Victoria is the capitol of British Columbia and largest city on Vancouver Island. The more famous city of Vancouver is on the mainland, about 60 miles away across the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca. The island is reachable by ferry or plane from Vancouver and Seattle. With its midrise housing, impressive government buildings and cultural institutions; it’s hard to believe that Victoria only has about 85,000 people. It feels much larger, and offers diversions greater than would be expected for a city of its size. It was named after England’s Queen Victoria, and today is considered the most British in character of Canada’s cities. But, many Vancouverites have moved to Victoria to escape high real estate prices in that city. In addition, many travelers from around the world have discovered this little gem. Due to this the city is becoming more cosmopolitan, but it retains a small-town charm.
Downtown is compact and contains a charming waterfront. The harbor makes for a lovely stroll and is lined with restaurants, boat charter companies, float planes and often a festival or performance of some type. Just off the harbor are two of the city’s most famous buildings. The first is the impressive British Columbia Parliament Building. This massive, neo-baroque structure is topped with several green copper domes. It looks like it could be the capital of a medium sized country, and not of a province. It is surrounded by lawns and statuary for you to explore. Just down the street is the impressive Empress Hotel. This chateau style building is a waterfront landmark with its mansard roof and turrets. It’s also the location for the famous high tea known as “Tea at the Empress”. Reservations are required for tea and it’s pricey ($75 CD per person, or $108/$115 CD if you’d like champagne with your tea). But, it’s been a tradition for over a century and you’ll feel like a queen with you finger sandwiches and salmon.
Leading out of downtown is the Old Town neighborhood. Its main drag, Government Street, and the streets off it are lined with shops, restaurants, and pubs. It’s a very lively area and the Edwardian architecture of many of its buildings adds to the charm. Just past old town is the city’s small Chinatown, said to be the second oldest in North America after San Francisco’s. As expected, the area has many Chinese restaurants worthy of a meal. But, it also has several small shops and galleries where you can pick up a gift or souvenir. There is only one true gay bar in Victoria. But, you will feel welcome at any of the open-minded places in Old Town.
Victoria is known as “The Garden City”. It’s temperate climate, which rarely receives snow, is unusual for Canada. Due to this, many homes have tidy lawns with lush flowers and the occasional hardy palm tree. The city also contains many gardens worth a visit. The first, Beacon Hill Park, is a public park. It contains trails, a well-known totem pole, and amazing views across the water to the Olympic Mountains. The second is Butchart Gardens, a botanical garden. It is known for stunning floral displays, its sculpture and the many concerts and events that take place there throughout the year. It is impressive enough to have been designated as a National Historic Site by Canada.
We haven’t even begun to discuss the Royal British Columbia Museum, Craigdarroch Castle, the Maritime Museum, or the natural beauty that the rest of Vancouver Island has to offer. But, we want to end before we wear out the battery on your phone. Suffice it to say the Victoria is a delightful destination that will charm and entertain you. If you’d like to find out more about what Victoria has to offer, we’d love to discuss it with you. Call Purple Light to let us help you plan your next vacation.
Purple Light Vacations provides you with the knowledge, insight and personalized service to make your vacation all you want it to be at no additional cost. We help you travel in the know wherever you go. To get started, fill out this quick form or call 619.324.1444 (ext. 3).