1. Poke Around Chinatown (Free)
Poke around the second oldest Chinatown, in North America after San Francisco’s. Make your way to the grand Gate of Harmonious Interest on Fisgard Street. The neighborhood’s presence is bold and colorful. Splashes of lucky red and gold brighten up the streets and shops. There are photo ops everywhere. Historical murals can be found on many of the buildings. Walk down Canada’s narrowest street, called Fan Tan Alley, named after the Chinese gambling game Fan-Tan. The alley was originally a gambling district brimming with tea shops, brothels, and opium dens.
2. Take a ghost tour (Free)
Victoria is touted to be the most haunted city in British Columbia. There are dozens of theories as to why Victoria is so haunted, and it has more ghost stories connected with it than any other city in BC. Enjoy a self-guided ghost tour for free by picking up a guide at the Inner Harbour Visitor Centre. Start out at St. Ann’s Academy and finish up at the most haunted building in Bastion Square. It was formerly a courthouse ruled by a hanging judge. For a self- guided walking map click here.
3. Check out the Totem Poles (Free)
Head to Thunderbird Park on the Royal BC Museum grounds and check out the many totems. Established in 1941, the totems were mostly carved by Haida, Gitxsan, and Kwakwaka’wakw artists. These striking images reflect the native culture of the region. Totem viewing is a quintessential Victoria experience. More information can be found here.
4. Chow down at Red Fish Blue Fish ($6.50+)
Enjoy dockside seafood on an up-cycled cargo container on a wooden pier in the Inner Harbour. For fresh and sustainable delectables stop in at Red Fish Blue Fish. Dive into a Cod Dog, tempura cod on a hot dog roll, dill dijonnaise, tartar, lemon-pickled onions, dill pickles for $9.50. They are also known for hand-roll-style tacos; order an Albacore tuna taco for $6.50 or a bowl of chowder (chipotle coconut and sweet corn with Pacific white fish confit) for $6.50. Open seasonally.
5. Wander the Causeway (Free)
The Causeway is the popular pedestrian walkway circling the Inner Harbour. If you are a people-watcher, this is the go-to spot. Take in the beautiful views of the water, skyline and, Parliament buildings. From here you can catch the Harbor Ferry for a 45-minute tour of the Gorge Waterway. During the summer months, the inner harbor hosts festivals, shows, and music.
6. Explore the Docks (Free+)
The docks at Fisherman’s Wharf are home to charming fishing boats, houseboats, and an exciting new children’s playground. Indulge in fabulous ice cream or fresh fish and chips. Have a coffee at Moka House Shoal Point. Feed the seals, take in the views and watch the seaplanes come and go in this bustling district of Victoria.
7. Beacon Hill Park
Spread out over 62-acres, this park in downtown Victoria offers plenty to do. There is a playground, trails, gardens, a wading pool, sports fields, petting animal farm, a band pavilion and a 127-foot totem pole. Take a carriage ride through the park for a fee. John Blair, a Scottish architect, won a competition to landscape the park. There are roughly 2000 trees and shrubs, many considered rare and endangered.
8. Hike the History (Free)
Follow the Signs of Lekwungen path and learn the history of Victoria. The bronze markers provide an interpretive route along the Inner Harbour and surrounding areas that honor the history, art, and culture of the Coast Salish people. The walk consists of seven unique bronze site markers depicting spindle whorls that were traditionally used by Coast Salish women to spin wool. For more information click here.
9. Walk the Breakwater (Free)
Within minutes from the Inner Harbour on the James Bay waterfront lies the breakwater, offering a different perspective of the city. See the Na’Tsa’ Maht – The Unity Wall. From 1914-1916, an 850-meter concrete breakwater was constructed. It’s now a treasured Victoria icon depicting the history of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations.
10. Tour the Natural Parks ($9.80pp)
Greater Victoria area and the Gulf Islands are home to a beautiful collection of natural parks. Pack a picnic and enjoy the beach-front at Island View Regional Park on the Saanich Peninsula. Adventure through East Sooke Park on the West coast. There are a variety of free programs, including walking tours, scheduled throughout the year. View the events calendar here.
Where are your favorite places to visit Victoria on a budget? Leave your recommendations in the comments below!