Most Famous Places
Image by Ikiwaner under Creative Commons License.

British Columbia, Victoria Guide (A): Most Famous Places

Take this tour for the consummate experience of British Columbia's capital city, Victoria. Orient yourself to the city's most famous cultural landmarks. Stroll through its living history and its unique beauty. Overlook the island city's vistas and even go underwater of its famous Inner Harbour! If you take just one tour of Victoria, this is the one.
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Walk Route

Guide Name: Most Famous Places
Guide Location: Canada » Victoria
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 4.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.4 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Emily Carr House   Parliament Buildings   Pacific Undersea Gardens   Royal BC Museum   Empress Hotel   Chinatown   Christchurch Cathedral   Greater Victoria Art Gallery   Craigdarroch Castle   Government House   Abkhazi Garden  
Author: Brett Featherstone
Author Bio: My name is Brett Featherstone-Price but some call me Lady Brett. I live, write and dance in places as far-flung as Africa and Alaska. A graduate of UCLA’s World Arts and Culture’s Department, I now live with my family on a sailboat named Simplicity up and down the West Coast of North America. With an eye for the extraordinary, I’m always on the lookout for inspiring and meaningful points of interest for you.
1
Emily Carr House

1) Emily Carr House

The renowned artist and Canadian icon Emily Carr (1871-1945) spent most of her young life in this house. She was born here, in fact. It was originally commissioned by her father in 1863 in the Italianate architectural style. A lasting love for her family's house followed Miss Carr all her life and made its way into her artwork. Carr's original style of painting and writing left a profound impression on the art world. The Carr House is now a National and Provincial Historic Site. You can stroll the grounds year round or take a look inside while its open during the summer. The Emily Carr House is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11-4pm from May 1 – Sept 30.
Image by Mattlapointe under Creative Commons License.
2
Parliament Buildings

2) Parliament Buildings

The Parliament Buildings are British Columbia's seat of government. The buildings house the body of elected officials chosen to represent British Columbians known as the Legislative Assembly. Their doors first opened on February 10, 1898, replacing the original Colonial Administrative Buildings. The steps and the lawn facing the Inner Harbour have been ground zero for many protests over forestry, First Nations legislation, human rights and other matters close to the hearts of British Columbians. The roof holds 33 copper domes. Above those stands a gold plated statue of Captain George Vancouver. Don’t miss the Parliament Buildings at night when 3,500 bulbs illuminate its countours. You are welcome to walk through the inside of the buildings on a self-guided tour weekdays from 9am to 5pm or join a free guided tour. To enter the buildings on weekends and holidays, you must accompany a free guided tour. Tours leave from the waiting room inside the Main Entrance regularly throughout the day. The buildings are closed on weekends and holidays during the fall, winter, and spring. Admission is always free.
Image by Ikiwaner under Creative Commons License.
3
Pacific Undersea Gardens

3) Pacific Undersea Gardens

The Pacific Undersea Gardens are a chance to see and touch vibrant and surprising Pacific Northwest marine life. All ages are delighted here. An admission fee less than $10 puts you in a room underwater where you can experience a different world! Instead of diving underwater, walk downstairs to peer into the world of sea stars, kelp, colorful ocean fish, crabs and more in eye-level aquariums plus other plants and animals in the tidal touch tank. Shows are held throughout the day in the special theatre where a diver introduces you to more underwater creatures like "Armstrong" the giant octopus. The diver is equiped with special underwater communication equipment to see and hear the audience through the glass wall of the theatre. Dive shows are included in admission. Not including a stroll through the unique ocean-themed gift shop, total tour time is between 45-60 minutes. Hours are 10am to 5pm September through April, additionally open until 7pm Thursday to Sunday from May to June. Summer hours are 9am until 8pm from July to September.
Image by Ryan Bushby under Creative Commons License.
4
Royal BC Museum

4) Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC Museum itself is home to artifacts and natural specimens that inspire wonder and curiosity. Put aside a few extra hours during or after this tour to explore the museum itself. Being one of the foremost cultural institutions in the world, you won't be disappointed. If you don't have time, you can also check out the National Geographic Store, the IMAX theatre, a fantastic museum gift shop full of original art and high quality items, the museum café and the video display in the lobby. The Museum is closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. The Museum lobby opens at 9:45 am. The Museum store and galleries are open from 10am until 5pm. The IMAX Theatre and National Geographic Store are open from 10am until 8pm daily. The Museum café is open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday and 10am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.
Image by Ryan Bushby under Creative Commons License.
5
Empress Hotel

5) Empress Hotel

The Fairmont Empress is a glittering jewel that greets visitors as they arrive into Victoria's Inner Harbour. It is one in a string of worldwide Fairmont Hotels that Conde Naste's readers have recognized as the best in the world for location, activities and outstanding customer service. Since its doors opened in 1906, the Empress has entertained kings, queens, Hollywood celebrities and many other famous people in an atmosphere that, renovation after renovation, has never departed from her original turn-of-the-century beauty and elegance. Afternoon Tea at the Empress is a grand experience. Tea time starts at noon daily. Walking through the grounds and lobby areas inside is enough to transport you. Non-guests are allowed in the hotel lobby, its many gift shops, lounge, restaurants and spa. One or another of the Empress's restaurants and shops are generally open from 7am until 11pm 365 days a year.
Image by Bobak Ha'Eri under Creative Commons License.
6
Chinatown

6) Chinatown

Gaze up at the "Gate of Harmonious Interest" from Government St, turn left onto Fisgard and enter the first Chinatown in Canada. In 1858 with the beginning of the Gold Rush, a thriving center of Chinese culture made its home here and never left. This is the second-oldest on the West Coast after San Fransisco's Chinatown and the longest-living Chinatown in Canada. Although it may look small, it held the honor of being the largest Chinatown in Canada for 50 years. Browse the shops, restaurants, groceries, healers and cafes that offer travelers and locals exciting fare. Squeeze into Fan Tan Alley for more hidden treasures. Walk East along Fisgard to see the school Victoria's Chinese community built in response to the segregation imposed by the Victoria Schoolboard in 1909. Its still a fully functioning school for Chinese-Canadian youth.
Image by Another Believer under Creative Commons License.
7
Christchurch Cathedral

7) Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia. Construction of the building began in the 1920s. It was consecrated in 1929. The quarry that provided the magnificent stone for this cathedral is located on Newcastle Island very close to Nanaimo, BC, just an hour and a half drive and a short boat ride north of Victoria. Behind the cathedral on Vancouver st. Sits the Christchurch Cathedral School for Kindergarten through grade 8 students. It is the only Anglican school in Canada attached to a Cathedral. Through the towering front doors of this grand location, you'll see the enormous organ that is used today during the Cathedral's spiritual services. The Cathedral offers three types of service on Sundays: Traditional, Contemporary and Evensong.
Image by Another Believer under Creative Commons License.
8
Greater Victoria Art Gallery

8) Greater Victoria Art Gallery

The first thing you'll notice about the Greater Victoria Art Gallery is the the green and red Queen Ann style mansion situated in the center of the property. With facilities, programs and presentations dedicated to the appreciation and study of the visual arts, the GVAG houses 17,000 works of art - the largest public collection of art in B.C. In addition, you'll find a Gallery Shop stocked with local, original arts and crafts. The public can buy or rent pieces of art through the Gallery. Trough this program, visual artists and the Gallery raise much-needed funds and original art is experienced by more people. Here you can see Emily Carr's work on permanent display and get a feel for how she so famously expressed the landscape of her mind and that of British Columbia. Gallery hours vary depending on the season. Closed some holidays. Rates are $13 for adults, 2.50 for youth and $28 for families.
Image by Joe Mabel under Creative Commons License.
9
Craigdarroch Castle

9) Craigdarroch Castle

Originally a private residence for a coal baron, Craigdarroch served as a military hospital, and then a college before a historical society sought to preserve it in 1979. Craigdarroch Castle today is open to the public as a historic house museum. Restored to its original 1880's splendor inside and out, visitors are encouraged to walk through its exquisite rooms and hallways to view the historical decor and interpretive signage. Craigdarroch is not a true castle but a Victorian era mansion of enormous proportions. You'll see why it acquired the title of "castle" when you visit. Robert Dunsmuir, a coal baron in the 1880's and 90's, died just before his "castle" was completed. His widow, Joan and her daughters lived in its lavish rooms until Joan died in the 1910's. Visit the Castle in the holiday season to experience a rich Victorian Christmas complete with live musicians stationed in its sculpted wood rotundas and in the ballroom. The Castle is open daily from 10am until 4:30pm. Extended hours keep the Castle open from 9am until 7pm June 15th until Labour Day. Admission is $13.75 for adults and $5.00 for children.
Image by Laura Smith under Creative Commons License.
10
Government House

10) Government House

The Government House of British Columbia you see today is the third incarnation of the building that houses the Queen's representative in B.C. The first two houses fell victim to fire. The first burned down in 1899 and the next in 1957. The current Government House officially opened in 1959. Many people from around the province donated pieces of fine furniture, artwork, china and silver to the new House to show their support and allegiance to the Queen. Those pieces remain in the House to this day. The House is surrounded by magnificent, well-manicured gardens. There are twenty-seven individual gardens in all. Walk around the back of the house for a view of Juan de Fuca Straight and to meander through a rare oak grove like the ones found by the first settlers to the island. The Government House grounds are open daily from dawn until dusk. Tours of the gardens may be arranged from May through September. Tours of the inside of the House are only available to large groups and schools, except on special days when the Lieutenant Governor opens the House to the public. Halloween trick or treating is one such exception.
Image by Andrew Tawker under Creative Commons License.
11
Abkhazi Garden

11) Abkhazi Garden

The Abkhazi Garden is an inspiring and restful place where you can meander woodland paths, bright lawns and even follow tributatries of the "Yangtze River." Peggy Pemberton Carter recognized the uniqueness of Southern Vancouver Island's landscape and wanted to create a living work of art - a garden - that honored and protected it while embracing Chinese principals of reflection and composition that she learned from the gardens of her former home near Shanghai. Inside, you can stroll along the lawn she called the "Yangtze River" and, from there, visit paths that lead to reflective pools. Peggy and her partner Nicholas Abkhazi cultivated and pruned their property for forty years together - a fact that set the cornerstone for why The Land Conservancy felt it significant enough to aquire and protect the property. The Garden is open year round 7 days a week. From March 1 through October 31, doors open at 11am and the last admission is at 4pm. The hours are the same from November 1 to February 28 only the last admission is at 3pm. Closed statutory holidays. Adult admission is $10.
Image by Paul Hamilton under Creative Commons License.