If you appreciate Victorian architecture, First Nation totem poles, and fresh-caught seafood, you will adore British Columbia’s capital city. Located on the southernmost tip of the famed Vancouver Island, Victoria is one of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest and most beautiful cities.
Stop off during your Celebrity Alaskan cruise and check out one or more of these enchanting attractions:
The urban sanctuary known as Beacon Hill Park is home to what, as of its construction in 1956, was deemed the world’s largest totem pole. Although it no longer holds this distinction, the 128-foot cedar pole continues to tower over the shore of Victoria’s Juan de Fuca Strait.
Additional totem poles can be found at Thunderbird Park, which is also home to the Mungo Martin House, the Helmcken House, and St. Anne’s Schoolhouse. If the history buff and the outdoor enthusiast in your party disagree on itineraries, these historic structures and their park-based setting offer a nice compromise.
Several other charming parks dot the city of Victoria. Head for Laurel Point Park at sunset; the park’s scenic paths offer excellent views of the Inner Harbour. The largely undeveloped Holland Point Park is ideal for those who desire peace and quiet.
Other parks worth visiting include Fisherman’s Wharf Park, Irving Park, and South Park.
The City of Victoria’s Heritage Register includes over 900 historic homes.
Although it’s impossible to see them all in one short day, you can get a feel for the city’s intriguing history while strolling along Wharf Street and Pandora Avenue, where some of the region’s most distinctive structures are located. For greater insight into the city’s history, download the free Heritage Walking Tour app, which offers multiple self-guided tours through a few of the city’s oldest and most significant boroughs.
For a closer look at Victorian life in British Columbia, check out the lavish Craigdarroch Castle. The vast Scottish Baronial mansion was constructed by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, who passed away before he actually got the chance to reside in the completed castle.
In addition to showcasing the sophisticated design of the 25,000 square foot mansion, Craigdarroch tours delve into the strange and fascinating history of Robert Dunsmuir’s descendants.
The ornate beauty of Craigdarroch Castle is mimicked in the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which is conveniently located right across from the Inner Harbour. Largely regarded as the city’s top architectural icon, the hotel has received numerous accolades from Conde Nast and Travel + Leisure.
You don’t have to stay the night to experience the best of the Empress; stop by for the hotel’s classic afternoon tea service, during which over 800 guests are served scones, preserves, tea sandwiches, and, of course, exceptional teas from the Metropolitan Tea Company.
Most of Victoria’s early residents were not fortunate enough to reside in Craigdarroch Castle or stay at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Many spent their days out on the water or on shore, guiding the numerous vessels that docked at the city’s Inner, Outer, and Middle Harbours.
These important residents’ stories are told at the Maritime Museum of BC, which houses tens of thousands of fascinating artifacts. The museum currently is home to several historic vessels, including an aboriginal cedar canoe known as the Tilikum.
No matter your palate, you will find something to love about the culinary scene in Victoria. If the thought of fresh seafood makes your mouth water, you’re in luck, as several of the city’s finest eateries offer delicious coho salmon, albacore tuna, sablefish, and other local catches. Local favorites include Red Fish Blue Fish and the Pink Peppercorn Seafood House.
Seafood not your thing? No worries — Italian, French, Greek, and Indian restaurants are also in abundant supply. Victoria also boasts numerous wine bars and brewpubs, many of which offer magnificent ocean views. End your evening on the chill rooftop at Vista 18 Westcoast Grill & Wine Bar or overlooking the private marina at Canoe Brewpub.
If your idea of a good time includes afternoon tea and a leisurely stroll through a magnificent castle, you will greatly enjoy your brief stay in Victoria. It would take a lifetime to explore the entirety of this captivating city, but you can certainly gain a taste of its culture during your memorable Alaskan cruise.