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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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)
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.