Boasting the world’s second-largest natural harbour (after Sydney, Australia) Halifax is big enough to be a major economic centre, but small enough to take pride in its “slower” pace of life. Officially known as the Halifax Regional Municipality, or HRP, the economic and cultural centre of eastern Canada is widely regarded as just “Halifax”.
It was founded in 1749 as a British military outpost, and today the military is still the region’s largest employer. The port town is a colourful and bustling centre brimming with history and attractions to keep visitors busy. And the surrounding vibrant province of Nova Scotia offers plenty for day trippers, from quaintly colourful houses to breathtaking coastlines and outdoor activities.
One-and-a-half million immigrants from Europe, Britain and Ireland passed through Halifax’s Museum of Immigration, on Pier 21, between 1928 and 1971. Today it’s the only national museum in the Atlantic provinces.
Other institutions worth a look include the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (which features an extensive Titanic exhibit) and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Halifax Common is Canada’s oldest public park and a short stroll from here are the Halifax Public Gardens.
There’s no shortage of festivals throughout the year. Standouts include the International Busker Festival every August and the Halifax Pop Explosion each October.
Eat and Drink
For a mouthwatering eye-opener, sign up for a culinary walking tour of the downtown district. If a romantic dining experience is more up your alley, take a stroll along the waterfront and pop into one of the many seafood restaurants along the way. After a budget meal? Choose from plenty of well-priced eateries along Spring Garden Road, or try a local pub for an affordable meal (many offer live music too).
The Wooden Monkey on Grafton Street is a vegetarian establishment, and there are ritzy restaurants in the city centre too: try Da Maurizio’s on Lower Water Street, inside the Brewery Market, if you enjoy Italian food. Granville Street is also a good bet for a range of eateries and bars.
Where to Stay
Halifax caters to all accommodation budgets, with a range of affordable lodgings downtown and outside the centre. Mid-range accommodation varies from bed and breakfasts to hotels. If you are in the mood to splash out take your pick from some top-end establishments in the middle of town.
Seaport Farmers Market is the oldest continuously operating (established in 1750!) farmers market in North America, and has a new home by the water at 1209 Marginal Road. Here you can pick up everything from local produce to bread, milk, clothing and arts and crafts, seven days a week. At the market’s former site is the newer Brewery Farmers’ Market.
For a shopping experience with an aesthetically pleasing backdrop, try Barrington Street, which is lined with some beautiful buildings as well as some interesting shops (Freak Lunchbox sells lollies and some unusual trinkets). Halifax’s main shopping district is the lively Spring Garden Road (for quirky vintage clothing visit Dress in Time), and the biggest mall is the Halifax Shopping Centre, which is accessible via bus from downtown.
Halifax Like a Local
Head down to the tightknit community of Fisherman’s Cove to get an authentic feel for this city. You’ll see the fishermen dock with their catches and can dine out on fresh seafood. If your accommodation has cooking facilities, snap up a well-priced lobster from the markets or fresh out of a fisherman’s car and cook up a feast back at your digs.