The Landsea Guide to Government Street

Credit: Tourism Victoria 

 

The Victoria and Butchart Gardens Tour is a favourite for many of our tour guides. From a scenic perspective, it’s easy to see why. Unlike so many cities where historic architecture has begun to crumble under the pressures of time and gentrification, Victoria has maintained and preserved their vibrant Victorian buildings seen along both commercial and residential streets. Government Street, in particular, is especially known for its awe-inspiring moments.

It doesn’t matter which map you look at when visiting Victoria, it’s plain to see that Government Street connects you to almost anything you could want downtown. Generally, whenever a Landsea tour guide conducts a Victoria tour, we drive up Government Street turning into Chinatown to get back to the wharf. Even though our guides try to point out their favourite places, it’s hard to catch everything. Most maps only include the main attractions and can’t fit all the details. So here is a list of some of the best spots on Government Street.

History’s Corner

One of my favourite moments whenever I visit Victoria, is turning onto Government Street. You can also hear how excited visitors get once you make that turn. That’s because, within this little corner of British Columbia’s capital city, you not only get to see the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel, the Royal BC Museum, and the provincial parliament buildings, but also a breathtaking view of the water. In fact, if you image search the words “Victoria BC,” all you see are various photos of these four things. It’s easy for time to fly by when you’re snapping photos here.

                         Credit: Tourism Victoria

Never Leave Without a Souvenir

Government Street is basically ‘main street,’ for Victoria; lined with restaurants, stores, and galleries. Multiple souvenir shops are located here so no one misses a chance to buy a gift for themselves or for others. If you happen to want a one-of-a-kind piece to remember your visit, I would recommend the following stores:

  •      Out of Ireland: the perfect place to pick up handcrafted, imported Irish clothing, art, or jewellery
  •      Cowichan Traders: a go-to spot for those looking to own some First Nations artwork
  •      Rogers Chocolate: it’s hard to leave this beautifully-stained glass storefront filled with sweet chocolate, and rich with history
  •       Munro’s Books: a book lovers’ dream in an enchanting historic building; this store has been ranked as the third best bookstore in the world in 2016
  •       Murchie’s Tea and Coffee: also has a café, but has a great selection of teas and china for that “Victorian” feel

 

                                    Credit: Out of Ireland and Munro’s Books

Foodie or Fast Food

With Landsea Tours, we also arrive in Victoria around noon – which means lunch. Now whether you are a culinary adventurer, looking for unique local dishes, or if you’re instead wanting a family restaurant that serves chicken strips, then Government Street has something for you. Some places we always tend to recommend include:

  • Sam’s Deli – great if you want to grab a sandwich and eat by the water
  • The Soda Shoppe – perfect place to grab an ice-cream, especially in the summer
  • Frankie’s Modern Diner – good family restaurant with local/seasonal favourites
  • Bard and Banker – historic Scottish Pub (great place for fish & chips lovers)
  • Irish Times – historic Irish Pub (I will personally recommend the forest mushroom pizza)

Don’t worry though, if you want to stick to what’s familiar, there are also quite a few chain restaurants located on Government Street (and yes there is a Starbucks too).

                        Credit: Brianna Alexander                               Credit: Victoria Pub Company/Tourism Victoria

Chinatown

Victoria’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America and always deserves a visit. As long as you aren’t claustrophobic, try visiting Fan Tan Alley – the narrowest commercial street in Canada. Containing both history and culture while being a cute bucket list spot, Chinatown is usually as far as we recommend tourists go and we find few guests wander farther north beyond this point.

                        Credit: Brandon McGeachie/Tourism Victoria

For the Person Who Wants to See it All

If you find yourself with a few extra minutes to spare on your trip, there are a few other places that are worth visiting that can be accessed through Government Street.

  •      Bastion Square – leads to Wharf Street and is lined with public art
  •      Market Square – a tucked away corner that is off Yates Street filled with some neat stores
  •      Wharf Street/Johnston Street – follow along with the water and see the colourful Victorian buildings (ie. Snap your Instagram photos here)

                                 Credit: Tourism Victoria

 

While this post offers the highlights of what can be seen, we personally recommend visiting for yourself. With a harmonious blend of Victorian sophistication mixed with a modern appeal that rivals European cities, Government Street offers travellers a way to explore the vibrant highlights of British Columbia’s capital city.

 

Top Five Things to do with an Afternoon in Victoria

Mid-March brings cherry blossoms, blooming flowers, allergies, birds chirping, longer days, and the start of Landsea Tours & Adventures’ most popular tour, the Victoria & Butchart Gardens Tour. It’s so popular that last year, we had over 675 tours to Victoria!

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. A scenic hour and a half ferry ride through the Southern Gulf Islands and Active Pass link the mainland with Vancouver Island. Regardless of the time of year, a visit to the world famous Butchart Gardens is on the day’s agenda.

Victoria’s most popular attraction, the Butchart Gardens, spread over 55 acres is truly a sight to see! Founded in 1904, a deserted lime quarry was converted into the stunning sunken garden you see today. This show garden still maintains the gracious traditions of earlier times and boasts all of the modern amenities to make your experience there comfortable and memorable. Don’t forget to pack your camera!

Along with the two-hour visit to the Butchart Gardens, visitors will also have anywhere between an hour and a half to three hours of free time to explore the Inner Harbour of Victoria. There are endless amounts of great things to see and do in Victoria to fill your time. We’ve compiled a list of our top five favourite things to do in Victoria to fill an afternoon.

Walk around the Inner Harbour

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The Inner Harbour of Victoria is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. Laced with an impressive seafront promenade, this area comes alive with music, festivals and events throughout the year. The adjacent waterway also bustles with activity as home to the Greater Victoria Marina and base for both whale watching excursions and seaplanes transfers and tours. Transforming its splendour throughout the year the Inner Harbour captures the ever-changing view of coastal life.

Tour the Parliament Building

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Overlooking Victoria’s magnificent Inner Harbour, the Parliament Buildings are open to the public year-round. The Parliament offers a free 30-45 minute guided tour, or you have the option to explore the building on your own. View the magnificent century old rooms inside of the building, learn the building’s history and gain an understanding of the legislative assembly.

Afternoon Tea at The Fairmont Empress

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If time allows, treat yourself to one of Victoria’s grandest traditions – Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress. For over 95 years, the royal lobby of The Fairmont Empress has hosted the adored ritual of Afternoon Tea. Diners are treated to an array of teas, including the specially blended Empress tea which pairs nicely with the provided selection of mini-sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and other delights. Afternoon Tea at The Fairmont Empress is an iconic “must-do” experience.

Royal BC Museum

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Learn and see the history of British Columbia with a stop at the Royal BC Museum. Since 1886 the museum has conserved and shared the human and natural histories of British Columbia, while featuring many galleries and providing visitors with tales of the past and future of our province. Experience authentic artifacts and specimens – from a Woolly Mammoth to a tar-scented navy ship, and the Old Town’s wood-cobbled street.

Wander through Chinatown

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Did you know that Canada’s oldest Chinatown is in Victoria? At its most popular time, Chinatown occupied an area of approximately six city blocks in Victoria, but today, it only occupies a couple of streets and alleyways. Make sure to stop by Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada, which was once a gambling district full of restaurants, shops, and opium dens.