Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. The city has a population of about 80,017, while the metropolitan area ofGreater Victoria, has a population of 344,615, making it the 15th most populous Canadian urban region.
Victoria is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from BC's largest city ofVancouver on the mainland. The city is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) fromSeattle by airplane, ferry, or the Victoria Clipper passenger-only ferry which operates daily, year round between Seattle and Victoria and 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Port Angeles, Washington, by Coho ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and, at the time, British North America, Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The city has retained a large number of its historic buildings, in particular its two most famous landmarks, the British Columbia Parliament Buildings (finished in 1897 and home of theLegislative Assembly of British Columbia) and the Empress hotel (opened in 1908). The city's Chinatown is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco's. The region's Coast Salish First Nations peoples established communities in the area long before non-native settlement, possibly several thousand years earlier, which had large populations at the time of European exploration. Victoria, like many Vancouver Island communities, continues to have a sizeable First Nations presence, composed of peoples from all over Vancouver Island and beyond.
Known as the "The Garden City", Victoria is an attractive city and a popular tourism destination with a thriving technology sector that has risen to be its largest revenue-generating private industry. Victoria is in the top twenty of world cities for quality-of-life, according to Numbeo.The city has a large non-local student population, who come to attend the University of Victoria,Camosun College, Royal Roads University, the Victoria College of Art, the Sooke Schools International Programme and the Canadian College of Performing Arts. Victoria is very popular with boaters with its beautiful and rugged shorelines and beaches. Victoria is also popular with retirees, who come to enjoy the temperate and usually snow-free climate of the area as well as the usually relaxed pace of the city.
Beacon Hill Park is the central city's main urban green space. Its area of 75 hectares (190 acres) adjacent to Victoria's southern shore includes numerous playing fields, manicured gardens, exotic species of plants and animals such as wild peacocks, a petting zoo, and views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains in Washington across it. The sport of cricket has been played in Beacon Hill Park since the mid-19th century. Each summer, the City of Victoria presents dozens of concerts at the Cameron Band Shell in Beacon Hill Park.
The extensive system of parks in Victoria also includes a few areas of natural Garry oak meadow habitat, an increasingly scarce ecosystem that once dominated the region.
In the heart of downtown are the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, TheEmpress Hotel, Victoria Police Department Station Museum, the gothic Christ Church Cathedral, and the Royal British Columbia Museum/IMAX National Geographic Theatre, with large exhibits on local Aboriginal peoples, natural history, and modern history, along with travelling international exhibits. In addition, the heart of downtown also has the Emily Carr House, Victoria Bug Zoo, Market Square and the Pacific Undersea Gardens, which showcases marine life of British Columbia. The oldest (and most intact) Chinatown in Canada is located within downtown. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is located close to downtown in the Rockland neighbourhood several city blocks from Craigdarroch Castle built by industrialist Robert Dunsmuirand Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
Numerous other buildings of historic importance or interest are also located in central Victoria, including: the 1845 St. Ann's Schoolhouse; the 1852 Helmcken House built for Victoria's first doctor; the 1863 Temple Emanuel, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in Canada; the 1865 Angela College built as Victoria's first Anglican Collegiate School for Girls, now housing retired nuns of the Sisters of St. Ann; the 1871 St. Ann's Academy built as a Catholic school; the 1874 Church of Our Lord, built to house a breakaway congregation from the Anglican Christ Church cathedral; the 1890 St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church; the 1890 Metropolitan Methodist Church (now the Victoria Conservatory of Music),  which is publicly open for faculty, student, and guest performances, also acts as Camosun CollegeMusic Department; the 1892 St. Andrew's Cathedral; and the 1925 Crystal Gardens, originally a saltwater swimming pool, restored as a conservatory and most recently a tourist attraction called the B.C. Experience, which closed down in 2006.
CFB Esquimalt navy base, in the adjacent municipality of Esquimalt, has a base museum dedicated to naval and military history, located in the Naden part of the base.
North of the city on the Saanich Peninsula are the marine biology Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, Butchart Gardens, one of the biggest tourist and local resident attractions on Vancouver Island, as well as the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, part of the National Research Council of Canada, Victoria Butterfly Gardens andCentre of the Universe planetarium. Notable museums in Victoria include the Royal British Columbia Museum,the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and the British Columbia Aviation Museum located on the north edge of the Victoria International Airport. There are also numerous National Historic Sites in close proximity to Victoria, such as the Fisgard Lighthouse, Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse, Hatley Castle and Hatley Park and Fort Rodd Hill, which is a coastal artillery fort built in the late 1890s, located west of the city in Colwood. Also located west of the city is Western Speedway, a 4/10th-mile oval vehicular race track and the largest in Western Canada.
Victoria is also known as the Cycling Capital of Canada, with hundreds of kilometres of bicycle paths, bike lanes and bike routes in the city, including the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. There are mountain biking trails at Mount Work Regional Park, and Victoria is quickly becoming a bike tourism destination.
Cycling advocacy groups including Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition (GVCC) and the Bike To Work Society have worked to improve Victoria's cycling infrastructure and facilities, and to make cycling a viable transportation alternative, attracting 5% of commuters in 2005.
The city of Victoria lies entirely within the Greater Victoria School District. There is one public high school located within the city boundaries, Victoria High School, founded in 1876, making it the oldest High School in North America north of Portland, Oregon and west of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Most of the elementary schools in Victoria now offer the popular French immersion programmes in addition to programmes in English. The educational needs of the Francophone community in Victoria are served by École Victor-Brodeur in the adjacent municipality of Esquimalt. In addition, within the city proper there are several smaller schools serving segments of the community such as the Chinese School in Chinatown and Christ Church Cathedral School. The senior campus of Glenlyon-Norfolk House School is located in the Fairfield neighbourhood.
The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, operates one Francophone school in the Victoria area: école Victor-Brodeur in Esquimalt. It is a M-12 primary and secondary school.
The City of Victoria is served by three public post secondary educational institutions actually located outside the city in theGreater Victoria area: University of Victoria (UVic), Camosun College, and Royal Roads University (RRU). Camosun College has two campuses, one in Royal Oak, a municipality north of Victoria, and one that is located in the heart of Victoria close to University of Victoria.
Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific is an international school, in Metchosin, a municipality to the west of Victoria. There are also several private vocational and English (ESL) training schools available for people who want to learn the English language or upgrade new job market skills. Sprott Shaw College is a private career training institution that has had a campus in Victoria since 1913.