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Victoria has changed radically in recent years as the young and entrepreneurial have moved in. They've transformed fusty "ye olde England" pubs and shops into bohemian-chic restaurants and artisan markets. You can still explore the local castle, stroll lovely gardens and go orca watching, but now you can eat well while doing so.
The mother lode of wood-floored coffee bars, foodie emporiums and arty boutiques huddle in the walkable downtown. The harbor is the focal point here, abuzz with seaplanes, ferries and tour boats headed out in search of whales. The James Bay neighborhood is next door, rich in sights and Victorian architecture. The sumptuous Empress Hotel, multi-domed Parliament Buildings and artifact-crammed Royal British Columbia Museum rise in this district. Victoria's small but atmospheric Chinatown, set under a striking gate, also abuts downtown.
A bit further out is swanky Rockland, home to turreted Craigdarroch Castle, and Oak Bay Village, known for its tea rooms and cycling paths. Fifteen miles onward, mega-popular Butchart Gardens offers fragrant blooms and concerts amid the greenery.