch-lovers paradise.
- Nourish Kitchen & Cafe, food cooked like grandma.
- White Heather Tea Room high tea in an intimate setting.
48(ish) Hours Exploring Victoria, BC During the Winter
With its plethora of luxury spas, exquisite dining options, and stunning views, Victoria, BC offers the ideal winter escape. Thanks to its location within the Olympic Rainshadow, it averages just 31 days of rainfall during the winter. So while the temperatures may be on the chilly side, you can often stroll without getting wet — a serious bonus for those coming from drizzly Seattle!
FRIDAY IN VICTORIA, BC
2:30 PM Bakery Stroll Down Fort Street
Though not Victoria’s official main street, Fort Street’s western tip is home to the city’s initial hub — Fort Victoria. The trading post built by the Hudson’s Bay Company has long since been demolished, but the central artery it created remains a hub of eclectic shops and eateries — none the least of which is four of the city’s bakeries.
Stretch your legs post-flight (and incredibly fast encounter with the friendliest border agents you’ve ever met) by wandering and noshing along this thoroughfare. Check out the whimsical macaron towers at Bon Macaron Patisserie where the brightly colored cookies come in 50 different flavors. (We’re partial to the Jackfruit, with real bits of jackfruit in the filling, and Passion Fruit Dulce.)
At Dutch Bakery & Diner the epic selection of freshly baked goods ranges from cakes and pies to pastries and savory treats. The mini tarts make for fabulous small bites, while those looking for something a bit more substantial (and less sweet) will love the Croquettes.
Continue the mini theme at Crust Bakery (located just across the street), where the Finger Food menu is ¼ the size of their regular items. Mini quiches come loaded with bacon, tomato, and smoked cheddar; tiny croissants are filled with chocolate, and little cheesecakes are perfect for sampling.
Meandering further east, you’ll find an eclectic twist on Chinese buns at Sally Bun. This quirky gem turns out an assortment of freshly baked hand-held comfort food that ranges from classic fillings such as curry chicken to Northwest-inspired smoked salmon and cream cheese. If the weather cooperates, enjoy your buns on the patio nestled at the back of the restaurant. Lined with heavy foliage, it feels a bit like stepping into a secret garden.
Looking for more than just edibles while you walk? The Papery has an eclectic mix of stationary and keepsakes. Skanda showcases its impressive collection of custom-designed jewelry. Urban Art carries an exquisite range of local photography, pop culture posters, and thought-provoking murals. And for a funky mix of functional keepsakes (and vegan snacks), don’t miss Belle General.
5:00 PM Indulge in Shareables
Stepping inside Chorizo & Co. feels a bit like being welcomed to the party. The deli roots of this jovial, bustling eatery run deep in the Spanish-inspired menu and sense of community. A watering hole for everyone from the happy hour early birds to the after-hours business slingers, here shared plates reign supreme and the cocktail menu is inspiring.
For a more low-key taste of the action, ask for a table on the upstairs mezzanine. It offers the perfect vantage point for people-watching. Menu favorites include the Patatas Bravas — potato cubes fried until the outsides are gloriously crisp and the insides delightfully smooth. They come with a spicy tomato sauce that’s balanced with a creamy aioli. Equally as mouth-watering (though understandably strange to order) is the smoked Pig’s Head Terrine served with grilled bread and a rhubarb compote.
7:00 PM Live Jazz
When you leave dinner, head one block north to Herrmann’s Jazz Club — Victoria’s oldest jazz establishment. Opened in 1986, it nearly closed when its founder — Herrmann Nieweler passed in 2015. But the iconic staple that regularly attracts legendary jazz icons on tour improvised, finding ways to keep the doors open and the music playing.
Today, the latest addition to the beloved venue can be found upstairs at Hermann’s Upstairs. An 18-and-over establishment (unlike its downstairs big sister, which welcomes those of all ages), the swanky upstairs stage and lounge offer everything from dance bands to blues acoustics.
SATURDAY IN VICTORIA, BC
8:30 AM Breakfast in the Brunch Capital
Declared the Brunch Capital of Canada by Food Network, the mid-morning meal has earned a special place of honor among locals and visitors. It arguably has begun to replace dinner parties, propelled in large part by Victoria’s large collegiate demographic (it’s home to three universities) and its inventive chefs who have embraced the mid-morning, egg-laden menu spread with zest. In fact, there are several breakfast spots where brunch is the only game.
The VILLAGE, which now has five locations tucked in quaint neighborhoods throughout the city, opened with brunch meal as its primary focus. Blue Fox Cafe set the stage for the all-day brunch in 1991 when it became the first restaurant of its kid. Today, this funky little cafe still attracts long waits and happy diners, thanks to its fresh, homemade-style meals.
And not to be missed is certainly Jam Cafe, where the urban-rustic atmosphere is matched with elevated comfort food. French toast is made with thick-cut brioche and topped with buttermilk fried chicken. Pancakes come swirled with cinnamon and topped with sweet icing. Breakfast bowls come with varieties ranging from pulled pork, buffalo sauce, and tater tot monstrosity topped with corn salsa and cheese to a veggie-lovers delight loaded with mushrooms, tomatoes, and hashbrowns. Here, eggs benedict is served more than a half-dozen ways and the before-five drink menu is speckled with an appropriate selection of libation-infused drinks worthy of a toast.
10:00 AM Find a Beloved New Read
Days could be spent touring Victoria’s collection of bookstores — each offering its own unique character. One of the most famous of the city’s literature destinations, Munro’s Books is a landmark location. The building, originally designed and built at the turn of the twentieth century for the Royal Bank of Canada, features prominent soaring ceilings and exquisite art. The library-essence of this studiously organized store is matched by a knowledgeable staff and a comprehensive collection of well-known and lesser-known titles.
Just a few blocks east resides the city’s other book institution — Russell Books. A third-generation family-owned bookshop known for its floor-to-ceiling shelves. The atmosphere here is a bit more great-aunt’s living room with its cozy vibe and jovial staff. But don’t mistake the upbeat smiles for a lack of literary knowledge. These folks can recommend a good book with the best of them.
Other mainstays include Renaissance Books and James Bay Coffee & Books.
11:30 AM Tea
Thanks to its reported health benefits and comforting routine, tea has become increasingly more mainstream. But the popular pastime of gathering for a cup is one Victoria has long celebrated — and with elevated flare. High tea offers the casual sipper to imagine what it’s like to step back in time to when tea was an event (complete with a decadent meal).
Cozy tea rooms, trendy bars, and comprehensive tea dispensaries can be found speckled throughout the city. Tea at the Empress is a pastime that’s been savored in the Fairmont Empress’ Lobby Lounge since the hotel opened. But it’s not the only came in town. Alternatives, like the White Heather Tea Room, offer an exquisite selection of house-made delectables are paired with loose-leaf teas in an intimate setting.
2:00 PM Massage
Get off your feet and let your body relax with a massage. There’s a large collection of can’t-miss day spas in Victoria – offering a wide range of classic services. Each features its own unique spa offerings, such as steam rooms and soaking tubs that may be added to services or offered on a complimentary basis. So give yourself a moment to soak away the winter blues.
5:00 PM Oldest Chinatown in Canada
On the northern edge of downtown Victoria, in a section of the city that was originally only connected by three narrow footbridges, is the oldest Chinatown in Canada. The roots of this national historic site began in 1859 with the Fraser River Gold Rush and the subsequent Canadian Pacific Railway construction. Thousands of Chinese immigrants came to Victoria, some settling in the city and others using it as a waypoint before moving on.
While rising rents and gentrification have diversified this brightly colored destination, it remains a historically significant space. On the top floor of the Yen Wo Society building, you’ll find the oldest active Chinese temple in Canada. Narrow pedestrian-only passageways, like Fan Tan Alley, offer remnants of the region’s darker past, when opium and gambling rings ran rampant.
In addition to the historic installations and landmarks that are lovingly preserved, Victoria’s Chinatown is also well-known for its collection of traditional and Asian-fusion restaurants. Those who love a good dumpling won’t want to miss Dumpling Drop. The dumpling choices here are simple — Pork Belly, Vegan, and a Rotating Weekly Special. But don’t let the simple selection fool you. These bites are like a warm hug.
To mix up the dinner selection, consider ordering a few of their new Chaiyo menu, which features sharable plates of authentic Thai food. Of particular note is the refreshing Green Papaya Salad (which comes loaded with cheery tomatoes and green beans) and the rich and lushes Masaman Gai (chicken thighs with potatoes in a coconut-tamarind sauce).
7:30 PM Holiday Lights
The holiday light displays throughout the city are nothing short of magical. Gardens are given new life. Iconic landmarks like the Parlament Buildings and the Fairmont Empress are colorfully decorated. Take a stroll through the city and soak in the lights. Or better yet, take a carriage ride through some of Victoria’s quaint neighborhoods.
SUNDAY IN VICTORIA, BC
9:00 AM Nourish
There’s this idea of breakfast made by your grandmother in well-seasoned cast iron skillets and old ceramic mixing bowls that evoke safety and warmth. It’s the epitome of cozy (even if you don’t have a grandmother who makes breakfast). And it’s exactly that kind of cozy food that Nourish Kitchen & Cafe delivers from a heritage home in James Bay.
Menu favorites include a veggie-loaded twist on Eggs Benedict (served with golden sweet potato wedges and a turmeric cashew hollandaise) and a spiced oatmeal pancake (loaded with a fruit compote, house whipped cream, and pumpkin sprinkles). But for the best of both worlds, opt for the Half & Half – where you can sample some of the eggs and pancakes!
10:30 AM ART
The largest art gallery on Vancouver Island, the remarkable Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is made up of seven contemporary gallery spaces adjoined to te 1889 Spencer Mansion. It houses an impressive collection of Asian art (including the only authentic Shinto shrines outside of Japan). It’s also home to a large collection of works by Emily Carr, one of Canada’s most beloved artists whose childhood home is located in Victoria.
12:00 PM Keep Brunching
We’d be remiss not to encourage yet another brunch favorite. And Fuego Old Town Eatery’s all-day breakfast menu doesn’t disappoint. This laid-back Mexican diner is homey, in all the best of ways — combining Mexican flavors with some of the most believed brunch fare. Menu favorites, like Cornbread French Toast comes topped with butter, syrup, and avocado. (Yep! Avocado or bacon, or bacon and avocado.)
A tower of crispy papas patties, caramelized apples, and pulled pork is topped with poached eggs and smokey chipotle hollandaise for a Bennie that’ll wow. And a hearty selection of vegan fare is sure to satisfy even those who aren’t plant-based eaters.