Victoria the Great
A once dodgy part of British Columbia's capital has been refashioned as the chic Design District.
1. BEST BOUTIQUE
Wish your bedroom were a boudoir? The owner of Josephine's Home Embellishments stocks everything from French antiques to replicas made from century-old Baltic pine. She also sells artisanal spices and vinegars flavored with vanilla, raspberry, and white peach (from $6.50). 22-532 Herald St., 250/478-2325.
2. CAFÉ AND WINE BAR
The theme at the Union Pacific Coffee Co. is retro railroad—a nod to the tracks that once zigzagged through the district—with clocks that show the time for Tokyo, Sydney, and New York. By day, the café serves paninis and fair-trade coffee. By night, it morphs into a wine bar, UP After Dark. 537 Herald St., 250/380-0005, food from $5.
3. UNDERGROUND TOUR
The district overlaps with Canada's oldest Chinatown. Although the area is easy to explore on your own, guides from Hidden Dragon Tours will show you the best-kept secrets, including old opium dens. The night strolls are lit by Chinese lanterns. 888/443-3369, from $24.
4. BRUNCH SPOT
Hipsters, indie rockers, and moms with kids all gather at newcomer Mo:Lé for breakfast (served daily until 3 P.M.). House specials include a curry tofu scramble and a goose-sausage omelet served with pesto-seasoned hash browns. 554 Pandora Ave., 250/385-6653, from $6.50.
5. CHIC SHOP
A group of local designers keeps Smoking Lily outfitted with playful clothing (apron skirts, wool capes) and accessories (satin ascots, pony express bags) silk-screened with whimsical prints of everything from windmills to octopuses. Each spring, the 4' x 11' shop has a garage sale to make room for fresh merchandise. 569a Johnson St., 250/382-5459, wallets from $7.50.
6. ART HOTEL
Like many buildings in the district, the Swans Suite Hotel started out as a warehouse. The former granary now has 29 suites with details like exposed beams, skylights, and paintings from the hotel's 1,000-piece collection. An in-house brewpub serves 12 beers on tap, including a new coconut porter. 506 Pandora Ave., 800/668-7926, from $82.
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