Victoria

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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.

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South Vancouver Island geography.

South Vancouver Island geography.

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!

Downtown

The Empress Hotel sits in the center of the city. Built in 1904, today it is part of the Fairmont luxury hotel group.

The Empress Hotel sits in the center of the city. Built in 1904, today it is part of the Fairmont luxury hotel group.

Douglas Street, the main strip of Victoria.

Douglas Street, the main strip of Victoria.

There aren't many tall buildings in downtown Victoria, but considering all the sun and fresh ocean air, they're not really needed.

There aren’t many tall buildings in downtown Victoria, but considering all the sun and fresh ocean air, they’re not really needed.

Downtown Victoria at the height of winter...

Downtown Victoria at the height of winter…

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The BC Legislature is lit up every night of the year.

The BC Legislature is lit up every night of the year.

The BC Legislature

The BC Legislature

Emily Carr sits eternally outside of the Empress.

Emily Carr sits eternally outside of the Empress.

Douglas Street

Douglas Street

Harbour Taxis can shuttle tourists around the inner harbour..for a price, of course.

Harbour Taxis can shuttle tourists around the inner harbour..for a price, of course.

Services

Double-deckers are a regular part of the BC Transit fleet servicing Victoria. Victoria boasts a well-planned and timely bus system.

Double-deckers are a regular part of the BC Transit fleet servicing Victoria. Victoria boasts a well-planned and timely bus system.

The Victoria PD

The Victoria PD

YYJ Victoria International Airport was chosen by CNN in 2012 as "North America's Friendliest Airport".

YYJ Victoria International Airport was chosen by CNN in 2012 as “North America’s Friendliest Airport”.

Need to get around? In addition to a couple of regular taxi companies, horse-drawn carts are a real tourist trap!

Need to get around? In addition to a couple of regular taxi companies, horse-drawn carts are a real tourist trap!

Can't afford the exhorbitant horse-drawn taxi fees? Try a regular cab instead.

Can’t afford the exhorbitant horse-drawn taxi fees? Try a regular cab instead.

Shopping

The Bay Centre in downtown Victoria is a large multi-story mall.

The Bay Centre in downtown Victoria is a large multi-story mall.

The Uptown Center features Victoria's only Walmart as well as a Future Shop and several other big-chain stores.

The Uptown Center features Victoria’s only Walmart as well as a Future Shop and several other big-chain stores.

Mayfair Mall is another big place to shop.

Mayfair Mall is another big place to shop.

Cook Street Village

Just east of downtown is quaint Cook Street Village, named after Captain James Cook and home to The Beagle Pub, named after his ship.

Just east of downtown is quaint Cook Street Village, named after Captain James Cook and home to The Beagle Pub, named after his ship.

Cook Street Village is filled with tiny cafes, boutique shops and salons. Perfect for a day out.

Cook Street Village is filled with tiny cafes, boutique shops and salons. Perfect for a day out.

Near to Cook Street Village lies Beacon Hill Park, home to a large fowl population.

Near to Cook Street Village lies Beacon Hill Park, home to a large fowl population.

Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park

Nature

The Olympic Mountains in Washington State can be seen from any point in Victoria.

The Olympic Mountains in Washington State can be seen from any point in Victoria.

Dallas Road is one of the most breathtaking drives/walks/jogs/cycles anywhere in Canada.

Dallas Road is one of the most breathtaking drives/walks/jogs/cycles anywhere in Canada.

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The famous Butchart Gardens

The famous Butchart Gardens

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Near Cook Street Village lies Ross Bay, an inlet of calm in an otherwise slightly-less calm ocean.

Near Cook Street Village lies Ross Bay, an inlet of calm in an otherwise slightly-less calm ocean.

Seals hang out at the Fisherman's Wharf in the summer, hoping to get a tasty treat from a gullible tourist.

Seals hang out at the Fisherman’s Wharf in the summer, hoping to get a tasty treat from a gullible tourist.

In the spring Victoria explodes into bright fluffy colours has hundreds of cherry and apple blossoms come to life.

In the spring Victoria explodes into bright fluffy colours has hundreds of cherry and apple blossoms come to life.

Deer roam free in Victoria.

Deer roam free in Victoria.

Orcas are a common sight.

Orcas are a common sight.

Universities

Camosun College is one of the best marine engineering schools in Canada.

Camosun College is one of the best marine engineering schools in Canada.

The University of Victoria (aka UVic) is one of the best undergraduate and graduate schools in the country.

The University of Victoria (aka UVic) is one of the best undergraduate and graduate schools in the country.

Royal Roads University is a top-notch graduate school specializing in economics.

Royal Roads University is a top-notch graduate school specializing in economics.

Chinatown

Victoria is home to North America's oldest Chinatown.

Victoria is home to North America’s oldest Chinatown.

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Shops, restaurants and weird little back-alleys all make Chinatown a must-see stop in Victoria.

Shops, restaurants and weird little back-alleys all make Chinatown a must-see stop in Victoria.

Fan Tan Alley

Fan Tan Alley

Attractions

Tea at the Empress is a must see attraction.

Tea at the Empress is a must see attraction.

The Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC Museum

The Victoria Conservatory of Music is one of the nicest music halls anywhere.

The Victoria Conservatory of Music is one of the nicest music halls anywhere.

The Irish Times is Victoria's oldest pub.

The Irish Times is Victoria’s oldest pub.

The Fisherman's Wharf is designed for sightseers.

The Fisherman’s Wharf is designed for sightseers.

Take a drive up the Malahat Mountain for the spectacular views.

Take a drive up the Malahat Mountain for the spectacular views.

Ross Bay cemetery is filled with history.

Ross Bay cemetery is filled with history.

The Sooke Potholes are sure to impress.

The Sooke Potholes are sure to impress.

Esquilmalt

Canada's Pacific Fleet is based at Esquimalt.

Canada’s Pacific Fleet is based at Esquimalt.

The Westsong Walkway through Esquimalt Harbor is stunning.

The Westsong Walkway through Esquimalt Harbor is stunning.

Esquimalt has a reputation as a crime-ridden, rough and loud part of Victoria, although the fact of the matter is that it boasts a relatively low crime rate and some rather high property values.

Esquimalt has a reputation as a crime-ridden, rough and loud part of Victoria, although the fact of the matter is that it boasts a relatively low crime rate and some rather high property values.

Oak Bay

Oak Bay is considered the "rich" part of Victoria, with the average house price well above a million dollars.

Oak Bay is considered the “rich” part of Victoria, with the average house price well above a million dollars.

Your average two million dollar Oak Bay home.

Your average two million dollar Oak Bay home.

Your average Oak Bay view.

Your average Oak Bay view.

The End

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