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Endless activities in British Columbia’s island capital.

September 04, 2012

BC’s famous island city—with its harborside strolls, intimate restaurants, and luxe hotels—is the perfect place to cozy up. Seaside living is at its best in this capital, with its 19th-century architecture, fragrant gardens, and lively harbor. Seasons are mild here, but to explore the outdoors you’ll want to stick to the high season, between May and October. You can get around by car, but it’s easy not to, thanks to the many bikes, taxis, buses, and horse-drawn carriages that travel along the pretty streets.

Brasserie L'École

Though the building is a former Chinese schoolhouse in the middle of Victoria’s historic Chinatown, Brasserie L'École serves a daily-changing menu of seasonal French-country cuisine. Starters include Medjool dates stuffed with Roquefort and smoked almonds, as well as a classic French onion soup au gratin. The moules frites feature local Quadra Island mussels and French fries, while the restaurant's namesake burger comes topped with Gruyère, endive, and bacon. The design in the high-ceiling dining room also hits a strong French note, with Henri de Toulouse posters, dark wood trim, and bold red walls.

Don Mee Seafood Restaurant

Marked by a massive, three-dimensional sign out front, Don Mee Seafood Restaurant has been in Victoria's Chinatown for more than 80 years. The restaurant has a full menu of Cantonese, Szechuan, and Western-style dishes, such as shrimp sautéed with vegetables, customizable chow mein, and sizzling beef in black pepper sauce. But it's the authentic dim sum that has the most devoted following. At lunch, waitresses make the rounds in the dining room with carts filled with the Cantonese-style snacks. Options include such dishes as steamed chicken buns, spring rolls, barbecue pork buns, and crab claws.

Fairmont Empress

Ivy-covered, British-inspired 1908 hotel (don't miss the traditional afternoon tea with scones and finger sandwiches) facing the Inner Harbour; one of Victoria's best addresses.

The Butchart Gardens

Share a gelato while strolling the flower-carpeted 55 acres complete with traditional Japanese, Italian, and English rose sections.

Christ Church Cathedral

Engagingly out of place among the skyscrapers of downtown, this 1895 Gothic-style cathedral features some of the most expertly crafted stained-glass windows in North America. An Anglican cathedral since 1929, Christ Church offers self-guided walking tours of its 32 Celtic-inspired windows, each depicting a different story from the New Testament. The cathedral's hammerbeam ceiling and peaceful dark-wood interior—along with its exceptional music program—have made the church a popular destination for tourists and worshippers alike. In addition to religious services, chamber music concerts and Shakespeare readings are also held on the premises.

Camille's

At this cozy sanctuary of candlelight and stained glass, you can canoodle over ginger-glazed duck breast or herb-crusted local halibut.

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