Victoria has undoubtedly earned a place among the world’s top foodie travel cities. It’s a culinary haven that captivates travellers who love to cook, eat and drink their way to understanding a place.
Whether you want to eat every meal in a farm-to-table restaurant, go on guided foraging expeditions, reel in a prehistoric-looking halibut, browse neighbourhood specialty shops, peddle the town on an e-bike brewpub tour or fill your vacation home kitchen with goodies that are a quintessential expression of the region, Victoria has it all.
The list of fun, foodie things to do in the capital city of British Columbia is long. As the city’s only specialty food concierge, we want to ensure you have the best travel food experience possible, so we’re sharing some of our top travel tips.
First Off: Avoid the Tourist Traps
The tourism industry often boasts that Victoria has the highest number of eateries per capita of any Canadian city. True. But as the adage goes, quantity doesn’t always equal quality. For many moons, a running joke among foodie locals has been that there are so many restaurants, yet few good places to eat. Of course, there’s always been a handful of treasures in the mix (some have even been around for 50+ years). Nowadays, though, gems abound thanks to a booming food, beer and spirit scene.
As you venture into the culinary tapestry of Victoria, it’s essential to be discerning and sidestep the allure of many tourist hot spots. As with all top tourist destinations, prime scenic real estate is primarily occupied by restaurants serving over-priced, mediocre food. In Victoria, that means most establishments near the inner harbour and along Wharf and Government Streets. We’ve written a guide to several caveats, but if you’re flying blind, we recommend opting for just drinks (and perhaps a wee bite) at most places. As seasoned travellers do, ask your server or mixologist where they love to go. Locals always know best!
Victoria’s Landscape Inspires Culinary Excellence
Victoria is renowned for its epic natural beauty. It’s the kind of city people visit, fall in love with, then move to – that’s precisely what happened to our founder almost 30 years ago. And she has since seen it happen to more than one visitor staying in her suite. There’s a reason Condé Nast readers voted it the second-best small city in the world in 2022. The paradox of prim British architecture tethered in by the lush, unruly Pacific Northwest has a particular magnetism.
Nestled along the salt-swept coastlines of the Salish Sea and flanked by misty rainforests, fertile farmlands and glacial-peaked mountains, the city has grown to be the home of a vibrant culinary scene deeply influenced by the essence of its surroundings.
The bustling food scene weaves together the talents of sustainable farmers, skilled artisans, and innovative chefs who draw inspiration from the bountiful oceans, verdant lands, and temperate climate that define the region.
Touring Victoria’s Foodie Scene
For locals and visitors alike, being immersed in the terroir and talents of this acclaimed destination is as satisfying as it is interesting. Whether you’re a fastidious foodie or simply someone who appreciates a good meal, there’s something to satisfy all cravings and curiosities.
Embarking on a food and drink tour is an interactive way to tantalize the taste buds and unveil the city’s history and culture. A Taste of Victoria, Off the Eaten Track and The Pedaler are just a few options with guided tour itineraries that meander through the city stopping at top restaurants, neighbourhood markets, craft breweries and the like. Tourism Victoria curates a list of tour options, but it’s not comprehensive, so be sure to do a Google search to see what other phenomenal ideas come up.
If you’re more of an independent adventurer, the Greater Victoria Flavour Trails is a fabulous resource to look up. The Flavour Trail is a self-guided tour through the exceptional producers dispersed across the Saanich Peninsula and the Southern Gulf Island archipelago. The bucolic splendour of this sub-Mediterranea climate peaks from May through September, when day trips by bike or car will lead you to opportunities to discover local honey, small-batch cider, micro wineries, heirloom tomatoes, cheese-makers, and roadside stalls that offer the best of the season’s harvest.
Savour the City’s Spectacular Markets
If you love to cook at your vacation rental, Victoria is an epicure’s paradise. This is a place where local masterpieces and imported delights come together to orchestrate a symphony of flavours that resonates with the palates of the most discerning gourmands. The specialty shops, ethical butchers, and farmer’s markets scattered across various neighbourhoods are emporiums of culinary discovery, inviting you to explore an array of exquisite finds from near and far. Some not-to-be-missed foodie havens include The Market Garden in Vic West, Ottavio Bakery and Deli in Oak Bay, The Local General Store in Oaklands and Fig Mediterranean Deli, which is a little off the beaten path but well worth going the extra mile for.
The region’s food and beverage artisans are masters of their craft, transforming raw ingredients into works of gastronomic artistry. Envision fresh mozzarella made with milk from the island’s resident herd of water buffalo and soft, tangy goat cheese made freshly on the Salt Spring Island Cheese farm and island-grown wheat transformed into rustic bread and elaborate pastries.
While most artisan products can be found in the city’s specialty shops and delis, an evening or weekend farmers market is one of the best places to procure them. Often, the artisans themselves are there to sell their wares. Relish the opportunity to engage with passionate makers and growers, learning the stories behind each creation that graces your basket. Be sure to stroll through the Saturday markets in Fairfield and James Bay or the weeknight events in Esquimalt and Oaklands.
Sustaining Local Culinary Culture
Savoring Victoria isn’t just about enjoying food; it’s about immersing yourself in the heart of the city’s culinary identity. By exploring the local foodie scene, you’re not only treating yourself to the finest foods around but also contributing to the vitality of the local community and embracing the spirit of sustainability.
For us at Well Provisioned, embracing a support-local philosophy is a core value; it’s a commitment to creating a better world by fostering resilient and thriving local communities, economies, and ecosystems. Supporting locals who intentionally and ethically do what they love most makes for a more prosperous and happy world.
Victoria is a destination that beckons you to explore its landscapes, culture, and culinary riches. You can discover the region’s bounty while becoming part of its story. Immerse yourself in a foodie travel journey that connects you with the flavours of the land, the passion of our locals, and the joy of experiencing unique moments. There are numerous tours and flavour trails to hop on, so let your gourmet odyssey begin.
And, of course, if you don’t have time to explore Victoria’s culinary treasures yourself, Well Provisioned can help with our customized concierge services. We can do all the running around and deliver the best of the city to your vacation rental so you can enjoy the quintessential expressions of the region, all without lifting a finger.