VICTORIA, BC: Revisiting the Magnolia Hotel & Spa

By Carl and Jamie Dombek 

As frequent visitors to Victoria, B.C., we find ourselves returning to the Magnolia Hotel time after time. Because the property and staff are so warm and welcoming, it feels like we are visiting the “old neighborhood” and reconnecting with old friends.

Just as we would when reconnecting with any long-time friend, we talk with the staff members we already know, meet new ones, catch up on our favorite things and talk about what has changed since our last visit, both at the hotel and in the surrounding area.

Entrance to the Magnolia Hotel, Victoria BC
Entrance to the hotel

During our most recent visit, staff proudly pointed out the freshly redecorated lobby before taking us to our room. Although guest rooms were updated from the previous palette of saturated colors to a more neutral color scheme in 2013, the lobby refresh had just recently been completed. It now sports a much more contemporary, yet refined, appearance than before.

The décor in “our” room – Room 705, in which we have stayed before -- was the same as our last visit well over two years before, yet it looked as fresh and new as if it had just been updated. The design is traditional, but the overall atmosphere is light and airy thanks to the soft neutrals that mix with rich wood furnishings.

Guest rooms are equipped with all the amenities we expect when traveling: a comfortable bed, dresser, flat screen TV, iron and ironing board, work desk with plenty of outlets for our traveling electronics, and an in-room safe. Rooms have Wi-Fi available, with each room on its own router. That may account for the excellent connectivity: 16 Mpbs download speed as measured by, compared to the all-too-typical 1 Mbps at many hotels at which we’ve stayed.

Rooms at the Magnolia also have increasingly rare in-room minibars with prices we judged to be quite reasonable. A package of Pringles potato crisps was only $3, and bottles of wine were only about 50 percent higher than the price at a nearby retail shop, as opposed to the more typical 100 percent markup found in many hotels.

Newly redecorated lobby of the Magnolia Hotel, Victoria BC
Newly redecorated lobby

Like many upmarket properties, the Magnolia has fluffy robes and slippers waiting for each guest, which is a very nice touch indeed. Bathroom amenities had been upgraded since our last visit. Shower gel, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner from L’Occitane en Provence have replaced the Aveda amenities offered previously.

Rooms on the top two floors have fireplaces, which are rarely needed due to Victoria’s mild year-round climate. Rooms on the seventh floor also have 10-foot ceilings which contribute to their spacious feel. All guests are treated to complimentary bottled water, fresh fruit, local chocolates upon arrival, and more chocolates provided with the evening turn-down service.

After settling in our room, it was time to get back out into the old neighborhood. Just as old friends would be, the staff at the Magnolia was eager to share new developments in the area. When we asked about a restaurant where we could enjoy fresh oysters, they had several suggestions and even produced a list of recommended restaurants in the area, which would be especially helpful for first-time visitors.

Room 705, Magnolia Hotel, Victoria BC
Room 705

Some of the options we were given included 10 Acres Bistro + Bar + Farm, just across Gordon Street to the west of the hotel; Nautical Nellies in Wharf Street, a three-minute walk from the hotel; the Bard & Banker pub in Government Street, also about three minutes away; and the Tapas Bar & Bodega in Trounce Alley, about a six-minute stroll. Literally dozens of other restaurants and pubs line Government Street, and even the city’s Chinatown on Fisgard Street is within easy walking distance.

For those who would rather not go off-property at all, the hotel partners with Catalano, the corner restaurant next door. With an adjoining door off the hotel lobby, Catalano features Italian fare in the evenings and offers half-price cicchetti (Italian tapas) and $4 drink specials from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and from 9 p.m. until close.

Catalano is also the place the hotel’s continental or full hot breakfast is served. We found the salmon omelet with lemon cream cheese especially delicious.

There are also other good breakfast choices nearby, including Cora (a two-minute walk away in Douglas St.) and West Coast Waffles, about one-half kilometer away in Broad Street.

Upmarket bath amenities by L'Occitane en Provence Magnolia Hotel Victoria BC
Upmarket bath amenities

Spa Magnolia, also adjacent to the lobby, offers facials, hand and foot care, body treatments, and spa packages for both men and women. The hotel also offers a well-equipped fitness center and offers access to the swimming pool at the nearby YMCA for those seeking a swim.

A self-park garage is located directly across the street, and valet parking is available.

While this charming hotel is a luxury hotel, having earned a Four-Diamond rating from AAA, its rates are competitive with other nearby properties, many of which do not even come close in terms of style or upmarket appeal.

Situated just off the busiest streets of downtown Victoria, The Magnolia is in the heart of the action, yet removed enough to ensure a quiet evening and restful sleep in their beautifully appointed rooms. But its finest attribute by far is its wonderful staff members, who always make us feel like their most important and valued guests.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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