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November 9, 2010 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Two nights in Victoria, what should we do?

We are doing a two night getaway this Thursday and Friday night to Victoria (BC). We have had a very stressful couple of months and decided we needed our own little getaway. So, we are treating ourselves to high tea, we will make a stop at the bug museum and Rebar is in the plans for dinner. We would like some recommendations on daytime activities. (Is the Royal BC Museum worth a go?) Please recommend coffee shops where can we get an awesome latte and snack and sit and enjoy our surroundings, possibly have breakfast.

We are staying at the Marriot Inner Harbour and will have a car but things within walking distance are a plus.
posted by sadtomato to Travel & Transportation around Victoria, BC (23 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
The museum is great, I think you'll really like it. The replica streetscapes are especially fun.

Breakfast at the Blue Fox Cafe is great (I especially love their bread), but expect a line up.
posted by ripley_ at 5:17 PM on November 9, 2010

Breakfast: Cabin 12 is my favourite breakfast place in town.

Coffee: Street Level (on Fort St.) and Habit (in the Atrium building on Yates St) have amazing coffee.

Other good food spots: Pig (around the corner from Habit); Hernande'z; Red Fish, Blue Fish

To Do: definitely the Royal BC Museum. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is also worth a visit.

Since Thursday is Remembrance Day, some places will be closed in the morning and open after 11:00am.
posted by atropos at 5:40 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I live about 2 blocks from your hotel, just behind the museum, and I must say that drinking coffee and walking around downtown Victoria is basically all I do in my downtime.

The BC Museum is definitely worth a visit. Cabin 12 is a cheaper, roomier alternative to John's Place for breakfast - I would recommend it, too, although their coffee isn't very good.

Pig at Atrium is pretty awesome, easily the best fast food in Victoria. Habit, which is next door, offers great coffee, but Victoria is full of great little coffee shops. My personal favourite is Bean Around the World on Fisgard Street, in Chinatown. I like Bean Around the World because it has (in my opinion) the best drip coffee in Victoria. The staff are hip (and cute) but really friendly. It's an inclusive place. Red Fish, Blue Fish also offers the best seafood in town (although I would ask them to hold off on the salt).

Other coffee shops include 2% Jazz and Cafe Fantasico. There are three Cafe Fantasticos in Victoria: one in Quadra Village (kind of like Victoria's answer to Commercial Drive), one at Dockside Green (park your car at Ocean Pointe and walk over - the shipyard is cool, and you can walk all the way to a nice rail trestle at Selkirk Waterfront), and the third one is in Cook Street Village. I tend to find Cook Street Village a little overrated, but it is a good place to begin and end a walk along Dallas Road and the Cattle Point area, as there are plenty of coffee shops in Cooksilano, which means plenty of places to go to the bathroom.

You can get anywhere in downtown Victoria by foot from your hotel (I live a couple of blocks away, on the other side of the Museum).

I've never really understood why Rebar is so popular, although I suppose the fruit smoothies are worth it.

Russell Books on Fort Street, just above Douglas (about 2 blocks from your hotel) should be checked out. It's one of the largest used bookstores in Canada. Streetlevel Coffee, a couple of doors down from Russell's has great espresso.

Lower Johnson Street, between Wharf and Government is also a great place to do some window shopping. It's near Chinatown.

Ditch Records on Johnson Street is one of the last actual record/CD stores in Victoria, and they have a great selection. That entire section of Johnson, around Broad, has plenty of cool shops. Especially cool is Cherrybomb Toys.

For nightlife, why not go up to the UVic SUB, grab a cheap beer at Felicita's, and then go catch a movie at Cinecenta?

During the day, check out Robinson's Sporting Goods and MEC.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:02 PM on November 9, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, I probably should have mentioned that one of us is vegetarian so places that have some veg options would be great. I have Rebar's cookbook and love it and have been wanting to try it for ages.
posted by sadtomato at 6:05 PM on November 9, 2010

The museum happens to have a lot going on for Remembrance Day -- They've given free admission to vetrans (and serving members) on Remembrance Day if that applies to you.

Definitely take a stroll up Government and Johnson Street -- lots of great, local stores. Murchies on Government is one of my favourite coffee houses. (Be sure to check out Munroe's bookstore next door if you're a bookworm).

Take a (free) tour of the Legislature Buildings (right next to the museum).

Tourism Victoria is a great resource for fun things to do -- they have a pretty active Facebook page, too.

If you're into mixology, check out Clives (it's only a block away from the Marriot). They have amazing, exotic, crazy cocktails.

And don't miss out on Chinatown... it's a fab place to explore.

Have fun!!
posted by Cat Face at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2010

I'll second pretty much everything KokuRyo said. I also think that ReBar is overrated, but lots of people swear by it, so you probably shouldn't listen to me. I'd go to Paglicacci's instead though.

Friday is trivia night at the Fort St. Cafe. The hosts are really fun and it's got a good mix of funny and challenging questions. Get there by 8 if you're interested, it fills up fast.
posted by auto-correct at 6:12 PM on November 9, 2010

The only Japanese restaurant I go to in Victoria (my wife's cooking is much much better) is almost right across the street from your hotel. It's called Daidoco. They use fresh local ingredients from Metchosin, and I'm pretty sure they have a vegetarian option. It's all organic, and it's actually like eating in a small family-run restaurant in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:14 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Habit coffee is amazing. Best coffee I've had in Victoria.

Red Fish Blue Fish is amazing, though not a vegetarian option.

I found Rebar to be good, but not as good as the cookbook. Maybe my expectations were too high.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 6:29 PM on November 9, 2010

Personally, I think Mo:le beats Rebar these days, but they don't serve dinner anymore. Their breakfast menu on the other hand is brilliant. Actually, there are three great breakfast options within as many blocks: Mo:le, Cabin 12 and Lady Marmalade.
posted by Lorin at 6:40 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you having tea at the Empress? If so, did you get two for the price of one? Here's a link to their Facebook page - the offer is described in their wall post on Nov 5th. It's effective for tea on Nov 8th through 12th. That's a $51 savings!

I think the museum is well worth a visit - you'll probably take longer than you plan because it's so interesting.
posted by nelvana at 7:08 PM on November 9, 2010

Habit is good but Caffe Fantastico is better. They have a cafe on the other side of the blue bridge (in Dockside Green, you'll see what I mean) that has a great view of the inner harbour.

For food I'd also recommend Ferris' Grill or Spinnakers for good west coast cuisine (also not a fan of rebar anymore), Brasserie L'Ecole for fancy French fare and either Hernandez or Daidoco (mentioned above) for cheap and awesome lunches.

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Craigdarroch Castle are also within walking distance of downtown.

Now, here's my total money link for Victoria visitors. Are you ready? Check this out: Streetscapes of Victoria.
posted by talkingmuffin at 7:12 PM on November 9, 2010

Red Fish Blue Fish is a pretty awesome fish take-out lunch snack down on the dock... uh, sorry not strictly veggie...

Things to do during the day: Bug Zoo and Miniature World: Bug Zoo is excellent if you are not too skittish about bugs; Miniature World is especially cool if you like models and dioramas.
posted by ovvl at 7:15 PM on November 9, 2010

Response by poster: ok, you guys are convincing me to try something other than Rebar.
posted by sadtomato at 7:38 PM on November 9, 2010

Definitely the BC museum!
posted by howgenerica at 7:41 PM on November 9, 2010

Came in to recommend Blue Fox Cafe, Caffe Fantastico, and Pizzeria Primastrada. Mount Royal Bagels are a personal fav, but not typically of Victoria, but there the damned closest I can get to Montreal bagels. They sell out early in the day.
posted by kch at 7:43 PM on November 9, 2010

This is by far not the prettiest time of year to see Victoria. (We just had a storm that blew away all the last of autumn colour, it seems.) It's cold, grey, dark and rainy, alas.

If you have a car, I always take visitors along Dallas Road to Beach Drive, ocean front all the way. Then we gawk at Uplands.

For the daytime--there are some local wineries and even a local distillery, if you explore out of town. A bottle of Victoria Gin would be a nice souvenir! I like the Saanich rural area.

My favourite restaurant is still Pagliacci's.

Munro's Books is great. (Although I'm closer to Bolen Books, so my money often goes there.) Russell Books is good as well--friends know to give me gift certificates, and they have "two stores", so you haven't seen all of Russell until you've gone back out onto the street and climbed the stairs to fiction.

Try the harbour ferries. Take the Westsong Walkway. Check out the Ross Bay Cemetary. Come out to Royal Roads and see Hatley Castle.

But do bear in mind that this is a city that looks its best in summer, when the sea is blue and the flowers are blooming. November is kind of grim! I was just remarking to a co-worker that this is not the best time of year for our city.
posted by Savannah at 7:50 PM on November 9, 2010

Have a chocolate malt at Rogers' Chocolates Soda Shoppe, and visit the actual chocolate shop next door! Mmmmm.
posted by archagon at 2:11 AM on November 10, 2010

Echoing the Miniature World suggestion. It's just around the corner from the museum, it's inexpensive, and it's utterly bizarre and wonderful. They have the world's smallest functional sawmill (no longer functional) and a replica of the house that Queen Victoria grew up in (with functional, flushable toilets). My favourite sections were probably either the war section (with cotton fluff gunsmoke!) or the space section (which is inexplicably Trekky).
posted by monkeymonkey at 5:19 AM on November 10, 2010

Seconding Pagliacci's for dinner (no reservations, but they serve you free wine and bread in line), and Mole for breakfast. Russell Books is also well worth a visit, although, as a staff alumnus, I'm biased.

If you're looking for vegetarian fast food for lunch, the vegan buffet at the Lotus Pond on Johnston St. (just down from Ditch Records) goes half-price at 2:30 PM. Get there and hover at 2:20 to beat the hippies.

For an off-the-beaten path recommendation which is still just minutes from downtown, the old Chinese cemetery at Harling Point is pretty sublime.
posted by Beardman at 6:20 AM on November 10, 2010

Oh yeah, and Pag's often has live music on the weekend nights. There used to be a bunch of music students from UVic who would do some wicked klezmer on Fridays.
posted by Beardman at 6:21 AM on November 10, 2010

I came in to recommend the Lotus Pond as well - best deep-fried wontons ever.
posted by Gortuk at 9:17 AM on November 10, 2010

Response by poster: Just thought I would give an update. We had a fantastic two days. High tea at the Empress was great and all the better with the 2 for 1 deal! Thanks for that tip, Nelvana!

The bug zoo was a great as I remembered it, if anyone else goes, make sure to stick with one of the guides, they are full of interesting information and will let you hold some of the bugs. We also enjoyed perusing Russel books.

Habit had great coffee. Cabin 21 was ok for breakfast but probably wouldn't go back. Will try Mo:le next time. We did end up going to Rebar, and it was much as you all described. It would have been better for lunch but the juices were excellent!

Our favourite food place was Brasserie L'cole. We went for late dessert and had some of the best dessert ever and asked for it to be paired with some dessert wine and the pairings were perfect. The table next to us almost made us order a second dinner because their food looked so good. Next time we are in Victoria we will be eating dinner here for sure.

We ran out of time for the Royal BC Museum because we did lots of walking and a little shopping in between.

We were sad that our visit was so short if only to be able to try more of the restaurants that were recommended.
posted by sadtomato at 5:23 PM on November 14, 2010

Thanks for the update. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself and were able to take advantage of the 2 for 1 offer!
posted by nelvana at 10:17 PM on November 17, 2010

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