No longer just a hot spot for retirees seeking Canada’s warmer climes, the newer, younger Victoria is full of trendy boutiques, vibrant coffee shops and a cyclist-friendly infrastructure. While the city’s old-world British charm still exists in spades, Victoria’s underground culture is bubbling to the surface in a variety of intriguing ways. And the best way to explore it? On two wheels, of course.
Thanks to Victoria’s many bicycle lanes and pathways and its general awareness around bike safety, tourists can take to the streets with confidence. The Pedaler, a local bicycle tour company located just minutes from the Inner Harbour, offers bike rentals and guided tours at reasonable prices. Try the City Glider bike for an easy ride ($28 for five to eight hours) through many of Victoria’s coolest neighbourhoods.
Whether you choose to explore on your own or join a guided bicycle tour, pedalling along the city’s winding and scenic roadways in the fresh ocean air is bound to put a smile on your face. Here are a few hip and memorable spots to visit along the way.
Expect the unexpected at this non-profit, artist-run collective and gallery that features undiscovered Victoria talent. Visual art, especially handcrafted work with paint, pen and pencil, is all on display here. Keep an eye out for fifty fifty’s opening-night launch parties—they’re legendary.
A little retail therapy never hurt anyone, and Still Life won’t disappoint. A Johnson Street mainstay since the 1980s, this shop is decidedly Canadian, inside and out. With two boutiques—one for him and one for her—directly across the street from each other, you’re sure to find the perfect hipster cycling outfit to wear on your next two-wheeled outing. (stilllifeboutique.com)
Another destination for the best in West Coast trends on Johnson Street, Suasion is chock full of great denim. Run by two best friends who dream in technicolor fashion, the shop is always brimming with the best in independent design, from jewelry to letterpress cards.
Cycling can work up an appetite. Stop in for a taco lunch at the perfectly divey Cafe Mexico. Located in Victoria’s Market Square, the spot is a staple for locals looking to fuel up. People in the know swear by the pulled pork tacos and Cuervo Gold margaritas.
Zip down to Courtney Street and stop at Heist Coffee Co. for a post-lunch pour. The folks here use locally roasted Bows & Arrows Coffee and create beautifully handcrafted lattes. Even better, Heist’s great location near the Inner Harbour means you can sip your coffee by the water.
For an authentic Victoria-esque tea experience, take a late-afternoon tea break at Silk Road Tea. If you’ve got some extra time, sign up for a brewing lesson and get a couple tips on how to make beautiful cocktails using the shop’s market-fresh tea.
After dropping off your bicycle, make your way to The Spa Magnolia, where you can soothe your tired muscles with a variety of massage options. If you’re looking for a snooze as well, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa runs a special Pedal & Pamper package with the Pedaler for a two-night stay, plus city bike tour.
Getting There: WestJet flies to Victoria 13 times a day from five Canadian and one U.S. city.