Heritage Buildings To Visit In Victoria

Heritage Buildings To Visit In Victoria Canada

Victoria is the capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. 

With a rich history dating back to the 19th century when it was established as a trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company, Victoria is filled with heritage buildings that provide a glimpse into the past.

Many of the buildings constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Victoria experienced rapid growth still stand beautifully preserved for visitors and residents to appreciate today. 

Victoria’s heritage buildings come in many forms – stately castles, ornate cathedrals, grand hotels, and more. Their stunning architecture adds to the character that makes Victoria such an enchanting city, even now in the 21st century.

In this article, we will highlight six must-visit heritage buildings in Victoria for history lovers and architecture admirers. It provides an overview of each historic building along with key information to plan your visit. 

From the imposing British Columbia Parliament Buildings to the elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel, these Victoria heritage sites offer a glimpse into the fascinating history and development of this special Canadian city on Vancouver Island’s southern tip.

Heritage Buildings To Visit In Victoria
Heritage Buildings To Visit In Victoria

British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Constructed between 1893 and 1897, overlooking Victoria’s scenic Inner Harbour, the imposing British Columbia Parliament Buildings house the provincial legislative assembly along with sweeping lawns and granite statues. 

The grand buildings feature intricate stonework and commanding copper domes in a style described as “Romanesque Revival”. This substantial stone structure has graced Victoria’s skyline for over 120 years.

As you approach the Parliament Buildings, two majestic lions stand guard at the front gates, which lead into the main entrance lobby and staircases decorated with provincial crests and 19 stained glass windows. 

Visitors can go on a free 30-minute tour of the buildings offered year-round and see the historic Legislative Chamber, government members’ offices, and libraries. The lawns make a perfect place for a picnic while enjoying views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour just steps away.

The British Columbia Parliament Building
The British Columbia Parliament Building

Fairmont Empress Hotel

Built between 1904 and 1908 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel overlooks Victoria’s sparkling Inner Harbour. 

The impressive brick and stone Edwardian building features iconic turreted copper roofs dotted with bulbous green domes that have made it a fixture of Victoria’s skyline for over a century. 

Stepping inside the regal hotel reveals main lounge spaces and restaurants filled with period features, including grand fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, and gilded plaster mouldings.

Throughout the years, the luxurious Fairmont Empress has hosted royalty, celebrities, and esteemed guests. Afternoon tea at the sophisticated Tea Lobby is a time-honoured tradition not to miss on a visit. 

Guests can also reserve a room in this historic hotel, which has many rooms showcasing turn-of-the-century design details that provide a special glimpse into Victoria’s storied past as a luxury destination.

Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria
Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria

Craigdarroch Castle

Perched atop a granite hilltop overlooking downtown Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle is a magnificent Scottish Baronial mansion built as the home of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his family between 1887 and 1890 with magnificent building materials

Its imposing stone structure with fancy Victorian turrets and intricate wooden filigree work has made Craigdarroch Castle an iconic part of Victoria’s architectural heritage.

The castle’s extravagant interior features 39 fireplaces, ornate wood panelling and a spectacular stained glass window. 

Visitors can get a glimpse into lavish Victorian-era living through the eight floors of the mansion and admire one of Canada’s best examples of a stately mansion from the 1800s. 

Take panoramic vistas of Victoria’s skyline and the Olympic Mountain range from the tower. The beautifully maintained castle is now a National Historic Site with attractions like afternoon tea service in the castle’s exquisite Tea Room and special events.

Craigdarroch Castle
Craigdarroch Castle

St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site

Founded in 1858 as Victoria’s first Roman Catholic schoolhouse, historic St. Ann’s Academy provides a window into Victoria’s academic past. 

Established by the Sisters of St. Ann religious order, the pretty grounds still retain tranquil green spaces, towering trees and two of the original school buildings constructed in 1871 and 1910.

Notable for its ornate chapel with stained glass windows, creaky wood floors and period details, St. Ann’s Victorian-era buildings and serene setting offer a glimpse into Victoria’s early education history. 

Visitors can join heritage tours of St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site to walk the creaky-floored classrooms while learning stories of past teachers and students. 

The heritage site also hosts special events like lectures, summer camp programs and afternoon tea in its café housed in the 1871 Convent building.

The Gatsby Mansion Restaurant at Holland Point Estate Winery

Nestled into a quiet corner of rural North Saanich just north of Victoria, the historic Holland Estate Winery property includes an opulent 1920s Tudor Revival-style mansion now known as The Gatsby Mansion Restaurant. 

Originally built as a private 32-room family residence in 1927 overlooking scenic vineyards, this gorgeously preserved heritage building enthrals with grand Tudor motifs on its brick and timber facade.

Stepping through The Gatsby Mansion’s carved wooden doors provides a peek into the luxury of the 1920s Roaring Twenties era, including lavish original features like carved fireplaces, dramatic stained glass accents and an elegant dining room with views of the surrounding countryside.

Beyond historic ambience and architecture, the Gatsby Mansion Restaurant delights the palate with its seasonal West Coast cuisine and samplings from the estate winery. 

Special events frequently held within the mansion’s gorgeous heritage interior make it a regular fixture on lists of unique Vancouver Island venues.

 Here is another heritage building to visit in Victoria:

The Marine Building

Though located just off the coast of Vancouver on the mainland rather than on Vancouver Island, no list of British Columbia’s most spectacular heritage buildings is complete without The Marine Building. 

Constructed in the Art Deco style between 1929 and 1930, the elaborately decorated Marine Building stands at 20 stories and features intricate terracotta facade details, including zodiac symbols, ships, sea snails, and more. 

Step inside under the glittering constellation-painted ceiling in the lobby and admire the brass-detailed elevators, terrazzo floors, and historic bank hall architecture. 

Both the building’s facade and interior spaces earned The Marine Building designation as a National Historic Site of Canada due to such well-preserved, Depression-era Art Deco grandeur. 

Though a trip over from Vancouver Island is required, such a ferry ride or seaplane journey adds to the adventure of taking in this standout heritage gem. 

From its singular style to the delightful maritime-inspired decor inside and out, the Marine Building deserves a spot on any Vancouver-area architecture tour itinerary.


From stunning Parliament buildings to an elegant castle perched high over downtown, Victoria’s heritage architecture vividly brings the history of the charming city to life. 

The six highlights covered in this article – the stately British Columbia Parliament Buildings along the scenic Inner Harbour, the iconic luxury hotel Fairmont Empress, the imposing Craigdarroch Castle mansion, the serene historic school grounds at St. Ann’s Academy and the grandeur of The Gatsby Mansion Restaurant on the Saanich Peninsula – all offer visitors fascinating glimpses into Victoria’s past architectural grandeur.

Whether you admire fine stonework arches, intricate wooden filigree or collections of turn-of-the-century stained glass accents, Victoria’s heritage buildings provide picturesque portals into the history and development of this captivating city named after a great British queen. 

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