The grand old Fairmont Empress  (721 Government St., 250/384-8111 or 800/257-7544, www.fairmont.com , from $309 s or d) is Victoria ’s best-loved accommodation. Covered in ivy and with only magnificent gardens separating it from the Inner Harbour , it’s also in the city’s best location. Designed by Francis Rattenbury in 1908, the Empress is one of the original Canadian Pacific Railway hotels. Rooms are offered in 90 different configurations, and like other hotels of the era, most are small, but each is filled with Victorian period furnishings and antiques.
You’ll feel like you’re a million miles from the city at Brentwood Bay Lodge & Spa (849 Verdier Ave., Brentwood Bay, 250/544-2079 or 888/544-2079, www.brentwoodbaylodge.com , $329–549 s or d), an upscale retreat overlooking Saanich Inlet. You can learn to scuba dive, take a water taxi to Butchart Gardens , enjoy the latest spa treatments, or join a kayak tour. The 33 rooms take understated elegance to new heights. Filled with natural light, they feature contemporary west coast styling (lots of polished wood and natural colors), the finest Italian sheets on king-size beds, and private balconies. Modern conveniences such as DVD entertainment systems, wireless Internet, and free calls within North America are a given. Dining options include a wood-fired grill, an upscale restaurant, a coffee bar, and a deli serving up picnic lunches.