Home Government of BC BC Legislative Assembly Public tours at the BC Legislature: guided or craft your own

Public tours at the BC Legislature: guided or craft your own

A tourist-style experience for everyone's bucket list! | Thanks to tour guide Lucesta on August 1 for this tour experience!

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Guided tour at the BC Parliament Buildings, Aug 1, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Friday August 4, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 2:35 pm]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

The guided tours are free, and for history buffs the information is fascinating on public tours of the BC Parliament Buildings.

The acoustics to hear the tour guide are a bit rough in the echo-chamber of the main floor and second floor open areas of the historic building. But it works.

History about the architecture, items on display and who has visited in these hallowed spaces is interesting. The information is text-book classic which probably suits a very broad audience of whoever just happens to show up for each of the tours that run daily, Monday-Friday, during the summer.

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Visitors arriving for the public tours at the BC Parliament Buildings, Aug 1, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Tours start every 30 minutes but last about 40 minutes, so there is overlap. Just arriving at the front door of the main building is all you need to do, as well as go through a security check walk-through (much like at the airport).

The BC Parliament Buildings guided tour schedule is posted online.

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Guided tour on the 2nd floor of the BC Parliament Buildings, Aug 1, 2023. [Island Social Trends]

There are also self-guided tours of this building which is the seat of democracy in British Columbia. The self-guided format gives a bit more flexibility to see more of the building. The guided tours do not go further than the main entry areas (and floor above that). The tour does not include the hallways of working offices, the press gallery area or press theatre, dining room, or venture out to the rose garden.

People in attendance at one of the morning guided public tours on August 1 were of all ages — from infants in strollers to young adults to older folks. Sometimes they had questions — most of them at the doors to the Legislative Assembly (where the acoustics were better) — most primarily it was an opportunity to absorb the ambiance of the spaces and take in information from static and text-oriented displays.

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Folks on the public tour were interested in how the Queen’s Jubilee window was installed in 2002. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]
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The Golden Jubilee window was installed for the official visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, shown here on a public tour in August 2023. [Island Social Trends]

There is one slide-show on repeat about King Charles III’s visits to Victoria and BC, and mention of how Queen Elizabeth II “stood right here” at the window installed in honour of Golden Jubilee in 2002.

Legislative Assembly:

During tours, the public gets to peer into the BC Legislative Assembly chamber, which is located on the second floor of the building.

The seating in the chamber has recently been revised in preparation for more MLAs in 2024 — from 87 up to 93 (the October 2024 election will have six more ridings as the BC population grows and more constituencies are carved out).

It was explained how in the third-floor gallery the public may visit quietly in seats provided there (following a security check). The press gallery is also on the third level above and behind the speaker’s chair.

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Peering into the BC Legislative Assembly chamber during a public tour, August 1, 2023. [Island Social Trends]

Tour guides are hired for the summer and get a bit of training before and through the summer, picking up more information as they go. There’s a lot to know and explain when folks on the tour have questions!

Guided tours:

Public tour times are determined based on school and group bookings, as well as events taking place inside the Parliament Buildings.

bc legislature, parliament buildings, tour, public, aug 2023
Guided tour at the BC Parliament Buildings, Aug 1, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

About 11 to 14 guided tours are conducted daily, generally starting every half-hour between 9 am and 4:30 pm.

Tours are delivered in English but also available in French and Mandarin (dates and times for those are posted on the Public Tours Page).

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Danny and Pascale at the BC Parliament Buildings public tour kiosk, Aug 1, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Outside the building as a pre-entry greeting station there is a government staffer and at least one tour guide, at a little booth with awning for the sun. There is construction on the building grounds this year, so there is some directional signage for where the tours start.

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Some construction out front of the building as you approach for the public tours. [Island Social Trends]

BC Day long weekend:

This BC Day long weekend only (Saturday through Monday, August 5 through 7, 2023) there are guided tours only. 

Visitors must join a free guided tour to enter the Parliament Buildings on weekends and holidays. Free tickets are distributed on the driveway on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours are offered frequently throughout the day. 

Self-Guided Tours:

Self-guided tour books are available in a variety of languages at the Tour Desk or can be downloaded below:

Stairs or elevator:

The tours take place over two floors. Folks who don’t wish to take the stairs may use the elevators.

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On public tours people can take the stairs or use the elevator. [Island Social Trends]

Photo-taking allowed:

The BC Parliament Buildings are a public space. Photo-taking is allowed on tours. Many folks were taking selfies, or closeups of things they wanted to re-explore later.

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Photo-taking is allowed during public tours of the BC Parliament Buildings. [Island Social Trends / Aug 2023]

Dining room and gift shop:

The Parliamentary Dining Room is open from Monday to Friday for breakfast and lunch. Reservations are recommended: 250-387-3959. 

‚ÄčLocated next to the exit on the first floor, the Parliamentary Gift Shop offers a variety of gifts that are custom made for the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

On everyone’s bucket list:

Whether you’ve lived in Victoria all your life or you’re new to this south Vancouver Island region — or it’s just been a while since you’ve been there — these public tours are something for everyone’s bucket list — BC citizens and tourists alike.

A lot of the info seen or heard on the tour can be found on the BC Legislative Assembly website, but as with many things in life that’s never quite the same as being there in person.

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Visitors in downtown Victoria may enjoy use of the front lawn at the BC Parliament Buildings. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends / Aug 1, 2023]

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Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke,

Island Social Trends has been covering news of the south Vancouver Island region since 2008, through a publication series by Brookeline Publishing House Inc created and guided by editor and publisher Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR.

The series so far: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), West Shore Voice News (2014-2020), and currently Island Social Trends at IslandSocialTrends.ca (2020 to present). The print editions from 2008 to 2020 are archived in the permanent collections at the Sooke Region Museum.

The mission is to report news of the daily and our changing times through a socioeconomic lens, to encourage community participation and to inform by way of professional journalism.