Victoria is a beautiful city located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. With its stunning scenery, mild climate, and abundance of things to do, it’s no wonder Victoria is a popular tourist destination. In this guide, we will share an epic one day in Victoria BC itinerary to make the most of your visit.
This Victoria day trip itinerary can be added to any western Canada tour or a weekend visit from Seattle USA. Whether you’re interested in exploring the outdoors, sampling the local cuisine, or taking in some live entertainment, there’s something for everyone in Victoria.
One day in Victoria BC itinerary: Planning your trip, day trips, and more
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Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, a Canadian province located on the west coast. The city makes for a nice weekend getaway from Vancouver, and Seattle to name a few.
Victoria BC is compact and very walkable so it is easy to check off all the primary attractions in one day. Here is what you can cover:
One day in Victoria itinerary: Things to do in Victoria BC in a day
- Tour the British Columbia Parliament Buildings
- Visit the Royal BC Museum
- Enjoy an afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress hotel
- Shop or lunch at the Bastion Square
- Hang out in Chinatown
- Enjoy a sunset whale-watching tour
- Soak in the night vibes at the Harbour/waterfront area
You can also book a 2-6 hour Victoria city excursion with a tour guide here
Getting to Victoria BC:
As mentioned, Victoria is located on Vancouver Island. There are lots of different options to get there. Over the years we have utilized different options, and we will list them out below
From Vancouver to Victoria harbor ferry
When flying internationally you will find a plethora of flight options for YVR or Vancouver International Airport.
Once there you can take a ferry ride to Victoria. This is an economical option, but full of views (and comfort).
You can take a ferry from Tsawwassen in Vancouver to the Swartz Bay Terminal in Victoria. You can transport your rental car if you are planning a road trip to the island.
Plan to start early in the morning, and you can also enjoy a nice breakfast with bay views on the ferry ride.
From other parts of Canada/world:
You can also book a flight to Victoria from different parts of Canada. Most flights might have a connection in Vancouver, but flying to Victoria is definitely doable.
From the USA – Washington:
You can hop on a flight from Seattle or a ferry ride from Port Angeles in Washington State to Victoria.
Where to stay in Victoria British Columbia:
If you need a place to stay in Victoria for the night (or two) then consider the downtown area. From here you can walk to all the major attractions in the city with ease.
Having said that, downtown/harbourfront will be expensive – around $200 CAD+ per night (and additional taxes).
- The Fairmont Empress: If you’re looking for something luxurious, consider staying at one of the city’s upscale hotels like The Fairmont Empress. This chateau-style building dates back to the year 1908 and is set in the heart of everything in Victoria, from the Royal BC Museum to the Legislative Buildings. You won’t miss this landmark hotel when you are out and about in the Victoria waterfront area. Book your stay here
- Hotel Grand Pacific: Hotel Grand Pacific is another lavish property with gorgeous suites, an indoor pool, and a spa. The restaurant onsite is also wonderful. Check out availability here
- Strathcona Hotel: The Strathcona Hotel is a historic property located in Downtown Victoria. It is super close to the Mercurio Gallery, Miniature World, and the Royal British Columbia Museum. The hotel has a cool restaurant upstairs which is perfect for dining with city views. You can book your stay here
- Huntingdon Manor Hotel: Huntingdon Manor Hotel is a short walk from Royal British Columbia Museum, British Columbia Parliament Buildings, and the Emily Carr House. The property is very pretty and Victorian with a lovely garden and afternoon tea house. There is an in-house dining option at Hunter’s Club, plus you will also find a variety of cafés and restaurants nearby. You can view photos and current availability here
Beyond downtown Victoria, there are plenty of great options to choose from, like Airbnbs and 3 star properties to stay in.
Getting started with one-day itinerary for Victoria
Plan to get to Victoria by 9:00 am to kickstart this one-day itinerary. Have breakfast in one of the downtown Victoria cafes and then head straight to the gorgeous British Columbia Parliament Buildings.
Tour the British Columbia Parliament Buildings
The Legislature Buildings in Victoria, BC is a must-see for anyone interested in architecture or Canadian history.
Built in the late 19th century, the buildings are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, as well as a number of historical artifacts and artworks.
The gorgeous buildings were designed by Francis Rattenbury, who is also credited to be the main architect of various other structures in the city.
The building is created in Renaissance, Baroque, and Romanesque Revival architectural styles.
The Legislature Building grounds are a delight in the daytime to soak in sun, for photos, or just for a nice picnic. There is a fountain and many statues including the one of Queen Victoria. This bronze statue stands four metres (13 feet) tall.
You can go on a guided tour of the building’s interiors for free, or explore it on your own. Either way, you’re sure to be impressed by this beautiful and historic landmark.
I wanted to join the guided tour, so I was at the grounds by 08:45 am, received a coupon and lined up to get inside by 09:00 am. Guided tours last 45 minutes.
After the tour, I recommend that you spend some time walking around the complex.
Don’t miss the beautiful Rose Garden behind the main buildings (often people skip this). During my visit, it was completely empty.
- Visiting hours: Open from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. Closed on weekends and holidays.
- Admission fees: Free
Note: Tour times change from day to day based on school/group bookings. No prior booking is required to explore the Legislature Buildings.
There is no public parking available on the property. Street parking and paid parking slots are available nearby.
There is a bus stop located on the Government Street side of the complex.
Visit the Royal BC Museum
The Royal BC Museum is only 3 minute walk away from the Legislature building. The museum is a great way to learn about the history and culture of British Columbia.
I recommend spending 2 hours here to explore all the exhibits. From interactive exhibits to a variety of special events, there’s something for everyone at this popular attraction.
During my visit, a temporary exhibition for whales and areas was being showcased. It was a great experience learning about them.
The permanent exhibits are amazing at the Royal BC museum. They cover everything from history prior to the colonial powers of Indigenous Peoples, during British rule, and the immediate future.
I extensively studied British history back home in India, and getting to learn about its beginnings on Canada’s west coast was an educational experience.
The exhibits included sea voyages and maritime history and this was my favorite part!
Collections of Indigenous Peoples was a great learning opportunity as well. In the past, I have only learned a bit about First Nations/Metis in Alberta, so the Museum was a nice platform to get to know about them. There were over 14,000 objects in the ethnology collection.
This museum is located in the traditional territories of the Lekwungen (Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations).
- Visiting hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Admission fees: $5 CAD+ Online access here
Note: Royal BC Museum is home to the largest IMAX screen in the province. You can book a show to watch 3D films on a giant screen, including educational content and movie blockbusters.
Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress
One of the unmissable landmarks in Victoria is the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel. This building will grab your attention when you are at the Legislature grounds, and rightly so it is just so pretty.
The manicured gardens and the view of the waterfront from the hotel complex are a sight to behold. Spend some time walking around the area and then sit down for an afternoon tea.
Fairmont Empress Afternoon tea experience: We recommend reserving a table prior to your visit (preferably by the window) to enjoy the waterfront views from the Tea Room.
As far as price goes, it is $89 CAD for an adult plus taxes. You can also add a glass of Veuve Clicquot ($128) or Laurent Perrier ($135) per person.
They also offer Prince and Princess tea experiences for young adults.
I went for an afternoon tea all by myself, and the food with all sweet treats, scones, and finger sandwiches was very filling.
There were over 21 varieties of tea at the Fairmont Empress, to choose from.
Sandwiches offered included smoked pacific sockeye salmon, roasted Alberta beef striploin, coronation chicken salad, warm ham and cheese tartelette, and English cucumber.
- Visiting hours: Open daily from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.
- Admission fees: Starts at $89 CAD
- Read: Where to go for afternoon tea in Victoria BC
Note: Don’t miss the gorgeous tea room interiors and architecture. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Canada in 1939, they stayed at The Empress and also hosted a dinner for 250 guests in The Empress Room.
You may like this experience: To celebrate your Victoria trip, you can embark on a horse drawn carriage tour checking off all the attractions in the Inner Harbour and surrounding areas. Check it out here.
Shop or lunch at the Bastion Square
After a nice break, walk along the waterfront and make your way to Bastion Square. This square is filled with cafes and shopping areas.
Bastion Square is popular with tourists and visitors due to its vibe and history. You will know you have arrived as soon as you see a remarkable ceremonial arch.
This very spot is of historical importance. Bastion Square has served various roles from being a jail, and a brothel to operating offices and bustling bars, and boutiques today.
If you are still hungry, this is a great spot to grab a bite to eat. You can also visit art galleries here or go shopping in boutique stores.
The Market Square is also located here where you can buy locally made items and souvenirs to take back home.
Hang out in Chinatown
Victoria’s famous Chinatown is one of the oldest and most historic neighborhoods in the city. It is in fact the oldest in Canada, and the second oldest in North America (after San Francisco California USA).
In Chinatown stroll through the streets and browse the shops, then stop for a bite to eat at one of the many authentic restaurants.
Located in Chinatown is Fan Tan Alley, which is known as the narrowest street in Canada. The lane is just 0.9 m wide (about 4 feet) at the narrowest point.
You can walk and pass through the street for free. This narrow lane is filled with boutiques and shops selling goodies of all kinds from clothing, and jewelry, to food.
Fan Tan Alley has a very small post to denote its existence, so make sure to check it as you stroll along Chinatown. The street runs south from Fisgard Avenue to Pandora Avenue at the block between Government Street and Store Street.
Note: Distance from Bastion Square to Chinatown is about a 7 minute walk, one way.
Enjoy a sunset whale-watching tour (alternate options)
For many, visiting Victoria or Vancouver Island is all about nature and whale watching.
And Victoria is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. With tours departing daily, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.
Victoria harbor makes it easy to embark on one and spot whales from resident orcas, and humpback whales, to transient orcas!
I went on a sunset whale-watching tour on a Zodiac boat and the tour lasted 3+ hours. It was an amazing experience to see the resident orcas playing as the sun went down.
My tour began at 05:30 pm, and I was back by 08:45 pm. Here is the tour I booked and recommend.
You can also book tours at other times of the day. They last 3 hours, you can find more information here
Also, keep in mind that it is possible to see whales at any time of the year here in Victoria BC, but the best chance of sighting is during the peak season from May through October.
Alternate option: If whale watching is too much to be done in one day in Victoria, then opt for a lovely stroll at the Ogden Point Breakwater Marina.
With its stunning scenery and mild climate, Victoria is a great place to get outdoors and enjoy nature.
There are plenty of trails to explore, and in the evenings you will love this Marina with a lighthouse.
Ogden Point Breakwater Marina is located along Dallas Road in James Bay. It has four deep-sea berths, helicopter, cargo, and storage services along with walking trails, cafes, and many seating areas.
The walk to the lighthouse is pretty long but absolutely worth it. The view on both sides is amazing with artwork on the embankments and of course the waters.
You might also see divers and others soaking in the sun by the banks.
Once you reach the lighthouse, sit down on a nearby bench and relax. The gorgeous view of the waters from here is mesmerizing and great for a sunset date!
As you are visiting in the late afternoon or evening, we recommend dressing warmly as it could be windy and chilly. Do layer or pack a lightweight jacket or scarf with you.
The cafe located near the Marina is open in the evenings – so you can grab a drink and then make your way back to Government Street or the Harbourfront area to continue your one day in Victoria itinerary.
Soak in the night vibes at the Harbour/waterfront area
The waterfront area of Victoria is gorgeous when the sun goes down. Whether you are returning from the whale watching tour or Ogden Point, the lights at the Legislature Assembly building will welcome you with open arms.
In the evening, admire the lights that illuminate the Parliament Buildings.
There are more than 3,600 lightbulbs on the outside of the buildings that have been turned on every night since 1965.
These lights outline the buildings and their prominent features with a beautiful glow at night. This moment will be one of the most memorable of your Victoria visit.
Note: The lights are on every day. However there is no set time, it comes on when the sun is down, and dark. And it is on each evening from sunset to 1:00 am ish.
For dinner, head back to Bastion Square or the area (waterfront) right in front of the Legislature Building. From fresh seafood to farm-to-table fare, Victoria’s restaurants offer something for everyone.
For dessert, visit Chocolats Favoris for amazing heavenly bites! I savored a chunky chocolate ice cream and signed off for the day!
Other things to do in Victoria BC
One day in Victoria is a short time to explore all the wonderful attractions in the city.
If you happen to extend your trip or visit later, here are some of the things to add to your Victoria BC itinerary.
Visit the Butchart Gardens
The Butchart Gardens is a must-see when in Victoria, BC. With over 55 acres of breathtaking gardens to explore, you’ll definitely want to allow yourself plenty of time to take it all in.
They are best visited in the late spring, summer, and winter months. In the winter the gardens are decorated with festive lights and there are fireworks as well.
We recommend setting aside at least 4 hours to explore various sections of the gardens. There is also an afternoon tea serving area, plus cafes, and souvenir shops.
There is an entry fee to visit the gardens. You can book an express bus tour (round trip transportation) with entry fees here with GetYourGuide (this is what I booked during my trip).
Seaplane ride over Victoria BC
One of the amazing things to do in Victoria (or Vancouver) is to embark on a seaplane ride flying over the scenic city.
You can opt for a 30 or 45 minute ride and soak in the views of the city and waters from above. These aerial views will be unforgettable.
The Panoramic Seaplane Tour of Victoria takes you over the Olympic Mountains and along the Victoria waterfront to the white sand beaches of the James and Sydney Islands.
It takes off from the downtown Victoria Harbor area, and it brings you back there. This ride was one of the most cherished moments of my recent trip to Victoria.
Fisherman’s wharf in Victoria BC
Located in the heart of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, Fisherman’s Wharf is a lively spot where you can find everything from fresh seafood to souvenirs.
Browse the shops, stop for a bite to eat, and watch the boats come and go. Red Fish Blue Fish is a popular spot for seafood here.
Then, take a stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the stunning views. Trust us, Fisherman’s Wharf is not to be missed!
You can embark on Fisherman’s Wharf on a water taxi from the Victoria waterfront.
Shop till you drop
Victoria is a shopper’s paradise, with everything from local boutiques to major department stores. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs or the latest fashion trends, you’re sure to find them here.
Take in some live entertainment
There’s always something going on in Victoria, from live music to theatre productions. Check out what’s happening during your visit and enjoy a night out on the town.
See the Craigdarroch Castle
The Craigdarroch Castle is a historic landmark located in Victoria, BC. Built in the late 19th century, the castle was once the home of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir.
Today, it is open to the public as a museum and features original furnishings, artwork, and more.
Note: Do check the hours prior to your visit as they tend to change often.
Visit Hatley Park National Historic Site
Hatley Park National Historic Site is situated in Colwood of the Greater Victoria area and holds Hatley Castle, a Canadian federal heritage building.
The mansion and estate have been open to the public since 1995 as Royal Roads University.
Prior to that, from the 1940s until 1995, it served as Royal Roads Military College; a naval training facility. The site is a popular spot for picnics, walks, and photos. Entry to the gardens area is free.
Visit the Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park is a beautiful park located in Victoria, BC. It is all of 740,000 square metres of Victorian parkland with trees, landscaped gardens, ponds & peacocks, and totem poles.
You can actually start walking from downtown Victoria and get to the park. You can also bike to the area.
Along the way, you will pass the Terry Fox statue and mile zero monument. Be sure to stop at the ponds and admire the wildlife around.
Beacon Hill Park was once upon a time home to the tallest standing totem pole. It was measured at 38.9 metre (128 feet).
Entry to the park is free, and it will take about an hour (minimum) to explore the entire area.
Relax at one of Victoria’s many spas
After a busy day exploring the city, treat yourself to a relaxing spa day. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect place to unwind.
Top picks include The Spa Magnolia Victoria and Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Empress.
Neighborhoods in Victoria
We have already listed Chinatown and downtown areas for your visit. If you wish to do something offbeat for your 24 hours in Victoria, head to the Cook Street Village oozing European charm.
Or hang out at the Oak Bay Marina area for great views, food, and shopping!
One day in Victoria BC itinerary sightseeing map
Additional Travel Tips for Victoria BC
There are plenty of reasons to plan a trip to Victoria BC Canada – its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and cosmopolitan atmosphere among them.
And with so much to see and do in this beautiful city, you’ll want to make sure you have a solid game plan before you go.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit to Victoria BC Canada,
First and foremost, research is key when planning any trip. Be sure to read up on the city’s history and attractions before you go so that you know what to expect and can make the most of your time there.
Once you have a general understanding of the city, start planning your itinerary.
If you’re interested in exploring the city’s many historic landmarks and attractions, downtown Victoria and the inner harbor shouldn’t be missed.
If you’re more interested in soaking up the city’s natural beauty, head to Beacon Hill Park or one of the many other parks and green spaces located throughout Victoria.
And of course, no trip to Victoria would be complete without spending some time on the water – whether you go for a leisurely cruise around the harbor or take part in one of the city’s many water activities, you’re sure to have a blast.
For expenses in Victoria, ensure you carry your credit cards (to pay in Canadian dollars). Credit cards are the best way to pay for your food, shopping, and entry fees in the city.
Victoria is safe for solo travel. I traveled alone, and it was safe to walk around the downtown and harbourfront area for dinners or early morning runs.
For transportation in Victoria, you won’t need any vehicle. We highly recommend staying in the downtown area and then walking around various attractions.
Or pay for a shuttle ride for places outside the downtown areas such as the Butchart Gardens.
Victoria is not a cheap city to visit. You can expect to pay at least $200 CAD per night for a hotel in the downtown area.
Is one day in Victoria BC enough?
With one day in Victoria, you can surely tick some of the important landmarks such as the Legislative Buildings, Royal BC Museum, waterfront area, and more. Everything listed in this itinerary will allow you to explore the city’s finest.
Of course, with more time you can visit some of the other attractions including whale watching tours, spa dates, afternoon teas, and beyond including a day trip to Butchart Gardens.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!