Go for convenience, accessibility, and selection. Those are the perks of Victoria's best malls and shopping centers. You can get in and out quickly and see a ton of things. Loads of local shopping options include high-brow and low-brow stores, along with food offerings should you need a drink or a bite along the way. Check out the wide variety at places like The Bay Centre or Downtown. Indoors or outdoors, there's a bounty to be had.
An upscale outdoor shopping village, Mattick's Farm offers about 15 unique shops, plus a charming tea room and a miniature golf course. Find equestrian gifts and clothing at A Stable Way of Life, Canadian fashions at Sunday's Snowflakes and the Country Goose, unusual crafting and scrapbooking supplies at Paper Chain and Lasting Impression Stamps, fine fabrics and quilting supplies at Calico Cupboard, high-end kitchenware and gourmet foods at Continental Kitchen, BC wines at the VQA Wine Shop, and fresh flowers and produce at the Red Barn Market and the Secret Garden Flower Shop. Individual shop hours vary, but most are open daily between 10am and 5pm. (250-658-4700)
This 6-block area is the oldest Chinatown settlement in North America, having been founded in 1858. Narrow Fan Tan Alley (just four feet wide at each end), is historically important as the center of 19th century Chinatown's legal opium industry. Now it is a great place to pick up exotic herbs and vegetables, luxurious silks and delicate paper lanterns. Be sure to view the beautiful Gate of Harmonious Interest, composed of Taiwanese tiles and decorative panels.
The little town of Sidney is charming, with its seaside ambience and friendly residents. Its nickname is "Booktown," and there's a very good reason for that: ten independently owned book stores, each with its own character and specialty. You can find book stores devoted to certain subjects: nautical history, military, gardening and crafting, even books for children. There are antiquarian book shops and gently used book shops and a full-service new book shop. Start on Beacon Avenue at Third Street, and work your way east — all the shops are either right on Beacon or just off it. Individual shops hours vary.
Oak Bay Village
Located a quick 10-minute drive from downtown Victoria, Oak Bay's distinctly English character is carefully perpetuated by its small town atmosphere and charming tea rooms like Blethering Place and White Heather. "Oak Bay Village," the five-block stretch of Oak Bay Avenue from Monterrey Avenue to Foul Bay Road, is jam-packed with unique shops and high-end boutiques offering everything from regional art and European antiques to designer clothing and clever garden accessories. There are also a number of highly-rated restaurants and cafes in Oak Bay, such as Paprika Bistro and Marina. For even more eclectic shops, stroll along Estevan Avenue.
Mayfair Shopping Centre
Anchored by two large stores, Toys "R" Us and The Bay, Mayfair is conveniently located and has over 1900 parking spaces. Among the over 120 retailers are American Eagle Outfitters, Gymboree, Gap, Aveda, Eddie Bauer, The Body Shop, Talbots and Foot Locker. The bustling food court, with a variety of fast food chains, has ample seating. (250-383-0541)
Anchored by Bolen Books, Sears, Thrifty Foods, Zellers, and Shoppers Drug Mart, Hillside has over 100 shops that also include Footlocker, Northern Reflections, Ricki's, Payless ShoeSource, Serena Fashions, and Body Shoppe. You'll also find dentists, optometrists, cell phone shops, travel agents, and nail and hair salons. The food court has seating for 400, along with all your favorite fast food standbys. (250-595-7154)
Government Street / Trounce Alley / Bastion Square
Souvenirs and imported British goods, specialty gourmet food shops, art galleries and cafes line Government Street in downtown Victoria. Trounce Alley has its own personality, with small fashion boutiques and trendy cafes. Bastion Square is always bustling with activity. Lined with old houses that have been restored into shops and restaurants, the square is a good place to find local arts and crafts.
Also known as Antique Row, the section of Fort Street between Blanshard and Linden Avenue is home to a number of antique shops and malls, collectibles dealers, art galleries, and specialty home and garden stores. You can find British antique furniture, military memorabilia, rare prints, fine china and silver, Victorian knickknacks. There are also a number of auction houses to investigate.
The Bay Centre
This modern shopping mall has been built to mimic Victoria's other historic buildings. The shops and boutiques are spread over three floors, and a central fountain inside a glass atrium makes a nice resting place when your feet can't take any more walking. (250-952-5680, 250-952-5690)
One of Victoria's best shopping spots has a history of its own. Built during the late 19th century, this three-level building was where sailors, lumberjacks and whalers went looking for fun on their days off. Now you will find more than 45 shops specializing in everything from exotic teas, to camping goods, to souvenir t-shirts. The non-shoppers in your group will be happy to participate in Market Square's frequent live festivals, held in the central courtyard. (250-386-2441)