Introducing Victoria

With a population approaching 350,000 when you add in the suburbs, this picture-postcard provincial capital was long touted as North America's most English city. This was a surprise to anyone who actually came from Britain, since Victoria promulgated a dreamy version of England that never really was: every garden (complete with the occasional palm tree) was immaculate; every flagpole was adorned with a Union Jack; and every afternoon was spent quaffing tea from bone-china cups.

Thankfully this tired theme-park version of Ye Olde England has gradually faded in recent years. Fuelled by an increasingly younger demographic, a quiet revolution has seen lame tourist pubs, eateries and stores transformed into the kind of bright-painted bohemian shops, wood-floored coffee bars and surprisingly innovative restaurants that would make any city proud. It's worth seeking out these enclaves on foot but activity fans should also hop on their bikes: Victoria has more cycle routes than any other Canadian city. Once you've finished exploring, there's also BC's best museum, a park that's licked with a windswept seafront and outdoor activities that include whale-watching and kayak adventures.

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