Cafés and Coffees:
Habit Coffee – Great, independent and fair trade coffee (552 Pandora Ave. and a new location at the Atrium, new BC Ferries Building, 808 Yates St., both Downtown) – I came across this coffee shop when I was working on a web design project at UVic years ago and have been going back every time I’m in Victoria, and taking friends and visitors there. Shane, the owner, works at both locations now, so if you see him, please say hi from me! Open till 6pm daily. No Wi-Fi. $3-7.
Moka House – Coffee shop (345 Cook St., Cook Street Village) – Official coffee stop on the way to Dallas Road ocean walk. They have cozy arm chairs and a sunny sidewalk patio. This used to be one of the few alternatives to Starbucks in Victoria for many years, then many other great independent and fair trade coffee shops opened, but Moka House is still there. Try their hot apple cider if you’re there in the winter. $5-10.
Relish Food and Coffee – great new café! (920 Pandora Ave. Downtown) – Great food, coffee, and service! Gourmet sandwiches and lunch menu prepared by the owner himself daily. Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm. Free Wi-Fi. Thanks, Aletta for introducing me to this place! $5-15.
Union Pacific Coffee Co. – Fair trade organic coffee (537 Herald St., Downtown) This great coffee shop was a new discovery for me. Spacious and original, cozy and friendly. Open daily, patio in the back, in the Dragon Alley. They have a games table and great vintage stuff on their shelves. Cozy and spacious. $5-10.
Tea and Chocolate Time:
Venus Sophia Tea Room – café and tea shop (540 Fisgard St., Chinatown) This was another great discovery. Great selection of teas and delicious food and pastries freshly made. Quaint atmosphere with cozy sitting areas, lots of arm chairs, rocking chairs and couches. Decorated with roses, bicycles, tea pots, and books. Try the Quiche or any of the sandwiches. Daily 11- 6pm. $5-12.
Silk Road Tea Shop and Spa – Victoria’s famous tea shop (1624 Government St, Chinatown). They offer tea tastings and wokshops, as well as spa services. Open daily until 6pm (till 5pm on Sundays). Their teas are now served at various cafés in Vancouver and Victoria, including Shine Café. $5-25.
Chocolat – Chocolatiere de Victoria (703 Fort St. corner Douglas) Open daily 9:30am-6pm, and 11:30am-4pm on Sundays. Best hot chocolate in town! Café and boutique. $5-25.
Brunch and Lunch:
Jam – Best breakfast and lunch EVER! (542 Herald St., Downtown) Open daily 8-3pm, no reservations, line-ups on the weekends. Across the street from Union Pacific Coffee, by the same owners, in the same decor style. Try their Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich, or the Red Velvet Pancakes, or the Pan-fried Oatmeal – they all will take your taste-buds to a new level! For a philosophical contemplation of jam, check out Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy essay and my blog post. $10-20.
Agrius – named best new brunch place in Canada! (732 Yates St., downtown) Open daily 11am-2pm, and on some evening 5-10pm. Great new brunch place in Victoria, with a lumberjack-chic aesthetic of rustic minimalism and hipsterism. But the food is actually great. They make their own jam and other goodies. Try their eggs benny. In the same building as Fol Epi French bakery that has great pain au chocolat and Fantastico coffee! $10-20.
Fuego – Old Town Eatery (134-, 560 Johnson St, Market Square) Mexican brunch and lunch. Owned by the owners of Cafe Mexico but specializing in brunch and lunch specials. Open daily 8am-3pm. Try their eggs benny and pancakes (with apples infused with orange zest) for a favour fest! $10-15
Molé – Best breakfast and lunch (554 Pandora Ave., Downtown) Right next to Habit Coffee and Bliss. They serve delicious breakfast, brunch, and lunch food. Famous for their pesto potatoes. Everything is delicious, so you will have to come back many times. Busy on the weekends. Open daily 8-3pm. $12-20.
Shine Cafe – Breakfast cafe (1548 Fort St., Oak Bay Junction) This is Victoria’s busiest little cafe, even on weekdays you may have to wait for a table. But it’s worth the wait, the food is delicious. Large selection of breakfast and lunch food. They also serve Silk Road teas. Daily 9-3pm. $10-15.
Part and Parcel – Handcrafter cooking (2656 Quadra St.) Small casual counter service restaurant with a seasonal, local menu that changes often. All meat is ethically raised and seafood is sustainably sourced. Open daily except Sundays 11:30am-9pm. $10-15.
Italian Bakery – authentic Italian bakery and cafe (3197 Quadra St.) Established in 1978, it has grown from baked goods, gelato and Italian coffee to meals to eat-in-or-go options. They offer a fine selection of northern Italian pasteries, sweets, cakes, and organic sourdough breads. They also make and sell fresh pasta and pizza dough. Open daily 7am-6pm and from 9am-4pm on Sundays. $5-15.
Willie’s Bakery & Café – Breakfast and lunch cafe (537 Johnson St., Downtown) Delicious breakfast and brunch food. Try their brioche French Toast with Mascarpone cream cheese, and get their carrot cake to go! Great covered patio open in the summer, which makes the cafe more spacious and lively. Open till 4pm. $5-15.
Baan Thai – still the best Thai food on the island! (1117 Blanchard St., Downtown and 104-2000 Cadboro Bay in Oak Bay) – Open for lunch and dinner. Try their red chicken curry, either with lemon grass, or bamboo shoots. It’s the best I’ve ever had. Anywhere in Canada! Thank you Rachel for introducing it to me years ago, I’ve been coming back ever since! Their Thai ice tea is also great! $10-20.
10 Acres Kitchen (formerly Pescatores) – best seafood farm to table restaurant (614 Humboldt St., across from the Empress Hotel) – for more casual dining try their “Commons” pub (formerly The Oyster Bar) – same kitchen but different menus. Try their garlic-butter prawns! $20-50.
Shizen Sushi – Best sushi and Bento Boxes in Victoria (1706 Government St., Chinatown), open daily for lunch 11:30am-3pm and for dinner 5-9:30pm. They have some unusual sushi creations like the teriyaki beef sushi and the sushi pizza, as well as the classics. Try my favourite yam tempura roll. $10-20.
Japanese Village – Still the best Japanese grill (734 Broughton St., Downtown) – they are famous for their entertaining chefs who cook your meal right in front of you. The Teriyaki Salmon is great. Open for lunch and dinner. The lunch menu is just as great but half the price! Try their steak sauce! It’s addictive! They also have a sushi bar. Great for larger groups and special occasions. $12-30.
Veneto Tapa Lounge – Bar and restaurant (Realto Hotel, 653 Pandora Ave., Downtown) – the bar now boasts of the best bartenders in Victoria, and the tapas are truly delicious! Try the lamb trey. Or the NY steak sliders. Great for dinners, dates, or cocktails with friends. $15-25.
Vista 18 – On the top floor of the Chateau Victoria Hotel (740 Burdett Ave., Downdown) – great view! Open daily 6:30am-midnight. Great for small groups or banquets. Live music on Friday nights. Try their Liberty School California Cabernet Sauvignon red wine. Or stop by for a cocktail at Clive’s on the main floor, ranked in the top four cocktail bars in Canada. $15-45.
Tapa Bar – Delicious Spanish tapas (620 Trounce Alley, between Broad St. and Government St.) Open daily 11:30am-10pm. They have the best garlic shrimp (served in melted garlic butter) in the city, cheese fondue, and sangria all year around! $15-45.
Il Terrazzo – Northern Italian cuisine (555 Johnson St. next to Willie’s Bakery) Open daily 5-10pm and for lunch during the weekdays. They specialize in wood-oven roasted meats and pizza, home-made pasta, and fresh West Coast seafood, and are known as Victoria’s best Italian restaurant. $25-45.
Bard & Banker – Scottish Pub (1022 Government St., Downtown) – great live music gigs. Great spacious atmosphere and good beers. Multiple sitting areas and levels (they recently expanded). I have not tried their food yet, but I will next time! $10-25.
Canoe Brewpub – Brewery and restaurant (459 Swift St., Downtown) – Great food and drinks. And they have a large outdoor patio overlooking the water front. I celebrated my 20th birthday in their upstairs dining mezzanine and have been back regularly ever since. Great casual atmosphere on the bar side, with a pool table. Restaurant on multiple levels on the other side. In the summer they set up a large patio by the water where you can watch the sunset! $10-30.
Fernwood Inn – Pub and restaurant (1302 Gladstone Ave., Fernwood) – This used to be a seedy pub called George and Dragon, and it used to be my high school hang out place. Every lunch break, when we had a spare or were simply skipping class, about 6 or 7 of my friends and I would sit by the bay window, order a round of coffees and one basket of fries to share. Now the new, renovated and re-styled pub has the best new menu I’ve tried in a long time. Try the halibut avocado burger! And the Philips Chocolate Porter beer! $15-25.
Spinnakers – Brewery and restaurant (308 Catherine St., Esquimalt) One of the nicest pubs in Victoria with ocean and downtown view, just across the Blue Bridge. Restaurant and gift shop downstairs, pub upstairs. Patio open in the summer. Great food and deserts. Beer tastings of their locally brewed beers. Try their Blue Bridge bottles beer. $12-28.
Nourish Kitchen and Café – local farm to table restaurant (225 Quebec St.) Delicious food, great for brunch and dinner, Open daily 9am-9pm and until 3pm on Sundays and Mondays. $15-45.
Origin Gluten-free Bakery – Great bakery (1525 Pandora Ave., Oak Bay Junction) Delicious, new, healthy bakery right across from the Stadacona Park tennis courts. Close to Shine Café. They specialize in gluten free breads and pastries, as well as special cake orders. Tue-Sat. 7:30-5:30pm. $4-15.
Café Bliss – Raw Food and Juice Bar (556 Pandora Ave., Downtown) 100% organic, 100% vegetarian, 100% wheat and gluten free, 100% fresh and local ingredients. Similar to Crudessence in Montréal, they also published their own cookbook, Blissful. Right next to Molé and Habit Coffee. Open daily from 11am to 7pm. $10-15.
Be Love – Gourmet vegetarian and vegan food (1019 Blanshard St.) They have a great selection of fresh juices, smoothies, and hot drinks, seasonal and local food, as well as great desserts! They also have delicious brunch! Open daily 11am-9:30pm. $15-25.
Yalla – Healthy middle eastern food (1011 Blanshard St.) They have a delicious Haloumi kale salad which can also be turned into a wrap. Open daily 11am-9pm. $10-20.
Rebar – Healthy gourmet food (50 Bastion Square, Downtown) – Famous for their cookbook, and classics like the Yam Quesadilla, they serve brunch, lunch and dinner with great healthy, vegan, and gluten-free options. Try their Huevos Rancheros for brunch, or the chocolate chip cookies to go. Open daily 11am-9pm. $10-20.
Moss Street Market – Organic Farmers Market (1330 Fairfield Road) Outdoors in the summers Saturdays 10am-2pm until October 31, and indoors starting November, at the Garry Oak Room at 1335 Thurlow Street for the Winter Markets. The Winter Markets run every Saturday (except boxing day), November through April but with reduced hours of 10am to noon. $10-20.
Board Game Cafe – Great selection of board games and great sandwiches, snacks, and milkshakes (723 Yates St.) Only $5 per person, unlimited selection of games great for 2-10 people, and all ages. Open daily 11am-12am. $5-15.
Flying Squirrel Indoor Trampoline Park – (808 Viewfield Rd.) Every Friday and Saturday night the lights go down and the music is turned up! Imagine a club with no gravity combined with lasers, black lights, strobes and fog machines! Bounce to the beat of our resident DJ as he spins the latest tracks making our universe the place to be. Your heart will beat with excitement to experience a night at Neon Lights. Open daily 10am-10pm and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Oak Bay Marina Kayak and Paddle Boarding – They offer guided kayaking tours to Discovery Island (6.5hours tour that departs daily at 9am) exploring by kayak and by foot as well as a stop for a provided lunch. They also have evening kayaking tours to enjoy the sunsets.
Hikes, Walks, and Lakes:
Thetis Lake Hike – This is the best lake and low-intensity hike, about 20min drive from downtown, in View Royal. Parking is free in the off season. In the summer the beach fills up with families every day. The lake is warm-enough to swim, but also great for kayaking and paddle boarding. The water is clean. There are public washrooms and change rooms on the beach. For a longer hike, continue walking to the Upper Thetis Lake, the hidden back lake.
Mount Douglas Hike – This is the best view of the city, the island, and the adjacent islands between U.S. and Canada. 205 meters high, this is a moderate/intensive hike up (but you can also drive up if you’re in a rush to see the view). There are multiple trails inside Mt. Doug park, and three of them lead up the mountain. Careful, it gets muddy and slippery after rainy days!
Elk Lake Trail – This is a flat 10km trail around Elk and Beaver Lakes, about 20min drive from downtown. Elk Lake is warm enough and clean to swim in, and great for water sports (the Victoria Rowing Club is located there).
Durrance Lake – This is a nice lake about 30min drive from downtown. Great for swimming in the summer, or a stroll around the lake. But the parking lot is very small and most people end up parking on the side of the road.
Mount Tolmie – This is a small mountain (45 meters high) near the University of Victoria, with a 360-degree view of Victoria, from where you can watch the sunset and the lights go on in the city. It’s a famous make-out spot for couples.
Ogden Point Breakwater – Popular walk near downtown Victoria that follows the cement structure from Dallas Road out towards on the Juan de Fuca Strait to a lighthouse on its furthest end. You can see the busy harbour traffic as cruise ships, ferries, sailboats, float planes, helicopters and more all pass through the area. To extend your walk, follow the road east along Dallas Road as the scenic route passes through several parks and connects with popular walking areas such as Beacon Hill Park and Clover Point Park. It’s usually windy there, so dress warm!
Willows Beach – This is probably the most popular beach, great for families with a large grass area. In Oak Bay at the intersection of Dalhousie Street and Beach Drive.
Gonzales Beach – Sheltered beach with soft sand and driftwood in Oak Bay.
Arbutus Cove – Beautiful hidden beach in Gordon Head.
Saxe Point – popular beach in Esquimalt, it includes a field, big rocks to explore and climb on, a walking path, a lookout, gardens, and a rocky beach. It boasts a great view of the Olympic mountains, making it a popular wedding spot. Great for picnics, sports, adventuring, exploring, walking, and sunset watching.