Nestled in a warm nook of water, surrounded on three sides by breathtaking mountains, and home to Canada’s only native tropical flora, British Columbia’s provincial capital is unquestionably the nicest city in Canada.
Victoria is a unique city in Canada in that it boasts a sub-tropical climate; this means temperatures rarely drop to freezing and if they do it’s only for a day or two. Unlike Vancouver, with it’s infamous rain and fog, Victoria remains relatively sunny and, well, nice throughout the year.
Victoria is home to roughly 300,000 people and is made up of 13 fiercely independent municipalities that include Oak Bay, Esquilmalt, Victoria, Langford, Colwood, Saanich (all of them), View Royal and Metchosin, to name a few. Outlying towns that fall under the “Capital Region District” include Sooke and Sidney.
Surrounded by gently rolling forested hills, pristine (albeit rocky) Pacific beaches and awe-inspiring mountain vistas, Victoria is simply stunning and, well, nice.
Victoria is one of the oldest cities on the Pacific Northwest. Although British settlement began there in 1843, the area where Victoria sits today has long been inhabited by First Nations peoples of the Lekwungen, Esquilmalt and Songhees tribes. Archaeological evidence shows that people have been living in this pristine, warm and lush corner of the world for nearly ten thousand years!
In 1774 Captain Juan Perez was the first European to explore the region and the surrounding straits (now named the San Juan Strait) and in 1778 Captain James Cook made landfall exactly where Victoria Harbour is today. Cook met up with the local natives, traded some trinkets, marked the location on a map and sailed on to explore the Pacific. In 1841 British authorities sent James Douglas to the inlet to claim it for Britain and to build a Hudson’s Bay fort there to protect the island against American expansion. The first European settlement was completed that same year where the Royal Empress hotel sits today.
In 1855 a gold rush in British Columbia brought a sudden boom in population, and in 1886 the Canadian Pacific railway was completed. The Chinese laborers who had provided most of the backbreaking work of the railroad, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, were shuttled off to quiet Victoria where North America’s first (and today oldest) Chinatown was settled. With gold, Chinese traders, and a big port opening up, Victoria soon grew into a bustling and dynamic city. When British Columbia was invited to join Confederation in 1871, there was only city that anyone even considered to be the provincial capital: Victoria.
Victoria has been a big player in Canada’s history. The famed Canadian Scottish regiment, from Victoria, has fought in every Canadian conflict and earned respect in the brutal frontlines of the First World War. Nelly Furtado, Taylor Anne Reid, Chantal Krevaziuk , Emily Carr, Colin Firth and Randy Bachmann all hail from Victoria. During the Great Depression Victoria was one of only a handful of cities on the continent that maintained a steady economy and job market (thanks in part to illegal bootlegging to the US).
Today Victoria is a vibrant city, although it is often referred to as a city of the “newly wed and nearly dead”. Sporting two universities and a large retirement population (thanks to all that warm weather), Victoria can become a little boring for younger ages, and real estate prices are nearly unaffordable for the average young family. Nevertheless, Victoria consistently ranks in the top ten most liveable cities in Canada, and the top fifty in the world. If ever you get a chance, come visit beautiful Victoria, BC!
Cook Street Village