to Stay and Eat in Victoria, BC
Choices for everyone in beautiful
The Empress Hotel,
overlooking Victoria's Inner Harbor, is one of the iconic
images of this lovely city.
Two of a three part series on Victoria, BC;
part one gives you introductory
information and details of how to get to Victoria, and
three offers suggestions of what to see and do during your
Whether you're looking for
modern chic and charm or stately grandeur, and whether your
budget is $100/night or $1000/night, there's a good
accommodation choice for you in Victoria.
And no matter what your food
preferences may be, the chances are you won't go hungry during
your stay, either.
Where to Stay in Victoria
There is a very wide range of tourist accommodation options in
and around Victoria, but we usually end up staying at the same
one or two places every time we visit.
When choosing a place to stay in Victoria, you should ensure you're centrally located so you can conveniently walk
around the city without needing to drive between your hotel and
When we're in Victoria, we usually choose to treat ourselves to
a room with a harbor view, although we have noticed that the
amount of time we actually spend looking out the window and
enjoying the beautiful view of the harbor is minimal.
However, it adds to the overall 'feel good' factor and just
knowing it is there, on the other side of the curtains, even if
we don't spend all day gazing out the windows, or sitting on the
verandah, adds to the overall ambience and appeal of this lovely
favorite hotel, offering what we feel to be the best mix of
indulgence, comfort, location, view, and value is the Hotel Grand Pacific.
Hotel Grand Pacific
Hotel Grand Pacific is is a imposing modern building on the
inner harbor, opposite the Coho ferry terminal, and close to
everywhere in downtown. Originally built in 1989, it was
extensively added on to in 2001, making it into the L shaped
structure it now is. The hotel has 308 rooms and suites on
ten levels, many of which offer great views over the inner or
Room rates are reasonable, and service is good but not great (their
Achilles Heel being the seeming perennial inability of the hotel
to have a room ready to check into, no matter what time we
arrive - before or after their specified 3pm arrival time).
The food is good in the restaurants and there is a nice cozy
We generally choose to treat ourselves to a suite - the rates
aren't outrageously high, although they are seasonally
dependent (summer is most expensive), and you get a much more special experience for only a
little more money. These are lovely large two room units,
and usually have a balcony you can sit on and enjoy the outdoors
and views from. When booking, request a suite on as high a
level floor as possible, for obvious view related reasons.
On one occasion we had problems with noisy guests above us.
We complained, and soon after the noises subsided, and upon
waking the next morning, we found a note slipped under the door
with a handwritten apology from the duty manager and two free
breakfast coupons - coupons that were all the more classy
because they prominently said on them 'Tip IS included'.
What a nice touch.
Parking is available in the basement (extra fee charged) and if
you have an over-height vehicle, they arrange for you to park
over the road at an adjacent hotel behind their hotel, the
(which is a nice enough three star hotel, but with no views).
Wired broadband internet is available in all rooms, free of
charge (and these days they now provide internet cables to go
from the socket on the desk to your computer, formerly they
They have all the usual hotel facilities including bars,
restaurants, fitness center and spa, so there's plenty to
indulge yourself with at the Hotel Grand Pacific.
Empress Hotel (see picture at the top of this page) is
one of Victoria's best known icons, and is currently a part of the
Fairmont group of hotels.
The hotel was originally built in 1908, with major renovations
and additions to the hotel in 1966 and 1989. These days it
has 477 rooms and suites, with a profusion of different room
types, some of which can be quite small and disappointing.
Rooms do not have air conditioning, which can occasionally be a
problem in the hottest days of summer, and neither do they have
internet access other than in some public areas and in a few of
the more expensive rooms and suites.
The hotel gets mixed reviews from its guests, and perhaps the
fairest way to describe it would be as an expensive and somewhat
idiosyncratic experience. You'll often pay more for a
regular room at the Empress than you would for a suite at the
Hotel Grand Pacific.
Possibly it is a hotel that is best enjoyed by admiring from the
outside, but if you pay the hefty premium for one of their
better suites, you'll be assured of a wonderful stay, a
great room, and lovely views.
Having afternoon tea at the Empress is quite popular, even for
non-guests seeking to recreate the experience of a formal 'posh'
afternoon tea, English style. The cost is seasonal - $44
at present (April 07) and $49 from May 1, plus tax and service -
quite a lot for a cup of tea, a couple of scones and assorted
other cakes, but it is served in a stately manner in a lovely
room and you are paying for the ritual experience more than the
simple food itself.
Bedford Regency is one of our favorite hotels in winter,
because most of their superior rooms come complete with
fireplaces, and even the firewood to burn in them too.
The hotel is in the center of one of the main streets
(Government St), and has a mere 40
rooms. The Garrick's Head pub (see below) is a part of
this hotel and dates back to 1867, but we hasten to add that the
rest of the hotel is considerably more genteel than its pub.
Alas, only a couple of the rooms have any views worth mentioning, but in
winter when the days are short and cold, the warmth of your
in-room fireplace may compensate for this, and the considerably
shorter distance to the main eating and drinking spots of the
city is another benefit. Rooms are anywhere from little
more than C$100/night up to not quite C$200/night.
Wi-fi is free.
Note that the rooms that face the harbor view also look out on
to the small lane to Bastion Square outside the hotel.
This is usually noisy at night - smokers from the hotel's
Garrick's Head pub congregate and chat outside, and later in the
evening, drunks tend to use the alleyway on their way home.
We recommend you request a room with an 'inner courtyard' view
instead for much better peace and quiet.
The hotel doesn't offer parking, but there is a public parking
building just around the corner that provides a convenient
Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort & Spa
This very grandly named hotel is on the other side of the
harbor, but however is closer to downtown than you might think -
something that surprised us when we actually stayed there and
walked in to downtown. It is just a very short walk over
the Pandora Ave bridge and you're in the middle of the downtown
However, while it is a convenient walk to downtown, we did not
like the hotel, finding it gloomy and oppressive with unfriendly
officious staff (an argument about whether we needed to show
photo ID to check-in or not set the scene for an unpleasant
If you do choose to risk a stay here, note also that while the
hotel does have some rooms with lovely views over the inner
harbor, it also has many rooms that, ahem, do not have such a
view, and if you don't pay extra for a harbor view room, you can
expect a much less interesting 'back of the building' type view
looking out instead into the industrial back side of that part
of Victoria. Note also that parking is underneath the
hotel and costs an extra C$15/night (late 2008 pricing).
If you belong to the
Worldmark/Trendwest timeshare program, you'll be pleased to
know there's a good property in Victoria, at 120 Kingston
Street, overlooking the Fisherman's Wharf and Inner Harbor.
Units have two or three bedrooms and all the usual facilities,
including small decks with barbeque and, in some cases, hot tubs
Where to Eat and Drink in Victoria
Victoria is well endowed with a wide range of eateries and
drinkeries, and you are sure to find plenty of sustenance in a
variety of different cuisines and styles.
Pubs and Micro-Breweries
Victoria has some English style pubs that are very popular with
the locals. These often attract a fairly young crowd,
with many seeming to be students at the local universities.
But older people (such as me!) are also welcome and can enjoy
themselves just as much.
One of our favorite pubs is the Garrick's Head, located just off
Government Street on the lane leading to Bastion Square.
This is finished to a fairly spartan standard (bare wood floor),
and has some tables outside as well as inside. They have
an excellent range of local microbrew beer on tap (which is probably what makes
it one of my favorites), and provide inexpensive and inoffensive
bar snacks and meals. An open fire for much of the year
adds a bit of character to the place, as do some of the locals,
often including an interesting person or two that may engage you
in (slightly drunken!) conversation.
Just on the other side of the lane from the Garrick's Head is
the Irish Times pub. This is more upmarket than the
Garrick's Head, and offers live music as well as a better range
of food. Perhaps spend some time at both.
There are a number of very good microbreweries in Victoria too.
It isn't just your imagination telling you that beer brewed on
the premises often tastes better than bottled or draft beer
shipped in from somewhere else. Typically a locally brewed
beer remains 'live' (it continues to develop while being stored)
because - unlike most other beers that are shipped in - it has
not been pasteurized. The pasteurization makes a beer more
temperature stable and gives it a longer life, but definitely
kills some of its defining character as well.
Two of our favorite microbreweries are
Microbrewery and, a little
further out of the central downtown (ie too far to walk)
which is Canada's oldest brewpub.
Most people simply eat breakfast at their hotel, but when in
Victoria you might want to consider visiting
Pannekoek House for a distinctive range of allegedly Dutch
Whether they are of Dutch origin or not, their filled pancakes
are wonderful and well worth the visit. There are two
locations in Victoria, with the one at 642 Johnston St being
most central. There's no need to book, and casual dress is
of course completely fine. Open 7am - 3pm Mon - Fri, and
7.30am - 3pm Saturday and Sunday. (250)382-9118.
As mentioned above, afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel is a bit
of a tradition for some people.
But if you don't want quite as expensive an afternoon tea, you
could go to
Murchies, on Government Street, almost next to the Bedford
Regency and Munro's Books. This place offers a wide range
of lovely pastries and cakes, plus a huge variety of leaf teas
(and coffees), available both in bulk in their adjacent retail
shop and to drink in their tea rooms. Murchies has six
locations in BC, although only one in Victoria.
Lunch and Dinner
As befits a place with tourism as a major factor, Victoria is
brimming with excellent restaurants. Here are a few of our
personal favorites, and apologies to any of the other excellent
restaurants we've omitted to mention.
Generally, you should consider reserving a table at any of these
restaurants, but it is probably not always essential, especially
Sunday - Thursday. And so, in no particular order :
Periklis : Alas, in January 2009 this restaurant
was sold after 30 years of being owned/operated by the same
owner/manager. Currently there's no other Greek restaurant
to replace it, and no alternate restaurant going into the vacant
Rathskeller : A German restaurant, with German decor
inside and serving German food and drink. This is an
atmospheric family restaurant that seems to have been there for
a long time. Live German music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Open for lunch Mon-Sat and for dinner Mon - Sun. The
is on the corner of Quadra and View, a couple of blocks out from
the core of the downtown area, but still an easy walk from most
Bard and Banker : A relatively new establishment
(opened in mid 2008) at 1022 Government St, and is something of
a hybrid, combining elements of an English style pub and a sit
down restaurant. It is set in the beautifully restored
main banking chamber of what was the Bank of Commerce between
1885-1987, more recently it was a Christmas gifts shop, and now
is the Bard and Banker. Food is moderately priced (main
courses C$15-20 in late 2008) and good quality, with some
archetypal English style foods such as Bangers and Mash, meat
pies, fish & chips, bubble and squeak, and even Yorkshire
Puddings, as well as more exotic items such as venison.
A wide range of excellent beers and a full bar for wine, spirits
and cocktails round out the food and drink offerings, all being
provided by friendly and knowledgeable waiters and waitresses.
Live evening entertainment is provided every night, and on the
night visited was a wonderfully unobtrusive jazz trio that added
to the ambience without making conversation impossible.
All in all, an excellent experience and recommended.
Topos Ristorante : A local tells me he considers
they have the best calamari and bruschetta on the planet.
Be that as it may, this restaurant is now in a new location, and
have an excellent range of home made Italian cuisine, with an
attentive owner (Marten Brown) never far away. Dinner
seven nights a week. 1812 Wharf St, (250)383-1212.
Cafe Brio : This multiple award winning restaurant
specializes in fresh and organic produce from nearby suppliers
on Vancouver Island, and the menu changes seasonally. It
has an early dinner special - a three course dinner for $28 if
you're seated by 6.15pm, and is open for dinner seven nights a
Cafe Brio is located at 944 Fort St (between Quadra and
Vancouver Sts), a short walk from central downtown.
The Gatsby Mansion Inn and Restaurant : This
restaurant is situated in a characterful 1897 mansion, just a
couple of doors down from the Hotel Grand Pacific. The
interior has been carefully restored, and gives a feeling for
the elegance and opulence of its heyday in the late Victorian
era. The food - what they style 'west coast fusion' - is
as impressive as the surroundings, and the service matches the
high quality of the food presented. Lunch, Sunday brunch,
and dinner. The
Restaurant is located at 309 Belleville St.
Wild Saffron Bistro : When you walk into some
restaurants, there's no olfactory sensation at all. When
you walk into the small room that is the Wild Saffron Bistro,
your sense of smell is immediately assailed by numerous very
strong essences coming from the strongly flavored meals being
prepared in the kitchen which is open adjacent to the dining
room. And if you have your back to the kitchen and can't
see the chefs at work, don't despair. Big screen
televisions show people facing in the opposite direction what is
happening in the kitchen, too. Obviously a restaurant that
takes pride in its food, and their pride is justified.
Bizarrely, this excellent restaurant is part of the Swan's Brew
Pub and Hotel. Open Tues - Sun for dinners.
Wild Saffron is located at 506 Pandora Ave.
Fisherman's Wharf :
on Fisherman's Wharf is open seasonally for fish and chips;
several other stores along the wharf also provide seafood (and
ice cream) and this can be a nice way to spend an afternoon.
Palmers : English style food, moderately
disappointing, and not within walking distance of downtown.
Not worth a taxi ride or the hassle of driving there yourself.
Read more in Parts 1 and 3
Part One provides an introduction to Victoria and
information on how to get there.
Part three suggests
things to see and do during your stay.
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20 Apr 2007, last update
19 Dec 2013