A Day in Victoria, BC

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, British Columbia

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, British Columbia

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.”

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle Staircase

Craigdarroch Castle Main Staircase

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.

Market Square

Market Square Victoria

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.

Chinatown

Gates of Harmonious Interest, Victoria Chinatown

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

Fan Tan Alley Victoria

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.

Parliament Building

Victoria Parliment Building

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.

Victoria Parliment Tour

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

Robert Bateman Bison

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.”

 

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10 Comments on “A Day in Victoria, BC”

  1. mytimetotravel March 7, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    I’d put the Royal BC Museum on the list too, especially if the weather is bad. I was lucky enough to get to see the inside of Governor’s House ( it was Victoria Day and the Queen’s jubilee year), but usually you can only see the grounds.

    If you’re in town for Victoria Day there’s a big old-fashioned parade. See http://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/very-victoria/

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    • Brian March 7, 2014 at 10:23 am #

      Yeah, the Royal BC Museum deserves a mention because it is one of Victoria’s top attractions. It didn’t make our list, though, because as much as we really, really love museums we almost always skip the natural history kind – which is why we missed the Royal B.C. and therefore can’t personally recommend it. But we hear from others it’s lovely.

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      • mytimetotravel March 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

        Agreed, I skipped the dinosaurs. But there was people history on the top floor. Not up to the museums in Vancouver and Ottawa, but certainly worth seeing on a wet day.

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  2. SafeHappyTravel March 7, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    I loved Victoria, we were there several summers ago as part of a roadtrip. I was amazed and how lost you can get in chinatown, going from one store to the next through interior doors and not realizing you have gone through a dozen until you step outside.

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    • Brian March 7, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      It is a super cool place.

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  3. Deb March 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    You make Victoria look great. I’m ashamed to say we usually just buzz into the city for supplies we can’t get on island and then get the next ferry out. We did take the children to the Royal BC Museum at Christmas, and while the natural history part was fine, the aboriginal portion of the museum was excellent. Of course I have a great interest in historic crafts and skills so I am probably biased.

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  4. Jennifer Avventura March 8, 2014 at 3:25 am #

    Fabulous post! I’m moving to Victoria at the end of the month. Can’t wait.

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  5. Ms. Jolly Blogger March 8, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    what a gorgeous castle! I spent one day in Victoria when I was on my honeymoon. We did an Alaskan Cruise, which is how we were able to port in Victoria, but you are right, one day is definitely not enough to take in all the sights! Great photos! 🙂

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  6. Carol Balawyder March 9, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks for the vicarious visit 🙂

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  7. Reveries of Forevers March 13, 2014 at 12:33 am #

    Your photos are riveting!

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