Victoria: a little bit of Britain in Canada

February 18, 2009

VICTORIA, BC, Feb. 18, 2010/ Bon Voyage / — Victoria, the capital city of the province of British Columbia, is mostly known for its picturesque inner harbor, with the Empress Hotel at its head.

The hotel is called Empress after Queen Victoria, for whom the city is named. The cozy Inner Harbor gives the city an intimate setting: it seems friendly and inviting and very “doable.”

The grand old ivy-covered Empress Hotel is the city’s most photographed attraction. It graces almost every tourist brochure you will see. You really must stop for a proper English afternoon tea (see also Afternoon Tea at Victoria, BC’s Empress Hotel). The Empress does this tradition up right, serving fancy cakes and sandwiches and, of course, scones and cream.

Tours available to see the Legislature

Along the edges of the inner harbor are some of the grandest heritage buildings in the city. Off to the left as you face away from the Empress Hotel, you can see the Legislative Building of British Columbia.  Take some time to visit and see its murals and stained glass. Tours are available.

The lawns and gardens in front of the Empress are part of what make the Inner Harbor so pretty. The effect continues into the night when the building is illuminated by over three thousand lights.

While the buildings around the Inner Harbor might seem imposing, few buildings in the city are skyscrapers. Few are even over seven stories tall, which is part of the city’s charm. The scale seems so manageable.

The Inner Harbor is the lively center of the city. It bustles with seaplanes, ferries, yachts, even kayaks and rowing boats. During the summer, hanging flower baskets spruce up the lamp posts, and you’re sure to see “outdoor entertainers” trying to catch your eye.

Explore the city streets that branch off from the head of the Inner Harbor. The city is easy to explore on foot. There is great shopping in lots of unique shops. Don’t forget to add Old Towne, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf to your itinerary.

There are double-decker buses reminiscent of London to help you get around but you can also take a horse drawn carriage ride around the harbor, through Beacon Hill Park and past historic homes and landmark buildings.

Explore the First Nations culture. The city has plenty of galleries with art by members of the First Nation, whose art and traditions are alive and well.

Mildest climate in Canada

Make time for a visit to the famous Butchart Gardens. Victoria has the mildest climate in Canada so gardens bloom year-round.

If you feel like getting out of the city, and getting a little exercise you can go bicycling, or try a kayak or canoe on the inner harbor or beyond. There are great golf courses, and that mild climate which keeps gardens blooming let’s you golf year around too. Tour companies can take you out fishing or whale watching.

Explore Victoria, but remember, there is the whole of Vancouver Island yet to explore.

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