Best Things To Do in Halifax
Halifax is steeped in history, much of which centers around the sea. For an in-depth look at the city's watery past, reserve a few hours for the Mari... READ MORE
Halifax is steeped in history, much of which centers around the sea. For an in-depth look at the city's watery past, reserve a few hours for the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Another must-see historic site is the towering Citadel, a fortress used as a naval station during the reign of the British Empire. If your history quota still isn't filled, take a tour of Alexander Keith's Brewery, one of the oldest breweries in North America. Halifax is also bursting with outdoor activities: take a walk through the Public Gardens, enjoy a leisurely ferry ride to nearby Dartmouth, lounge on the sand at Crystal Crescent Beach or enjoy the harbor views during a stroll down the waterfront's boardwalk.
Updated August 25, 2015
- #1View all Photos#1 in HalifaxMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Towering over downtown Halifax, the Citadel is a testament to the city's military past. Four forts have occupied this hilltop since 1749, when Edward Cornwallis, a career British military officer, governed the region; the fort that stands today dates back to 1856. Visitors can wander the Citadel's corridors and learn about Halifax's involvement in major wars, such as the American Revolution, the American Civil War and both World Wars. The on-site Army Museum offers a closer look at the fortress's history. And to truly feel what it was like to be on the hill back in its heyday, make sure to come at lunchtime, when reenactors of the Royal Artillery fire the traditional noon gun.
You can also interact with members of the 78th Highland Regiment. From May through October, these kilted reenactors offer free guided tours of the fort and provide insight on what it was like to be a soldier there. You can even learn to shoot a 19th-century rifle from one of these reenactors (for an extra fee and age restrictions apply).
- #2View all Photos#2 in HalifaxParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Public Gardens are a living testament to the Victorian era. And visitors welcome the respite from the urban atmosphere. Opened in 1867, this 16-acre public space – marked by an ornate metal entryway – houses manicured flower beds, quiet walkways, a picturesque gazebo and plenty of perfect picnic spots. Locals and visitors alike praise the beauty of the park and love the peace and quiet it affords in the center of the city. The Friends of the Public Gardens runs tours of the grounds during the summer. You can request a tour and check out the latest tour schedule on the organization's website.
The Halifax Public Gardens are open every day from 7 a.m. to one hour before sunset. Admission is free. The gardens are located kitty-corner to the Citadel. You can learn more about the Public Gardens by perusing the park's website.
- #3View all Photos#3 in HalifaxShopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market was established by royal decree in 1750, a year after the establishment of Halifax itself. Since opening nearly 300 years ago, travelers and locals alike visit the market to purchase a range of goods. On any given day, you'll be able to buy soaps, baked treats, fresh produce, fish, jewelry and more from nearly 100 vendors. Recent visitors praised the variety of wares (both food and craft) sold by dealers and say it is a great place to browse.
The market, located on the waterfront, is about a 5-minute walk from the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. It's is free to peruse the market. Hours vary slightly by season, but you can expect to visit the market from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. The market is open on Mondays in the summer only. For more information, visit the market’s website.
- #4View all Photos#4 in HalifaxMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
It makes sense that Canada's oldest and most substantial maritime museum is located in Halifax: The city's history drips with stories from the sea. By displaying artifacts and providing interactive exhibits, this specialty museum recounts the numerous shipwrecks off Nova Scotia's shores, the city's days as a commercial shipping hub and its role as a military player in World Wars I and II. But the exhibit detailing Halifax's response to the 1912 sinking of the Titanic is, for many, the highlight of the museum. The display includes artifacts from the "unsinkable ship" and recounts local efforts to recover lost passengers and remaining parts of the ship. In fact, it was at this museum that director James Cameron saw the carved panel that inspired Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's raft in the 1997 film, "Titanic." (You can also find many Titanic victims buried in Halifax's cemeteries.)
While examining the Titanic artifacts is the biggest draw, previous visitors say that you should make time for the other displays. Recent museumgoers say you should budget about two hours to take in all the maritime history.
- #5View all PhotosfreeDartmouth#5 in HalifaxFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Sitting across the harbor from Halifax is Dartmouth, a small town that has been around since 1750. There are two primary reasons to visit this Nova Scotia town (aside from the scenic ferry ride across the harbor): First, to enjoy its natural landscape; and second, to take in its history. Known as "The City of Lakes," Dartmouth is peppered with 23 individual ponds, many of which are surrounded by public parkland and ideal for a picnic. Another scenic stomping ground is the Shubenacadie Canal, which was created in the early 1800s to connect Halifax Harbor to Shubenacadie Grand Lake and ultimately the Bay of Fundy near Nova Scotia's interior. Walking on the trails at Shubenacadie is a favorite activity for many recent visitors.
You should spend an hour or two exploring Dartmouth's harbor, where you'll find a cluster of historic buildings that now house cute shops and cozy restaurants. The area is also adorned with different street art, making the walk between boutiques and eateries entertaining.
- #6View all Photos#6 in HalifaxCafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDCafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Halifax Waterfront is a fun-filled spot packed with cafes, restaurants, bars, breweries, shops, historic ships, boat tours and ferries, not to mention buskers and other street performers. It's here that you'll find many of the area's top attractions that detail the city's maritime heritage and its history as an immigration port. It's also a premier photo stop for tourists, as the harbor views, art installations and bright orange hammocks (ideal for relaxing) provide the perfect backdrop. Recent visitors say the lively area is fun to explore, with lots of options for eating, drinking and shopping, in addition to simply enjoying the views.
The waterfront is located downtown. It has a 2-mile boardwalk that can be accessed at various points. The boardwalk is accessible 24/7, but individual shops and restaurants have their own hours of operation. Visit the Discover Halifax website for more information.
- #7View all Photos#7 in HalifaxChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Founded in 1749 by Britain's King George II, St. Paul's is Canada's oldest Anglican Church. The building may look simple at first, but architecture buffs and historians alike will appreciate its construction. The church was modeled after London's St. Peter's Church (designed in 1722). Its timbers were imported from Maine and other building materials, like the church's bricks, were made near Halifax.
If you want an in-depth explanation of the church's history, attend one of its tours. Guided tours operate from mid-June through October and self-guided tours run from November through June. Tour times vary by season, so call ahead to determine times. Recent visitors expressed that the church offers an interesting piece of history and say the church staff are friendly and informative.
- #8View all Photos#8 in HalifaxMonuments and Memorials, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
HMCS Sackville, now a National Historic Site, is Canada’s oldest warship. The warship is also the last of Canada's 123 corvettes, one of many convoy escort vessels built in Canada during World War II. Following the ship's war service during the Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945), the Sackville was used as a research vessel until 1982. The ship was then restored to its wartime glory in 1983 and has since served as a naval memorial. As visitors travel through the preserved areas of the ship, which include a mess hall, a gun deck and boiler rooms, they'll learn about the daily routine and challenge sailors faced during the battle.
For many recent patrons, this site was a highlight of their trip. They say the ship has a fascinating history and is in pristine condition. Though many remark it's a small ship, they confirm there is plenty to see.
- #9View all Photos#9 in HalifaxMonuments and Memorials, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Between 1928 and 1971, 1 million immigrants passed through the doors of Pier 21 and became full-fledged members of the Canadian community. This large ocean liner terminal – sometimes referred to as the Ellis Island of Canada – has since become a National Historic Site of Canada and the country's National Museum of Immigration. Visitors can wander the halls that once led immigrants to a new life. And they'll also learn the stories of some of the immigrants who passed through. And who knows: You might learn a little more about yourself while here. Recent visitors who looked up their ancestors' journeys found it rewarding and fascinating.
Pier 21 overlooks Halifax Harbor from its seat just a few blocks south of Alexander Keith's Brewery. During the summer, the museum is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; hours are more limited between December and April. Admission is roughly CA$13 for adults (about $9.25) and CA$8 (about $5.50) for children ages 6 to 16. To learn more about the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, visit its website.
- #10View all Photos#10 in HalifaxWineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDWineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Founded in 1820, Alexander Keith's Brewery is one of the oldest commercial breweries in North America. The brewery is named for a Scottish immigrant who devoted his life to brewing his beer. Today, the institution still runs on Keith's values, creating flavorful ales and generously providing visitors with a relaxed, social experience.
The brewery offers booze enthusiasts hourlong guided tours of the facility (even kids will be entertained). Once the tour is over, you're welcome to sample some of Keith's most popular brews, such as the India pale ale at the on-site tavern. Recent visitors loved the interactive aspect to the tour and the friendly, entertaining guides.
- #11View all Photos#11 in HalifaxBeaches, Hiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Hiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Less than an hour by car from downtown Halifax, Crystal Crescent Beach offers an outdoor respite from the busy city. Here, you'll find three white sand beaches, a 6-mile hiking trail and ample opportunities to view wildlife. In the distance, you can see the Sambro Island Lighthouse, which was built in 1759.
Recent visitors praised the beauty of the beach and the clear waters. They also noted that one of the beaches welcomes nude bathing.
- #12View all PhotosfreeProvince House#12 in HalifaxSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This three-story Palladian building in the heart of Halifax has provided a meeting ground for the Nova Scotia House of Assembly since 1819, making it the oldest house of government in Canada and a National Historic Site. Although it still functions as a legislative building, visitors are welcome to a self-guided tour of the building year-round or to partake in a guided tour in July or August. You can also sit in on assembly gatherings (when they're in session).
Recent visitors recommended taking the guided tour, which they say are informative and comprehensive.
- #13View all Photos#13 in HalifaxMonuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
After learning about the tragic sinking of the Titanic at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, visit this cemetery for another sobering experience. The Fairview Lawn Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 100 victims of the Titanic disaster and visitors regularly come to pay their respects. In addition to the Titanic victims, you can also visit the graves of fallen soldiers from both World War I and II. Recent travelers said visiting the graveyard is a must-do for those interested in the Titanic. They also remark it is a somber, albeit interesting experience, and that there are plenty of signs to find the Titanic victims' graves.
The cemetery is located about 3 miles northwest of downtown Halifax. You can get to the cemetery by car or taking the Nos. 2, 4, 29 or 90 bus routes. Grounds are open daily for free visitation from sunrise to sunset. Check out the cemetery's official website for more details.
- #14View all Photos#14 in HalifaxMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Visiting a library while on vacation may not be at the top of your list, but hear us out about this branch. In addition to its enormous collection of books and other materials, the Halifax Central Library has a sunroom gallery space, two cafes, a rooftop patio, video game systems and a 300-seat auditorium that hosts shows, author talks and lectures.
Visitors can explore several exhibits at the library. Informative installations detail the First Nations culture, African Nova Scotians and the region's Acadian and French heritage. There's also a room with books solely about Nova Scotia history as well as a display that honors Halifax County's military men and women who have lost their lives since World War I. Many past visitors were in awe of the contemporary space and especially enjoyed the on-site cafes.
- #15View all Photos#15 in HalifaxMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Tackling everything from geology to marine life to weather, the Museum of Natural History is a place for the curious. The "Mammals and Birds Gallery," a permanent installation, details the animals that are native to Nova Scotia. There is a replica of a bald eagle's nest as well as a life-size black bear, among other displays. Another permanent exhibit displays the history of Sable Island, famous for its shipwrecks and wild horses, as well as its topography and local flora and fauna.
The museum also hosts traveling exhibits (which may cost extra), which have explored everything from Egyptian mummies to art. There are also nature talks, walks and children's programs. It's a great place for families to spend time, but recent visitors say all ages will most likely enjoy it.
- #16View all Photos#16 in HalifaxMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This provincial art gallery, housed in an Italianate building downtown, has a permanent collection of more than 17,000 works. It emphasizes the creations of Canadian visual artists as well as those who work on the Atlantic Coast. The collection and its exhibits feature everything from sculpture to painting to handicrafts to prints. Next door in the Provincial Building (an annex of the gallery), you’ll find the actual home of the late painter Maud Lewis, a wildly popular and beloved Canadian folk artist. The small home, which is adorned with whimsical and colorful paintings created by Maud and her husband, has been lovingly preserved by the museum since 1984. Many reviewers said Lewis' home was a highlight of their visit.
Admission for adults is CA$12 (about $8.50) and CA$5 (around $3.50) for children ages 6 to 17. A guided tour of the collection is given Tuesday through Sunday at 2 p.m., with an extra one on Thursday at 7 p.m. Tours are included in the admission price. Operating hours vary, be sure to check the museum's website before your trip.
Explore More of Halifax
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.