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6 Must See Historical Landmarks in Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria is a world-class city with stunning gardens and parks, elegant hotels, and historic landmarks. Many of which were constructed in the early nineteenth century. It has the right combination of old-world charm and contemporary amenities. The following list highlights a handful of Victoria’s must-see historical sites. Given the abundance of options, these are some of our favorites.

Ross Bay Cemetary

The first of the 6 Must See Historical Landmarks in Victoria is the Ross Bay Cemetery  It boasts the oldest surviving formal landscape design in B.C. It showcases a remarkable example of a Victorian-era burial ground. Its abundance of unique trees and plantings, meandering pathways are alll, walkable. Graves are adorned with captivating marble, sandstone, and granite monuments. 

This cemetery is the final resting place for numerous notable Canadians and Americans, including Sir James Douglas, the first governor of BC, several subsequent premiers, coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir, Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie and  renowned artist Emily Carr  A few other historical figures are Billy Barker (credited with discovering gold at Barkerville), and Nellie Cashman, known as the “Miners’ Angel” and featured on a US postage stamp.

Visitors can seek out the grave of John Dean, a contentious politician whose tombstone was erected many years before his passing. Other notable sights include a distinctive fire hat marker, a colossal South Seas shell marking the grave of a seafaring artist, a rocket ship monument playing on the Rockett family name, a tombstone adorned with a poem by a black pioneer, a Japanese memorial, and the Cross of Sacrifice.

 
 
 
 

Craigdarroch Castle

Constructed by coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir during Queen Victoria’s reign and now designated as a National Historic Site, Craigdarroch Castle has undergone meticulous restoration. This second of the 6 Must See Historical Landmarks in Victoria is amust see. It gives visitors a glimpse into the privileged lifestyle of the 1890s. Robert and Joan Dunsmuir, parents to two sons and eight daughters, were no strangers to adventure. The Castle vividly recounts the captivating saga of this intriguing family—their triumphs, relationships, and idiosyncrasies. Guided tours are available Wednesday through Sunday, from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm (closed on Monday and Tuesday). Please note that we are closed on December 25th, 26th, and January 1st.

The considerable wealth of the Dunsmuir family is showcased through the four levels.  The castle is dorned with exquisite stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and splendid Victorian-era furnishings.

 
 
 
 

St. Ann's Academy

Pass through the wrought-iron gate, stroll along the driveway, ascend the grand staircase, and enter the former school’s formal entrance. Explore the parlors from the 1920s before stepping into the chapel. Originally Victoria’s first Roman Catholic Cathedral, it was constructed in 1858, relocated, and incorporated into the school in 1886. Resembling numerous rural French Canadian churches, it features an intricate altar and ceiling carvings. You will also notice gilded detailing, original oil paintings, stained glass windows, and a 1913 Casavant pipe organ. Adjacent to the chapel’s side entrance lies the magnificent Novitiate garden. It boasts a geometric herb bed, perennial plants, and a meticulously recreated 1925 summerhouse. Additionally, the formal garden established in 1910 at the property’s northwest corner hosts rare trees and remnants of a distinctive fountain.

Winter Hours (September to Mid-May): St. Ann’s Academy welcomes visitors from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm every Saturday and Sunday.

Summer Hours (May Long Weekend to Labour Day): We are open Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm (additional hours to be determined). Please refer to the note below regarding access.

Important Note on Public Access: If your visit requires the use of an elevator, please contact the office at 240-883-1824 to arrange a suitable viewing time.

Please be aware that full access may be restricted at times due to rental functions, especially during holiday seasons and summer.

Dynamic Programming and Rental Functions: St. Ann’s Academy is a vibrant site with a diverse range of interpretation programs and rental events. Each year, we host over 120 wedding rentals and numerous festivals and events, attracting more than 30,000 visitors who engage in formal programs, attend theater, music, and dance performances, or celebrate weddings and public festivals.

Call Ahead: To ensure we are fully open and to address any inquiries, we recommend calling ahead, especially if you plan to visit on a weekend or summer afternoon. Our outdoor grounds are accessible from dawn to dusk, with occasional exceptions for summer festivals.

Contact Information: Phone: 250-953-8829 Office Cell: 250-883-1824

Helmcken House One of the Oldest Homes in Victoria

Another of the 6 Must See Historical Landmarks in Victoria is Helmcken House. It was constructed by Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, a surgeon affiliated with the Hudson’s Bay Company. It stands as one of the oldest residences in British Columbia situated on its original location. Dr. Helmcken established his home in Victoria upon his marriage to the daughter of Governor James Douglas in 1852. Evolving from his medical practice, Dr. Helmcken became a prominent statesman and played a pivotal role in facilitating British Columbia’s entry into Canada as a province. Among the fascinating artifacts showcased is the original 19th-century medical kit belonging to the esteemed doctor.

Hours of Operation:

Monday – Wednesday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday – Sunday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

 
 
 
 

The Ornate Provincial Legislative Buildings

Step inside the Legislative Buildings, the esteemed residence of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Here is where elected representatives—known as Members of the Legislative Assembly or MLAs—convene to sculpt the province’s future through discourse and legislation. The building features extensive corridors, lavishly adorned chambers, and majestic ceilings. The building is open for public tours.  

This is the most ornate of the  6 Must See Historical Landmarks in Victoria. This location is for the whole family and if you are histroy buff don’t miss it.

You can tour the grounds at any time.

The building is open for visits Monday – Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Discover Bastion Square

The final area of the 6 Must See Historical Landmarks in Victoria is Bastion Square. It is a pedestrian thoroughfare, stretches between the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Wharf Street to the west and the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Government Street to the east.

Once integral to Victoria’s bustling commercial hub in the 19th century, Bastion Square is adorned with numerous historic buildings from that era.

The square boasts a ceremonial entry arch located at View and Government streets, while the exit on the Wharf Street side leads to a staircase offering a picturesque view of the Inner Harbour.

In 1963, as part of the modernization initiative for Centennial Square under the guidance of city planner Rod Clack, Bastion Square underwent development. View Street was sealed off, creating a pedestrian-friendly area framed by meticulously restored historic structures on three sides and offering a scenic vista across the harbor on the fourth.

Among the notable historic buildings gracing the square are Burnes House, the Beaver Building, the Board of Trade Building, Chancery Chambers, Law Chambers, the Rithet Building, and the Supreme Court Building.

Various events enrich the square’s cultural tapestry, including the Bastion Square Public Market, the Holiday Market, and the Art Walk.

 

 
 
 
 

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