Referring to Victoria as the crown jewel of British Columbia is fitting, considering its patriotic nods to the British empire: red double decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, and blooming flowers reminiscent of stately English gardens.
The B.C. Parliament Buildings, Government House, Fairmont Empress Hotel, and the Royal B.C. Museum may not have the same length of history as St. Paul’s Cathedral, but their presence is no less impressive. The city’s architecture and charming historic homes are a definite draw, too. Some are even a century old, nestled in neighbourhoods both private and scenic, current and classic. Here are the best neighbourhoods in Victoria:
Oak Bay and the Uplands
Situated just east of downtown Victoria, Oak Bay feels like its own small seaside village. Old-English style streets are lined with galleries (Eclectic Gallery, The Avenue Gallery, Winchester Galleries), London-esque pubs like the Penny Farthing Public House, fine dining stops such as The Dining Room at Oak Bay Beach Hotel, and plentiful gardens, beaches, and parks. Oak Bay Marina and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club are draws for mariners of all stripes.
The Uplands area is Oak Bay’s prime real estate, drawing its name from the high-end homes that line the waterfront (some of the most sought-after and high-priced property in Canada). Its water access, charming neighbourhood fixtures, and recreational options are the cherry on top of the unmatched ocean vistas.
On the south edge of downtown, elegant Victorian homes play neighbour to the Fairmont Empress Hotel—a perennial favourite among tourists and residents alike. Most of the historic properties in this upscale neighbourhood were built by Victoria’s founding families, and feature storybook details including spires, truss work, and wrap-around porches. One such draw is Carr House, once home to beloved Canadian artist Emily Carr. Days in James Bay include stops in museums, strolls along the harbour front, and dinners at Il Covo Trattoria.
Fairfield and Gonzales
From the expansive gardens and lagoons of Beacon Hill Park to the famed flight point that is Clover Point Kite Park, Dallas Road connects the dots of green spaces, oceanside walkways, and casual neighbourhood pubs and diners between the communities of Fairfield and Gonzales.
Fairfield’s best known property is Government House, the residence of B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor (its garden is open to the public). The top properties are near the coastline, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca waves pass and leafy trees line the streets. Historic Ross Bay Cemetery, Cook Street Village, and the Moss Street Market round out weekend wanders and Gonzales Bay Beach beckons residents to swim and enjoy the sun.
Architect Samuel MacLure is mainly responsible for the beautiful stone walls that surround the Arts and Crafts–style mansions of the Rockland neighbourhood (some Tudor builds by other architects of the day co-mingle nearby). Situated in the northern part of Fairfield, the neighbourhood can be summed up as stately, but evolved, with expansive gardens sending a peaceful hush through the streets that lead into downtown Victoria. Nearby Christ Church Cathedral is an incredible example of Gothic architecture, perfect for a rainy-day visit.
Golf courses and pebble beaches make this neighbourhood feel like a vacation spot. Exploring the pathways of Elk and Beaver Lake Regional Parks and the flavours of the Beach House Restaurant are enough to keep residents satiated when they aren’t relaxing in their modern and custom-built homes. This area was made for landscape architecture, backyard grilling, and feeling at home.
A stroll through the famous botanical wonder that is Butchart Gardens, sitting down for a seasonal dish at the upscale Dining Room, spending a relaxing afternoon at the Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa, visiting the otherworldly Victoria Butterfly Gardens—these are all fantastic lures to the Brentwood Bay area. Located just outside Victoria in nearby Central Saanich, the property lines are expansive and the homes vary from charming Cape Cod styles to expansive estates on Willis Point.
Vancouver Island’s biggest municipality is home to historical properties and estate homes ready to charm new residents. The varying neighbourhoods, rich gardens, history, and culture prove Victoria is a city gem worth living in.
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