Victoria, the tiny capital city is the perfect place to get a glimpse of daily life of Seychellois, and the Creole culture.
Amongst the world's smallest capitals and home to country's one-third population, Victoria is not to be missed. Take a day or two off your visit schedule to explore the town's old colonial buildings including a replica of London's clock tower, savour the Creole cuisine or get a lively experience at Sir Selwyn Clarke Market. The city's other notable attractions include the much-visited Seychelles National Botanical gardens, a small Hindu temple Arulmigu Navasakti Vinayagar Temple and the Museum of Natural History.
Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, was at first a seat of British colonial government. This city is also known as the smallest African capital. The splendid town has an old part which has narrow streets with colonial buildings. The other side, the new part of Victoria have tropical gardens and broader streets. If you love walking, you can easily cover this city in a day. If you want to get close to its unignorable charm, make sure that you visit the local craft market and art galleries. Being the capital city, Victoria is the cultural and business hub of the nation.
The city is an eclectic melange cultures and will amaze you with several things from cultural and religious places to modern architectures. Filled with a soothing ambience, this is a perfect destination for weekend enjoyment, no matter if you are alone or with your loved one. Take a walk on the street when in the evening or visit the local market to soak yourself in the city's culture. Visit the botanical garden to know about the island's flora and fauna or spend some time at the national museum and explore the history of this place.
A brief history of the smallest capital
By the time, the archipelago was discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1502, the Arabs and Chinese sailed Seychelles already. The French came and in 1772 started to make colonies. The island then came into British dominance by 1810, and they renamed Mahe outpost as Victoria in 1841 after the name of Queen Victoria. The British established the town after the Treaty of Paris of 1814. This enabled the economy to shift to tourism from plantations. Victoria was made capital in 1976 when Seychelles got independence. France Albert Rene established healthcare and also free education for the people. In 1971, the international airport was opened which was funded by the British.
A look at the capital city
The city of Victoria is divided into Greater Victoria and Victoria Proper. There are three Districts of Seychelles, which all together composes Victoria proper. These districts are
1. English River (it is the innermost part)
2. Mont Fleuri
3. Saint Louis
The Greater Victoria is encompassed of these districts; there are five more of 25 areas of the nation which are listed below:
2. Bel Air
3. Mont Buxton
4. Les Mamelles
5. Roche Caiman
Let's take a walk in the city
It is surprising to know, but there are only two street lights in the town. You will have to struggle to find parking garages. Nowadays, there is a small market where you can you buy fruit, fishes and vegetables. There is a bank, a few shops, some restaurants and administration offices. There are a harbour and the ocean, at the city's eastern edge where you can visit Sainte Anne Marine National Park. The urban area of the city is a good place to visit. There are many places to visit such as Botanical Garden, museum, international airport, university, tourism agency offices, shops and a cinema.
There are two main centres in Victoria. There is a clock tower which is a replica of the clock tower of London. This is where the first centre of the city revolves around. This area has a post office, bank and Palace of Justice. The second circle of the city revolves around the Sir Selwyn Clarke Market. It takes hardly a walk of five minutes from the clock tower. If you are here during the morning of any Saturday, that's the perfect time to visit.
The city is beautifully designed and painted with colourful facades, balustrades and shutters. While you take a walk through the city, your mind and soul will surely get scented with the smell of aromatic spices. The city gets busier during the morning at 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM as this is the time when people come out and do shopping. However, this doesn't last for a long period as after 5:00 PM, these shops are closed for the evening. So, better that you head to the harbour or enjoy an exotic cocktail at a bar in the city. You can even visit a club and enjoy the nightlife for some fun.
Victoria's local transport
Victoria is a tiny, town and you can easily take a walk in the streets. However, there are several transport options available. There are bus services which are cheap and satisfy the daily requirements of the locals. At times, you may have to wait longer at the stop as sometimes the services are irregular. In such cases, you can take a taxi. There are metered taxis in the city - taxi drivers are friendly, and they will be your tour guides. Make sure to negotiate the price before taking the service. Since Victoria is small, a bike is probably the best option and also popular among the people living there. There are shops where you can rent a bike and can take a bike tour of the city. Renting a bike here is cheap.
Top Things to do in Victoria - Some major attractions
This city is also known as Port Victoria and has so many things to offer the Globetrotters coming here from different parts of the world. During the Indian Ocean Earthquake, the tsunami waves demolished one of the largest bridges of the city. Let us have a look at the main things to do in the city.
The oldest historic and most popular structure of the island nation, the clock tower is a replica of the Clock Tower London. It was the original idea of Ernest Sweet Escott. A memorial to Queen Victoria, its inauguration took place on April 1, 1903. Several workers from Madras worked hard and the erection completed in 9 days.
Also known as Mont Fleuri Botanical Garden, the garden was established in 1901. The director of the agriculture service, Mr Paul Evenor Rivalz Dupont found this garden. At present, the Ministry of Environment is taking care of this garden. There are more than 500 species of indigenous and exotic plants. The botanical garden also has several fishes, reptiles, amphibians, insects, mammals and caves.
Sir Selwyn Clarke Market
Sir Percy Selwyn Clarke was governor of Seychelles and also the director of medical services of Hong Kong. In a formal trial, the Japanese sentenced him to death. Later on, the punishment was turned into three years in prison. All the charges he had were removed, and he was reprieved in December 1944. For four years, he remained the commander-in-chief of the island nation. Several buildings have been named after him for his honour. The main fish and fruit market is also named for his honour. The market is crowded on Sundays. You will also find shops where you can buy clothes and artworks.
With a glistening gold dome, Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa mosque in Victoria serves its Islamic community. Tucked away from the main city, it makes for a pleasant visit. The mosque currently can hold around 600 male and female worshippers, being busiest during Friday prayers.
A must visit place in the city, this museum is a fascinating place, especially for people who love to explore nature. You will get to know a lot of things about the island including the flora, fauna and geology.
At the eastern end of Independence Avenue, you will find this statue which is located at Freedom Square. Having three white wings, this magnificent statue was built to honour Victoria’s 200th anniversary by Italian artist Lorenzo Appiani. The three wings represent three different continents in Seychelles, i.e. Asia, Africa and Europe.
National Library Building
Do you love reading or want to dig out the history, culture and geography of Seychelles? Head to Francis Rachel Street/4th June Avenue. The modern library is a beautiful building. This AC library is open to the public since 1995. The opening time is Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM and on Saturday, from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM. There are no admission charges.
St. Paul's Cathedral
Opposite of the Clock Tower, is the largest and oldest Anglican Church of the nation, on Revolution Avenue. In 1859, the first Anglican Bishop of Mauritius consecrated this church. There are 800 seats. One can visit the church with no entry fee.
The capital city experiences a tropical rainforest climate with the temperatures remaining high for the most part of the year. June and July are the driest months while December to February is the wettest. The capital city houses almost one-third of the total population of Seychelles.
Seychelles International Airport (SEZ) serves the capital, around 11KM in the southeast. To order to reach the city from the airport, you need to head on to Victoria - Providence Highway. The nation is well connected with places like London, Rome, Frankfurt, Mumbai and Bangkok by Air Seychelles. There are charter services on a regular basis from Amsterdam (Martinair) and Frankfurt (Condor). Also, international flight services are available from Abu Dhabi (Etihad Airways), Nairobi (Kenya Airways), Doha (Qatar Airways), Dubai (Emirates) and La Reunion (Air Austral).