Story by Tara Henley
VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Victoria has traditionally been known for its cheerful seniors, quaint B&Bs, English flower gardens and elaborate afternoon teas. Times are changing, though, and it’s happening fast.
Sky-high housing prices in Vancouver have driven many in the millennial generation to relocate to the less populated, less pricey provincial capital on Vancouver Island, and they’ve brought their locally roasted coffee with them.
There are now 900 tech companies in town, and a thriving culinary scene that caters to hipster cosmopolitan tastes. Here’s a guide to discovering the new, younger face of Victoria.
Where to Eat
If you’re in the mood to indulge, hit up Jam Café, an all-day breakfast and lunch spot known for its eclectic diner décor and rich comfort-food classics, such as its Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich ($11) and Red Velvet Pancakes ($15). If you prefer lighter fare, head to Be Love, which serves local, organic, plant-based cuisine. Everything is free of wheat, dairy, gluten and processed sugar, and comes with a good helping of heart and soul. Try the $10 Vitality Roll (beet, daikon, burdock root, avocado and steamed brown rice in a nori wrap, served with tasty hoisin dipping sauce) or the $15 Pulled Yam Sandwich (shredded yam doused in BBQ sauce on drool-worthy jalapeno corn bread, with a side of tangy apple and cabbage slaw). For dessert? Definitely the to-die-for tiramisu (rich layers of chocolate mousse, espresso-infused almond cake and coconut whipped cream, for $10).
Where to Stay
Hotel Zed — aptly tag-lined “rebels against the ordinary” — is a renovated motel complex and a certified hipster haven. Kick off your day in the property’s funky retro 1960s lounge, savouring a cup of Discovery coffee, getting your groove on to vintage vinyl collection curated by Ditch Records and chatting with the bearded, laptop-toting clientele. If the weather cooperates, take advantage of the free skateboards or bikes, take a dip in the outdoor hot tub, or give the on-site waterslide a whirl. But if you get caught in a downpour, your entertainment options are still plentiful: You can type up a postcard on a vintage typewriter, take a dip in the indoor pool, make a few calls on the old-school rotary phones, enjoy a game of Jenga, or hit the ping-pong lounge for an action-packed game. Zed also offers free shuttle service to downtown — in a brightly painted 1967 or ’65 Volkswagen van, naturally — and comic books in each room. Based on a recent search on the hotel’s website, nightly room rates for a weekend stay in December begin at $79.
Where to Explore
One of the nicest things to do in Victoria is actually one of the simplest. The city’s waterfront offers spectacularly scenic walks. There’s nothing more relaxing than roaming the Dallas Road Walkway or Victoria Harbour, soaking up the seaside vibe, greeting all the gleeful dogs and stopping to warm up with an out-of-this-world espresso at Caffe Fantastico and a plate of exquisite almond cookies at the Fol Epi Bakery. Don’t be surprised if you see some great graffiti and urban art along the way. After all, this is not your grandmother’s Victoria.