Before arriving in Victoria, the first words that came to mind when thinking about this city were tea, scones and The Empress. In other words, I really didn’t know what to expect.
Despite doing research about the city before my trip, it wasn’t until I finally arrived that I got to experience everything first hand and discover quite a bit about Victorian culture.
Of course there was so much more to the city than simply tea and scones, and after visiting London recently, I could really get a sense of the British vibe and influence in Victoria. Even though I was only in town for a week, I learned a lot about the city.
Here are 9 things that surprised me about Victoria BC:
1. The number of tourists visiting Victoria
Victoria is a very tourist-friendly city and the downtown area is full of fun tours and attractions that are worth checking out.
Of course there are tourists in Toronto, however I was surprised at the amount of tourists in Victoria. It seemed like everywhere I went, I could over hear people talking from out of town. Tourists were even stopping me on the street to ask for directions, because apparently I looked like I was a local.
As the capital of British Columbia, I guess it should be no surprise that it receives over 3 million visitors annually.
Related: 36 Hours in Victoria, BC
2. The prevalence of unique coffee shops
Before arriving in Victoria, I was expecting to find a lot of tea shops since afternoon tea is what comes to mind when I think of Victoria.
Instead, I found that there was a big prevalence of unique coffee shops all over the city, which was a pleasant surprise.
Locals take their coffee seriously in Victoria and the abundance of first class and independently owned coffee suppliers makes it easy to find quality java throughout the city.
I never used to be a huge coffee drinker before, but after spending a week exploring Victoria, I have been inspired to learn more about its café culture.
3. How Victoria really is the “city of gardens”
Victoria’s mild climate makes it an attractive destination to visit year round, especially to admire its many beautiful gardens.
It’s hard to believe that in Victoria, flowers start to bloom in February, while the rest of Canada is often still covered in snow. Each year for one week, citizens of Greater Victoria count all the blooms they can see. Over 17 billion blooms were counted in 2015!
The Butchart Gardens receives close to one million visitors per year and is home to some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen. Despite its hefty entrance fee, a visit to the gardens is worth a visit if you’re in Victoria.
4. The kindness of driver’s towards pedestrians
Maybe I’m just so used to the impatience of Toronto drivers, but I was surprised how kind drivers appeared to be in Victoria, especially to pedestrians.
In Toronto, it’s not uncommon to press the crosswalk button and have to wait for 2 or 3 cars to zoom through the light while you’re waiting to cross.
However, this was never a problem when walking around Victoria. As soon as I approached a crossing, cars immediately stopped when it was safe to do so, and let me cross the street. This was definitely something that I wasn’t used to experiencing in Toronto.
5. Victoria has the highest vegetarian food sales per capita in North America
Sure I knew that Victoria has some delicious eats, but I was surprised to find out that Victoria has the highest vegetarian food sales per capita in North America.
Even carnivores won’t miss the bacon when dining at one of Victoria’s many vegetarian-friendly restaurants.
One of my favourite meals was the Vegan Coconut Curry at Mo:Lé. The restaurant isn’t strictly vegetarian, however they are happy to make any item on the menu veggie friendly, if requested.
6. The popularity of unique book stores
As an avid reader, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Munro’s Books in Victoria has been ranked as the No. 3 bookshop in the world, by National Geographic.
It was exciting to visit this shop after studying some of Alice Munro’s short stories in University, the store’s founder.
7. Victoria has more restaurants per capita in North America than any other city, apart from San Francisco
If finding great vegetarian eats in the city wasn’t enough, Victoria has more restaurants per capita in North America than any other city, apart from San Francisco.
Victorian’s know how to eat well, so if you’re a foodie, then you’ve come to the right place. It’s the brunch capital of Canada, but they have farmer’s markets and a number of restaurants that brew their own beer as well.
8. How bike friendly and walkable the city is
Did you know that more people per capita commute by bike in Greater Victoria than anywhere else in Canada?
The city is an urban oasis surrounded by mountains, water and lush green scenery, which makes it the perfect place to ride a bike.
I was also surprised at how easy it was to walk around the city. It was great to explore the downtown area on foot, which is my favourite ways to experience a new city.
9. Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and its Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in the country
I actually had no idea that Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and the second oldest in North America, after San Francisco.
Growing up in San Francisco, I was lucky to live near Chinatown and experience its culture. It was hard to compare any other Chinatown I visited to the one in SF, but Victoria’s Chinatown was different.
Despite its small size, it was once the major entry port for Asian immigration to British North America, and later Canada, which makes it an important part of Canadian history.
Don’t forget to visit Fan Tan Alley, which is the narrowest street in the country. This is definitely a unique place that I highly recommend to everyone who visits Victoria.9 things that surprised me about Victoria, BCClick To Tweet
Over to you — have you been to Victoria BC? What are some things that surprised you about the city?
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