One of the quirky things we learned doing this podcast on Victoria was that Canada’s narrowest street is located there. That would be Fan Tan Alley, just .9 of a meter or 35 inches wide at its narrowest, originally part of a network of gambling and opium dens located in Victoria’s Chinatown. Now the street is home to a den of shops that might be as addictive in their own way.
During the Gold Rush time in the mid-1800s half of Victoria’s population was Chinese and it has the oldest Chinatown in Canada. By the time, I visited Victoria a few years ago, it seemed that I was looking at the world’s smallest Chinatown, about one street wide!
The Gate of Harmonious Interest, which is typical of the type of gate you often see at the entrance to other Chinatowns, was only built in 1981. Back then, the area was in decline. Many of the Chinese immigrants had come to Victoria to mine for gold or work on the Canadian-Pacific railroad in the late 1800s. After that, the Canadian government levied a head tax on all Chinese immigrants and then completely halted immigration in 1923. This was repealed in 1947 and today efforts have been made to revitalize Victoria’s Chinatown. You can learn lots more about Chinatown in Victoria by taking a tour. Of course, Victoria shows a much stronger influence of its British heritage with its love of tea, double decker buses and red phone booths.
Getting there: Several airlines in the U.S. and Canada service Victoria. Or you can take a ferry from Seattle (as we did), Port Angeles, Wash. or from other parts of Canada. You can even arrive by seaplane.
Visa Requirements: Most British Commonwealth countries, as well as the U.S. and some European countries do not need visas. A complete list of countries can be found at this website.
When to go: Victoria is surrounded by water, giving it a milder climate than much of the rest of Canada. However, the best times to go would be summer and fall.
Dracula at Craigdarroch Castle (Oct. 10-31)
Magic of Christmas at Butchart Gardens (Dec. 1 – Jan. 6)
Victoria Tea Festival (Feb. 9-10, 2013)