With its compact downtown, breezy waterfront boardwalk, and relaxed pace of life, Nova Scotia’s small capital city is a laid-back spot to spend a few days. From strolling Victorian gardens to surveying the city from a hilltop fortress, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Halifax.
The Best Things to Do in Halifax
Allow a day or two to explore the top Halifax attractions—or longer if you want to take a coastal day trip like the one below.
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Walk the Waterfront
Wondering what to do in Halifax? Head for the water. The centerpiece of downtown Halifax is its Waterfront Boardwalk, lined with restaurants, shops, and museums. It’s a great place to sit back with a beer or an ice cream cone and watch the boats sail past. The scene is especially lively during the warm summer months. One of the most popular Halifax attractions for kids is the smiling Theodore Tugboat, a large-scale replica of Canadian children’s TV series character.
Learn About Maritime History
Located right on the waterfront is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which offers a look inside Halifax’s shipping and boating history. You’ll learn about the city’s link to the Titanic disaster and see artifacts such as mortuary bags and a two-year-old victim’s leather shoes. You can also see an exhibit on the Halifax Explosion of 1917, which killed 1,800 townspeople when a Norwegian ship collided with a French freighter loaded with ammunition.
Enjoy Food and Local Wares at the Farmers’ Market
A few minutes’ walk from the Maritime Museum is Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. Established in 1750, it’s North America’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Though it’s open daily during the warmer months, it can be a little sleepy on weekdays. Time your visit for Saturday morning, when the bulk of the vendors come into town to offer everything from local produce and cheeses to souvenirs and handmade crafts.
Visit the Hilltop Citadel
Since 1749, there’s been a fort atop the commanding hill overlooking the Halifax harbor. The current edifice, built in the shape of a star, was constructed between 1828 and 1860. Though it never saw battle, it served as a barracks for Canadian soldiers in both WWI and WWII. Today it’s a National Historic Site and one of the most popular things to do in Halifax. Summertime visitors to the Citadel can explore old stone walls, take an evening ghost tour, or witness the noontime firing of the gun.
Relax in the Public Gardens
Located near the Citadel, the Halifax Public Gardens are a scenic place to unwind and go for a walk. The Victorian-style gardens feature fountains, ponds, swans and geese, a 19th-century bandstand, and—of course—plenty of shady trees and colorful blooms. It’s the perfect spot to relax on a bench with a good book.
See Local Art
Discover the work of Nova Scotians and other Canadian artists at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, located downtown. The highlight of the collection is the restored home of folk artist Maud Lewis, who painted whimsical flowers and birds all over both the interior and exterior of the tiny one-room house she shared with her husband. The museum displays not only her home but also dozens of paintings by Lewis, who had no formal training and overcame poverty and painful rheumatoid arthritis to create her art.
Learn About Canada’s Immigrant History
Canada’s answer to America’s Ellis Island is Pier 21, which welcomed one in five Canadian immigrants between 1928 and 1971. You can learn about the people who came in search of a better life and how they’ve contributed to the country’s history and culture at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, located near the waterfront cruise terminal and farmers’ market.
Pay Your Respects to Titanic Victims
After the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank early in the morning of April 15, 1912, cable ships from Halifax recovered the bodies of many victims. Some were buried at sea, and others were sent by train to their families, but many were laid to rest in one of three Halifax cemeteries. You’ll find more than 100 of these graves at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where the tombstones are arranged in the shape of a ship’s hull. Smaller numbers of victims are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery and Baron de Hirsch Cemetery.
Visit a Colorful Fishing Village
Two of the most charming towns in Nova Scotia are within easy driving distance of Halifax. Peggy’s Cove is best known for its iconic lighthouse, but this tiny village offers plenty of other fodder for your Instagram feed, like fishing boats docked at weathered wooden piers and coils of colorful rope.
Farther south is Lunenburg, a larger but equally picturesque town with well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century colonial buildings. You can rent a car and visit both Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg in a single day trip from Halifax, or take an organized tour to one or both towns.
More from SmarterTravel:
- What to Pack for Nova Scotia: 29 Essentials
- 10 Cool Experiences to Have on a Canada/New England Cruise
- The 8 Best Canadian National Parks You’ve Never Heard Of
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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.
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