A few weekends ago, Rob and I spent a lovely weekend in Victoria, British Columbia. We don’t have an opportunity to take a longer vacation before our baby arrives in October, so going away to a new place for a weekend whenever we can has been a nice alternative. We haven’t been to Victoria yet since we moved to the Pacific Northwest three years ago, so this was a perfect time for us to finally take a trip there.
Beautiful downtown marina area in Victoria, BC
To our surprise, Victoria turned out to be bigger and more beautiful than we expected! Plus, we found the area very vegan-friendly, which is always nice to discover about a place you’re visiting for the first time. We booked an overnight trip via Victoria Clipper Vacations, which included two-way tickets on a ferry boat from downtown Seattle to Victoria (it was a great experience – we even saw a whale during the 3-hour sailing) and one night in a hotel. Some travel packages offer additional ‘Explore Victoria’ kind of experiences like a trip to the Butchart Gardens or an afternoon tea ceremony in various places, but we opted to forgo those and explore the area at our own pace.
The downtown Victoria is very accommodating to tourists with no cars. A lot of places of interest are located around the gorgeous downtown marina area or just a few blocks away. Of course, I’m not saying that it’s not worth venturing out a little further, but if you don’t feel like driving or getting a cab, you’ll still have plenty of things to do.
Places/things we liked:
- Walking around the downtown marina area – there’s a convenient paved trail going on for miles that boasts beautiful views, lots of shops, restaurants, etc.
- The British Columbia Parliament building offers a free tour every 20 or 30 minutes – great if you’re a fan of classic architecture and history. I ended up being the person who asked most of the questions and answered most of the tour guide’s questions during our tour 🙂
- The downtown Victoria area going all the way up to the gorgeous Chinatown. There was a jazz festival going on in the area during our visit, so we got to listen to some live music at an outdoor concert. Plus, three of the vegan-friendly places I’m talking about below are located in this area (Green Cuisine buffet, Pure Lovin’ Chocolate, and Rebar).
- Beacon Hill Park – a huge park with lots of trails just a few blocks from downtown, a perfect escape for those of us who’ve had enough of the city attractions. This seems like a great place to go for a morning run (that wasn’t in my plans – maybe one day!). The park faces the Strait of Juan de Fuca, opening up gorgeous views of the snow-capped mountains of the Olympic Peninsula in the US.
- The walking path that traces the shoreline along Dallas Road, accessible as you exit the Beacon Hill Park. This scenic path goes on for miles, making it another nice option for a long run. If you follow the path going west, you’ll eventually find yourself back in the downtown Victoria.
- Fetching a boat ride on the legendary Pickle Boats, a.k.a. Victoria Harbor Ferry. These cute little boats provide a convenient transportation option between various places of attraction within Victoria’s inner harbor for just a few bucks. Tired of walking? Hop on and hop off a Pickle Boat at your pleasure! Plus, I read that on Sunday mornings during the summer, these boats put on a free ‘water ballet’ show in the harbor! Unfortunately we missed it because of our returning ferry schedule.
Me and my 25-week pregnant belly in front of the Parliament building of the British Columbia
Of course, my story about Victoria, BC would not be complete without talking about the vegan (or vegan-friendly) restaurants we found! I did some online research in advance and found a few places that were highly recommended, so I knew exactly where we needed to go. How could we possibly miss a chance of visiting an all-vegan buffet or a chocolate shop?! In addition to the places below, we noticed quite a few vegan-friendly options on menus of various restaurants and food trucks we passed. It sure doesn’t seem like vegans around here have to stay hungry 🙂
[bctt tweet=”[bctt tweet=”Top #vegan spots in Victoria, BC: vegans around here sure don’t have to stay hungry :)”]
Green Cuisine Vegan Buffet
Where and when: 560 Johnson St. inside the Market Square area, 10 am – 8 pm.
Our experience: The restaurant boasts an impressive selection of vegan soups and salad fixings, as well as more substantial lunch and dinner offerings and desserts. I knew we had to stop by this place once I found out that it was an actual buffet – we haven’t been to any vegan buffets since we went vegan! People get in line and pick whatever they want as they move through the room, and the cashier weighs your plate at the end and charges you according to the weight of your food. There are also quite a few pastries that you can buy individually. I piled my plate high with fresh salad veggies, roasted potatoes, steamed kale, lentil fritters, sushi rolls, etc. – and of course I had to partake in some vegan berry cheesecake, which turned out to be very light and flavorful.
What we liked: The variety of food offered was pretty impressive. This is a good place for both raw and non-raw vegans to find something to their taste.
What we didn’t like: Some of the foods seemed a little less flavorful than others. My flavor preferences are a little off right now because of my pregnancy, so don’t take this as a downer. Also, the building is pretty old (apparently, Green Cuisine has been around for many years), so don’t expect the place to be super bright and shiny. It’s still quite tidy though.
Pure Lovin’ Chocolate
Where and when: 3 Fan Tan Alley, 11 am – 6 pm.
Our experience: I used to love those little artisanal chocolate shops where everything is made in-house before I went vegan, so I was thrilled to check out this place. Pure Lovin’ Chocolate was founded by Cyndy, a lady who has a dairy allergy, and her vegan daughter Leah who studied culinary arts and confectionery in Calgary, Alberta. Cyndy was at the shop when we stopped by, and we had a nice little chat about chocolate and her business. The shop has quite a few nicely packaged boxes of chocolates and various candies perfect for gift giving, as well as single freshly made truffles, peanut butter cups, etc. Cyndy and Leah also ship their wares all over the world – see what they’ve got available over here.
What we liked: Handcrafted vegan chocolate – need I say more??? We bought some Mixed Nut Medley chocolate bark, which made for a more enjoyable ferry ride back to Seattle. I also tried a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter cup. I could have had another five easily 🙂
What we didn’t like: The prices can be a little steep, but at the same time, I understand and agree with paying extra for artisanal work, especially if this work is vegan-friendly.
Be Love Bistro
Where and when: 1019 Blanshard St. Brunch 11-3 pm, dinner 5-10 pm.
Our experience + what we liked: This restaurant is almost fully vegan, but it still uses some non-vegan ingredients like honey, eggs, etc. in some of their dishes. The menu is fairly extensive, most dishes use lots of fresh, delicious produce – a great option for vegans who lean heavily towards the whole food, plant-based diet. I opted for the Meze Platter – a Mediterranean-inspired sampler with chickpea fritters, baba ghanoush, quinoa tabbouleh, grilled sweet potato flatbread, etc. It was A LOT of food, which was a bit challenging since my stomach has reduced in volume due to pregnancy, but I couldn’t put my fork down because everything was simply delicious! Rob went for Summer Gnocchi that came with grilled vegetables and the most delicious tomato ‘cream’ sauce we’ve tasted in a long time. He raved about that meal for days! Somehow we managed to find some room for dessert – a slice of strawberry cheesecake that was just heavenly.
My Meze Platter at Be Love Bistro
What we didn’t like: As a vegan person who’s discovered a bazillion ways to swap out non-vegan ingredients in my years of cooking vegan, I was a bit puzzled about the need to use some of those in dishes that could be very easily veganized. Example: the restaurant had a gorgeous key lime pie cheesecake on display, but it turned out that it was made with honey (they could have used maple syrup or agave in its place IMO). Another thing that was a bit challenging: our visit to Victoria coincided with a ridiculous heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest, and the lack of air conditioning in the restaurant made us ask to be moved to the outdoor seating area. But even that didn’t save us form the scorching heat because there was no breeze. This may not be an issue for you if you’re visiting this place during a cooler time of the year though.
Where and when: 50 Bastion Square. 11:30 am – 9 pm Mon-Fri, 9:30 am – 9 pm Sat, 9:30 am – 8 pm Sun.
Our experience: The morning of our departure from Victoria, Rob and I realized that we were going to be stuck on the boat heading back to Seattle for 3 hours during lunchtime. Our years of vegan experience have taught us that unless we plan our food in advance, we may find ourselves in trouble with growling stomachs and no food available. Rob hopped online and found Rebar – the only vegan-friendly restaurant within walking distance that was open at 9:30 am on Sunday. We called in, ordered a couple Tempeh Reuben sandwiches with a side of roasted potatoes, and ran to pick them up before heading to the boat terminal.
What we liked: Obviously, the weekend hours of operation worked out great for us! The staff was friendly, offering us beverages while we waited for our food to be ready. The restaurant has a nice, laid-back vibe of a diner with a nod to the 20th century pop culture. A big dessert showcase had a few clearly marked vegan options. Once we were on the boat heading back to Seattle, we discovered that our sandwiches were GIGANTIC but thankfully delicious, complete with sauerkraut and beet slaw. The roasted potatoes that came with them were perfectly seasoned just the way I like them.
What we didn’t like: The food turned out to be kind of expensive, but they really give you A LOT. Rob and I could have easily shared just one sandwich instead of buying two. Also, it took Rebar a while to make it – we called in advance from the hotel, checked out, walked at least 10-15 minutes to the restaurant, and still had to wait another 10 minutes. Thankfully, the timing worked out with our boat schedule.
All in all, we really enjoyed our experience in Victoria, BC, especially the vegan restaurant aspect 🙂 Both Rob and I wished that we had more than 25 hours to spend in this area. We’ll try to take a longer trip next time, which will most likely be after our baby arrives.
Question for you: Have you been to British Columbia in Canada? If so, what were your favorite places to visit, and vegan places to eat at?
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