British Columbia Parliament Buildings
Placed prominently overlooking the waterfront on land formerly belonging to the Lekwungen people, the Neo-Baroque giant domed structure of the main British Columbia Parliament Building is hard to miss from most of downtown Victoria. Captain George Vancouver overlooks the city from atop the central dome and a statue of Queen Victoria adorns the front lawn. These buildings are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, thus making Victoria the capitol of the province.
The Parliament Buildings as they currently stand date back to 1898. From 1856 to 1860 the Legislature of the Colony of Vancouver Island met at Bachelor’s Hall at Fort Victoria. From 1860 to 1898 it was housed in the first permanent building at its current location.
Construction of a new Parliament Building was first authorized by an act of the provincial legislature in 1893. Francis Rattenbury, at only 25 years old, won the design competition for the building. After an astounding cost of $ 923,000 (85% over budget) and 5 years of construction, the BC Parliament Buildings as we now know them began operating in 1895.
The fame of this project opened many avenues for young Mr. Rattenbury who went on to design many more prominent buildings around Victoria, including the Legislative Library, the Empress Hotel, the Crystal Gardens and the Vancouver Court House.
During the 1994 Commonwealth Games, free music concerts were held on the front lawns of the buildings, attracting as many as 40,000 people. Similar-sized crowds have gathered on the front lawn over the years, ranging from political protests and rallies, to various celebrations. At dusk the building exterior is lit up with over 3000 lights installed to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Parts of the buildings are open to the public year-round and free guided tours are available for those that are intrigued by the history and politics of British Columbia or the beautiful architecture.
Plan your visit
The Parliament Building is open on weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. In the summer, it is also open on the weekends (including holidays). Tickets for the free tours are available anytime on the day of the tour. I recommend you snag yours right away in the morning, especially during the busy summer season. The tours last about 30 to 45 minutes. Special tours can be arranged in languages other than English or for groups over 15 by prior notice.
With its rich history and fine 19th century architecture, a tour of the BC Parliament Buildings is a fantastic way to exercise your mind and treat your soul at the same time. So, if you ever find yourself bored of the beautiful Victoria waterfront, or have an hour to kill because of the rain, I highly recommend you stop by this iconic Victoria landmark!
Here’s who helped
While I ONLY write about places that I have visited, I get more information on these places from others, both for my edification and yours. Here are the online resources I used to write this post.
- Legislative Assembly of British Columbia: https://www.leg.bc.ca/
- Tourism Victoria B.C. – “British Columbia Parliament Buildings”: https://www.tourismvictoria.com/see-do/activities-attractions/attractions/british-columbia-parliament-buildings
- Maureen Duffus – “Vancouver Island History”: http://www.maureenduffus.com/history/first-legislature.php
- Wayback Machine Internet Archive – “The City of Victoria”: https://web.archive.org/web/20090415145304/http://www.victoria.ca/visitors/about_hist.shtml