British Columbia

Victoria ranked among top 5 small cities in the world by British magazine

In spite of the pandemic's impact on Victoria, the provincial capital is still considered among the top five small cities in the world by British magazine Monocle.

Monocle magazine looked at cities with populations less than 250,000 for their international list

Two people sit on a bench overlooking the Victoria Harbour. Victoria, B.C., was recently named one of the top five 'small cities' in the world by British magazine Monocle. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Despite a global pandemic, Victoria, B.C., is still one of the best "small cities" in the world, according to UK-based magazine Monocle.

The magazine, which explores urban culture around the world, looked at cities with fewer than 250,000 people for their second annual Small Cities Index. The cities chosen were described as "well-connected cities that offer great business opportunities, a welcoming culture and access to nature."

According to the index, Victoria placed No. 5, making a significant jump from 16 just a year ago. Porto, Portugal, took top honours followed by Leuven, Belgium; Itoshima, Japan; and Lucerne, Switzerland. 

Tomos Lewis, the Toronto bureau chief for Monocle, says the charm of a small city is not feeling lost in an anonymous metropolis.

"From having spoken to people from a variety of sectors who have lived in Victoria either for a long time or just moved there, that kind of intimacy comes part and parcel with moving to a city like Victoria," said Lewis to host Kathryn Marlow on CBC's All Points West.

Cities were graded according to accessibility to international travellers, having "a good, progressive mayor," access to nature and for being warm and welcoming. Ratings also incorporated sustainability, environmentally conscious planning and opportunities for business. 

The magazine had compliments for Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps who it said "introduced initiatives to encourage young Canadians and foreigners to relocate here" such as free bus passes for children and bike lanes across the city. 

It also praised the city's diversifying economy, specifically noting its financial-services and ocean-research sectors, and its literary and food scene.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel at the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria, B.C., is a city landmark. (Deddeda Stemler/Canadian Press)

Victoria has seen its fair share of challenges during the global pandemic including increased homelessness, a devastating shut-down of its tourism sector and rising housing costs.

"We do feel that all cities have their challenges that are particular to that place in question. But we don't think that those should always totally overshadow the other things a city has going for it," said Lewis.

He said Victoria's civic attempts to address these issues is what earned it a top spot.

"This idea of the community first stepping in to try and solve, address and shine a spotlight on what those issues are and try to solve them I think is what gives a place its magic and that's certainly what we found having reported on Victoria for so many years from our vantage point."

With files from All Points West

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