Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Victoria, BC - Island Capital

Victoria sits at the southern end of Vancouver Island off the coast of the Lower Mainland, in southern British Columbia. There's a 'United Kingdom' feel to this city with an Irish pub, British woolens and tartans, and bagpipes playing at the Inner Harbour.  We'll start with the ivy-decorated building below, The Empress.

The Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC by DG Hudson

The Empress Hotel, named after Queen Victoria, opened in 1908. It's one of several buildings facing the Inner Harbour.  In this Edwardian hotel, originally built as the terminus for the Canadian Pacific Steamship line, you can have afternoon tea in a plush setting, Victorian style, but be warned it's a bit pricey. Check the website for costs and reservations. The service was great when we there. It's an old 'railway' hotel, now managed by Fairmont. Emily Carr's childhood home was situated not far from the Empress Hotel. Many famous people have visited this hotel in the past, including kings, queens, movie stars, and more. The architect who designed it is said to haunt the hotel on occasion. Hubs and I spent our honeymoon here, but saw no ghosts.

The Empress is a National Historic Site of Canada. It's one of the more famous of the railway hotels managed by Fairmont, which includes Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada. Author Rudyard Kipling was a frequent visitor to Victoria and the Empress. One of the on-site restaurants was named after him, but Kipling's has since closed and been replaced by a seasonal restaurant.


Between the Empress and the Legislative buildings is the Royal British Columbia Museum. The 'royal' in the title was approved by Queen Elizabeth II and bestowed in 1987 by HRH Prince Phillip, during their royal tour that year. In 2003, the museum merged with the BC Provincial Archives.


Royal BC Museum, Victoria, from Wikipedia

The Royal BC Museum, which opened October 25, 1886, includes three permanent galleries: modern history, natural history and local First Nations' history.  The museum's collections comprise approximately 7 million objects, including artifacts, natural history specimens, and archival records.

The reason for founding the Royal BC Museum in 1886 was to respond to a petition from prominent citizens who were concerned about the loss of British Columbian artifacts to European and American museums. This museum also has a life-size town display of an old hotel from Victorian times. You can smell the cinnamon and apple pie in the simulated kitchen. The First Nations art is outstanding in its breadth and scope, in this walk-through exhibit of carvings and ancestral lodges. Highly recommended.


The British Columbia Parliament Buildings

BC's Parliament Buildings, Victoria, by DG Hudson

Across the street from the Royal British Columbia Museum, sits the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, which contains the Legislative Assembly of the Provincial Government. There's an interesting history about these buildings which replaced the 'Birdcages' of the original design which burned down. In the evenings, the Parliament Buildings are outlined by a multitude of lights, in the style of Paris illuminations.


The Inner Harbour in Victoria is a gathering place. Here you can see street buskers, bagpipe players, and lots of locals and visitors, during good weather and summer evenings. There are several small bistro type cafes, pubs, and a few full-service restaurants when you need a break. Most of the downtown sites are clustered within this area so you can walk to them. Other sites are the Buschart Gardens, Fort Rodd Hill, and Craigdarroch Castle. For more information, check our tourism site.

Victoria's Inner Harbour, on Vancouver Island by DG Hudson

Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The region's Coast Salish First Nations peoples established communities in the area long before non-native (or European) settlement. The First Nations people still maintain a healthy presence on Vancouver Island. Thunderbird Park is another site where you can view native art and totems.

BC Ferries is one of the ways of getting to Vancouver Island and Victoria. If you drive, be sure to check the schedules and the prices. This ferry leaves from either Horseshoe Bay, North Vancouver or Tsawwassen, in Delta, one of the Vancouver suburbs. Ferries carry vehicles and foot passengers. There are short flights which will carry you to the island as well.

BC Ferries to Victoria by DG Hudson


Hope you've enjoyed this brief visual tour of Victoria. If you're traveling to the Pacific Northwest in my area (Canada), you might want to include this beautiful city with its multitude of flowering baskets, as part of your visit. It's one of my favorite places, but only one of the interesting places on the island. More to come on Vancouver Island in a future post.

Have you ever visited Victoria, BC? How about Vancouver Island? Do you like historical sites and/or beautiful cities? I'd love to hear your comments or questions, and let me know if you've been to this city before. Thanks for stopping by and hope you'll visit again.


References:,_British_Columbia Victoria on Vancouver Island. The Empress Hotel High Tea vs Afternoon Tea The Royal British Columbia Museum Museum wiki