Victoria is not exactly known for its wild and crazy nightlife. Indeed, it was once described as “God’s waiting room” and “the only cemetery in the entire world with street lighting.” Perhaps that’s not so surprising, given its large population of young families, retirees, and government employees. It’s also not as true as it once was, given that it’s also home to several colleges and universities and has a booming cocktail culture that has young people partying into the wee hours, even on school nights. Besides, if there’s one thing to be said about Victoria, it’s that when something is going on, whether it is a festival, a concert, or a theater production, everyone really shows up.
Monday Magazine, a weekly tabloid published on Thursdays (go figure), is the place to start. Its listings section provides comprehensive coverage of what's happening in town and is particularly good for the club scene. If you can't find Monday in cafes or record shops, visit it online at www.mondaymag.com.
For information on theater, concerts, and arts events, contact the Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre (812 Wharf St.; tel. 800/663-3883 or 250/953-2033; www.tourismvictoria.com). You can also buy tickets for Victoria's venues from the Visitor Centre, but only in person. Another useful resource is the events line run by The Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria (tel. 250/381-ARTS [381-2787]; www.cacgv.ca).
Just about any evening, you’ll likely want to hit one of Victoria’s many excellent cocktail-centric bars and restaurants. For creative, handcrafted cocktails, the best include Little Jumbo, Veneto Tapa Lounge, Clive’s Classic Lounge (Chateau Victoria; tel. 250/382-4221; www.chateauvictoria.com), and the Bengal Lounge in the Fairmont Hotel Empress.
If you prefer a pint to, say, a Manhattan or flaming tiki drink, you’re in luck because Victoria is well known for its lively pub scene, which is where most of the city’s nightlife happens. You’ll find a great pub in just about every neighborhood. Some of the best include Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, the Penny Farthing Public House in Oak Bay (tel. 250/370-9008; www.pennyfarthingpub.com), the Guild on Wharf Street and Swan’s Brewpub, a funky joint filled with First Nations art and live music.
And then there is the boisterous Sticky Wicket Pub at the Strathcona Hotel (tel. 250/383-7137; www.strathconahotel.com). It’s part of a vast nightlife complex that includes several other bars and nightclubs: the high-tech, DJ-driven Club 9one9, summer-only Rooftop Surfclub with its “beach” volleyball and fruity drinks, the self-proclaimed “authentic hillbilly bar” Big Bad John’s, the sporty Games Room with its big-screen TVs and billiard tables, and the Clubhouse, an upscale dance club. The city has a handful of other dance clubs as well, including Sugar (tel. 250/920-9950; www.sugarnightclub.ca), and Touch Lounge (tel. 250/384-2582; www.touchlounge.ca).
Unfortunately, although Victoria is generally a gay-friendly city, it doesn’t offer a lot of nightlife options for the gay and lesbian community. The crowd at Hush (tel. 250/383-0566; www.hushnightclub.ca) is 50-50 gay and straight, all there for the wicked electronic music. Paparazzi Nightclub (tel. 250/388-0505; www.paparazzinightclub.com) is probably the only true gay and lesbian nightclub, offering everything from top-40 nights to drag shows to karaoke and techno.
Whatever you decide to do with your evenings, chances are that your destination will be close at hand: One of the great virtues of Victoria's size is that nearly all of its attractions are no more than a 10-minute walk from the Fairmont Empress, and easily reached by taking bus no. 5 to the Empress Hotel/Convention Centre. For those few nightlife spots a little farther out, bus information is provided.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.