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Victoria 'embraces adventure' for top spot on Condé Nast list of world's best cities

VICTORIA — An award-winning travel magazine said British Columbia's capital city tops its 2023 list of the world's best cities.
An award-winning luxury and lifestyle travel magazine says British Columbia's capital city tops its 2023 list of the world's best cities. People look on as members of the Shorecrest Highlanders marching band perform during the 123rd Victoria Day parade in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, May 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA — An award-winning travel magazine said British Columbia's capital city tops its 2023 list of the world's best cities.

Condé Nast Traveller, a luxury and lifestyle travel magazine, said Victoria captured first place in its annual Readers' Choice Awards.

Victoria and Mexico's San Miguel de Allende, which ranked sixth, were the only cities in North America to make the list.

Condé Nast Traveller said Victoria's restaurant and nightlife scene is "something to be celebrated," while the city "embraces adventure," and "draws outdoorsy types."

Readers gave Victoria, San Sebastián in Spain, and Singapore the top three spots on the list, followed by Tokyo, Seoul, San Miguel de Allende, Cape Town, Sydney, Copenhagen and Oslo.

Victoria also topped the list of the world's best small cities.

Condé Nast, which publishes numerous magazines, including Vogue, GQ and The New Yorker, said its Traveller magazine reaches more than 20 million print and web readers every month and more than 40 million people on its social media channels.

The publisher says more than 520,000 readers participated in this year's Readers' Choice Awards by submitting ratings about their travel experiences on a five-point scale.  

“Clean, fresh and exciting” are the three words that Lana Popham, B.C.'s minister of tourism, used to describe Victoria, the place where she works. 

“I love Victoria and so do thousands and thousands of tourists who come to visit us every year,” said Popham, who splits her time between Victoria and her home in neighbouring Saanich.

In Victoria, you can do anything you can imagine within a short distance, said Popham. 

“If you wanted to enjoy kayaking, for example, on the ocean, it’s right there in the Inner Harbour. 

“If you wanted to go out and see some beautiful gardens, it’s a very short bus ride or car ride out to Butchart Gardens,” said Popham.

Popham said she enjoys biking on the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails, which allow her to go anywhere in the region while appreciating the beauty of the city.

She said Victoria also has people who are dedicated to the visitor experience.  

"So, I think people feel very welcome, and they notice how friendly it is. I think that's what really probably allowed it to be number 1,” Popham added. 

Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, said the Condé Nast result is "a big boost" for Victoria business and community members that have struggled after the pandemic. 

Nursey said Victoria has been ranked number two on the same list over the past few years.

Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said he was excited but “not surprised at all” to hear that B.C.’s capital, where he has lived for more than 20 years, was top of the magazine's list. 

“We are very deserving of first place, and we are thrilled and so proud to see that recognition,” said Williams. “I’ve lived in other places, and I have to say that Victoria is amazing.”

Williams said Victoria is a place where people can not only see beautiful scenery but also enjoy “a robust hospitality and tourism experience.”

"It's a combination of a number of things. Physically, it's a beautiful place. We have mountains, we have ocean water, we have beautiful gardens, we have natural landscapes. It's a spectacular place, visually," said Williams. 

“Locals are very friendly … we are a very welcoming place, and we always want to make sure that visitors have the best possible experience."

He said Victoria also has a vibrant cultural scene, with thousands showing up for the South Island Powwow on Truth and Reconciliation Day over the weekend. In the summer, painters and sculptors line the streets with their work, said Williams. 

"I think that everybody just needs to understand that Victoria is worth visiting."

- By Nono Shen in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2023.

The Canadian Press