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7 Ways to Experience Victoria's Historic Charm

Posted on August 15, 2019

1. Stop at Bastion Square

In the heart of Old Town is Bastion Square with a ceremonial entry arch welcoming you to the original site of old Fort Victoria. The square is now home to plenty of pubs, restaurants and shops, and comes alive in the summer months when it’s frequented by live music, events and local artisans at the Bastion Square Market running Thursday–Sunday, May through October.

When you’ve worked up a hunger, cross the street and make a stop at Finn’s Harbourfront Restaurant & Oyster Bar, set in a beautiful redbrick 1882 heritage building, for some of the finest seafood on offer in Victoria.  

Insider Tip: Grab a seat on their patio overlooking the harbour and order a martini to be shaken or stirred right at your table! Consider yourself warned, they’re named “Barely Legal” for a reason, Finn’s serves their drinks strong at a generous 3 oz, so best sip slowly. 

Bastion Square

 

2. Stroll Through the Narrowest Street in Canada

Fan Tan Alley was once home to opium dens and a thriving gambling district, so it’s no surprise its name allegedly comes from a popular 1940 gambling game. Today when you stroll through, you will find fascinating heritage architecture and over a dozen curious shops!

A side door to Canada’s oldest Chinatown, the exploring opportunities are endless. 

Fan Tan Alley

Photo Credit: Wisteria Voyage

3. Learn about British Columbia’s History

Experience B.C.’s intriguing history at the Royal BC Museum (RBCM). Be transported back in time when stepping into the Modern History Gallery and learn about the diversity of First Peoples in BC through the First Peoples Gallery. Opening May 17 for the first time in North America, be transported to Mayan culture past and present with the Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises exhibit. 

Insider Tip: After enjoying your fill of history, head outside to RBCM’s courtyard to get your hands on some of Victoria’s tastiest grub at the food truck festival (operating year-round).

Royal BC Museum

 

4. Take A Tour

Discover Victoria’s spooky past with a Ghostly Walks Tour. Hear entertaining, memorable, and spine-tingling stories while strolling through Victoria’s haunted streets and alleyways.

If ghost stories aren’t your thing, nibble your way through the historic districts of Victoria with A Taste Of Victoria Food Tours, where you’ll stop for 6-8 tastings while learning about our captivating history. 

Ghostly Walks

 

5.  Explore Fairytale Castles

Thought to be one of the wealthiest families in Western Canada, the Dunsmuir’s left behind a legacy of stunning castles. 

Bring the Victorian era to life with a trip to Craigdarroch Castle. This legendary Victorian mansion tells a story of wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, and his family’s intriguing life. Admire the amazing architecture with stunning stained-glass windows and intricate wood work and slowly climb the 87-step staircase for one of the most exceptional views in all of Victoria.

Robert’s son, James Dunsmuir, commissioned the build of Hatley Castle, another spectacular example of architecture. While Hatley Castle is the centrepiece of the estate, Hatley Park is home to over 15km of walking and hiking trails through old growth forest, a protected bird sanctuary, and a historic First Nations Site, there is plenty to explore!

Today the grounds are home to Royal Roads University and are a hot-spot for movie productions with films such as Deadpool, X-Men and Disney’s The Descendants being filmed there. 

Hatley Castle

 

6.  Discover our Rich Naval and Military History

A favourite day trip for families and historic adventurers, Fort Rodd Hill is home to the oldest lighthouse on Canada’s West Coast, a historic coastal artillery fort and century-old gun batteries. The commanding sea views aren’t bad either.

More military history and modern might are on display at CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum.

Fisgard Lighthouse

 

7.  Walk along Government Street

If you’re looking for a quick fix of Victoria’s unique character and culture, take a walk down Government Street, lined with a unique mix of heritage buildings and vibrant shops.  

Celebrating 125 years, stop by Murchie’s for a tea “steeped in tradition” as well as some sweet treats. A limited anniversary collection is also now available so you can bring a piece of Murchie’s history home. 

After a little exploring, bring the luck of the Irish on your side with a pint of Guinness at Irish Times Pub.  Built in 1894, the pub has held on to its historic allure with cozy fireplaces, Victorian-etched glass doors, rich dark wood and a fascinating collection of memorabilia. 

Government Street