“The Garden City” is found on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The capital of B.C., Victoria is the southernmost major city in Western Canada and about 100 km (60 mi) southwest from Vancouver. Seattle is about 100 km away. Victoria is the largest urban area on Vancouver Island.
Named for Queen Victoria, it’s one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. British settlement began in 1843, and a number of historic buildings still stand, including the Parliament Buildings (finished in 1897) and the Empress Hotel (opened in 1908). The city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America.
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Victoria area was home to several communities of Coast Salish peoples, including the Songhees. In 1841 James Douglas founded Fort Victoria on the site of present-day Victoria. When news of the discovery of gold on B.C.‘s mainland reached San Francisco in 1858, Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting centre for miners on their way to the Fraser Canyon gold fields. In 1862, Victoria was incorporated as a city. That same year, the city became the epicenter of the smallpox epidemic which devastated the First Nations.
After the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886, Victoria lost its position as the commercial centre of the province to Vancouver. A real-estate and development boom ended just before World War I. Since World War II, the area has seen relatively steady growth. Today Victoria is a major tourism destination with over 3.5 million overnight visitors per year.
Its climate is warm-summer Mediterranean with fresh, dry, sunny summers and cool winters with moderate precipitation.
Canadian director Atom Egoyan was raised in Victoria. Actors Cameron Bright (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Ryan Robbins (Battlestar Galactica) were born in the city. Actor Cory Monteith from the television series Glee was raised in Victoria.
Beer has been brewed in Victoria longer than anywhere else in the province, dating back to 1858 when a German man who came north from San Francisco during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush founded Victoria Brewing.
According to Greater Victoria Real Estate Board statistics, the median house price in Greater Victoria in January 2021 was $975,000, and the average price hit a new all-time of $1.22 million, partially due to a rise in luxury home sales.
In 2017, the city’s population was 92,141. The population of the Greater Victoria Area (13 municipalities) was around 367,000.
Victoria is known for its disproportionately large retiree population. Some 6.4 percent of the population of Victoria and its surrounding area are over 80 years of age—the highest proportion for any of Canada's metropolitan areas. The city also claims Canada’s third-highest concentration of people 65 and older (17.8 percent).
Advanced technology is one of Victoria’s largest revenue-producing private industries. Other industries include food products, tourism, education, and government administration and services.
The University Of Victoria, Victoria College of Art, Camosun College, and the Canadian College of Performing Arts are well-known and respected post-secondary education institutions. UVic (in the municipalities of Oak Bay and Saanich) and Camosun have over 33,000 faculty, staff and students combined.
École Victor-Brodeur, in the adjacent municipality of Esquimalt, provides education for the city’s Francophone community.
Climate, location and variety of facilities make the city ideal for many recreational activities including rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, golf, water sports, informal team sports and jogging.
Victoria is also known as the Cycling Capital of Canada, with hundreds of kilometres of bicycle paths, bike lanes and bike routes in the city. Several whale-watching tour companies operate from the harbour.
The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre arena is the home of the Victoria Royals Western Hockey League (WHL). Royal Athletic Park is a multi-purpose stadium in the city and is the home stadium for the WCL’s Victoria HarbourCats.
Accomplished athletes who have lived in Victoria include Steve Nash and NHL players Jamie Benn and Jordie Benn, Tyson Barrie, and Matt Irwin. Former professional racing cyclist and 2012 Giro d’Italia winner, Ryder Hesjedal was born there. The city has also been home to many Olympic Games athletes, including medalists Silken Laumann, Ryan Cochrane, and Simon Whitfield.
The city and metro region has hosted several high-profile sports events including the 1994 Commonwealth Games, the 2009 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the 2005 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship tournament, and 2006 Skate Canada.
Every year, the Swiftsure International Yacht Race attracts boaters from around the world, and the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival brings over 90 teams from around North America.
Downtown Victoria, where many night clubs, theatres, restaurants and pubs are clustered, serves as Greater Victoria’s regional downtown. Canada Day fireworks displays, Symphony Splash, and many other festivals and cultural events draw tens of thousands of locals and visitors to the downtown core. The annual multi-day Rifflandia Music Festival is one of Canada’s largest rock and pop music festivals.
The Royal Theatre is home to the Victoria Symphony, the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, as well as Pacific Opera Victoria.
Belfry Theatre produces contemporary plays with an emphasis on new Canadian plays. Other regional theatre venues include Phoenix Theatre at the University of Victoria, the Roxy Theatre, Kaleidoscope Theatre and Intrepid Theatre. The Victoria Fringe Festival is one of the most acclaimed fringe festivals in Canada.
The 5th (British Columbia) Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery Band is the only Canadian Forces Primary Reserve brass/reed band on Vancouver Island.
Well-known musicians and bands from Victoria include Nelly Furtado, David Foster, Frog Eyes, Nomeansno, Wolf Parade, and Hot Hot Heat.
Victoria is used as a filming location for many films, television series, and television movies, including X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, Final Destination, Smallville, and The Dead Zone and Poltergeist: The Legacy.
The Royal British Columbia Museum is the province’s human and natural history museum and features large exhibits on local Aboriginal peoples, natural history, and modern history, along with travelling international exhibits. Downtown also has the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Emily Carr House, Victoria Bug Zoo, Market Square, and the oldest (and most intact) Chinatown in Canada. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is close to downtown in the Rockland neighbourhood.
Just north of the city limits is Butchart Gardens, a botanical garden and National Historic Site.
There are three major shopping malls in Victoria, including the Bay Centre, Hillside Shopping Centre, and Mayfair Shopping Centre.
The city boasts many cool little shops, stores and boutiques as well. One of the most famous is Munro’s Books, a downtown Victoria bookshop co-founded by Nobel laureate Alice Munro (Lives of Girls and Women).
Victoria craft breweries, such as Driftwood, Phillips, Category 12, and Hoyne, are among the most celebrated in Western Canada. Popular restaurants are Pagliacci’s, Sooke Harbour House, and Saveur.
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