Victoria, British Columbia is the capital of Canada’s third most populated province. Named after Britain’s—and Canada’s—most famous nineteenth-century queen, the city’s situated on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. Renowned for its mild weather and bounteous – and early! – springs, Victoria boasts gorgeous gardens and a multicultural heritage that goes back generations.
Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza Hotel, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.
Chateau Victoria Hotel and Suites, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.
Royal Scot Hotel & Suites, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.
Embassy Inn, 81% Approval Rating on Trip Advisor.
More ideas: Cheap Hotels and Places to Stay in Victoria
Start your tour of free things and stuff to do by exploring Victoria’s downtown. Begin by visiting Thunderbird Park with its amazing display of totem poles. Nearby the park you’ll find the Parliament Buildings. Built at the end of the nineteenth century, they are home to BC’s provincial legislature. Free guided tours of the buildings are available. Take some time to wander the grounds as well. Since the government allows local groups to book the grounds, you may also find some free events in action.
Once you’ve sorted out the government, another free thing to do is to stroll along the Inner Harbour, where you can absorb the sights and sounds of a working harbour resplendent with sailing vessels ranging from sailboats to small cruise ships to sometimes even tall ships. (If you’re visiting during the Labour Day weekend in September be sure to catch the annual Classic Boat Festival.) Walk the dock and strike up a conversation with the fishermen as they unload their catch. Get there between mid-morning and noon and you can watch people feeding Lucy the harbour seal. Feed her a smelt or herring yourself–you can buy one for $1 or six for $5 at one of the wharf’s seafood spots. And don’t forget to check out the harbour’s 30 floating houses–you can’t miss them with their vivid colours and eclectic personal touches. My personnel favourite is the one with its exterior decorated with cell phones and digital cameras that fell overboard and were recovered by a scuba diver. If you’re visiting in September and have time for an excursion hop on the Linda Mae2 at the Steamship Terminal and head over to MaCaulay Point for Sculpture Splash, an Art Extravaganza by the Sea. This free event transforms the coastal walkway at Macaulay Point into a seaside, open-air, dimensional art gallery.
While taking in the sites be sure to pause and drink in the exterior majesty of the Empress Hotel. Built during the Edwardian era to serve as a terminus hotel for Canadian Pacific’s steamship line, this luxury hotel boasts an amazing chateau-style architecture that’s a visual treat and a lovely rose garden that’s worth a visit. If you’ve allowed for a few indulgences in your visit-to-Victoria travel budget, consider afternoon tea at the Empress. A tradition since 1908, partakers of afternoon tea at the Empress (which includes lunch and dessert) have ranged from royalty to dignitaries and celebrities. Note: there is a dress code in effect–sophisticated, smart casual—and, at the time of this writing, the cost for afternoon tea ranged from $75 to $115 per person. We told you it would be an indulgence.
If you’d like to inhale some beer fumes for free, then Victoria’s the place to be. In fact, Victoria could be described as the brewing capital of BC because it’s home to about a dozen breweries or brewpubs! The first licensed brewer started operations in the city in 1858. Today, it’s possible to take free tours – and enjoy some free samples! — at a handful of breweries within the city: Hoyne Brewing Company (best visited Saturday afternoons); Moon Under Water; Buckerfields Brewery at Swans Brewpub; and Vancouver Island Brewery.
Window shopping is another free thing you can do in Victoria in abundance. Check out Chinatown, one of the oldest in North America. Chinatown forms a portion of the larger Victoria district known as Old Town, which includes several other popular shopping districts: Johnson Street, Bastion Square and Market Square. The Bastion Square Public Market, which runs each summer starting in May, features all kinds of cool stuff created by local artisans. Market Square is also worth a visit. Its heritage shop fronts open out onto a public square where festivals and other events take place year round. Antique lovers among you will enjoy a stroll along Victoria’s Antique Row – you’ll locate it east along Fort Street from Douglas. A second antique hot spot can be found a short distance away on Oak Bay Avenue.
Exploring green space doesn’t have to cost green backs. Explore the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy for free, replete with heritage orchards and gardens, are worth exploring. During regular hours of operation, you can take a self-guided tour of the building as well. Next make tracks for Beacon Hill Park. Located right within Victoria, this 154-acre park is an oasis of trees, lawns, floral gardens and ponds. Hike to the top of the hill for a great view, or visit the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm for an authentic farm experience in the heart of the city. The farm operates by donation. For some great gardens, you can also visit Government House, the official residence of British Columbia’s lieutenant-governor located on Rockland Avenue. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk for visitors who wish to peruse them at their own leisure.
The Finnerty Gardens at the University of Victoria are worth the effort, particularly if you like rhododendrons – a plant not so easy to grow in otherparts of Canada! Gardeners’ dreams are made of this stuff. Open to the public every day during daylight hours at no charge, the Finnerty Gardens are home to 4,000 different trees and shrubs with more than 1,500 rhododendron and azalea plants! The university’s grounds also offer other free things to do, such as a walk along the Mystic Vale. Or you could nip into the buildings to experience some of the university’s art exhibits.
Head to Mount Douglas Park, where you can walk along Cordova Bay, hike some trails, catch some great views, and investigate an old mine shaft. If you’re not hiked out by then, you could head out on the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, which runs 55 km from Victoria to Sooke, or Thetis Lake Regional Park, which has trails along Upper and Lower Thetis lakes, more challenging trails up Seymour or Scafe hills, and a beach where you can swim. If you’re a birder as well as a hiker, be sure to check out East Sooke Regional Park, located just 35 kilometres west of the city. East Sooke is great for beachcombing as well! Nearer to Victoria is Trafalgar Park in Oak Bay. Find the path at the look-out on King George Terrace that takes you down to a small cove – there you’ll find some amazing sea life – anemones, limpets, crabs, starfish and perhaps even some otters! Additional parks in the Victoria area that are worth a visit include Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park, Francis/King Regional Park, Goldstream Provincial Park and the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, some of which have helpful information centres that you can access for free.
A great way to enjoy almost-free fun things to do in Victoria is to check Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities. Visit the Victoria Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on attractions, tours, boat cruises, theatre tickets, dinner spots and accommodations. The Groupon Victoria page is a smart place to check out when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Victoria visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.