Before I flew back to the UK for Christmas, I was determined to get out and about. I wanted to see the best festivities that Vancouver and its surrounding cities had in store. As the capital of British Columbia, I’d always heard that Victoria had lovely Christmas vibes. The whole city is blanketed in festive lights and decorations, and there’s an annual Santa Claus Parade. With my Dad and his wife, we went to go and stay on Vancouver Island to experience a taste of Christmas in Victoria.
From Vancouver to Victoria
It was such a cold December, and we’d already been having snowfall from November. I loved looking out and seeing a thick blanket all over New Westminster, and across Moody Park. The perfect time to go away for a festive weekend.
It was my first visit to Victoria, so I was pretty excited to see it. Despite having visited Vancouver several times throughout my life, I’d never been to Victoria. As the name well suggests, I had heard Victoria has a huge British influence, so I was excited to see how it matched up to my expectations.
To reach Victoria, you need to head to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. From Tsawwassen, it’s a two hour ferry journey across to Vancouver Island. Despite the cold, windy temperatures, the view from the ferry was just beautiful. I always love travelling across the Strait of Georgia as you pass the Gulf Islands. We watched the sun pass over the mountains. One thing I love about catching the ferry is that there’s a White Spot onboard so you can grab a tasty burger for the journey.
After driving from the ferry terminal to downtown Victoria and our hotel, we were welcomed to a setting sun over the harbour. Strangely enough (and despite the sub-zero temperatures), I couldn’t help but think it looked a little like Palma in Mallorca. I think it was partly due to the tropical plants we saw dotted around Victoria Harbour.
Victoria Harbour has a long history, thanks to its initial use by First Nations. Their heritage is marked in the city by totem poles around the harbour. Nowadays, small boats and cruise ships can dock in the centre of Victoria. Throughout summer, visitors can catch festivals and shows here, as well as taking whale watching tours around the area.
Walking around Victoria Harbour, we caught sight of the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Named after Queen Victoria herself, the hotel is famous for its afternoon tea, which is second to none in British Columbia. Make sure you pick an Earl Grey tea!
Check out my luxurious stay at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria.
From the harbour, it’s almost possible to catch a ferry to surrounding American ports in Port Angeles, Bellingham, Seattle, and beyond.
By this point, it’s fair to say we were feeling pretty cold! We managed to find shelter indoors for a while at the Annual Habitat for Humanity Victoria Gingerbread Showcase. This is a huge collection of festive gingerbread houses that perfectly marks the occasion of Christmas in Victoria. Anyone, from home bakers to professionals can show off their skills and talent at the Parkside Hotel & Spa.
Christmas in Victoria
After seeing the gingerbread house showcase, it’s fair to say we were pretty darn cold. We headed back to our hotel to defrost, taking advantage of the wood-burning fire and a complimentary bottle of bubbles.
For dinner during Christmas in Victoria, we went to a lovely little bar and restaurant called The Guild. I highly recommend the fish pie, it was delicious.
To truly celebrate the spirit of Christmas in Victoria, we headed out to watch the Santa Claus Parade from the comfort of our hotel. Here, visitors gather in ‘Christmas Square’ for a parade featuring floats from various organisations all over British Columbia. Afterwards, Santa hands out cookies and milk to kids in Centennial Square, and the Christmas lights are switched on in the evening.
With Christmas in Victoria officially alive with the lights turned on, we went to check out The Bard and Banker. It’s a famous Scottish pub in the heart of Victoria. There’s often live music which really adds to its great atmosphere, and the band in that night was superb. There’s a different band playing each weekend, so make sure you pop in to check it out. Their festive decor was also incredible and it really got us in the Christmas spirit.
The next day, we woke up and popped out for brunch. I had a really tasty huevos rancheros, and we then took another stroll around Victoria Harbour.
It was a cold, crisp morning. We passed the statues of the harbour, including this one of Captain James Cook. As he looks out across Victoria Harbour, it’s a reminder of the captain who discovered the harbour back in 1778.
After walking towards the Parliament of Victoria, we drove towards the beach. We passed the home of famous Canadian painter and writer, Emily Carr. Much of Carr’s work was inspired by the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. There are some great examples of her work in the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Steve Fonyo Beach
We drove on to the beach, keen to find a nice place to walk with some great views. We came across Steve Fonyo Beach, and saw its gorgeous views across to the Olympic Mountains across the border and into the USA.
Afterwards, we left Victoria and continued to drive along Vancouver Island towards Sidney. A cute little fishing village, we braved walking across a fishing pier in freezing temperatures.
As the sign might suggest, there was certainly no risk of us swimming or diving in such cold temperatures. We had a wander around Sidney before heading back towards the ferry terminal to go back to Vancouver. It was wonderful experiencing a little Christmas in Victoria, and I’m sure I’ll be back to the city in future.
There’s my taster of Christmas in Victoria! It was a lovely festive weekend away, and I’m excited to see what Christmas is like in Vancouver.