Overlooking the Inner Harbour , the pompous, ivy-covered 1908 Fairmont Empress is Victoria ’s most recognizable landmark. Its architect was the well-known Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the parliament buildings , the Canadian Pacific Railway steamship terminal (now housing the wax museum  and Crystal Garden. It’s worthwhile walking through the hotel lobby to gaze—head back, mouth agape—at the interior razzle-dazzle, and to watch people-watching people partake in traditional afternoon tea.
Browse through the conservatory and gift shops, drool over the menus of the various restaurants, see what tours are available, and exchange currency if you’re desperate (banks give a better exchange rate). Get a feeling for the hotel’s history by joining a tour.