One of the world’s smallest capitals, Victoria is an interesting little town, with an eclectic mix of architecture.
Victoria, one of the smallest capitals in the world, nestles beneath the imposing granite mountains on the northeast side of Mahé on a ribbon of flat land edging the sheltered bay. It is an interesting little town with some typical Creole-style buildings interspersed with more modern architecture.
In keeping with the promotion of Creole culture, many of the new buildings follow the traditional style, and some even have a vaguely Indian influence with ornate archways and small tiles. There is a general air of prosperity, new buildings are under construction, the streets are generally clean, the people appear healthy and well fed, and there are no beggars. However, sometimes the shops simply do not have the specific item that you require as everything has to be imported.
Victoria is a busy commercial centre, well serviced by banks, shops and restaurants. Taxis and buses operating from the town centre provide easy connections with the rest of the island. As tourism has increased, so have the number of cars on the roads, and, at peak times, the traffic can be very slow moving.
At the inter-island quay in the harbour there are boats of all descriptions travelling to many of the islands, and the deep-water international quay provides access for large cruise ships and cargo vessels. Located between the two busy quays are the Seychelles Yacht Club and the Marine Charter Association.
What to see and do in Victoria
The Clock Tower
The clock tower is the focal point of the town and stands in the middle of the important intersection of Independence Avenue and Francis Rachel Street (Francis Rachel was the first Seychellois soldier to die in the 1977 coup). The silver-painted clock is a replica of that on London’s Vauxhall Bridge Road.
It arrived in the port in Mahé in 1903. As the clock was being unloaded, the pendulum accidentally fell into the water and was never recovered. Although a new one was made, the clock never chimed, and seldom displayed the correct time.
As a millennium treat, a new mechanism was installed, and a local businessman commented: ‘Its soul is full of memories, it gave freely the time to everyone, to work, play, think or just do nothing.’ The clock tower is a good starting point for setting out to explore Victoria on foot.
Victoria Botanical Gardens
The 6ha park, besides being a retreat from the bustle of Victoria, has a fascinating array of plants and houses an impressive collection of tropical palms, including the six Seychelles endemic species.
This is one of the best places to photograph both male and female coco de mer palms as they are out in the open and in good light. Notice the large coco de mer planted by HRH Duke of Edinburgh during his brief visit to the Seychelles in 1956. Further up the gentle slope is a large pen housing a collection of Aldabra tortoises.
This is the heart of town where the residents do their daily shopping. It is largely closed to traffic and always bustling with activity in the mornings. The Victoria Market was rebuilt and opened again in June 1999. It is still known as the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market, named after the last British governor of the Seychelles in the late 1940s.
The colourful market has a distinctly oriental look about it, with a bright turquoise pagoda-style roof and red supporting columns with splashes of yellow and dark blue. An enormous mango tree shades the central square, while frangipani trees with fragrant white flowers scent the air.