For Victoria, the long-held punchline, “Land of the newlywed and nearly dead,” no longer has merit. This city at the southern tip of Canada’s Vancouver Island has become a mecca for craft beer, artisan coffee and cocktails.
Kick off a visit with caffeine at Habit Coffee. Fuel up at their Atrium location, as much for the espresso and Bows & Arrows roasted beans as the wraparound windows and friendly vibe. Bonus: Pig BBQ Joint is in the same building, causing and solving addictions to pulled pork sandwiches.
Down the block, book time for Agrius, the bakery/restaurant from Victoria’s coveted bread purveyors, Fol Epi. Though there are usually lines, especially for brunch, it’s worth the wait. You can always pick up an organic, wood-fired baguette before wandering over to Chorizo & Co. for olives, cheese and charcuterie. You’re all set for a picnic lunch overlooking the water taxis and float planes of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
Quench your thirst from all that walking at Spinnakers Brewpub. On the neck of the Inner Harbour, it’s Canada’s first in-house brewpub, opened in 1984. From there, Victoria’s Ale Trail covers eight breweries within three miles. Moon Under Water, Hoyne Brewing Co., Lighthouse Brewing Co., Phillips Brewing and Malting Co., Swans Brewpub and Canoe Brewpub are all remarkably close and welcoming. Sample Fat Tug IPA from Driftwood Brewery or sit on a bar stool at The Drake off Market Square and taste through a lineup of craft beers.
For a different kind of brew, visit Chinatown’s Silk Road Tea. Founded by Canada’s “Tea Master,” Daniela Cubelic, this emporium has more than 100 varieties of loose tea from around the world. Mull over dinner plans with a quick glass of Sherry at Bodega.
Tucked into hidden Trouce Alley, you’ll find local wines by the glass and small plates to match at The Tapa Bar. (Time your visit to coincide with $10 off all bottles on Wine Wednesdays.) Take a perch at the bar at OLO, at the foot of Chinatown, where farm-to-table cuisine is matched by a wine list of sustainable producers from BC’s backyard and beyond.
Brasserie L’Ecole is a must. With no reservations, a seat at the slip of a room is coveted as much for the steak frites as the affordable French wine list. Thinking small plates and wines by the glass? Head to funky Fernwood and Stage Wine Bar, where you can have flights paired to your dishes.
Close out the evening with a cocktail at the stylish and sharp Veneto. Little Jumbo serves up classic cocktails speakeasy-style, with daring flavors and a hefty back bar. At Clive’s Cocktail Lounge, hipsters mix with hotel guests in the discovery of obscure spirits and imaginative drinks late into the night.