Living in Victoria: Things to Do and See in Victoria, Canada

Victoria, British Columbia—The Garden City on the Pacific Ocean

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Living in Victoria

With its spectacular natural landscape, temperate climate, and unrivaled location off Canada’s Pacific Coast, Victoria, B.C, is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Known as the “Garden City” for its bucolic parks and floral displays, the capital of British Columbia is a small but vibrant city that is internationally renowned for its high standard of living, outdoor recreation, marine wildlife, cultural attractions, and rich colonial heritage.

Where Is Victoria Located in Canada?

Situated at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, 62 miles southwest of Vancouver, and just 16 miles north of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the city of Victoria spans just 7.5 square miles. Victoria’s 80,000-plus residents enjoy the driest climate in Canada (rainfall averages just 26 inches per year) with warm summers and mild winters, allowing for superb year-round outdoor recreation.

What Is the Ecosystem in Victoria?

Set against a majestic backdrop framed by the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains of Washington State in the distance, Vancouver Island and the neighboring Gulf Islands are known for their rugged, pristine beauty. The islands are home to countless species of marine wildlife, including a resident population of orcas, humpback and minke whales, sea otters, and sea lions. Whale watching during the spring attracts tourists from around the world with numerous expeditions leaving from the beautiful Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria’s historic downtown district. Victoria is surrounded by temperate rainforests, which are home to numerous species of wildlife including the bald eagle and black bear.

What Is the History of Victoria?

In addition to its excellent outdoor pursuits, Victoria is a cosmopolitan city with a rich history. Originally home to the Coast Salish peoples, Vancouver Island was discovered by British Royal Navy Captain James Cook in 1778, and named after naval cartographer George Vancouver. Established as a fur trading post by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1843, Fort Victoria was named in honor of the presiding British Monarch, and became the capital of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island from 1849 to 1866. During this period, Victoria’s landscape and population changed dramatically with the discovery of gold at Fraser Valley Canyon, which led to the gold rush of 1858. As the main port of entry to the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, Fort Victoria became the hub for prospectors and traders, and within a few months the population rose from a few hundred to more than 5,000. Victoria was incorporated as a city in 1862 and, after Vancouver Island’s union with the former Colony of British Columbia, joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871.

What Is the Architecture in Victoria?

Victoria’s colonial history is on prominent display in the city’s beautiful Victorian architecture, heritage sites, historic landmarks, formal gardens, and tearooms. Among the famous landmarks are the Parliament Buildings, which house the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Built in 1893, the buildings’ magnificent Neo-Baroque façade is adorned with 3,300 electric light bulbs that light up the downtown skyline each night. Other historic sites include the Empress Hotel, a 95-year-old Victoria institution overlooking the Inner Harbour, and Craigdarroch Castle, which was built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir in 1890. Victoria’s architecture is a testament to the city’s British colonial past. The city’s historic areas are graced with Victorian and Edwardian-era mansions, and grand Queen Ann, Gothic Revival, and Châteauesque style townhouses. The city also boasts exemplary postmodern and contemporary civic and residential architecture.

What to Do and See in Victoria?

Known as the “Garden City,” Victoria is bestowed with an abundance of green spaces. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, the resplendent Butchart Gardens is a 55-acre botanical garden, acclaimed for its spectacular floral displays during the spring and summer months. The city’s other bucolic delights include Victoria Butterfly Gardens, Hatley Park National Historic Site, and Abkhazi Garden, as well as a number of private homes that open their gardens for tours, such as the annual Mother’s Day Musical Garden Tour, which is sponsored by Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate Newport Realty.

Museums

Victoria’s myriad cultural attractions include the Royal BC Museum, one of North America’s top ten museums; the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia; the Point Ellice House and Gardens, which houses North America's largest collection of Victorian artifacts; and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, featuring the only Japanese Shinto shrine in North America.

Accomodations

Museums Victoria’s myriad cultural attractions include the Royal BC Museum, one of North America’s top ten museums; the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia; the Point Ellice House and Gardens, which houses North America's largest collection of Victorian artifacts; and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, featuring the only Japanese Shinto shrine in North America.

Shopping

Victoria’s quaint streets offer world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment. The city’s premier retail areas include The Bay Center shopping mall, Oak Bay Village, Lower Johnson Street, Government Street, and Fort Street, which is also known as “Antiques Row,” for its exclusive antique shops and galleries. The Mosaic Village delivers a unique experience with its locally owned and eco-friendly boutiques, restaurants, and galleries, while the city’s best artisan and farmers’ markets are located at Bastion Square and Moss Street.

Dining

Victoria’s dining establishments provide an exceptional range of world cuisine offering farm-to-table ingredients sourced from the coastal waters and surrounding farmland of the Cowichan Valley and Saanich Peninsula. Highlights include the Empress Room, Legislative Dining Room at the Parliament Building, Veneto, Brasserie L’ecole, Zambri’s, and Olo.

Outdoors

Victoria’s dramatic coastline and scenic interior are replete with pristine lakes, streams, bays, and inlets, and its beautiful, sandy beaches are among the finest in the Pacific Northwest. The most picturesque spots include Cadboro Gyro Beach, Willows Beach, Island View Beach Regional Park, and the Esquimalt Lagoon—famed for its panoramic views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the snowcapped Olympic Mountains. Greater Victoria’s wilderness areas abound with tranquil lakes such as Durance and Matheson Lake, which has excellent fishing. There area boasts several national and regional parks. Closest to downtown is the 200-acre Beacon Hill park and gardens, and the regional parks of East Sooke, Witty's Lagoon, and Island View. A short drive away are Mount Douglas Park; Goldstream Provincial Park, which is home to the chum salmon run in October and November; and the Albert Head Lagoon Park on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Sports

Victoria’s residents have access to a host of sporting activities on their doorstep. With its prime oceanfront location, the area offers premier water sports such as sailing, sea kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing. The spectacular terrain provides exceptional opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding, along hundreds of miles of nature trails in the area’s forests and parks, as well as equitation centers such as Tasis Equestrian Centre.

Golf

With the perfect climate for year-round golf, Victoria’s several championship courses border scenic coastal waters and wilderness areas. The most exclusive courses include Victoria Golf Club, the oldest area’s oldest course; Royal Colwood Golf Club; and Uplands Golf Club. Skiers can choose from Vancouver Island’s two resorts: Mount Cain and Mount Washington, or the Olympic ski area of Whistler Blackcomb, which is located just 78 miles north of Vancouver on the mainland.

Family Activities

A family-friendly city, Victoria’s year-round attractions and activities for children include Beacon Hill Children’s Park, AdrenaLine Adventure Tours, Esquimalt Recreation Centre, Commonwealth Place aquatic center, Crystal Pool indoor water park, The Maritime Museum of BC, and IMAX Victoria at the Royal BC Museum.

What Are the Different Neighborhoods in Victoria?

Victoria’s neighborhoods each have their own distinctive flair, and cater to every lifestyle, whether city, country, or waterfront. One of Victoria’s oldest communities, Oak Bay is an exclusive community complete with its own marina, as well as charming streets lined with high-end boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Real estate options include grand Victorian manors and townhouses, or sprawling waterfront estates overlooking the Pacific in nearby Uplands. The pastoral areas of Metchosin and Sooke offer a more rural lifestyle, as does The Highlands, a scenic and tranquil waterfront community surrounded by forests and hills.

Historic District

Other highly sought-after areas include the historic downtown district, which has luxury penthouses and townhouses overlooking the harbour, and Fisherman’s Wharf with its enchanting float home village. Other prime waterfront communities include James Bay, just south of downtown, and the seaside villages of Cadboro Bay and Cordova Bay.

What Are the Schools in Victoria?

Victoria has an excellent school system as well as top private schools such as Glenlyon Norfolk School and St. Michaels University School. Its diverse range of higher learning institutions include the world-renowned Victoria University, Royal Roads University, Victoria College of Art, and Victoria Conservatory of Music. 

How to Get to Victoria?

Though an island destination, travel between Victoria and the Canadian and US mainland is convenient. Travel options include a 30-minute flight by seaplane to Vancouver, or direct flights via commercial or private jet to Victoria International Airport to Vancouver International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma Airport, and numerous Canadian and US cities. The ferry terminals at Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria offer a 90-minute service to Vancouver on the Canadian mainland and Port Angeles in Washington State, or alternatively, a three-hour crossing to Seattle. The island’s other ferry ports include the Town of Sidney and the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, which are both situated approximately 30 minutes drive from downtown.

How Many People Live in Victoria?

Population: 80,017

What Languages Are Spoken in Victoria?

Language: English

What is the Currency in Victoria?

Currency: Canadian Dollar

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