VICTORIA is situated at the southern tip of VANCOUVER ISLAND, overlooking JUAN DE FUCA STRAIT. The second-largest city on the Island, it has been the capital of BC since 1868, when capital status shifted from NEW WESTMINSTER. Despite opposition from mainlanders, this decision was reaffirmed in 1898 with the opening of the new LEGISLATIVE BUILDINGS. The city was named for Queen Victoria, who came to the British throne in 1837. Along with several neighbouring communities, it forms the Capital REGIONAL DISTRICT, the second-largest metropolitan area in BC with a 2011 population of 359,991. The area was occupied by Coast SALISH peoples when the first Europeans arrived. White settlement began with the construction of FORT VICTORIA by the HBC in 1843, supervised by Chief Factor James DOUGLAS, who selected the site and became closely associated with the evolving community. Overlooking an excellent harbour with arable land nearby, the fort became HBC's headquarters for the FUR TRADE on the Pacific coast. A village grew up next to the post at a townsite laid out during 1851–52, also called Victoria. It boomed in 1858 with the arrival of a flood of prospectors during the GOLD RUSH up the FRASER R. The fort, demolished during the 1860s, was superseded by a bustling commercial entrepot; Victoria incorporated as a city in 1862. For many years it was the busiest seaport north of San Francisco; the inner harbour has continued to receive vessels from many ports. SHIPBUILDING, SAWMILLING, commercial FISHING and sealing (see FUR SEAL) all were important to the local economy, and the military had a major economic and social presence once ESQUIMALT was made a British naval base in 1865.

The CPR chose BURRARD INLET as its western terminus in 1886, and by the end of the 19th century Victoria's economic fortunes were eclipsed. Sealing ended and maritime shipping became less important, SALMON CANNING centralized on the Fraser R and the city deindustrialized. Victoria was replaced by VANCOUVER as the economic centre of the province, though it continued as the capital and maintained its political role. By the late 1990s most of the LABOUR FORCE was engaged in the service sector, both government and private. TOURISM has become increasingly important, with about 3 million visitors annually, and contributes to the civic attempts to retain an "olde Englande" atmosphere, at least in the city core, where many picturesque 19th-century buildings have survived. At the same time, the metropolitan area has grown rapidly; in 1994 the city hosted the 15th COMMONWEALTH GAMES, an event that spurred the construction and/or expansion of various recreational facilities. The actual city is quite small, extending from Foul Bay Rd in the east to Tolmie Ave in the north, and including the old residential suburb of JAMES BAY, which protrudes into Victoria Harbour in the city's southwest corner. Victoria West, located across the harbour next to Esquimalt, is also part of the city proper and is connected to downtown by the Johnson St Bridge. The moderate CLIMATE and relatively affordable real estate make the Victoria area popular with retirees. Post-secondary education is provided by the UNIV OF VICTORIA, Camosun College (see also COMMUNITY COLLEGES) and ROYAL ROADS UNIV. Cultural amenities include a civic art gallery, a symphony orchestra, an opera company, the ROYAL BC MUSEUM and the MARITIME MUSEUM OF BC. Other landmarks are the EMPRESS HOTEL, BEACON HILL PARK, THUNDERBIRD PARK, CRAIGDARROCH, the Crystal Garden, CHINATOWN and the Marine Scenic Drive. The city is connected to the mainland by ferries to Washington state and from nearby Swartz Bay to TSAWWASSEN. The ESQUIMALT & NANAIMO RWY, completed to Victoria in 1888, continues to run north to COURTENAY. See maps of Victoria.

Population: 78,057 (2011 Capital Regional District 359,991)
Rank in BC: 14th
Population increase since 2006: 4.3%
Date of incorporation: city 2 Aug 1862
Land area: 18.78 sq km
Location: Capital Regional District
Economic base: government and retail services, lumber, fishing, shipbuilding, light industry, tourism