Not just a place to stay, but Victoria’s most legendary landmark, with the best location of all, right at the heart of the Inner Harbour. The hotel was built in 1908, designed in the Chateau style by Victoria’s famous (and famously scandalous) architect, Francis Rattenbury. It still retains its colonial-era vibe—stepping into the clubby Bengal Lounge, with its palm trees and slow-moving fans, is like stepping right into the last days of the Raj—but with up-to-the-minute attentive service and amenities, including the luxurious Willow Stream Spa. Decor is traditional, with pastel-colored walls, swagged draperies, dark, antique-looking furniture, and vintage-style botanical prints on the walls, and the rooms can be a bit on the small side, especially the bathrooms, but everything is beautifully appointed. Besides, once you look out onto the harbor, you’ll forget the cramped quarters. The Empress has always been Victoria’s favorite meeting place and hangout, and you’ll find government staff from the legislature hobnobbing in the lounge and locals celebrating special occasions in the posh Empress Room. The decadent afternoon tea in the rosy-hued, chintz-swagged tea lobby is a must.