Welcome to Halifax: the capital of Nova Scotia. Between the city’s vibrant, student-friendly downtown, incredible harbor views, and proximity to beautiful beaches and hiking trails, Halifax is a perfect place for a seaside getaway. Here is a guide to the best of Halifax, Nova Scotia:

Know before you go

Halifax is the cultural hub of the Maritime provinces — which includes Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island — and the largest city east of Quebec City. The province of Nova Scotia is almost entirely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean; no point in the province is more than 60km (37 mi) from the sea. Halifax’s prime location near beaches and seaside landmarks like Peggy’s Cove make it a popular summer destination. But in true Canadian style, Haligonians embrace winter, too, with outdoor skating rinks, sledding, winter surfing, heated patios, and, of course, hockey.

The Halifax Harbour is one of the deepest and largest natural, ice-free harbors in the world. The waterfront is where visitors and residents alike and locals gather to walk along the water, grab drinks at boardwalk beer gardens and seafood restaurants, and treat themselves  to an ice cream or baked treat in the Salt Yard,  where you can find 30,000 square feet of public space between Salter and Sackville Streets.  The Salt Yard showcases small local businesses, arts and entertainment. 

Halifax has six degree-granting universities, giving the city a youthful feeling. This is a contributing factor to Halifax having more  pubs per capita than any other city in Canada!.

Halifax is also one of the friendliest cities in Canada. For visitors, this makes the city even easier to explore. Locals are always willing to offer directions and share recommendations and even stop to let you cross the street – regardless if there is a crosswalk or not!

Where to Stay

To be at the center of all the action in Halifax’s historic downtown, while still experiencing that retreat and relaxation you want in a holiday, opt for a stay at the Halliburton House Inn. Their charming guest rooms are housed in three early 19th-century townhouses, giving you the local immersion you might be looking for with a healthy dose of comfort.

For a cozy inn experience, stay at The Inn at Fisherman’s Cove where your window will literally suspend over the seawater where fishing boats come and go throughout the day. Each eclectically decorated room harbors a homey feel with an ocean view and is only a short walk away from plenty of shops and restaurants.

For a more indulgent experience, stay at The Pebble Bed and Breakfast near the historic Halifax. Two airy rooms with queen-size feather beds and large ensuite 4-piece baths overlook a lush garden and waterfront. Enjoy complimentary canoes and kayaks, as well as a full breakfast spread every morning, and venture into the adjacent neighborhood for a stroll or do some Maritime shopping in the historic Halifax. 

What to See

Halifax’s Citadel National Historic Site is the highest point in the city and one of the most well-visited attractions. It was first established as a British post in 1794 and was occupied by British forces until 1906. The cannon at the Citadel goes off every day at noon, a tradition that dates back to 1857. Visit the historic site and learn about Halifax’s military history from volunteers wearing traditional uniforms from 1869. Along with its fascinating history, Citadel Hill is a popular place for picnics and suntanning in the summer months.

Halifax’s waterfront is home to plenty of cultural experiences. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the oldest and largest Maritime Museum in Canada. It is the perfect place to learn about the history of the area and the importance of Halifax’s location on the sea. It is also home to the largest collection of wooden artifacts from the Titantic.  Halifax played a specific role in the Titanic story. Hours after Titanic sank, White Star Line commissioned cable ships based in Halifax to recover the bodies of victims. Of the 209 bodies brought to Halifax, 150 were laid to rest in three cemeteries in Halifax, all of which are accessible to the public.

Further down the boardwalk, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 explores the fascinating history of immigration in Canada – it’s Canada’s version of Ellis Island.  At the Museum, you will experience the moving journeys that many families took to start a new life in Canada. Step into the past and experience what it was like for nearly one million immigrants who landed in Halifax between 1928 and 1971. 

The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, the longest operating farmer’s market in North America, has store-front businesses, most of which are open daily.  But the heart of the market is found when you visit on a Saturday!   There are a variety of vendors offering up anything from Nova Scotia produced wines to authentic African cuisine, hand crafted jewelry to fresh seafood, soap to hot sauce and everything in between. Enjoy a steaming cup of coffee alongside a hearty breakfast, decadent pastry or fresh fruit from one of the many local vendors.

On the other end of the harborfront boardwalk is Historic Properties, a designated National Historic Site in the heart of downtown Halifax.  Historic Properties was the first restoration project of its kind in Canada, featuring three city blocks of Canada’s oldest surviving group of waterfront warehouses and some of North America’s finest Victorian-Italianate façades dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Today, these charming historic buildings offer modern boutique shopping, gourmet dining, and true East Coast entertainment.

For great harbor views, take the pedestrian ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth, Halifax’s sister city across the water.  The Dartmouth side of the Halifax Harbour is home to many quaint cafes, noteworthy food joints, and a charm all its own. Also known as the City of Lakes, Dartmouth boasts 23 lakes that provide opportunities for kayaking, windsurfing, canoeing and swimming. Visit the Dartmouth Waterfront to take a walk along the boardwalk, the ideal place for a photo of the Halifax skyline, and Georges and McNabs Islands. Visiting the waterfront on a Saturday morning? Be sure to visit the popular farmers’ market at Alderney Landing.

For an informational tour of the city, try the Harbour Hopper — an amphibious adventure that shows you the best of Halifax by land and sea! As you travel along your journey, you will view places of interest in our vibrant historic city, such as the Halifax Public Gardens, St. Paul’s Church, and bustling Spring Garden Road. The tour continues through the downtown before making the big splash into Halifax Harbour! This fully narrated tour includes topics such as the Halifax Explosion, the rich history of the naval dockyards, and Halifax’s role during war and peace.

East coasters love nature, and there are plenty of great walks in Halifax and the surrounding area. There are lakeside trails, coastal walks, woodlands, and spectacular ocean views. 

Within the city, Point Pleasant Park has lovely walking trails along the water. Located on the south end of the Halifax peninsula, there are 39km of trails, as well as some ruins of early forts. Fun fact: Halifax rents the park from the British government for 1 shilling a year, with a 999-year lease. 

On one of Halifax’s busiest streets, Spring Garden Road, the Halifax Public Gardens offer a quiet refuge in the middle of the city. It is one of the finest examples of a Victorian Garden in North America, with stunning flowers in the spring and summer. 

Just outside the city, the Bluff Wilderness Trail is a hidden gem with over 30km of hiking trails to explore. Long Lake Provincial Park is another great hiking destination near Halifax, accessible by car or bus. Wander through woodlands and along a pristine lake. Other popular hiking trails include the Musquodoboit Trailway along the river; and Salt Marsh Trail in Coal Harbour, just 25 minutes from downtown.

McNabs Island has excellent hiking trails through forests and coastal landscapes. McNabs is also a historic site, with old military sites on the island. McNabs Island can be accessed by water taxi from downtown Halifax or by boat from Eastern Passage. 

A trip to Halifax is incomplete without a visit to Peggy’s Cove. Located on the province’s South Shore, this quaint fishing village is home to the famous Peggy’s Point Lighthouse — a picturesque, quintessentially Nova Scotian landscape. Peggy’s Cove is an hour away from Halifax, with some incredible views along the way. Visitors from around the world come to photograph the light house, try seafood at a nearby restaurant, or wander around the shore. The waters around Peggy’s Cove are extremely dangerous, however, with rough waves and strong currents, so be sure to stay off the black rocks.  

What to Eat and Drink

Like every other part of Nova Scotia, Halifax is rich with fresh seafood and so no surprise there is a long list of places to find some of the freshest dishes around. Five Fishermen is a long-time favorite (with a Titanic connection as well) is situated on Halifax’s foodie lane also known as Argyle Street. Try classics like seafood chowder or Digby scallops. The Press Gang inhabits one of the city’s oldest historic stone structures, dating back to 1759. Try out their famous Oyster Bar for a selection of Maritime oysters, succulent appetizers and an extensive list of fine wines, scotch and world-class cocktails. Further down Argyle you’ll find The Loose Cannon or The Public Auction House for more information, pub-style dining and of course a multitude of pint options. 

On the Halifax waterfront, The Bicycle Thief is one of the most popular restaurants in the city, for good reason, with its excellent Italian food and wine selection. Down the street from Halifax’s famous “pizza corner” — the spot for late-night poutines, donair (Halifax’s take on the doner kebab), and of course, pizza — The Stubborn Goat is a gastropub with great sharing plates.

For casual dining and a lively rooftop patio, try Your Father’s Moustache; for killer pizza, try Rinaldo’s or Morris East; and for Mexican plates and margaritas, check out Antojo Tacos + Tequila on Argyle Street.

Halifax’s North End is known for its hip coffee shops and restaurants: The Coastal Café has incredible brunch; Chainyard Cider has great local ciders and food. Edna Restaurant and Hali Deli are also local favorites.

Nova Scotia has a big Gaelic influence. In the 18th and 19th century, Gaelic-speaking Scottish and Irish immigrants made Nova Scotia their home; the Gaelic language is still spoken in some areas of Nova Scotia today. Nova Scotia’s Gaelic culture can be felt at Halifax’s many Irish pubs. The Old Triangle and Durty Nelly’s offer excellent food and local beers. Live music is also a huge Halifax tradition: On Sunday nights, the Lower Deck is the hottest spot in town. Local band Signal Hill draws crowds every week. This is the kind of place where university students have wild nights out — and so can their parents. All ages are welcome, and the whole pub joins in singing along to classic tunes from the Beatles, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, and Canadian icons The Tragically Hip. 

The Split Crow is the place to be on Saturday afternoons; the pub hosts their famous “Power Hour” from 4-5pm, with live music and cheap pints of everyone’s favorite local beer: Alexander Keiths. 

If you’re looking for Halifax nightlife, the best place to start is on Argyle Street, which has everything from student-friendly haunts to classy cocktail bars. Beer gardens have also made it big in Halifax: The Stubborn Goat and Stillwell beer gardens are always popular. 

Have you ever visited Halifax? Let us know your favorite spot on Twitter! 

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Zoe is a Canadian journalist based in London and member of the editorial team at Passion Passport. Originally from Toronto, Zoe worked for a local magazine in South Carolina before moving to the UK to pursue a master’s degree in international journalism.