The capital of British Columbia, and a popular tourist destination, Victoria BC is traditionally known for its afternoon teas, Butchart Gardens and the Empress Hotel. Yet, there is a lot more to this city that meets the eye. Victoria’s rich history, amazing weather and West Coast lifestyle, make for a picturesque destination with many hidden gems to discover! Here are 10 fun and unusual facts about Victoria that will show you this city under a new light!
Fort Victoria as a Fur Trading Post
Victoria was founded in 1843 as a Hudson’s Bay fur trading post. The HBC building was located where the Empress Hotel stands today. Up until 1858, Fort Victoria as it was known back then, was home to only 58 residents. This drastically changed with the discovery of gold in the Fraser River later that year.
Home to Canada’s Oldest Chinatown
Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown and second oldest in North America after San Francisco. The Fraser Valley gold rush in 1858 brought an influx of immigrants to Fort Victoria, many of whom were Chinese. They built a dense neighbourhood of businesses, schools, brothels, temples and homes into what it is known today as Chinatown. You can still find there Fan tan alley, the narrowest alley in all of Canada.
Mile 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway
The World’s longest highway begins at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria’s James Bay neighbourhood. Almost 8,000 km long, the Trans-Canada highway connects the country from west-to-east all the way to St.-John’s Newfoundland. By driving all day, it would take about a week to complete the journey.
Victoria, the City of Gardens.
With over 70 parks, 2,183 hours of sunshine and surprisingly warm weather (especially for Canada), it come to no surprise that Victoria is also known as the “City of Gardens”. In 2017, the local residents conducted their annual flower count, resulting in 25,864,976,064 blooms.
Top Bike-Friendly City in Canada
Thanks to its extensive cycle paths and bike lanes, including the ever popular Galloping Goose Regional Trail that connects all surrounding municipalities, Victoria has been recognized as Canada’s most bike-friendly city. Around 10% of its residents commute to work on a bike, and countless tourists choose cycling as their main transportation mode while visiting the city.
A Foodie Haven
A foodie haven, Victoria has the 2nd highest number of restaurants per capita in North America, shortly behind San Francisco. The city’s multicultural population and accessibility to locally grown produce, makes for a unique and quality food selection that can satisfy any palate.
Not your Typical West Coast Rainfall
Thanks to the rain shadow of Washington’s Olympic Mountains, Victoria’s average annual rainfall is 50% less than that of Vancouver, Seattle or New York, with 608 mm of rain per year, compared to Vancouver’s 1,589 mm. Almost two thirds of its precipitation fall between November and February, setting aside many months of sunshine during spring and summer.
Craft Beer Capital of British Columbia
Home to famous labels such as Vancouver Island Brewers or Phillips, Victoria also features over a dozen micro-breweries, including Canada’s first brewpub, Spinnakers. Swans, Moon Under Water or Hoyne are a few of the many locals beers that are proudly served in restaurants and pubs across the city.
National Geographic has recognized Vancouver Island and Victoria’s surrounding waters as one of the best cold-water diving destinations in the World. Rated by Jacques Cousteau Society as second only to the Red Sea for marine life diversity, there are many local diving companies that will have you discover the magic of life beneath the waves.
Castles, X-Men and Romance
Victoria is home to two castles, both built at the turn of the 20th century by the Dunsmuir family. Beautifully restored, Craigdarroch Castle is located near Victoria’s downtown core, and was built in a Romanesque style, inspired by 12th century French and Italian designs. Kept in its original state, the castle gives you a glimpse of life as it was during the Victorian times. Hatley Castle, completed in 1908 was built in a Tudor architectural style, found in many Scottish castles. Located on a vast estate in the outskirts of Victoria, the site is now home to Royal Roads University and has become a popular movie set location including blockbusters such as X-men and Deadpool.