There’s nothing we love more than planning an itinerary, packing a suitcase, purchasing a train ticket, and embarking on a new adventure!
This year, we’re partnering with Canada’s VIA Rail in celebration of their 40th anniversary. As the season change, we’ll introduce you to other vibrant cities and communities across Canada through this #VIARail40 collaboration. You can take the journey with us on our blog and through social media.
Built on the water, Nova Scotia’s harborfront capital of Halifax is full of urban charm and seaside escapes. The city — home to a storied past — now finds itself in the midst of a developmental boom, pairing its maritime backstory with a modern downtown core and tech scene. When visiting, you’re sure to find unmatched ocean views, colorful neighborhoods, a vibrant food and beverage scene, and, of course, talkative locals. If you’re planning a day trip to this city, we’ve outlined a brief itinerary that will give you a good introduction to this beautiful region.
What to See
Peggy’s Cove is the idyllic Nova Scotia scene: a small rural fishing village with worn docks, rope, and lobster pots lining the narrow winding roads. It only took our team 45 minutes to drive there from downtown, and the route brought us directly to the picturesque lighthouse (one of 160 in Nova Scotia) that has stood its ground since 1915. Once there, wander around the rugged granite rocks as the Atlantic Ocean rolls into the shoreline, covering everything in a layer of salt. And, while we visited in the morning, the views are spectacular at all times — sunrise, sunset, snowstorm — so, just grab your camera and go!
The North End
Halifax’s North End is everything you want in a neighborhood — its values include locally sourced goods and a community-oriented society, which makes sense, seeing that this part of the city has endured its fair share of adversity over the years, highlighted by the devastation of the Halifax Explosion. Following the 1917 disaster, the North End has overcome a number of inner-city conflicts and poor developmental decisions, leading to a greater appreciation for and pride of the area’s success today.
Nowadays, the neighborhood is graced with beautiful parks, tasty restaurants, and live music venues, though we found that most visitors stick to the downtown area, leaving the quaint streets to locals. If you have time, we know you’ll enjoy strolling around the blocks filled with second-hand stores, breweries, and street art — we definitely did!
Ferry to Dartmouth
Across the harbor lies Dartmouth, an area once considered its own city until 1996, when the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) was created and encapsulated much of Halifax’s surrounding area. Though there are two bridges that connect Dartmouth to Halifax, the best way to get there is by ferry. Leaving from the Halifax boardwalk, enjoy the seven minute ride that offers stunning views of the MacDonald Bridge and the city’s skyline. Once there, stroll the waterfront, sift through artisan shops, indulge in restaurants and breweries, and explore the walking trails that make downtown Dartmouth an area on the rise.
What to Eat
Edna is arguably the city’s most popular brunch spot (served Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), but that’s not all it offers. With refreshing cocktails, local beers, and a host of fresh seafood dishes, Edna — a 60-seat upscale bistro located in the North End — also welcomes in dinner guests throughout the week, with Monday being the lone exception. But note, no matter what day you plan to stop in, reservations aren’t available, which makes snagging a table in this cozy atmosphere even more special — we certainly felt lucky to congregate here as a team.
The Bicycle Thief
Situated perfectly on the city’s waterfront boardwalk, The Bicycle Thief blends cultures through food in a tasteful, welcoming, and unforgettable setting. While enjoying views of the harbor, dive into what the restaurant calls “North American food with an Italian soul”, which includes everything from local oysters, scallops, and mussels, to handmade gnocchi, linguine, and fettuccine — combinations that are hard to find anywhere else.
Though Field Guide’s open-concept kitchen more than holds its own in Halifax’s culinary scene (they’re known for small tapas-like dishes that make up multiple-course dinners), this warm and stylish space is also celebrated for its cocktails. While ordering, don’t be afraid to engage with your server or bartender, and ask them if they have any experimental or seasonal drinks available. These days, lots of places in Halifax are foraging their own secret local ingredients, so you never know what they might be concocting behind the bar.
What to Do
Established in 1749, Citadel Hill is as old as Halifax itself. Constructed on a magnificent downtown hill that strategically overlooks the harbor and the surrounding peninsula, the four citadels that comprise the fortress have played a pivotal role in the port city’s history, protecting Halifax from various enemies throughout multiple wars.
Today, the hill is run by Parks Canada as a National Historic Site, and offers daily reenactments of the many different eras the citadel has lived through, including the famous cannon fire at noon. You can also find museums dedicated to different time periods of combat, which pay homage to the brave and innovative women and men who served to protect Halifax and its country. Regardless of whether or not you attend a reenactment, Citadel Hill is a beautiful locale for picture-taking.
With less than half a million people residing within city limits, there’s plenty of room for green spaces in Halifax. These green spaces include nature preserves and provincial parks, but if you’re sticking to the downtown area (like we did), two places stand out in particular.
Start with the Public Gardens, which has been in operation since the Confederation of Canada in 1867. This Victorian-era garden is located in the thick of the city center, near the popular shopping area of Spring Garden Road, across the street from Victoria Park (a smaller space ideal for strolling and picnics). The Public Gardens are filled with ponds, bridges, fountains, a tea room, and endless foliage, and are particularly pretty in spring, when we visited.
Another outdoor space you may want to explore is Point Pleasant Park, situated on the southernmost tip of the Halifax Peninsula. Here you will find nearly 25 miles (39 kilometers) of wooded trails winding through the 190 acre park, which is decorated with historic monuments, military infrastructure, and stunning views of McNabs Island and the North West Arm.
Head to the Coast
It’s no surprise the ocean is where Haligonians feel the most at home and what makes this city Canada’s best kept secret. Surfing, kayaking, hiking, lying on the beach — life is good on the East Coast, especially in the summer.
While you’re in town, a trip to the coast is inevitable, as it’s not a Halifax experience until you see the expansive coastlines for yourself. Explore trails at Duncan’s Cove or Herring Cove Provincial Park, paddle around the inlets of Terrance and Prospect Bay, catch a wave in Lawrencetown, or relax on the white sand of Crystal Crescent Beach. There’s no bad way to enjoy Halifax’s ocean views!
Craving a bit of seaside charm? Halifax and the rest of Nova Scotia is easily accessible by train this summer!