City Hopper: Victoria, B.C., Canada
Victoria, B.C. is a place that I hold close to my heart and one that I consider home for part of the year. It’s located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island on Canada’s Pacific Coast. The city of Victoria has a population of just over 80,000 inhabitants and Victoria as a whole has a population of over 340,000 people. Even with that population you get the small town/city feeling from Victoria and the locals are friendly, smiling and more than ready to have a conversation with you.
Victoria is named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest with the British settling here as early as 1841. The city has retained a good many of it’s historical buildings most notably the Empress Hotel and the Parliament buildings that can’t be missed from Victoria Harbor.
Before the British settled here Victoria was filled (and still is) with Coast Salish First Nations peoples who established a presence here possibly thousands of years before that. You can see totem poles and other indigenous artifacts throughout the city as well as throughout the whole of British Columbia.
The university here, appropriately named the University of Victoria or UVic, is the second oldest research university in British Columbia. It is located 5 miles northeast of downtown Victoria and has an annual student enrollment of about 20,000 people. The university is know for its innovative architecture and it’s beautiful gardens as well. UVic is the nation’s lead institution in the VENUS and NEPTUNE deep-water, sea floor observatory projects.
The city is not only popular with with younger folks but also retirees who come to Victoria to enjoy the city’s relatively relaxed pace as well as the temperate climate with the least snowfall of any other part of Canada, beautiful scenery and year round golf season. The combination of all the younger folks going to college at UVic and the rich retirees who settle here makes Victoria’s residents a fantastic mix. It makes it a place of great business ideas and opportunities that germinate from young minds and fall to a rich soil where they can grow and get financed.
Victoria also has a Design District with trendy shops, local designers, and specialized shops that gives this city great shopping and a hip neighborhood vibe. It is located just at the end of Chinatown (click here to see my blog that covers Chinatown) and continues for blocks after that. It’s such an hip and trendy place that there is actually a Canadian design show called appropriately enough ‘Design District’. Check out the trailer for the show below.
Another thing you will notice here in Victoria is there really is no shortage of coffee shops. You will find one just about on any corner and they all have their own unique touch. All you need to do is try them all out and you will find your favorite on in no time. Although I can’t really say for sure how many coffee shops there are in Victoria though a web search brought up at least 34 instantly and I suspect the number is higher considering that the city has the most per capita restaurants. So I could easily see the same being true for coffee shops here too.
And speaking of restaurants…Victoria has one of the most diversified culinary experiences available within a square mile called ‘Downtown Victoria’. Here the Pacific West Coast food melts with Asian, European, and Mediterranean food to create an experience that is simply fantastic! Many of the restaurants here only use locally sourced foods such as local caught salmon and vegetables and wines from local farms and wineries! You will have some of the best foods here that’s for sure!
The other thing you’ll notice here is the architecture here is a melt between traditional Victorian-British style and the new modern style called ‘Vancouverism’. Vancouverism is an urban planning and architectural technique that was pioneered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouverism was developed out of necessity and is primarily due to Vancouver’s location. Situated between the mountains and the sea they needed to develop a type of architecture that encouraged controlled development. Because of this you’ll see buildings that have stores on the bottom and high rises of residences above that.
Vancouverism also encourages the development of living spaces where the view is un-obsecured so that you can see the beautiful sea and mountains that surround the area. This architectural technique can be seen throughout Victoria as well and it fits so beautifully!
Victoria is sometimes called ‘A bit of ole England’ due to the fact that there are so many gardens and flowers everywhere and because of that it’s also earned the nicknames of ‘The Garden Capital of Canada’ and ‘The City of Gardens’. One of the most popular places to visit in here is Butchart Gardens where they show you just how much of a green thumb they have. This is a must-see for anyone coming to visit.
Here’s a great video that shows you just a fraction of the beautiful things you can see here in Victoria, B.C.: