Where to Stay in Victoria, BC

SD › Best Places in Victoria
Updated: April 20, 2022

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View of the British Columbia Parliament Building from Victoria Harbor, with boats in the foreground.

Victoria Harbor and the British Columbia Parliament Building.

The Best Area to Stay in Victoria

Victoria lies at the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. This small urban city is surrounded by ocean and has a relatively small population (approx. 100,000). Victoria is known as the Garden City, as its nice weather allows for flowers to bloom pretty much year-round and is also home to the world-renowned Butchart Gardens.

The city has a relaxed and laid-back vibe, and its downtown core offers numerous shops, restaurants, pubs, and art galleries. The downtown area is compact in size, making it a walker’s paradise. The Inner Harbor is picturesque and in its peak tourist season (June to August), the area is busy with recreational activities, street festivals, and pop-up concerts. A great way to get around and check out the area is on the Victoria Harbor Ferry (also known as the Pickle Boats) which have 15 docking stops in and around the harbor.

The natural beauty of Vancouver Island is incredible with its miles of coastline and seemingly endless ocean vistas. As such, Victoria offers several public beaches. Whale-watching tours are popular, as are fishing charters for salmon, halibut, crab, clams, and oysters. Paddle boarding and kayaking are also favorite activities for both locals and tourists alike (and guided tours are available).

Victoria is also known for its numerous Afternoon Tea rooms and its annual flower count in the month of March. Additionally, this beautiful port city has the mildest winters in all of Canada.

Vancouver Island has moderate temperatures throughout the year which allows for numerous year-round outdoor activities liking cycling and golfing. Summers in Victoria are warm and surprisingly very dry, with little to no rain. With an almost constant offshore breeze, this helps keep summertime temperatures around 70°F, so extreme heat is rare. Winters can be rainy with about 3 inches of rain per month from November to January (half of the rainfall of Vancouver) and winter daytime temperatures average about 45°F.

The Best Places to Stay in Victoria

Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC

The majestic Fairmont Empress hotel facing the Inner Harbour.

Where to Stay in Victoria for…

  • Best Area in Victoria for Sightseeing: Downtown
    Downtown offers many of the top tourist attractions – Victoria’s Inner Harbor, Fairmont Empress Hotel, Parliament Buildings, Pickle Boat tours, whale watching tours, float plane tours, and Victoria’s Chinatown including Fan Tan Alley.
  • Best Area in Victoria for Nightlife: Downtown
    Downtown offers a wide selection of bars, clubs, brewpubs, craft beer pubs, and a variety of live theater, opera, live music, and numerous cinemas.
  • Best Area in Victoria for Food & Restaurants: Downtown
    Downtown is your best bet for exceptional food and drink.
  • Best Area in Victoria for Families: James Bay
    Bordering James Bay and Fairfield neighborhoods lies Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park with 2 playgrounds, 2 spray parks, bandshell stage, golf putting green, tennis courts, picnic shelter, foot paths, flower gardens, and a seasonal Children’s Farm complete with an adorable petting zoo. Beacon Hill Park is also close to several beaches and the Clover Point Kite Park, the best kite-flying location in the area.
    Tip: If you really want to get away from the city, check out Cadboro-Gyro Park. It’s a 15-minute drive from downtown Victoria and is a favorite spot for many families. It offers a wonderful beach-themed waterfront playground with play equipment such as a giant octopus, salmon, and sea creature. The playground is next to a large sandy beach in the beautiful Cadboro Bay. There’s also a zip-line, shipwreck, swings, and picnic area.
  • Best Romantic Area in Victoria: Oak Bay
    Away from the busyness and crowds of downtown and with its impressive ocean views, waterfront estates dotting the coastline, numerous beaches, relaxed dining, English pubs, bakeries, and numerous art galleries, there truly is something for every couple in Oak Bay. At the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, couples can take a very romantic dip in the hotel’s outdoor mineral pools under the stars and surrounded by ocean waves. And for an intimate night out, cuddle up at the Vis-à-Vis wine bar in Oak Bay Village.
  • Safest Areas of Victoria: Entire city
    Victoria is a very safe city, with no significant amount of dangerous crime. The vast majority of the policing issues are related to homelessness and panhandling.

The 6 Best Neighborhoods in Victoria for Tourists

Magnolia Hotel & Spa in Victoria, BC

The luxurious Magnolia Hotel & Spa in downtown Victoria is the city’s best boutique hotel.

1. Downtown Victoria

Downtown Victoria is one of the city’s most visited areas for its famed and picturesque Inner Harbor, double decker buses, and its village-like charm. It is compact in size, making it extremely walkable. There are a vast number of restaurants and bars (the most per capita of any Canadian city), and therefore an ideal spot for foodies as the downtown area is the region’s best bet for exceptional food and drink. There are top-notch restaurants on virtually every major downtown street. Shops are plentiful, ranging from local boutiques to The Bay Centre with its 80+ stores and services. The area has an array of historic buildings, public squares, and numerous art galleries. One must-see attraction is Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada, adorned with red lanterns, brick walls, hidden boutiques, ice cream shops, art galleries, and several bakeries. In the summertime, outdoor markets, festivals, and pop-up live music concerts can be found on the streets and in nearby parks. Victoria’s Harbour is typically humming with activity as there are 2 ferry terminals serving Seattle and Port Angeles, a sea plane base, and the delightful Pickle Boats that look like mini tugboats and toot around the harbor providing tours. The Pickle Boats are also a water-taxi service in addition to offering a Pub Crawl tour (hop on-hop off at 4 designated pubs) in the Inner Harbor.

2. James Bay

James Bay is a quiet neighborhood adjacent to downtown Victoria and is home to BC’s Parliament Buildings with its dazzling display of lights every evening, and Fisherman’s Wharf – a colorful floating pier with a cool mix of eateries, float homes, and lots of seals & otters to see. James Bay is very walkable and features a waterfront pathway that meanders alongside the harbor and continues out to Dallas Road where there are several excellent beaches. Other attractions in the community are the world-class Royal British Columbia Museum and the Ogden Point Breakwater – a half-mile-long pier that leads out to the entrance of the harbor and provides a great spot to walk for both locals and tourists. James Bay and Beacon Hill Park are typically busy with horse-drawn carriages which provide rides and tours in and around the area. James Bay is also steeped in history with an assortment of Victorian-style homes and is also known for its colorful peacocks that roam the neighborhood.

3. Oak Bay

This elite neighborhood with its array of affluent homes is one of the most opulent and grand areas in Victoria. The Oak Bay Village has a sumptuous assortment of coffee shops, eateries, boutiques, and a cluster of 7 art galleries with one of the largest collections of Canadian art on Vancouver Island. Be sure to take a jaunt along the scenic Beach Drive as it rambles through the waterfront estates of Oak Bay, offering spectacular landscape and views of the ocean (note: Oak Bay Beach Hotel is located on Beach Drive).

4. Fairfield

This residential neighborhood, which borders the downtown district, consists mainly of historic homes and low-rise apartments on beautiful tree-lined streets. It’s somewhat of an art community located only a few blocks from the ocean and residents are proud of their beloved Cook Street Village offering a pocket of trendy shops, cafes, restaurants, and grocery shops. Fairfield is also home to Beacon Hill Park with its extensive gardens and lagoons including a Children’s Farm, or you can stroll the Dallas Road Seawall as it weaves past the incredibly scenic Strait of Juan de Fuca.

5. Brentwood Bay

Brentwood Bay is a rural community dotted with country homes and acreages, hobby farms, and wineries, located a short 20-minute drive north of Victoria. The calm and protected waters of Brentwood Bay provide a fantastic spot for kayakers, paddle boarders, and canoeists. During the summer months, many of the local farms in the area offer fresh-off-the-vine produce at their roadside honor boxes as well as opportunities to pick-your-own fruit. The area is also home to the Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site, consisting of a pet-friendly 20-acre oasis of flowers, exquisite lawns, and walking paths. Just 5 minutes from Butchart Gardens is Vancouver Island’s largest winery, Church & State Wines.

6. Sidney

Sidney (also known as Sidney by the Sea) is a small seaside community, a 30-minute drive north of Victoria, which offers a slower pace than Victoria. It is very convenient to the Victoria International Airport and the Island’s main ferry terminal at Swartz Bay which serves Vancouver and the Gulf Islands. Sidney has a quiet and relaxed vibe with its 7-block long main street featuring coffee shops, bookstores, boutiques, and art galleries showcasing local artists’ wares. In the town center is a fantastic not-for-profit Aquarium and Learning Centre (the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea). The area also offers whale-watching tours and is a favorite spot for scuba divers. In the summer months, there’s a small ferry to Sidney Spit (foot passengers only) which is located on Sidney Island, just 3 miles offshore with stretches of long sandy beaches that can be enjoyed in a relatively private setting. Perfect for a little day trip and an opportunity to do some beachcombing.

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