Twenty-four hours isn’t nearly enough time to devote to this picture-postcard capital, but if that’s all the time you can afford, we have some suggestions for making the most of your visit to the “City of Gardens.”
Start your day with a self-guided tour of “Romanesque” Craigdarroch Castle. At a whopping 25,000 square feet, this not-so-humble abode wowed us with 83 times more space than the RV we called home for the past four years.
Unfortunately for coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, he passed away before construction was completed, but his family finished the task and moved in ten months later in 1890. Less than thirty years after it was built, it was raffled off by a developer as part of a land deal. Sporting stained glass and intricately carved woodwork, the four-story mansion was used as a military hospital and a conservatory of music before being put on display for tourists looking to glory in the past.
From Craigdarroch Castle take a leisurely two-kilometer stroll through residential Victoria en route to historic Market Square (or take the number 11, 14 or 15 city bus). Spend the rest of the morning browsing the Square’s local boutiques in this unique brick-and-beam building that surrounds an open-air courtyard.
After a morning of sightseeing and shopping, stop by neighboring Chinatown for a hearty lunch. Don’t miss the fierce-looking lions guarding the elaborate Gates of Harmonious Interest that lead into North America’s second oldest Chinatown.
Fan Tan Alley
Exit Chinatown via colorful and diminutive Fan Tan Alley. This narrowest street in Canada, ranging from five feet to 35 inches wide, has morphed from a gambling and opium haven into a retail shopping destination.
After a restorative lunch, meander another kilometer along Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour as you make your way toward the city’s star attraction.
Audacious young architect Francis Rattenbury lied on his resume, claiming to be the creative genius behind structures constructed before he was even born, and entered a contest to design a new Parliament building in Victoria. He got the commission and conjured up an eye-catching, neo-Baroque structure topped by an ornate blue dome.
Traipse through the building (in use since 1898) on free guided tours to see more of Rattenbury’s handiwork and cross paths with a costumed actor playing the part of the architect.
Robert Bateman Centre
A mere two blocks from Parliament is a museum dedicated to the work of native Canadian and naturalist Robert Bateman.
A brief film with commentary by the 83-year-old, self-taught artist is well worth watching. Also, download the Bateman App before visiting, or borrow an iPad with it pre-loaded from the admissions desk, and have it handy as you stroll through the gallery to find out more about individual works. An outspoken conservationist, Bateman’s depictions of the Canadian landscape, the African jungle, and the like are glorious proof that, as he eloquently put it, “Nature is magic.”