Victoria, British Columbia is a beautiful and historic city located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada’s Pacific Coast. The namesake of Queen Victoria, it is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific with the first British settlement in 1841. The city is also home to the second largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco.
We visited this beautiful city in October to celebrate our wedding anniversary and we can’t wait to return. The highlights of our trip included Butchart Gardens, a floral extravaganza and a must-see for every visitor to Victoria; Craigdarroch Castle, a Scottish castle built in the 1890′s with a live Dracula show; Murchies, an 1896 bakery with a huge variety of savory and sweet delights where the apple brioche just melts in your mouth; and the Royal BC Museum, a delight for history and museum lovers everywhere.
Butchart Gardens is one of the world’s premier floral gardens. Named a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004, Butchart Gardens contributes to Victoria’s reputation as a city of gardens with one million bedding plants in 700 varieties insuring beautiful flowers and foliage from March through October. I didn’t know you could grow breathtaking begonias in October! There were huge beds of begonias in yellow, red, cranberry, and peach. I considered buying seeds to start my own “Butchart”, they sell seeds and bulbs on the premises, but then I remembered, I’m no gardener.
Originally a private endeavor, the 55-acre floral garden dates from 1904 and features Japanese and Italian landscaping. I found the history fascinating. There’s a Sunken Garden, once a limestone quarry, and a beautiful trellised Rose Garden. At Christmas, the garden is lit with thousands of tiny lights. In Summer, there are concerts in the garden and glorious fireworks displays. Take a Virtual tour.
An Edwardian Era landmark, this historic hotel overlooking the Victoria Harbor is one of Victoria’s best known historical buildings. Built in 1908, the hotel has played host to kings, queens, celebrities and other famous people. Threatened with demolition in 1965, a local paper warned “tens of thousands of tourists will never return”. An ambitious campaign dubbed Operation Teacup (they serve Afternoon Tea to more guests than most hotels in London) was mounted to preserve the Empress, and now it stands as a glorious reminder of a bygone era.
The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are home to the Legislative Assembly of BC. The Parliament buildings, built in the Neo-baroque style, face the Inner Harbour within sight of The Empress Hotel. A statue of Queen Victoria and a soldier on the front lawn commemorate Canada’s participation in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. The central dome has a gold-covered statue of the great explorer Captain George Vancouver. Murals depict scenes of BC history from 1792 to 1843. Tours are available every day.
Showcasing human and natural history from BC and abroad, the museum houses fourteen million unique objects and documents in three galleries: The First People’s Gallery, The Modern History Library, and the Natural History Gallery. My favorite was our visit to Century Square, complete with real cobblestone streets, reaching back 200 years tracing the early development of British Columbia complete with a replica of the stern section of Captain George Vancouver’s ship HMS Discovery. Take a Virtual tour.
Encompassing an area of six city blocks in the north end of downtown, Chinatown is a must-visit. Once infamous for its gambling dens and brothels, Chinatown is a busy hub of business, shops, and restaurants, including Fan Tan Alley- famous for being the narrowest street in Victoria. My daughter tried a traditional Bubble tea, but didn’t like the large tapioca pearls. We’d just come from Murchies, so we didn’t eat, but it was tempting as the air was full of cooking smells and incense, fragrant and spicy.
One of Canada’s National Historical Sites, this 28-acre estate was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by the wealthy Dunsmuir family in 1887. The castle is just minutes from downtown Victoria, BC. We had planned to take the castle tour, but arrived too late. People were waiting to see a live presentation of Dracula in the castle, so we joined the queue. It was fun seeing Dracula, right before Halloween, and the interior of the castle as we moved from room to room as the story unfolded before our eyes. This was a major highlight for my daughter who is taking Drama as we were just inches from the actors.
The weather was rainy, overcast, and cold, but we had a great time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get great daytime pictures. Special thanks to my husband Scott King for the pictures he was able to share with me. I hope you too will visit Victoria. It is such a grand and glorious city with something to delight everyone. Start your journey here at http://www.victoria.ca