VICTORIA is a popular excursion from Vancouver, and though it's possible to come here for the day – especially if you take a seaplane from Vancouver's harbour – you'd be better advised to stay overnight and give the city the two or so days it deserves.
This said, Victoria has a lot to live up to. Leading US travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler has voted it one of the world's top ten cities to visit, and world number one for ambience and environment. It's not named after a queen and an era for nothing. Much of the waterfront area has an undeniably quaint and likeable English feel – "Brighton Pavilion with the Himalayas for a backdrop," said the writer Rudyard Kipling – and Victoria has more British-born residents than anywhere in Canada. However, its tourist potential is exploited chiefly for American visitors, served up with lashings of fake Victoriana and chintzy commercialism, and ersatz echoes of empire at every turn. Despite the seasonal influx, and the sometimes atrociously tacky attractions designed to part tourists from their money, it's a small, relaxed and pleasantly sophisticated place, worth lingering in if only for its inspirational museum. It also provides plenty of pubs, restaurants (and the odd club) and serves as a base for a range of outdoor activities and slightly more far-flung attractions. Chief of these is whale-watching, with a plethora of companies on hand to take you out to the teeming waters around the city. And as a final lure the weather here – though often damp – is extremely mild; Victoria's meteorological station has the distinction of being the only one in Canada to record a winter in which the temperature never fell below freezing.