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Weekend getaway itinerary: 48 hours of walkable food and fun in Downtown Victoria

Pack your walking shoes and get ready to have your fill of fantastic food and all sorts of fun

Downtown Victoria is one of B.C.'s most charming destinations, thanks to its waterfront locale, historic sites, vibrant culture, and great shops and dining options. For travellers who are content to step into their walking shoes and hone in on Victoria's lively central core, there is plenty to see, do, and - most importantly - eat to easily fill 48 hours.

Getting to Victoria from Metro Vancouver is a breeze, whether it be by BC Ferries (Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay is the closest route) or seaplane, direct to Victoria's picturesque Inner Harbour. Once you've arrived, ditch the car in favour of exploring Downtown Victoria on foot. You're steps from all sorts of terrific food and drink, from cozy cafes to upscale restaurants, and all sorts of ways to fill the time in between meals. 

Whether you're a history buff, art enthusiast, or simply seeking the perfect spot for a leisurely walk, Victoria's downtown area has something for everyone.

Solo travellers, couples on a romantic getaway, or families seeking memorable experiences can take note of all the food and fun at hand for a weekend (or two-night) escape to British Columbia's welcoming capital. Geek out on retro toys and arcade games, shop at local small businesses, and enjoy your fill of coffee, cocktails, award-winning restaurant fare, and delicious sweet treats, all without driving a kilometre (minus the drives from and to the ferry terminal).

Note: the trip outlined in this guide was conducted from a Saturday morning through a Monday evening.

Day One: Mini golf and maximum deliciousness

9 a.m. Depart from BC Ferries' Tsawwassen terminal for Swartz Bay. You've made a reservation, so you just need to arrive in the 30 to 60-minute window ahead of departure. You could grab breakfast at the terminal while you wait, on board, or BYO. The bottom line is: Don't fill up. You've got a lot of eating ahead to do.

10:40 a.m. Arrive in Swartz Bay and hit the road for Downtown Victoria. 

11 a.m. Drop off your car at your hotel. Choosing a stay that's in Victoria's Downtown core means you can ditch the car and get around on foot until it's time to depart. The Magnolia Hotel & Spa is a fantastic option; this boutique stay has probably one of the comfiest hotel beds, a friendly and helpful staff, lovely amenities (like coffee, tea, hot apple cider, and snacks in the lobby), and rooms with luxe touches like Dyson hair dryers.

11:30 a.m. Walk to Discovery Coffee on Blanshard to fuel up with an excellent coffee. Grab a Yonni's donut while you're there, in case you need a little snack to tide you over. Feel free to ponder the whole "doughnut" versus "donut" spelling debate, if you need help landing on a topic.

Pop into Discovery Coffee for a drink and a donut. Lindsay William-Ross/V.I.A.

12:30 p.m.: Brunch at Bear & Joey. Known for being one of Victoria's most aesthetic cafes, Bear & Joey's origin story puts this charming and popular coffee and brunch spot as being a nod to Aussie cafe culture. To that end, while you may not hear a single "g'day," you can ogle the pastel interior while you sip coffee, tea, or cocktails (and mocktails) along with dishes like beets on toast with seasonally-driven toppings or a divine banh mi-style pork belly sandwich. 

2 p.m.: Enjoy a rousing round of mini golf at the Haunted Manor. This fully indoor mini golf course is cleverly built inside a heritage building and features several challenging holes that have you using your hands, feet, and mind to get your ball where it's meant to go. If you're a little nervous, the staff will warn you about where there are a couple of small scares.

3:30 p.m.: Head back to the Magnolia to relax. On your way, take some time to enjoy Victoria's murals, historic markers, and many eclectic shops. If you need any guidance on how to explore Victoria, the Magnolia offers its guests handy map cards featuring some different ways to experience the city based on your interests, from food lovers to nature enthusiasts. You can also borrow bikes from the hotel to explore on two wheels.

6 p.m.: Dinner at The Courtney Room. So convenient, you don't even need to put on a coat! The Magnolia's in-house restaurant drew instant acclaim when it launched in 2018. Under the leadership of Chef Brian Tesolin, guests can enjoy The Courtney Room's tasting menu featuring several progressive courses. The exciting meal takes guests on a culinary journey that builds in flavour and demonstrates technique and creativity. Dishes in late fall may include plates like an amuse bouche of nasturtium bunuelo, with sea buckthorn and shoyu zuke salmon egg and main courses like Fraser Valley duck breast with mushrooms and brown butter, as well as an immensely satisfying dessert of "Brown Sugar Brulee" which is a milk chocolate cremeux with orange and hazelnut. 

Be sure to check out The Courtney's Room's wonderful cocktail list and wine lovers may wish to either select the optional wine-pairing add-on for the tasting menu or ask for suggested pairings for a course or two by the glass or bottle. 

9 p.m.: Relax back in your room or, if you're up for it, head to Humboldt Bar or Tourist for a nightcap. Odds are you are quite full and you took advantage of The Courtney Room's sommelier's wine suggestions with your dinner, so a relaxing bath might be a good plan. The Magnolia has bubble bath from Saltspring Soapworks in your room, so that might be the best "pour" on your agenda before bedtime.

Day Two: Steps, sweets, and one of Canada's Best New Restaurants

9 a.m. Put on your walking shoes because you're going to log some serious steps today. Hit the pavement and head to Hey Happy for coffee. This is a colourful, modern coffee spot on the edge of Chinatown. Half the cafe is the main counter where they make specialty tea and espresso drinks, along with drip coffee, and have pastries and breakfast sandwiches on offer. If you're ravenous, give in to temptation, but if you are fine with just a beverage, be sure to set aside some time to take a seat and hang out. Don't worry, your next stop isn't far. 

10 a.m. Brunch at Eva Schnitzelhaus. Victoria is a city that loves its brunch, but this German-inspired spot flies a little under the radar on the weekends when it serves up a brunch menu that, unsurprisingly, showcases its golden-fried schnitzel. The Jaegerschnitzel features schnitzel topped with poached eggs and mushroom sauce with a side of greens (for health), and the Smoked Trout Benny has its poached eggs perched on sauerkraut pancakes topped with Hollandaise - both worthy brunch dishes. 

11:30 a.m. Do some shopping in Downtown Victoria. Be sure to make a stop at Munro's Books, one of the city's most beloved bookstores, and take some time to roam the shelves. There are so many quirky shops in the area, so surely plenty of businesses will catch your eye, whether you love art, puzzles, home decor, or antiques. Fans of vintage/retro toys will want to pop into Cherry Bomb for a big hit of nostalgia. 

1 p.m. Play some retro games at Quazar's arcade. Try your hand at classic arcade games like Donkey Kong, BurgerTime, and Tetris, or jump in the driver's seat for Mario Kart. 

2 p.m. Stop for an ice cream at Chocolats Favoris. This is the only location of this Quebec chain west of Ontario, and you will surely catch the aroma of chocolate wafting down Government Street long before you cross the charming ice cream fountain's threshold. Chocolats Favoris does soft-serve treats in cups and cones they dunk in their warm, thick, rich chocolate coating. Even the small sizes are massive and decadent, and easily stand in for a sit-down lunch when you have lots of other fantastic restaurants on the agenda for the day. 

2:30 p.m. If you haven't been to Miniature World, put this charming museum on the bottom level of the historic Empress Hotel on your list. The displays are a little old-fashioned, but enchanting nonetheless, especially when there's a button or two you can push to make trains and cars move or lights flicker off and on.

4 p.m. Happy Hour at Wind Cries Mary. Located in Bastion Square, this hot spot has become emblematic of the recent new wave of modern bar-restaurants in Victoria. Happy Hour drinks are approachable aperitivos like the Pitchfork (Esquimalt vermouth, Cynar, soda, peach bitters), but the full drink menu is also available. Snacks include smoked cod toast or whipped feta with Maiiz corn chips.

6 p.m. You've got dinner reservations at Marilena Café + Raw Bar. This is one of the buzziest restaurants in Victoria, and a 2023 pick for one of the best new restaurants in Canada, and deservedly so. Owned by the same company as Vancouver's Elisa, Blue Water, and Thierry, Marilena is an upscale nod to all things seafood, from elegant crudo to sushi rolls, freshly shucked oysters, and mains like lobster pasta. Cocktails and wine selections here are - unsurprisingly - top-notch, so budget for a splurge and a cab or Uber ride back to your hotel, or enjoy a nighttime stroll to walk off all that delicious food.

Day Three: Make the most of your time in and around Victoria before you hit the road

9:30 a.m.: After a leisurely wake-up, head downstairs for breakfast at The Courtney Room. The restaurant does a lovely weekday breakfast and has the same menu and more available for weekend brunch, including all sorts of egg-centric classics, with an emphasis on seafood. Some great dishes include the Magnolia Omelette (three local farm eggs, Dungeness crab, aged cheddar, chives, Magnolia & paprika Hollandaise) and the Smoked Salmon Benny (two poached local farm eggs, whipped chive crème, caper berries, pickled beets, Magnolia & paprika Hollandaise, on an English muffin). 

11 a.m.: Check out of your room at The Magnolia, but leave the car with the valet and your luggage with the front desk. Enjoy a walk along the harbour and head over to the Parliament buildings

Grab a casual lunch at Maiiz Nixtamal with a menu of casual authentic Mexican eats like tacos, chilaquiles, and esquites, and fresh made before your eyes tortillas. Lindsay William-Ross/V.I.A.

12:30 p.m. Make your way back up into downtown via the waterfront, and hang a right on Fisgard. Your next stop is lunch at Maiiz Nixtamal. Chef/owner Israel Alvarez came to Victoria by way of Edmonton from his native Mexico a few years ago and used to showcase his incredible handmade tortillas and authentic Mexican food as a pop-up at the Breakwater Tasting Room. He now has his own tortilleria and casual restaurant where you can pull up a seat and tuck into tacos, chilaquiles, and esquites in the vibrant cafe/market while watching the tortillas being made with B.C.-grown corn. Don't be surprised if Alvarez greets you by handing you a fresh-off-the-line warm tortilla to try as soon as you walk in. 

1:30 p.m. Need a little jolt in your step? Pick up a coffee for the road at Habit Coffee in Chinatown on your walk back to pick up your luggage and car. 

2 p.m. Fol Epi may have closed its downtown organic bakery location, but they still have a small shop/cafe in West Victoria worth a visit. Once you're back in your car, make a little detour over that way because you'll want to get a fresh loaf of bread and a sweet treat for the afternoon.

2:30 p.m. You've done Butchart Gardens probably, and maybe even Abkhazi Garden, too. So this time, check out The Gardens at Horticulture Centre of the Pacific (HCP) for something different. This is a year-round garden education centre with beautiful grounds you can explore and see the changing seasons up close. Though you probably won't get to see it all, the volunteer at the front desk can help steer you toward some of the seasonal highlights for you to prioritize this visit. 

4-4:30 p.m. Arrive at the BC Ferries terminal in Swartz Bay for the 5 p.m. ferry to Tsawwassen. It's time to head back to the Mainland. You'll be home by suppertime, but if you've done your visit right, you won't be hungry for a single thing. 

Disclaimer: Thanks to The Magnolia Hotel & Spa for accommodations and visits to The Courtney Room and to Tourism Victoria for facilitating some of the featured experiences. Only a portion of the featured businesses hosted visits. All opinions and inclusions are those of the author and were not guided or influenced in any way, and none of the businesses or entities mentioned were granted any previews of this article before publication.