Most of the tourist action in Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, is centered around the Inner Harbour. And not surprisingly, there are plenty of places to stay within walking distance of the waterfront. One of the best lodging choices – for a combination of stylish rooms, good service, and a great location – is the recently refreshed Magnolia Hotel and Spa, a 64-room downtown boutique hotel, just two blocks from the Inner Harbour.
The seven-story Magnolia feels like it’s been around for decades, but in a good way. The staff are seasoned and helpful, and the property feels like it’s an established part of the neighborhood (although – built in the 1990s – it’s a youngster by Victoria standards). There’s always coffee and tea in the lobby, and depending on the season, you’ll find fresh lemonade or hot cider, too.
The furnishings are traditional, as befits Victoria’s persona, but a recent refresh of the linens, carpets, and other accessories, in soothing greys, creams, and taupes, has made the Magnolia feel more up-to-date. They also added technology-friendly features, like electrical outlets on the bedside tables. Only the bathrooms still feel a little old-fashioned.
All the rooms have mini-fridges, coffeemakers, and flat-screen TVs, and you can request a DVD player. Both local phone calls and wi-fi, which works well, are complimentary.
The best rooms (which are also the most expensive) are on the sixth and seventh floors; they have slightly higher ceilings, fireplaces, and upgraded amenities, like espresso makers. They’re also high enough to have peek-a-boo views of the harbor.
Tip: Rooms 606 and 706 are the best of the best – corner units with views of the Parliament Building, illuminated at night with twinkling white lights.
The Magnolia’s fitness room has the basics, including several cardio machines, but there’s no pool. If you’re after a more extensive workout, ask about a pass to a nearby health club.
Valet parking is available for a nightly charge of $20. There’s no self-parking option, but the valets are usually quick to bring your car with just a few minute’s notice.
Catalano Restaurant & Cichetti Bar recently opened just off the hotel lobby, and it’s a comfortable spot for drinks and small bites. “Cichetti” are Italian-style tapas, although the menu feels more pan-Mediterranean with a few eclectic flourishes.
I especially enjoyed the grilled octopus medallions served with chorizo atop potato slices.
Save room for an unusual dessert, Nona’s Rice Fritters, which are served in a paper bag. They’re mini-donuts stuffed with rice that’s been whipped into a sweet creamy filling. You shake the bag to coat them in powdered sugar before popping them into your mouth.
Tip: If you’re planning to visit the Magnolia, post any notes about your visit – whether it’s a special occasion, if there’s something particular you’d like – on the hotel’s Facebook page. Staff monitor the page regularly and take pleasure in arranging little things to make your visit more enjoyable. A nice touch!
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the new travel guide, Moon Handbooks: Ontario. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. The Magnolia Hotel, in conjunction with Tourism Victoria, hosted my stay for review purposes.