GRACIOUS BRITISH IMAGE FIRMLY ENTRENCHED IN
Canadian Humourist Stephen Leacock wrote that had he known
about Victoria before he would have arranged to be born there. It
is easy to see why. The weather is seldom too hot or too cold;
golf courses are open year round; the Christmas decorations are
barely put away before the daffodils are in bloom; there's a
gentleness to this place that's apparent even to the
The city's British
image, fostered ever since it
was named for Britain's
queen, is firmly entrenched
in classy little stores
specializing in Scottish
woolens and tweeds and
the finest Staffordshire
china. There are even
selling English toffees and seaside rock candy, licorice twirls and
sherbert dabs. Red double-decker busses do city tours.
Afternoon tea provides a gracious interlude. Gardening is a
Victoria's flowers are astonishing. Encouraged by plenty
of sunshine, gardens are brimming with giant dahlias and
dark-eyed daisies, ridiculously tall lupines and delphiniums, and
roses as big as soup bowls. Rockeries in both residential and
public gardens are overflowing as are the baskets hung on
Visitors can manage nicely without a car because
important attractions are within an easy walk, many of them
hugging the scenic Inner Harbor.
These include the 19th-century
Parliament Buildings set in
landscaped parklands. At night,
they are outlined by more then
3,000 twinkling lights; by day,
escorted tours show off their
Facing the harbor, the
Empress Hotel presents Victoria's
most photographed scene.
Following restoration, the city's favourite hotel now has cheerful
decor, airy public rooms, new restaurants, and splendid guest
accommodation and formerly hidden architectural treasures
Between these two historic landmarks is the Carillon
Tower, a gift from British Columbians of Dutch origin, to
celebrate Canada's centenary in 1967. Nearby, the Royal British
Columbia Museum contains outstanding displays of artifacts
relating to provincial history and environment. Its collection of
West Coast Indian artifacts is superb; more totem
poles stand in neighbouring Thunderbird Park.
A stroll from the waterfront brings you to Chinatown,
more than 100 years old and smaller than in the late 1800s when
Chinese labourers were brought in to work on the railway, and in
the mines. Its entrance is marked by the brilliant red Gate of
Harmonious Interest on Fishguard Street, leading to restaurants,
art and antique shops.
A must for mariners is the Maritime Museum in the
former courthouse. Its collection includes exhibits on Pacific
Northwest explorations from Captain Cook to the present, the
history of Canada's trans-Pacific shipping and more.
Emily Carr, one of Canada's best known artists lived in
Victoria. Her father's store on Wharf Street is now a small art
gallery featuring changing exhibitions of her work, along with
photographs and other family memorabilia.
A bigger gallery - the Art Gallery of greater Victoria - has
exhibits that change every six weeks, so you may want to ask
about the current show. This gallery boasts the only Shinto shrine
Symphony concerts, Scottish dancing in the park, art
shows and regattas - there is always something going on. You will
want to wander along historic streets fanning out from the Inner
Harbor, and through Beacon Hill park.
Take a harbor tour, or a horse and carriage ride. Follow
the scenic Beach Drive past expensive homes in Oak Bay,
considered the most British of residential enclaves in Canada.
TIME TO SPARE:
Browse the stores of Government Street. Monros' Books is
arguably Canada's best independent bookstore. Forquality Canadian craftsmanship try The Quest, and for Cowichan
knitwear and native artworks visit Susquatch Trading or the Indian Craft Shoppe. A few blocks from the
harbor you will come to Fort street, which has more quality craft stores and others specializing in antiques and
A must is afternoon tea at the Empress. This full-sized meal
involves scones with strawberries and cream, tiny sandwiches and pastries, and the Empress's own tea blend, all
presented in the main lounge or beneath the stained glass dome of the Palm Court. Take a harbor tour, or a
horse and carriage ride. Follow the scenic Beach Drive past expensive homes in Oak Bay, considered the most
British of residential enclaves in Canada.
Half a Day
Book a whale-watching excursion departing from the harbor. Or
take a bus to Butchart Gardens, 12 miles (20 km)from downtown Victoria.. Now spread over 50 acres (20 ha).
Open all year, they are a mix of formal gardens enhanced by a concert lawn, fountains and sculptures. Lunch,
dinner and afternoon tea are served daily.
Connections: Victoria is served by flights from major Canadian cities
and by feeder airlines from Vancouver and Seattle. The regular
bus/ferry services from Vancouver are the least expensive, but
there are also harbor-to-harbor seaplanes and high-speed ferry services.
Seattle is connected by ferry and helicopter services. Prices depend on
a number of factors so it is best to contact Victoria Tourism for the
Major international car rental agencies are located at the airport and
downtown. Current taxi fare between airport and downtown hotels is
about $40, and the airport bus is $7. A bus ride within the city costs
Climate: Victoria is blessed with a comfortable temperate climate year
round, but it is well to pack a light raincoat.
Places to stay: There is lots of excellent visitor accommodation with
The Empress, at the top of the list and price range ( tel 250-384-8111).
Another favorite is the small, elegant Bedford Regency Hotel.(tel 250-384-6835). Less expensive is the Day's Inn (tel
1-888-753-3774) in a convenient downtown location. An example of
the numerous good B & Bs is Eliza Point B & B by the Sea in suburban Sooke (tel 250-642-2705).
Dining: Starting again from the top: The Empress' elegant dining room
or the less formal Bombay Lounge. Close by, Milestones Restaurant
(tel 250-381-2244) provides a change of pace. For BC's West Coast cuisine, try McMorrans Beachhouse (250-658-5527 ).
Also the renowned Sooke Harbour House Restaurant (250-642-3421).
For more information: Contact the Victoria Travel Information Center,
812 Wharf St, Victoria V8W 1T3, tel (250-953-2033) or www.city.victoria.bc.ca