Victoria: the Capital City of British Columbia

This Monday, August 4, we celebrated the British Columbia Day in BC. Inspired by this holiday, I decided to create this post to honour the capital city of our beautiful province: Victoria.

Victoria: the Capital City of British Columbia
Victoria: the Capital City of British Columbia
Courtesy of Jessica Meneses.

The British Columbia Day (or BC Day) is celebrated on the first Monday of August. It is considered a statutory holiday in British Columbia, and many businesses and organizations are closed on that day. The first Monday of August is also recognized as a public holiday in other provinces and territories. However, each region gives a different name to their celebration.

BC Day is always referred to as August long weekend, and recognized as one of the busiest days on our highways. Thousands of families take advantage of their time-off from work and their kids’ school vacation, and go out on all sorts of activities: festivals, parks, travelling, camping, swimming on the lake, fishing, hiking, biking, etc. It is the perfect time to enjoy the summer! Or whatever is left of it.

BC Parliament Buildings / Legislature Buildings
BC Parliament Buildings

Victoria is located in the southern point of Vancouver Island, on the Pacific Coast of Canada. The second oldest city in Western Canada was first founded on March 14, 1843 by the Hudson’s Bay Company as a trading post and fort, on a site that was originally called “Camosack” (native word for ‘rush of water’). The settlement was known as “Fort Albert” for a short period of time, being renamed “Fort Victoria” after Queen Victoria.

In 1852 the name “Victoria” was adopted. The city grew as the main port of entry to the Colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island due to the Fraser Valley gold rush in 1858. On August 2, 1862 Victoria was incorporated as a city. It remained the largest city in British Columbia until the construction of the Transcontinental railway, when the city of Vancouver emerged as the major port in the West Coast, becoming the largest city in the province.

With a population of 83,000, Victoria is recognized for its moderate climate, natural beauty (with ocean and mountain views) and beautiful public and private gardens. You may have heard about the famous Butchart Gardens, right!? It also nestles historically significant buildings of extraordinary architecture, such as: the BC Parliament, the Royal BC Museum and the Fairmont Empress Hotel. You will also find a great number of shops, restaurants, parks, museums, outdoor activities and tours.

Fairmont Empress Hotel
Fairmont Empress Hotel

To learn more about all that Victoria has to offer, I would recommend you visit Hello BC and Tourism Victoria websites. You can also explore the attractions in the area with Tourism Victoria’s Map Explorer tool, or even download their official Vacation Guide.

I honestly hope you have a chance to visit this beautiful city. Many people consider Victoria to be a little London inside of Canada, as it resembles UK capital city. I have not been to London before (only to Heathrow for flight connections), but do recognize it to be truth when comparing with images of London. The cool thing is that you can even ride the double decker buses. 🙂

How to get to Victoria

Although Victoria is located in the Island, you will find several ways and transportation carries to reach the city. Be prepared to enjoy the view!

Air: Victoria International Airport is located in the town of Sidney (BC), 30 minutes away from downtown Victoria, and is served with flights from Canada and the United States. The main carriers landing and taking off at the airport are Air Canada, WestJet, United and Alaska Airlines. You can find your way to and out of the airport by means of rental car, taxi, shuttle bus or public transportation. Learn more about the options at the airport’s webpage. If flying from Vancouver or Seattle, you will also have some additional and exciting options such as: Seaplanes (Harbour Air Seaplanes and Kenmore Air) and Helicopters (Helijet).

Buses: Pacific Coach Lines offers the Cross Water and YVR / Victoria Link services throughout the week.

Ferries: Victoria can be accessed by vehicle and passenger ferries from British Columbia and Washington State’s mainland. Daily services are offered from Port Angeles, WA (Black Ball Ferry Line) , Seattle, WA (Victoria Clipper) and Vancouver, BC (BCFerries) .

Getting to Victoria by public transportation: If you are in Vancouver, it is easy to reach Victoria through public transportation and BCFerries. So, what should you do?

Take Canada Line towards YVR Airport or Richmond. At ‘Bridgeport Station’, transfer to bus service # 620 towards Tsawwassen Ferry (Bay 4). Board on the Ferry to Victoria (Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay). Outside the Ferry Station, upon arrival in Victoria, you will find the bus stops. You can choose from the regular or express service. The total trip from Vancouver can take anywhere from 3:30 to 4 hours. It is common for people to go to Victoria on day trips. Make sure to check the Ferry Schedule before going to the terminal and arrive on time, unless you will have to wait for the next service. Take the earliest ferry as possible. In the summer you will be able to enjoy the long days and return in the early evening. The best thing is to try to stay overnight, so you can really enjoy the city.

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