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A group of smiling women posing for a photo on a sunny day with the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel and Victoria's Inner Harbour in the background

Victoria in a Day

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icon directory shopping
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Activity:
Walk
Difficulty:
Easy
Location:
Victoria
Time:
2-4hrs
Distance:
6 km

Activity:

walk icon
icon directory shopping
icon directory food

Accessibility:

Family access icon

Highlights Include:

Info Map

Victoria In A Day - The Ultimate Self Guided Walking Tour

Where to this weekend, Vancouver Island: Victoria In A Day | Self Guided Walking Tour

Victoria in a day guide:

  1. Thunderbird Park
  2. BC Parliament Building
  3. David Foster Way
  4. Fisherman’s Wharf
  5. Water Taxi
  6. Chinatown
  7. Market Square
  8. Waddington Alley
  9. Bastion Square
  10. Government Street
  11. Inner Harbour

 

Our ultimate self-guided walking tour is a wonderful choice for visitors or locals seeking to experience the best of Victoria in a day. Spending the day touring Victoria on foot allows you to intimately connect with the city’s vibrant spirit at your own pace.

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings seen from across the inner harbour, with clear blue waters in the foreground. A warning sign for a landing area is visible on the dock, and people can be seen walking and enjoying the waterfront, with the grandeur of the historic building and its manicured gardens in the distance.As you move through the city, visit landmarks and delve into the region’s rich history. Stroll through the charming alleys of Chinatown and indulge in local delicacies. Meander through Oldtown and along the inner harbour and immerse yourself in Victoria’s unique blend of old-world charm and contemporary culture. It’s the best way to experience Victoria.

Victoria has continuously been rated as one of the world’s top walking cities. And for good reason, as each walking adventure promises to unveil secrets at every corner. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning admirer, this 6km walking loop is your gateway to an immersive exploration of the city’s most captivating sights.

Best Budget Hotels In Victoria

Victoria in a Day – Where to Start 

Distance: 8km (6km walking, 2km boat)
Time: 2-4hrs
All Trails GPS Link: Victoria In A Day
Start: Empress Hotel
Expectations: See and experience the best of Victoria in a day

Feel free to start anywhere along our self-guided walking tour loop. Our two favourite starting points are the convenient parking lot along Fisgard Street in Chinatown, or, for this journey, we are going to start at the underground parking lot at Victoria Conference Center next to the Empress Hotel. Parking rates are a little higher at $4.50/Hr or $20.00 a day, but it’s underground safe and a central location.

A triditional Totem pole in front of the large Mungo Martin traditional Kwakwaka'wakw "big house" with a wonderful painting on the white exterior wall

Thunderbird Park

Highlights:
Small park with incredible poles and historic buildings.

Once you’ve parked, the adventure is just a few steps away. Directly across the street, a short and pleasant stroll lies Thunderbird Park, our first stop on this captivating walking tour.

Known for its rich display of totem poles and a glimpse into the cultural history of the First Nations, Thunderbird Park is not just a feast for the eyes but also a peek into the indigenous heritage of Vancouver Island. Here, surrounded by these magnificent totem poles, you’ll feel the whispers of ancient stories and traditions.

Located at the back of the park, you’ll also find two pieces of local history: Helmcken House and St. Anne’s Schoolhouse.

Helmcken House, one of the oldest homes in British Columbia, still standing in its original location, telling the tale of colonial Victoria and the life of Dr. J.S. Helmcken, a key figure in the city’s history. 

A few steps away stands St. Anne’s Schoolhouse, a charming, restored building that harks back to the early days of education on the island. Both of these historical landmarks offer a unique window into Victoria’s past.

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Highlights:
Immaculate grounds, architecture, water fountains and rose garden

Leaving the historical narratives of Thunderbird Park behind, our path leads us walking the font of the Royal BC Museum through the quaint Native Plant Gardens to the grand and impressive British Columbia Parliament Grounds. 

As you approach the magnificent architecture of the Parliament building, with its impressive locally sourced stone and granite. Strolling through the meticulously landscaped grounds, you’ll find yourself amidst beautifully manicured lawns, elegant fountains, and statues that pay homage to important figures in the province’s history. 

Ensure you complete the loop by visiting the back fountain, side rose garden, and sundial.

The grounds are a perfect blend of natural beauty and architectural splendour, inviting visitors to relax and reflect. Whether you’re snapping photos of the stunning exterior or just soaking in the atmosphere of this iconic site, the BC Legislature Grounds provide an unforgettable experience that elegantly bridges Victoria’s past and present.

After immersing yourself, cross the street and view the fountain in Confederation Garden Park. Built in 1967 the fountain commemorates the Confederation of Canada, which includes the shields of the provinces and territories of Canada. 

Continue your journey, stroll down Belleville Street, towards Fisherman’s Wharf. You might notice the ferry terminal to Seattle along the inner harbour, a popular gateway connecting Victoria to its American neighbour. 

As Belleville Street veers off away from the water, our walking adventure takes a scenic turn as you find the entrance to David Foster Way Trail

Tips and Suggestions

Food and Drink
For planning your day, the best options for food are located at Fisherman’s Wharf. Along Wharf Street and Government Street

Shopping
There are great shopping opportunities in Old Town, including Market Square and along Government Street

Accommodations
Along the loop are some of the best hotels in Victoria. We recommend staying in Old Town around the hustle and bustle and around the parliament buildings.

Experiences
Looking for a little more than a walk? Victoria has wonderful experiences around every corner, from bike rentals to whale watching and a ton of indoor activities.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to enjoy walking tours in Victoria?
Victoria’s mild climate makes it a great walking city year-round. However, the most pleasant weather for walking tours is typically from late spring to early fall, when temperatures are warmer and rainfall is less frequent.

Are there guided walking tours available in Victoria?
Yes, Victoria offers a variety of guided walking tours that cater to different interests, including historical tours, ghost walks and culinary tours. 

Does Victoria have a lot of hills?
Besides getting down to the water’s edge along the harbour, downtown Victoria is relatively flat with minimal hills, another reason it makes for such a great walking city. 

How walkable is Victoria for visitors with mobility issues?
Victoria is known for being quite accessible, with many flat and well-maintained pathways. However, some historic areas might have uneven surfaces. It’s advisable to check specific routes in advance for accessibility. Water taxi wheelchair options are limited.

Can I bring my dog on walks in Victoria?
Absolutely! Victoria is a dog-friendly city. Many outdoor areas welcome dogs, though keeping them on a leash and be mindful of specific regulations in certain parks or public spaces..

What should I wear for a walking tour in Victoria?
Comfortable walking shoes are a must. Depending on the season, dress in layers, as the weather can change throughout the day. Don’t forget to bring a rain jacket or umbrella, especially between October and April, as Victoria is known for its occasional rain showers.

Are there public restrooms available along popular walking routes in Victoria?
Yes, public restrooms can be found at major tourist spots and parks along the popular walking routes, such as at Fisherman’s Wharf and near the Inner Harbour.

How safe is it to walk around Victoria?
Victoria is generally a safe city for pedestrians. As always, it’s advisable to stay aware of your surroundings, especially when walking in the evening.

Are there places to stop for food or drinks along the walking routes?
Definitely! Victoria boasts a vibrant food scene, and there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and food kiosks along the major walking routes, especially in areas like Fisherman’s Wharf, Government Street, and Old Town.

Budget Hotels In Victoria

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David Foster Way – Trail along the Inner Harbour

Highlights:
Easy walking trail with views along the inner harbour

This short trail offers a wonderful stretch taking you away from the traffic and along the edge of the harbour.
Enjoy the views of the shimmering waters, with boats gently bobbing in the harbour and seaplanes skimming the skyline.

You’ll meander along the trail, taking time to appreciate the views of the boats coming in and out of the harbour, the mix of green space, art installations and cute walking bridges. As you round the bend, you have a picturesque view of your next destination as the colourful floating houses sit in perfect rows at Fisherman’s Wharf. Keep an eye out for seals between you and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Vibrant floating homes in various colours moored at Fisherman's Wharf, reflecting in the calm water with a clear blue sky above and a distant cityscape.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Highlights:
Colourful floating houses, food on the docks

Fisherman’s Wharf is a unique marine destination and is a bustling hub of activity and a feast for the senses. As you’re greeted by the vibrant array of floating homes, each painted in bright colours and boasting its own quirky charm. The air is filled with the mouth-watering aromas of freshly cooked seafood, beckoning you to sample local delicacies from one of the many kiosks.

Fisherman’s Wharf isn’t just about food; it’s a place where you can book a local excursion, go for a kayak tour, marvel at the sleek seals playfully swimming nearby, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk along the docks.

Grab a drink or some food, rest and relax before we take the water taxi to our next stop in Old Town.

fishermans wharf water taxi

Victoria’s Water Taxi

Highlights:
Inner Harbour views from the water on a lazy boat ride

From the animated atmosphere of Fisherman’s Wharf, our journey in Victoria takes a delightful turn as we embark on a water taxi to Chinatown.

This short but scenic voyage across the harbour is an experience in itself, offering a unique perspective of the city from the water. As the water taxi glides smoothly over the calm inner harbour water, you’ll witness a panoramic view of Victoria’s skyline, a sight that’s both calming and inspiring.

The gentle hum of the boat’s engine and the cool sea breeze create a sense of adventure as you approach Chinatown’s historic and culturally rich district.

This mode of transport isn’t just about getting from point A to B; it’s an opportunity to see Victoria from a different angle, one that many visitors often miss. As the water taxi docks near Chinatown, a short walk up from the harbour, you are quickly greeted by the vibrant streets, brick storefronts, and intriguing alleys of Canada’s oldest Chinatown, into a world brimming with history and cultural diversity.

Victoria is a wonderful walking city; we started at Chinatown and wandered through the historic buildings of downtown, shopping and eating on the way to the beautiful inner harbour. The list of what we could see in one day is long! We ended up at Fisherman's Wharf and then rode the water taxi/ I can't believe how many iconic spots Victoria has.

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Victoria Old Town

Walking in Victoria BCs Chinatown on Fisgard street

Chinatown

Highlights:
Fantan Alley, Starting point to Historic Old Town Victoria

Walking down Fisgard Street, you will find yourself in the heart of Victoria’s Chinatown, a vibrant tapestry of cultural heritage and modern-day charm. This historic area, the oldest Chinatown in Canada, is a bustling mosaic of colourful shops, exotic foods, and traditional Chinese architecture. 

Located in the middle of Chinatown, there is a nondescript entrance to Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada. Walking through this alley feels like stepping through a portal in time, with its tiny shops selling everything from handcrafted jewelry to artisan teas. The alley’s narrow walls, lined with a mix of historic and contemporary establishments, tell a story of the area’s evolution from a hub for early Chinese immigrants to a cherished landmark. 

Chinatown is more than a tourist spot; it’s a living, breathing part of Victoria’s turbulent history, offering a unique blend of the past and present that invites visitors to explore, discover, and indulge in a truly multicultural experience.

Market Square Victoria Vancouver Island

Market Square

Highlights:
Shopping, historic brick buildings and patios

A stone’s throw away from Fisgard Steet lies Market Square, a historic gem that seamlessly blends the old with the new.

This charming Square, once the commercial heart of old Victoria, continues to be a vibrant spot for locals and visitors alike. As you enter Market Square, you’re greeted by a quaint yet lively atmosphere, where the echoes of history meet contemporary urban life.

The beautifully restored Victorian buildings, which once housed warehouses and shops during the Gold Rush era, now host an eclectic mix of boutiques, eateries, and artisan stores. Strolling through the Square, you can expect to find unique local goods, from handcrafted jewelry to bespoke clothing, and an array of cafes and restaurants offering a taste of Victoria’s diverse culinary scene.

The open-air courtyard, often buzzing with live music and local events, adds to the Square’s inviting ambiance. Market Square is more than just a shopping destination; it’s a place where history is woven into the fabric of daily life, offering a vibrant and authentic experience of Victoria’s rich cultural tapestry.

Waddington Alley

Highlights:
A peek into the past at your feet

Just a short walk from the lively Market Square, Waddington Alley awaits, offering a unique and somewhat hidden glimpse into Victoria’s storied past. This back alley, often overlooked, is a historical treasure trove, renowned for its distinctive wooden cobblestone pathway.

These wooden blocks, a rare sight in modern urban landscapes, hark back to a bygone era and are among the last of their kind in North America. Walking on these wooden cobbles, you can almost hear the echoes of horse-drawn carriages and the bustling trade of the early 20th century. 

Waddington Alley’s historical significance extends beyond its unique flooring; the surrounding brick buildings, with their rustic charm, have witnessed the evolution of Victoria from a colonial outpost to a vibrant modern city.

This alley may be short, but it’s a poignant reminder of the city’s rich history and enduring heritage, offering a quiet but captivating break from the more frequented tourist paths. A visit here is like stepping back in time, providing a moment of reflection amidst the shadows of history.

Leaving the historical Waddington Alley behind, our walk continues towards the vibrant Bastion Square, walking a short distance along Wharf Street as you pass more charming architecture filled with great restaurants and historical buildings.

Bastion Square

Highlights:
Historic part of Victoria, vibrant energy during summer months

Upon arriving at Bastion Square, you’re welcomed into the lively and artistic heart of Victoria. Depending on the time of year and the day of the week, the Square can be teeming with local artisans, craft stalls, and outdoor cafes, and is a bustling hub of creativity and community spirit. 

This area, historically significant as the site of the original Fort Victoria, has transformed over the years into a lively public space that celebrates local art and culture. The surrounding buildings, some of which date back to the late 1800s, add a historical depth to the Square. They were once the backdrop for the city’s early judicial and administrative activities and now house galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. 

Bastion Square is a wonderful way to take you from the inner harbour of Wharf Street to the bustling shopping district of Government Street.

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Shopping and Patios

Government Street

Highlights:
Heart of shopping, restaurants, pubs and patios

As we emerge from the vibrant atmosphere of Bastion Square, our journey leads us onto the bustling Government Street, a key artery in the heart of Victoria. This lively street, known for its pedestrian-friendly ambiance, offers a delightful urban experience. 

A portion of Government Street is thoughtfully closed to traffic, transforming it into a walker’s paradise where the charm of Victoria truly comes to life. As you stroll along, you’re surrounded by an array of boutique shops, local eateries, and street-side patios, each inviting you to explore and indulge. 

The absence of traffic noise enhances the experience, allowing the sounds of lively conversations, street musicians, and the clinking of coffee cups to fill the air. 

This part of Government Street is not just a shopping destination; it’s a vibrant public space where locals and visitors alike can leisurely wander, shop, and dine in a relaxed, open-air setting. As you continue towards the Inner Harbour, this energetic street serves as a perfect segue, seamlessly blending the urban shopping experience with the natural beauty and tranquillity of the waterfront, setting the stage for the next picturesque leg of our Victoria exploration.

Inner Harbour

Highlights:
Views, photo ops and great vibes

Crossing the road from the bustling energy of Government Street, you’ll find the convenient and welcoming Victorias Visitor Center, a treasure trove of local insights and helpful tips to enhance your Victoria experience.

From here, a short descent down the nearby stairs leads you to the picturesque Inner Harbour walkway. Make your way down to the vibrant maritime atmosphere of the inner harbour.

The walkway, which takes you to Ship Point, provides some of the most stunning views of the city’s iconic landmarks. Here, you can pause to take in the grandeur of the Parliament Buildings and the historic Empress Hotel, both framed beautifully with the harbour in the foreground.

As you meander along the walkway, you’ll pass an array of yachts gracefully docked alongside busy water taxis and eager whale-watching boats preparing for their next adventure. This lively strip is also a haven for street vendors, offering everything from artisan crafts to tasty local treats, adding a unique flavour to your waterfront stroll. The combination of these elements – the majestic views, the bustling marine activity, and the lively street scene – creates a dynamic and picturesque experience that encapsulates the essence of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, making every step along this path a delightful encounter with the city’s heart and soul.

Ascending to the Iconic Empress Hotel: The Final Stop of Our Journey

The historic Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, viewed from across the street with pedestrians and cyclists in motion on the crosswalk in the foreground under a clear blue skyOur walking tour through Victoria’s wonders culminates as we ascend the stairs from the Inner Harbour walkway, crossing back over Government Street to arrive at the majestic Empress Hotel.

With its chateau-style architecture, it stands as a timeless icon of Victoria’s rich history and elegance. Since its opening in 1908, the Empress Hotel has been a symbol of luxury and a centrepiece in the city’s social and cultural landscape.

Its regal presence has hosted royalty, celebrities, and travellers from around the world, each drawn to its blend of historic charm and modern sophistication.

Standing in front of the Empress Hotel, you can feel the echoes of the past, a fitting end to our day’s journey through Victoria’s storied streets and scenic paths. This historic hotel not only offers a glimpse into the city’s opulent past but also marks the completion of our walking adventure, leaving us with memories of Victoria’s unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

Embracing Victoria’s Charm – A Journey Best Experienced on Foot

As we reflect on our walking tour through Victoria, it’s clear that the true essence of this charming city is best captured on foot. From the historical narratives of Thunderbird Park and the legislative grandeur of the BC Legislature Grounds to the vibrant energy of Fisherman’s Wharf and the cultural richness of Chinatown, each step has unveiled a different facet of Victoria’s diverse personality. The serene walk along David Foster Way and the lively streets of Market Square and Government Street have shown us the harmonious blend of nature, history, and modern urban life that Victoria embodies.

Helpful Links For Each Attraction

Victoria Walking Tour-
All Trails Link to Self-Guided Victoria Walking Tour
Thunderbird Park – 
Visitor information and what to expect at Thunderbird Park
BC Legislature –
Visiting the Legislature
Fisherman’s Wharf –
Visitor information and what to expect at Fisherman’s Wharf
Victoria Water Taxi –
Experience Victoria’s Water Taxi in the Inner Harbour
Live Map Water Taxi Locations
Victoria Chinatown –
Visitor Information on what to expect in Victoria’s Chinatown

 

Budget Hotels In Victoria

Gear Tips For Vancouver Island

When you’re gearing up for an outdoor adventure on Vancouver Island, the key is to dress in layers, no matter the season. The island’s weather can throw curveballs, with conditions varying significantly from the sheltered forests to the breezy coastlines.

For those cool winter escapades, your go-to should include quality rain gear, topped off with a cozy beanie or toque, and a pair of light gloves to keep the chill at bay.

Summer explorers, don’t be fooled by the warmer temps; that same waterproof shell that kept you dry in the winter will be your best friend against the cool ocean breezes.

Remember, the right clothing and gear can make or break your outdoor experience on Vancouver Island, ensuring you enjoy every moment, come rain or shine.

THE NORTH FACE women's waterproof antora jacket sq
THE NORTH FACE Women's
Waterproof Antora Jacket
North face mens antora Rain Hoodie black sq
THE NORTH FACE Men's
Antora Rain Hoodie
Helly Hansen Mens seven J waterproof rain coat sq
Helly Hansen Men's
Breathable Rain Coat
Polygon 32 oz waterbottle sq
32oz Water Bottle
for Fitness and Outdoor
Osprey Sportlite 20 Hiking Backpack sq
Osprey Sportlite 20
Hiking Backpack
adventure first aid kit
Adventure Medical Kit
Ultralight and Watertight

Photo Gallery:

FAQ:

What is the best time of year to enjoy walking tours in Victoria?
Victoria’s mild climate makes it a great walking city year-round. However, the most pleasant weather for walking tours is typically from late spring to early fall, when temperatures are warmer and rainfall is less frequent.

Are there guided walking tours available in Victoria?
Yes, Victoria offers a variety of guided walking tours that cater to different interests, including historical tours, ghost walks and culinary tours. 

Does Victoria have a lot of hills?
Besides getting down to the water’s edge along the harbour, downtown Victoria is relatively flat with minimal hills, another reason it makes for such a great walking city. 

How walkable is Victoria for visitors with mobility issues?
Victoria is known for being quite accessible, with many flat and well-maintained pathways. However, some historic areas might have uneven surfaces. It’s advisable to check specific routes in advance for accessibility. Water taxi wheelchair options are limited.

Can I bring my dog on walks in Victoria?
Absolutely! Victoria is a dog-friendly city. Many outdoor areas welcome dogs, though keeping them on a leash and be mindful of specific regulations in certain parks or public spaces..

What should I wear for a walking tour in Victoria?
Comfortable walking shoes are a must. Depending on the season, dress in layers, as the weather can change throughout the day. Don’t forget to bring a rain jacket or umbrella, especially between October and April, as Victoria is known for its occasional rain showers.

Are there public restrooms available along popular walking routes in Victoria?
Yes, public restrooms can be found at major tourist spots and parks along the popular walking routes, such as at Fisherman’s Wharf and near the Inner Harbour.

How safe is it to walk around Victoria?
Victoria is generally a safe city for pedestrians. As always, it’s advisable to stay aware of your surroundings, especially when walking in the evening.

Are there places to stop for food or drinks along the walking routes?
Definitely! Victoria boasts a vibrant food scene, and there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and food kiosks along the major walking routes, especially in areas like Fisherman’s Wharf, Government Street, and Old Town.

Budget Hotels In Victoria

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Modified: January 2, 2024
Last Visit: November 4, 2023

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