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Victoria, Canada Travel Guide Hot
Last Updated: Apr-16-2012, Hits: 24,455, Rating: 4, Reviews: 1, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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Victoria, Canada Travel Guide Restaurants (76)
Hotels and Lodging (53)
Bars and Nightlife (36)
Attractions (45)
Services (18)
Maps (4)
Links (4)
British Columbia Travel Forum (1)
Location: North America
Geography: Island, City, Forest
Vacation Type: Family, Cosmopolitan, Culture and History
Popularity: Moderate Tourism
Costs: Moderate
Attractions: Historical Sites, Breweries, Shopping, Hiking, Fishing, Ecotourism, Boating, Scenery, Food Destination, Gardens

Facts and Stats:
City Population: 78,057
Metropolitan Population: 330,088
Land Area: 208.6 sq mi
Government: Parliamentary democracy, a federation, and a Commonwealth realm
Country Dialing Code: None (Dial 1 + area code + number)
Area Code: 250
Languages: English, French
Electricity: 110V
Currency: Canadian Dollar
Time Zone: PST (UTC-8)
Current Time:

Victoria is the Capital City of British Columbia. Known as "The Garden City" due to its myriad of beautiful flower gardens and lush Pacific Northwest forestry, this charming city offers beautiful architechture and a British feel. The City also offers an abundance of historical attractions and outdoor activities.

The city of Victoria is located on Vancouver Island which is the 43rd largest island in the world with an area of 12,407 square miles. Vancouver Island is 460 kilometres (290 mi) in length and 80 kilometres (50 mi) at the widest point. It is home to an estimated population of nearly 750,000 people, nearly half of whom live in Victoria and its suburbs.

Victoria is at the southern tip of the island about 55 miles south of Vancouver on the mainland. Victoria is bordered to the south by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the east by the Strait of Georgia, and to the west by The Port of Victoria. The Port of Victoria consists of three parts, the Outer Harbour, used by deep sea vessels, the Inner and Upper Harbours, used by coastal and industrial traffic.

Downtown Victoria is located on the Inner Harbour which separates it from the suburb of Esquimalt. As the capital of British Columbia, Victoria has no shortage of government buildings, many of which are reknowned for their British architecture. The lively downtown area is also a hotspot for many of the city's attractions, hotels and restaurants. At the heart of downtown lies the district known as "Old Town". This historic area is located immediately north of the Empress Hotel and includes Wharf Street, Government Street and Douglas Street running north-south, with Johnson Street, Yates Street and Fort Street crossing them.

Brief History:
Prior to the arrival of the Captain James Cook in the late 1700s, the Victoria area was home to several communities of Coast Salish peoples, including the Songhees. The Spanish and British took up the exploration of the northwest coast of North America beginning with the visits of Juan Perez in 1774 and of Captain James Cook in 1778 although the Victoria area of the Strait of Juan de Fuca was not penetrated until 1790. Spanish sailors visited Esquimalt Harbour in 1790, 1791, and 1792.

Victoria is Western Canada's oldest city and essentially began in 1843 as a Hudson Bay Company trading post set up by James Douglas at the request of Sir George Simpson. Simpson made the recommendation that a second line of forts be built in case Fort Vancouver and the other lower Columbia River valley forts fell into American hands and Fort Victoria was born and named in honor of Queen Victoria.

The Songhees established a village across the harbour from the fort. The Songhees' village was later moved north of Esquimalt. When the crown was established in 1849, a town was laid out on the site and made the capital of the colony.

Due to the Fraser Valley gold rush in 1858, Victoria grew rapidly as the main port of entry to the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. When the colonies combined, the City became the colonial capital and was established as the provincial capital when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871.

For most of the nineteenth century, Victoria remained the largest city in British Columbia and was the foremost in trade and commerce. However, with construction of the Transcontinental railway, Vancouver, as its terminus, emerged as the major west coast port and the largest city in British Columbia.

In the twentieth century, Victoria evolved primarily as a city of government, retirement and tourism.

Like other Pacific Northwest cities, Victoria is casual and laid back. Some remark that Victoria is a "city of the newly wed and nearly dead". This is due to the fact that the city has the third highest concentration of people 65 and older in Canada as many retirees flock here to enjoy milder weather than found in most other parts of the country.

At the same time, Victoria has plenty of activities and venues that appeal to the young and young at heart including a gaggle of dance clubs, ice skating rinks, skate parks, and a vibrant music scene. But Victoria is better known for a wide range of outdoor activites as much of the island is covered in forest. These activities include extensive hiking trails, camping, fishing, whale watching, sea kayaking, and running from bears and cougars. All jokes aside, the island has had a disproportionately high number of cougar attacks over the years due to a diminishing availability of prey so use caution when in the wilderness.

Although Victoria's crime rate is high for Canada (higher than major cities like Toronto), the murder rate is more than 3 times less than the U.S. national average. On the other hand, theft is a big problem including smash and grab attacks on cars. There is also a large number of homeless people in Victoria, likely due to the nicer weather. Fortunately, by most accounts, they are not aggressive in their approach to panhandling. Use ordinary caution and common sense while visiting here.

Food and Drink:
Like its neighbors of Seattle and Portland to the south, Victoria's main cuisine is Pacific Northwest which relies heavily on locally available ingredients with a European flair. Because of its history, you will also find a heavy dose of British food and tearooms. There aren't a lot of late night eateries as most restaurants serve until sometime between 9pm and 11pm. There are quite a few bars with pubfare that can accomodate creatures of the night.

Victoria has an excellent beer scene as there are several brewers and brewpubs located on the island and many more in Vancouver and vicinity.

Tipping in Victoria is the same as in the U.S. at 15-20% for reasonable service. Base your tip on the bill BEFORE taxes are added.

At the time of this writing, the Canadian dollar is about to surpass the U.S. dollar due to the never-ceasing printing presses and poor financial decisions. But enough politics.. The point is that Canada is becoming more expensive for American travelers. Having said that, it is still on par with the costs found in most U.S. cities.

Many establishments in Victoria will accept U.S. money, however, they may do so on a 1-to-1 basis. In other words, if your tab is $3 Canadian, they will charge you $3 U.S. and you are losing money. U.S. coins will not work in pay phones, parking meters, vending machines, etc. It is probably best to withdraw cash from an ATM so that you can avoid these situations.

Most purchases in British Columbia are subject to sales tax totaling 12% of the purchase price.

Getting There and Around:
Like most islands, getting to Victoria can take up most of a day no matter where you are coming from. The easiest way (but not necessarily the best) to get here is to fly into Victoria International Airport (Airport Code: YYJ). This airport is serviced by Air Canada, WestJet, Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air, and United Express.

A more scenic way to get to Victoria is to take a ferry and during your trip you may be lucky enough to see killer whales, dolphins and other marine life. Below is a list of the ferries that service the Greater Victoria area:
  • BC Ferries - provides vehicle and passenger service between Swartz Bay (north of Victoria) and Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver).
  • Victoria San Juan Cruises - provides ferry service between Bellingham, Washington and Victoria. This is in a tour format and is more expensive than others.
  • Washington State Ferries - provides vehicle and passenger service between Anacortes, Washington and Sidney (north of Victoria).
  • Victoria Clipper - provides passenger only service between Seattle, Washington and Victoria.
  • Black Ball Ferry Line - provides vehicle and passenger service between Port Angeles, Washington and Victoria.
  • Victoria Express - provides passenger only service between Port Angeles, Washington and Victoria.
More information and links are available in the "services" section of this guide (at the top).

If you can't fit all of your money in your wallet, a good way to get rid of some is by taking a sea plane (AKA "Float Plane") to Victoria. Below are some of the options:
  • Harbour Air Seaplanes - Flights from Vancouver, Richmond and Langley to Victoria.
  • Hyack Air - Flights from Seattle, Washington to Victoria.
  • West Coast Air - Flights from Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler to Victoria.
See the "Services" section of this guide for more information about sea plane flights.

Once in Victoria, there are numerous ways to get around. The city is small and very walkable. Of course, they also have taxis and busses. If you want a more scenic and informational form of transportation, you can check out the Victoria Harbour Ferry. More information is available about these options in our Services section.

Entry Requirements:
When you enter Canada, a CBSA officer may ask to see your passport and a valid visa, if one is necessary. The entry requirements may vary depending on your country of origin. For official entry requirements, click here.

For U.S. citizens, there is a lot of confusion as to what is required to get into Canada and gain re-entry into the United States. The short answer is to just take a passport. For other options, visit the U.S. Department of State and Department of Homeland Security.

Victoria has some of the best weather in Canada and even receives much less rainfall and precipitation than its neighbor Seattle to the south. During the summer months, Victoria is the driest major city in Canada. These factors are why Victoria is the "City of Gardens".

Here are the current weather conditions and sunrise/sunset information:

Click for Victoria, British Columbia Forecast

Below are the average temperatures and rainfall for Victoria:

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 43 32 5.6"
February 47 34 3.9"
March 50 35 2.8"
April 55 38 1.7"
May 61 43 1.3"
June 66 48 1.1"
July 71 51 0.7"
August 71 51 0.90"
September 66 47 1.4"
October 57 41 2.9"
November 48 36 5.5"
December 44 33 6.0"

Important Contact Information:
Police - 911
Fire - 911
Ambulance - 911
BC NurseLine - 811
Air or Marine Emergency - 800-567-5111 or cell 311
Directory Assistance: 411

Tips/Additional Information:
  • Hand-held cellphones, portable electronic devices and text messaging are illegal while driving.
  • Canada uses the metric system.
  • By law, all Canadian transportation carriers such as airlines, railways and ferries are required to ensure that travellers with disabilities do not encounter undue obstacles while using their services.
  • The legal drinking age is 19.
  • Smoking is prohibited in indoor public places and work places. The province has also banned smoking near public doorways, open windows and air intakes.

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User Reviews (1)

Reviewed by: sloshed
Review date: May-21-2010

This was my first time to Victoria and we spent about 6 days here. The city is very clean, safe, walkable, and we seemed to get friendly service everywhere. Butchart Gardens were great, whale watching would have been amazing if we had seen anything, high tea at the Empress was surprisingly fun, and Beacon Hill Park was very nice to highlight a few things. The weather, at least this time of year, seems to be very unpredictable and the weather forcasts were considerably off a lot of the time. Fortunately, they were off in our favor. On a related note, a lot of places do not have A/C so if you come in the middle of summer, you may want to take that into account when looking for a hotel, etc. I would say that the biggest negative of Victoria is the expense, particularly when it comes to food and liquor. The prices may not stun people from places like New York, London, or even other parts of Canada. But those of us from places like Oregon and Washington, aren't accustomed to paying $10 for a cocktail, or $7-$8 for a beer. In fact, it is typically half that here. The high prices are the result of massive sin taxes we discovered. Overall, this is a good destination especially for those not used to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. 

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