Named in honour of Queen Victoria, our beautiful city has an intriguing history as Western Canada’s oldest city and the centre of an ancient and vibrant First Nations society. Explore our historic region and relive the days of amazing wealth, incredible people, truly creative use of the local environment.
Who were the first people to live here?
Archaeologists have found that people were living on the coast of British Columbia 9000 years ago. By 2500 years ago, these people had developed a sophisticated social system with elaborate rituals, a spiritual life and artistic tradition. European contact with the First Nations on Vancouver Island began in 1778 when Captain Cook set foot on Nootka Island. By 1784 Cook’s journals of his travels had been published, prompting explorers and fortune seekers to visit the region. Both the British and the Spanish became deeply involved in exploration of the island over the coming decades.
Since 1843, when the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Chief Factor, James Douglas, anchored his ship the Beaver off Clover Point near Beacon Hill Park, the area surrounding Victoria and its inland harbour has attracted adventurous people from all over the world. Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island started with gold, continued with coal, moved to lumber and other natural resources over the past 150 years. These riches created a vibrant and powerful cadre of wealthy merchants who lavished their riches on beautiful homes.
In the early 1850s, life in Victoria for the 450 men, women and children centered on business generated by the Hudson's Bay Company. Quiet life changed forever with the discovery of gold inland as adventurers flocked to Victoria, the only ocean port and outfitting centre. A wild land-boom followed, with city lots that were going begging one day at $25 apiece, being eagerly snapped up a week later at $3,000 each. The name "Victoria" was adopted when the townsite was laid out in 1852. Victoria was incorporated as a City in 1862. The first legislative buildings, The Birdcages, were built in 1859 overlooking the Inner Harbour. They were replaced in the 1890's by the present provincial legislative buildings.
Today, Victoria is a lively, richly cultured city of almost 400 000 people with a solid economy based primarily on tourism, technology and government.
With a moderate, Mediterranean like climate and entrancingly scenic setting, Southern Vancouver Island and the Victoria region continue to be a popular choice for retirees from all over the world. The city is proud of its heritage, its fine homes and neighbourhoods, its historic and attractive downtown, the gardens and parks and, of course, the Inner Harbour with its vistas toward the famous Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.
Celebrate our 150 years of civic and provincial pride!
A number of fascinating walking tours of Victoria’s historic downtown are available, including visits to some of the remnants of old Fort Victoria. Explore Bastion Square or the Maritime Museum, site of Victoria’s original courthouse. Tour Chinatown, the oldest in Canada. Victoria’s pride of heritage is reflected in the beautifully restored and well maintained architectural treasures located throughout the city. Many of the city’s most popular inns and other accommodations, attractions and restaurants are housed in heritage buildings.