The numerous Victoria landmarks that dot our landscape tell the story of our people, culture and rich history. Here are 12 of the best:
Landmark: a building or place that is easily recognized, especially one that you can use to judge where you are
Address: 501 Belleville Street
Starting in the beautiful Inner Harbour you are greeted by the British Columbia Parliament Buildings. An imposing structure located on the south side of the harbour; the Parliament Buildings have been a magnificent Victoria landmark since being erected in 1897. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy the free tour during the day. In the evening, the 3,333 lights that outline the buildings light up the night sky. At Christmas some of the white lights are switched out to red and green.
Address: 721 Government Street
Possibly one of the most beloved Victoria landmarks, the magnificent Fairmont Empress Hotel proudly stands overlooking the Inner Harbour on the east side. The luxurious 1908 hotel might be most well known for its famed Afternoon Tea, serving up more than 750,000 cups of tea annually. For many years the building featured an ivy-covered façade but this was stripped away a few years ago in order to repair the brick beneath. The public is welcome to stroll through the grand lobby to shop and enjoy the magnificent architecture.
Address: 1050 Joan Crescent
Built in the 1880’s as a home for the Dunsmuir family, the mansion resembles a castle fortress, hence the name. Craigdarroch Castle is rich in history with 20 fireplaces and 39 rooms filled with priceless antiques. It has been featured in several major and minor film productions and is open to the public for tours.
Address: 2005 Sooke Road
The castle is the focal point of the Hatley Park National Historic Site and may be most well known for the filming location of X-men movies and the television series Smallville. This Victoria landmark is also home to some of the most beautiful gardens in the region and a very popular wedding venue. Visitors can enjoy the Japanese, Italian and rose gardens overlooking the Esquimalt Lagoon or take a guided tour of the castle. I took my nephew for a ghost tour one Halloween and it was enough to freak us both out! If you enjoy history and a ghostly tale, this tour is for you.
Address: 603 Fort Rodd Hill Road
Fisgard Lighthouse, the oldest in western Canada stands at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour, still in operation since 1860. The white and red brick beacon hasn’t had a keeper since the light was automated in 1929 however it does house two floors of exhibits, open to the public. Fisgard Lighthouse marks home base for the Royal Canadian Navy. At Fort Rodd Hill, visitors can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds between exploring the well-preserved fortress that houses gun batteries, underground magazines and other artifacts that tell the stories of this historic site. A visit to Fort Rodd Hill and the Fisgard Lighthouse is a terrific family outing. Read more.
Address: 800 Benvenuto Avenue
Butchart Gardens has grown into one of the premier Victoria landmarks with over a million visitors annually walking through the gates. Tourists and locals alike flock to the gardens in every season to admire what are arguably the most well-appointed, beautifully landscaped gardens in all of Canada. A visit to Butchart Gardens is highly recommended.
Address: Fisgard Street between Government and Store
The small but charming Chinatown sits on the edge of Old Town Victoria. The historic district welcomes visitors through The Gates of Harmonious Interest on Government Street. With red and gold lanterns floating from above, brightly coloured garments hanging from racks and Asian grocery stands lining the street, it is a feast for the eyes! Dine at one of Chinatown’s authentic restaurants and browse through the unique shops that line the remarkably narrow Fan Tan Alley for a most unique experience.
Address: 207 Government Street
Emily Carr, the only female artist of the famed Canadian Group of Seven, was born here in Victoria BC in 1871 – the same year BC joined the confederation. Emily’s birth place and childhood home is both a National and Provincial Historic Site and represents a significant Victoria landmark. The house is an interpretive centre that is open to the public and comprises a selection of her paintings and literature.
Address: 1002 Wharf Street
Another significant Victoria landmark is the Custom House. The majestic red brick and stone building was completed in 1875, just 4 short years after BC joined the fledgling confederation. It is built in the Second Empire style and holds historical significance not only for its architecture but also because it served as an important point of entry for goods coming into the new country. Now home to legal offices, there is a commemorative plaque out front with more of building’s history.
Address: 1401 Rockland Avenue
In addition to being a National Historic Landmark, Government House is the official residence of British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governors who are Her Majesty’s representative in British Columbia. The house itself is not open to the public but the spectacular gardens are. Are you beginning to understand why we are known as The Garden City – we seriously love our flowers, fountains and manicured green spaces! Enjoy the gardens free of charge every day of the year from dawn to dusk.
Address: 675 Belleville Street
Sometimes referred to as Totem Pole Park, Thunderbird Park is located on the north side of the Royal British Columbia Museum property. It was founded in 1941 when the museum erected poles from its collection outside on the property. This important Victoria landmark marks a place where visitors can see authentic traditionally carved poles on display in public.
Address: 100 Cook Street
Beacon Hill Park is Victoria’s “Central Park” – an oasis in the city complete with petting zoo, free-roaming peacocks, children’s playground, soccer fields, splash pad, outdoor band shell, manicured gardens and much, much more. With something for everybody, this Victoria landmark is one that is cherished by locals and tourists alike.
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