Top 10 Things to Do When Visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia

Richard Payne
Richard Payne
Published on February 12, 2018

There’s just something perfectly endearing about Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Maybe it’s the bustling waterfront that comes alive during the summer months, or the fact that the city is steeped in history at every turn. Whatever it is, the maritime city has come a long way since its early days as a trading hub on the Atlantic, and has been charming visitors with its east coast hospitality ever since. For those making the trip to Nova Scotia’s capital, here are the top 10 things to do in Halifax.

 

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

#1: Walk along the waterfront

The best way to start any trip to Halifax is with a walk along the four-kilometre Harbourwalk, which winds along the colourful waterfront. Start off at the Historic Properties, where three blocks-worth of warehouses and Victorian-era buildings dating back to the 1700s have been beautifully restored. Not only do the facades make a nice backdrop, but they also house some of the city’s most popular dining spots including Lower Deck, Salty’s, Gahan House and COWS Creamery.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Continuing along the wharf, visitors pass an information centre, the harbour where boat tours and whale-watching excursion depart from, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which has a collection of artifacts from the Titanic. Halifax was the closest major port to where the storied ship sank, which is why all of the recovered bodies and wreckage eventually ended up in the city.Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

The boardwalk ends at the Farmers’ Market and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, meaning you can see most of the city’s top attractions without ever straying too far away from the water.

#2: Book an Alexander Keith’s brewery tour

Who likes a little history with their beer? Apparently a lot of people, which is why a tour of the Alexander Keith’s brewery is one of the most popular things to do in all of Halifax.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Founded in 1820 by Alexander Keith who served three terms as the city’s mayor, the brewery sits on Lower Street just off the waterfront. While production has since moved to a larger location off-site, actors in period costumes take guests around the historical property, outlining the company’s history, explaining the brewing process and of course, handing out lots of beer! In true east coast fashion, there’s also musical entertainment and stories.

#3: Eat at King of Donair

If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, there’s no question the rest of us should hightail it down to one of Halifax’s King of Donair locations and order one of their famous donairs immediately after arriving in town.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The chain has been serving up their meaty wraps since 1973, and the combination of tomato, onion, meat and a special sauce has since elevated it to legend status in the Halifax area. In fact, the chain has experimented with pop-up shops in other areas of the country such as Calgary, where there were so many people rushing to get their hands on one that the lineup wrapped around the block for hours.

#4: Enjoy the view from the Citadel

Getting the best view usually means heading up—and in Halifax, that hilltop spot is the iconic Citadel. Built back in 1749 to protect the city, the star-shaped fort overlooks the harbour and is essentially responsible for the founding of Halifax, as the British military was drawn to the easily-defendable perch on what is now called Citadel Hill.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Parks Canada currently operates the popular site, which offers guided tours explaining what life was like in the fort back in the early days. There’s also a daily firing of the gun, and fun signature experiences such as Soldier for a Day where you can get outfitted in a uniform, practice marching drills and even get to fire an old-fashioned rifle.

#5: Trace Canada’s roots at Pier 21

If you’re even the least bit patriotic, you’ll want to make time to visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Located on the waterfront, the National Historic Site was the first point of entry for many immigrants who travelled to Canada between 1928 and 1971. It has since been turned into a museum, with beautiful exhibits detailing the experiences of those who made their way to Canada on ships through first-person accounts, photos and artifacts. There are also interpretive displays, information about how immigration has shaped what Canada is today, and opportunities for visitors to map their own family tree.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

One can’t-miss activity in Pier 21 is watching in Canada, an inspiring documentary that shares the stories of a number of immigrants who’ve moved to Canada over the past century. The film is about 20 minutes long, and shown numerous times throughout the day.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

#6: Visit the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market

Right beside the museum you’ll find the Farmer’s Market, which has been around since 1750 making it North America’s longest operating farmers’ market. Originally housed in the Bank of Montreal building downtown, it moved around to several different locations in the city before finally settling into its current spot in the seaport.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Today visitors will find a two-storey market overflowing with fresh produce, and stalls serving up the likes of lobster rolls, freshly-squeezed organic juice, sweet lemonade and desserts. There’s also an area to pick up flowers and handcrafted goods like beautiful wooden cutting boards, jewelry and greeting cards, making it a one-stop shop—just be sure to come with an empty stomach and full wallet!

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

#7: Stroll through the Halifax Public Gardens

Halifax may be a relatively laid-back city, but it can still get a bit hectic in spots like the waterfront, particularly during the busy summer months. For a reprieve from the crowds, head up to the Halifax Public Gardens along Spring Garden Road.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Spanning 16 acres in the heart of the city, the Victorian gardens have been open to the public since 1867, and were designated as a National Historic Site a century later. The entrance to the serene, peaceful gardens is marked with an ornate wrought iron gate, and from there visitors can follow the winding pathways which pass numerous fountains, 140 different species of trees, gardens overflowing with vibrant flowers, carpet beds and statues. Seeing as it’s one of the prettiest spots in Halifax, it’s also a popular spot for couples to get their engagement or wedding photos taken.

#8: Shop on Spring Garden Road

Since you’re already on Spring Garden Road, you might as well head over a couple blocks for some shopping. Spring Garden is the city’s best spot for fashionistas, with over nine blocks-worth of shops, restaurants and services. Visitors will find Canadian favourites like Lululemon and Le Chateau, as well as many independently owned stores. There are also lots of great spots to grab a drink in the area, including the hipster-favourite Stillwell which serves up Nova Scotia craft beer, sausage, pretzels and ice cream in a fun outdoor space

 

#9: Grab a drink at an outdoor patio

Speaking of outdoor patios, there’s nothing Halgonians love to do more on a warm day than grab a drink and soak up the sun. There’s no shortage of places to do so, particularly along the harbour where pop-up patios appear in the summer months. Popular watering holes include picture-perfect Bicycle Thief which has one of the prettiest patios in the whole city and serves American/Italian fare, as well as The Gahan House which was founded in neighbouring Prince Edward Island and specializes in handcrafted, east coast ales.

 

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

 

 

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Just around the corner you’ll find Lower Deck, a Halifax institution that is THE place to party and has live entertainment every single night. While it technically doesn’t have an outdoor patio, it’s well-worth a mention for those wanting to meet the locals and get a taste of east coast hospitality.

#10: Eat lobster

No trip to the east coast is complete without enjoying lobster, lobster and more lobster. The good news is there are many different dishes to try it in aside from the classic lobster dinner and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

For the ultimate lobster fix, head over to Stubborn Goat Gastropub on Grafton Street, and order their famous Lobster Mac ’n’ Cheese. Sure it probably has the equivalent of a whole days’ worth of calories, but the cheesy goodness is sooo worth the splurge.

Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
As you can see, this is a great list to get you started.
Globe Guide explored Halifax in collaboration with Tourism Nova Scotia. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles

 

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