Here Are Some of the Best Things to Do in Halifax, Nova Scotia!
The capital city of Nova Scotia is absolutely jam-packed with history and lots to see, drink, and eat! You’re not alone if you’re not sure where to get started!
Downtown Halifax and the Halifax Waterfront have numerous attractions – like The Canadian Museum of Immigration – but there are so many other great places to visit in Halifax. You’re bound to find a lively bar, seafood eatery, park, or museum around most city corners.
We were lucky enough to explore the East Coast over a number of days and do some Halifax sightseeing with the help of our local friends. Their insider knowledge made our stay (and this post) awesome!
Our detailed guide covers a good mix of the top Halifax attractions to visit as well as lesser-known sights and side adventures we went on. From fun things to do in Halifax to paid experiences, here’s our Halifax travel guide and tips.
Halifax Quick Guide
Best Time to Visit: Summer is warm but busiest. Shoulder seasons are great: May is cooler and September has fall colours.
Getting Around: Compact and walkable – flat near the waterfront but hilly around Downtown. Use Halifax Transit for buses and harbour ferries.
Table of Contents
Top Things to Do in Halifax
Here’s our list of what to see and do in Halifax – from the top attractions that you should visit to the lesser-known things our local friends recommend!
Visit the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
Address: 5425 Sackville St, Halifax, NS B3J 3Y3
If you are visiting the city, it would be hard to miss the (arguably) most famous of Halifax attractions – the Citadel!
Founded back in 1749, the current Halifax Citadel atop Citadel Hill is actually the fourth fortification in a long line of fortification attempts.
The current star-shaped citadel was completed in 1853, is a National Historic Site run by Parks Canada, and is definitely something to be explored!
The Citadel ticket booth and the entrance face Downtown (look for the Old Town Clock). Once inside, you’ll be thrust back into history as the Citadel shows what life was like for soldiers in the mid-1800s.
From the open-air courtyard, there are many exhibits which you can just wander into. Some – like the old soldier barracks – have been re-created and feature a staff member in costume to answer any questions!
Other exhibits are more like self-guided museums. You can learn about the history of the fort, the history of Halifax, the relationship between British, French, US, and First Nations people, and much more.
The central building houses the Army Museum which focuses on 20th-century history – so mainly World War I and World War II – and then current status. With many old weapons and uniforms, it’s also not to be missed.
You can also find guided tours – in English and French – that leave from the Visitor Centre in this middle building.
Another newer exhibit told the story of the First Nations peoples who were on the peninsula that is Halifax (called Kjipuktuk) and other minority populations like African-originated slave groups who were tasked with building the fort and city.
Back outside, you can walk up a large ramp and walk along the upper battlements where the cannons are. From up here, you get 360° city views so it’s worth going up there.
Oh, and you cannot forget about the live-action demonstration of rifle shooting (with blanks, of course) in the inner courtyard or the famous 12 o’clock cannon which goes off every day at noon.
Overall, we’d absolutely recommend a visit to the Citadel. You can easily spend hours there getting caught up in history. There’s also a cafe in the middle building should you need a refreshment!
We really liked how once inside you could just go wherever there was an open door. We ended up in the trenches between the walls and even in the outer fort walls in dark corridors. The fort never saw battle, but it was neat to imagine what it would have been like.
Discover the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Address: 1055 Marginal Rd, Halifax, NS B3H 4P7
Aside from the Citadel, those wondering what to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia should look no further than The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
This is one of Canada’s best attractions because of its rich history that continues to shape the nation to this day.
The Pier itself is National Historic Site of Canada as it served as the “gateway to Canada” for a number of decades in the 1900s. Both sides of Eric’s family actually came through here in the mid-1900s (more on that later).
The museum is broken up into several different rooms or exhibitions. We’d suggest heading up the stairs to the first floor where you’ll find The Canadian Immigration Story Exhibition and The Pier 21 Story Exhibition.
The Pier 21 Story is all about the history of the building as an immigration terminal. The largest artifact in the museum is the building itself!
We participated in a free guided English tour that started on the hour and it was really great to have someone walk you through the history and the stories.
Across from this is The Canadian Immigration Story Exhibition which focuses on a few hundred years of immigration in Canada.
It covers different aspects of immigration such as language, culture, discrimination, racism, and policy – and has lots of interactive stuff to do.
We had less time here but it’s definitely worth slowly working your way through. On the second floor of the museum, you also get really nice views of the harbour. When there are no cruise ships, you can see Georges Island across the water!
The ground floor of Pier 21 has a gift shop and the Scotiabank Family History Centre. Connected to the Library & Archives of Canada, this is where you can go and speak with an archivist to help you research your family members who have come through Pier 21 throughout the 20th century.
We were able to sit down with the name of one of Eric’s grandfathers and find documents which showed immigration cards, the ship manifest he was on, and much more. It’s a pretty moving experience for visitors to retrace their family’s steps.
You can also have some documentation printed for free to take home to show your family.
Overall, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is definitely worth it if you’re interested in the story of people and the story of Canada.
You could easily spend a whole day there but a few hours would also be enough. There’s even a documentary called “In Canada” which they show in another large room!
Enjoy the Halifax Public Gardens
Address: Spring Garden Rd. &, Summer St, Halifax, NS B3J 3S9
If you’re sightseeing in Halifax, you’ve got to explore the Halifax Public Gardens. Established in the 1870s (but as old as the 1830s), this beautiful area is a special place in Halifax.
The Public Gardens are an example of the best surviving Victorian-era gardens – and the history and attention to detail really show.
Once you walk through the large iron gates, you’ll be transported into a world of natural beauty.
There are lots of different areas and walking paths that snake through the gardens. You’ll stumble across different ponds, streams, bridges, statues, and water features throughout.
Of course, there are also plenty of benches – so if you want to just have a sit and watch the ducks (don’t feed them) then you can do just that!
In the gardens, you’ll also find a popular cafe – Uncommon Grounds – that serves up coffee and baked goods – as well as really good ice cream!
We had an oatcake (a local specialty) which was very good. You can sit inside or outside overlooking the gardens.
The gardens also have a very active education element with free guided tours and tourist information inside the cafe building.
Overall, we really liked the gardens. It was neat seeing everything from beautifully curated flowers to vegetable gardens, and an open lawn for families. The trees with commemorative plaques added an element of history to every part of the garden.
The Halifax Public Gardens are free to enter and wander through. Unfortunately, they aren’t dog-friendly so if you are travelling with your pooch you’ll have to consider this.
Walk the Waterfront + Harbourwalk
Location: 44°38’47.6″N 63°34’09.4″W
Of all the Halifax tourist attractions, none may be as obvious (but worth exploring) as the Halifax waterfront near Downtown.
Officially known as the “Harbourwalk”, the 3-kilometre waterfront boardwalk runs from north to south (roughly), passing restaurants, bars, sweet treats (like ice cream), shops for souvenirs, sculptures, museums, and much more along the way.
We visited the city during Buskerfest in the summer months so it was even busier down at the water’s edge.
With Downtown just a block away and the main Downtown Ferry Terminal located along the boardwalk, it’s no wonder this area can get quite congested.
However, the waterfront is where you get some of the best views of Halifax Harbour and beyond. We ate dinner down there a few times and even went on evening walks while the sun was setting – it really is full of life and worth exploring.
Speaking of the harbour, the water itself is an important part of the city’s past and present. So, it makes sense to get out on the water to experience the city from a completely different angle.
Here are just a few ways you can get out on the harbour in Halifax:
- Harbour Hopper Tours – a popular amphibious vehicle tour that drives on land and in the water!
- Pirate Boat Tall Ship Silva – a hilarious harbour cruise on a pirate ship
- Sailing Cruise of Halifax Harbour – a harbour experience using a tried-and-tested method – sailing
- You can rent jetskis, kayaks, or even a whole speed boat at some tour operators.
- Sunset Wine and Cheese – a sailing cruise with drinks, nibbles, and sunsets!
- You can also explore George Island (another National Historic Site seen above). There is a summer ferry that goes there. You can explore Fort Charlotte and other historical points on the island!
Explore the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic + HMCS Sackville
Address: 1675 Lower Water St, Halifax, NS B3J 1S3
Speaking of activities in Halifax that relate to the water and the city’s maritime past and present, why not stop at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic? Located right off the waterfront walk, this large museum has something for everyone – young and old!
Inside, you’ll find everything from complete boats to miniature models of vessels upstairs. A number of exhibits walk you through parts of history like Halifax’s connection to the Titanic disaster and the Halifax Explosion.
From steamships to sailboats, there’s a ton to check out – including the CSS Acadia which is parked behind the museum (accessible via the waterfront walk).
You can climb up and down ladders as you experience the only ship to survive both Worlds Wars and the Halifax Explosion!
The CSS Acadia is actually a permanent exhibit at the Maritime Museum. You can learn more about the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic here.
Another historic ship which you can explore is the HMCS Sackville. This famous World War II Corvette (a type of ship) is now a Naval Memorial and a top Halifax tourist attraction.
In fact, she’s the only remaining of Canada’s Corvettes that played a crucial role in the Atlantic during World War II. Admission to this piece of history is by donation and it’s worth it since you can explore above and below deck – and play with things like rotating the gun turrets.
You can learn more about the HMCS Sackville on their website.
Wander The Old Burying Ground
Address: 1541 Barrington St, Halifax, NS
Speaking of historic things around Halifax, the Old Burying Ground is a must-see. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Downtown, this old cemetery is – speaking frankly – old.
Founded back in 1749 (the same year Halifax was founded), this National Historic Site is the oldest cemetery in the city. With over 1200 tombstones – the oldest dating back as early as the 1750s – it’s easy to see why this place is fascinating to explore.
When the gates are open, it’s free to walk about. You’ll find lots to look at – including the grave of Major-General Robert Ross (the guy responsible for setting fire to the White House in the War of 1812).
Since this is the resting place of approximately 12,000, it’s important to remain respectful when you visit. The Old Burying Ground has undergone extensive restoration in recent decades so that this important place in Canadian history isn’t lost.
When we visited, there were even staff on hand and you can ask them questions if you have any. They are quite knowledgeable. Overall, we’d suggest a visit if you’re interested in learning more about the city’s history.
It’s a bit of a time capsule and one of the more unique places to visit in Halifax! You can read more about the Old Burying Ground on their website.
You can learn more about Halifax’s past on the Halifax Ghost Walk!
Oh, and if you’re interested in this sort of thing, the Fairview Lawn Cemetery (located a short drive from Downtown) is where you’ll find victims from the Titanic disaster laid to rest.
Discover Downtown Halifax
Location for Grand Parade: 44°38’53.2″N 63°34’29.6″W
As you wander around the city exploring different sights around Halifax, you’ll inevitably snake through Downtown Halifax a few times. Well, be sure to give this area a look, too!
Downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia is packed with historic places to visit like the Grand Parade at City Hall (often with live music). Close by, you’ll find St Paul’s Anglican Church.
This famed church survived the Halifax Explosion – and is known for one creepy glass window, in particular!
Of course, there are also plenty of great bars and restaurants nestled around every corner. We liked the Split Crow Pub and the Old Triangle Ale House for live music but there are many more options! If you’re looking for nightlife in Halifax in general, check out Argyle Street.
You can also find a late-night bite to eat at “Pizza Corner” located close to where Argyle Street meets Blowers Street!
Visit a Halifax Brewery
If there is one thing Halifax is known for/proud of, it’s drinking. The city is known to be lively – with a rich history of engaging in the drink.
There are a few proud, historic breweries like Oland and Alexander Keith’s (see the section below).
That said, it’s no surprise that many Halifax breweries have sprung up in recent decades – each leaving their unique mark on the craft beer scene in Halifax.
There are lots of good breweries in Halifax and in Dartmouth. You can choose to visit them to try them out or (conveniently) if you eat out while you visit, you’ll be greeted by local beers on many of the restaurant/pub/bar menus!
Because we visited a few bars and restaurants during our stay, we made it a point to try out as many different East Coast brewery beers as possible.
Here are a few of the best (craft) breweries in Halifax and the surrounding area to visit and the beer you might want to try. There are many more!
Tour Alexander Keith’s Brewery
Address: 1496 Lower Water St #312, Halifax, NS B3J 1R9
Sure, we could have slotted Alexander Keith into the “visit a brewery” section – but this one is a little different.
Founded back in 1820, Alexander Keith’s Brewery down on Lower Water Street is a piece of Canadian history that should be explored.
You can find Keith’s all over Canada – but there is something special about visiting the place where it all began!
When you visit, the main thing to do is to take a tour of the brewery. Tour guides take you on an experience through the brewery touching on the brand, the facility, and the beer!
You can book your Alexander Keith Brewery Tour Ticket here.
The tour includes some live music and a few beer samples so it’s definitely worth checking out if you like learning about historic parts of Halifax… and beer!
Experience the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market
Address: 961 Marginal Rd, Halifax, NS B3H 4P7
If you find yourself in Halifax on the weekend, you should definitely stop by the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.
Beginning all the way back in 1750, this market has moved a few times – but is considered the longest continuously running market in North America!
We went down to the market on a Saturday (only open on weekends, but Saturday is more popular) located in Pier 23 at the Seaport.
Once inside the large indoor warehouse space, you’ll be greeted by rows and rows of different tables and stalls. We just wandered around looking at what the stalls had to offer – and then we started buying things.
There’s everything from freshly baked goods to Laughing Whale coffee to hot food from different places like Poland or India.
You’ll also find fresh fruit and vegetables, plenty of artwork, and Halifax knickknacks. One vendor even sold gin and other spirits.
If you do get something to eat, there are plenty of tables to sit at and just enjoy the hustle and bustle. It’s a great way to support local vendors that have come in for this market.
We ended up getting a German crumb cake and a Berliner (German donut) from a German bakery in Annapolis Royal (German Bakery Sachsen Cafe) while our friends bought a few fresh vegetables.
You can also walk through to the other side of the large glass doors which give you a sense of the industrial harbour area (with grain elevators). You can learn more about the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market here.
Oh, and if you’re really into Saturday markets, the Halifax Brewery Farmers Market located closer to Downtown Halifax is also worth exploring!
Our Tip: This Halifax Foodie Tour might interest you if you like trying out the local tastes when you travel.
Wander the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Address: 1723 Hollis St, Halifax, NS B3J 1V9
There are plenty of points of interest in Halifax – many of which have local connections. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is definitely one of these places!
Located in the heart of Downtown between the Citadel and the waterfront, this beautiful building is home to thousands of pieces of art done by mostly locals from Atlantic Canada but also other artists from around the world (mainly Europe).
You can’t talk about art in Nova Scotia without talking about Maud Lewis. This famous artist (and her unique painting style) can be found in the Gallery – and around the city, to be fair.
In fact, you can even see Maud Lewis’s entire house which is on display within the Gallery. She painted the entire thing which makes it really interesting to see!
Overall, the Gallery is worth a stop if you are into Canadian art and looking for another great indoor activity. You can learn more about the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia here.
Relax in Point Pleasant Park
Address: 5530 Point Pleasant Dr, Halifax, NS B3H 1B5
If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet in the big city, head for Point Pleasant Park.
Located in the city’s south end, this massive green space is packed with trails, water views, a beach, and lots of points of interest to keep you busy.
If you travel by car, there’s ample parking to the park’s east side (near the shipping terminal). Once there, you can head into the park on foot or on bikes as many of the trails are multi-use and wheelchair accessible.
Near the parking lot, you’ll be close to Black Rock Beach – where a pirate named Ned Jourdan was hung in 1809. This was to show incoming ships that breaking the law in Halifax wasn’t a great idea!
There’s more history scattered throughout the park. You can find the Prince of Wales Tower which is a National Historic Site as well as a World War II bunker that was used to fortify the harbour during the war.
Whatever you end up doing, there are great wooded trails mixed with coastline/ocean views all over the place.
The south end of the park – around the Naval Memorial – has benches and picnic tables to have a rest and enjoy a park lunch.
If you’re travelling with your dog, you’ll be happy to know that this park has an off-leash area! There’s even more happening in the park – you can learn more about visiting Point Pleasant Park here.
Explore the Museum of Natural History
Address: 1747 Summer St, Halifax, NS B3H 3A6
If you are looking for another indoor place to visit and/or are searching for things to do in Halifax with kids, the Museum of Natural History fits the bill nicely!
Located close to the historic Citadel – away from Downtown near the Halifax Common (a nice park space), the museum was established back in the 1860s. It is packed with exhibits and is quite affordable to visit.
Among other things, you can learn all about local wildlife through exhibits that include marine animals and bird skeletons. They also have some live things like local salamanders, frogs, and snakes.
Notably, the museum even has a 100-year-old turtle named Gus. Every day at 3:00 pm the staff take Gus for a walk around the museum.
There’s a functioning bee hive with a tube to the outdoors where you can play ‘spot the queen’. They also have various Mi’kmaq artifacts to help you understand/learn about long-standing Indigenous connections to the land.
If you want to learn more, you can check out the Museum of Natural History website.
The next few things are things to do near Halifax since they are not located close to Downtown but are still certainly worth mentioning.
Address for Ferry Terminal: 88 Alderney Dr, Dartmouth, NS B2Y 4W1
For a bit of a change of scenery and a little boat ride, you should head across the water to Dartmouth. Technically, Dartmouth is its own city but is located in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The easiest way to get there is to hop on the ferry. Halifax Transit runs a ferry to Downtown Dartmouth (Alderney Landing ferry) from the Halifax Ferry Terminal.
The ferry is walk-on only (so no cars), is pretty affordable at $2.75, and runs pretty frequently throughout the day.
As you cross, take in the views of Downtown Halifax. You get off in the Alderney ferry terminal which is in the middle of Downtown Dartmouth.
Once there, head for Portland Street which is the liveliest street with many bars and food options. Battery Park Bar and Eatery on Ochterloney makes amazing burgers and has an excellent beer selection.
You can also stroll along the water through Ferry Terminal Park (beside the terminal). Alternatively, The Dartmouth Commons is a nice park nearby that has some nice gardens and paths.
The views from the hilltop in the park are beautiful with the harbour and Halifax in the distance.
Head for Long Lake Provincial Park
Location for Parking Lot at Dunbrack Street: 44°37’18.2″N 63°37’29.0″W
To get out of the city and into nature to take advantage of the many lakes around the area, head for Long Lake Provincial Park. This nice park area is only a 15-minute drive from Downtown Halifax.
Depending on which parking lot you choose, there are a number of smaller, marked trail loops you can walk and bike. There are also more rugged “backcountry” routes for the more experienced hikers with gear.
A main feature of the park is the lake – Long Lake – which is fit for swimming when the weather is good. You can even rent canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards to get out on the water for a truly Canadian experience.
You can learn more about visiting Long Lake Provincial Park here. You can even take the city bus to the Park – making it accessible even if you don’t have a car!
Bonus: Visit Peggy’s Cove
Address for Car Park: 178 Peggys Cove Rd, Peggys Cove, NS B3Z 3S2
Although not located in Halifax, Peggy’s Cove is a popular attraction among visitors coming to Halifax. This famous Canadian lighthouse and seaside spot is definitely a beautiful stop to make.
We had a great time in Peggy’s Cove even though it was grey and foggy. Combined with the rolling, grey shoreline, the weather made the atmosphere feel more out-of-this-worldly.
Just so you know, Peggy’s Cove is about an hour from Downtown Halifax (driving). You can drive there yourself or hop on a tour if you are short on time or don’t have a car. We cover these options in our detailed Halifax to Peggy’s Cove guide.
This Express Tour to Peggy’s Cove from Halifax specializes in just getting you down there without many extra stops. This might be the perfect solution for your trip.
We were lucky to drive with our local friend and we wrote up our itinerary of visiting Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, and Mahone Bay.
Our Tip: If you’re itching to get down the coast, you should hop on this Peggy’s Cove Guided Tour that includes admission to the Historic Halifax Citadel.
Things to Consider When Visiting Halifax
Now that we’ve covered some of the best things to do in Halifax, here are some things to know about when you’re planning a visit, e.g. where to stay and how to best get around.
Best Time to Visit Halifax
Seasonally, the best time to visit Halifax would be between spring and fall – so roughly from early May to the end of October.
Spring can be quite cool depending on when you visit but if you dress appropriately you can have a nice time exploring the city. Nothing a good jacket can’t fix!
The warm summer months feature the best chance at sunshine – but you’ll also find the biggest crowds.
Autumn is also popular as the temperatures cool and the leaves change colours. September and October can still be busy but not nearly as busy as the summer months.
Of course, if you want to travel off-season, you can totally visit the East Coast in the winter months. Halifax gets some snow but it’s usually quite rainy and windy from November through March (kind of like Edinburgh).
Getting To/Around Halifax
Halifax is certainly a smaller, compact city – and this is especially true if you are playing tourist in the city.
The top attractions are centrally located around downtown and the waterfront with a few more scattered around the surrounding area.
The city is definitely walkable but it can be very hilly in places – especially around the Citadel and parts of downtown! The waterfront walk, however, is quite flat.
Besides walking, public transport is through Halifax Transit (buses and ferries) to access areas further away. You might also consider renting a bike to get around the city. Just plan your routes well – those hills can be interesting on two wheels!
If you’re travelling from afar, you’ll most likely use Halifax Stanfield International Airport to get to the city.
The airport is not located close to Downtown Halifax (it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere) and you will need to grab a cab, bus, or hop in a rental car to get to the city.
To make your travels easier, you should also consider a Private Transfer from Halifax to Downtown!
Where to Stay in Halifax
If you’re wondering about where to stay in Halifax, the city has a nice variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other accommodation choices in a handful of great areas.
Having said that, you can find many of the best accommodations (mostly hotels) located in or close to Downtown Halifax.
In terms of areas, Downtown Halifax has a high concentration of hotels. The Quinpool District (west of the Citadel away from Downtown) has a few places to stay, as does Dartmouth across the Harbour.
Downtown is understandably very popular due to its proximity to top sights and the historic waterfront. Some hotels even offer Halifax waterfront views.
We stayed in the Cambridge Suites Hotel Halifax and loved it. The hotel is conveniently located across the street from the Halifax Citadel and a few blocks from the heart of downtown. The breakfast was great and the room had a kitchenette which was great for a longer stay.
Another option close to the heart of all the action is The Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites. This upscale, boutique hotel is located right across from the beautiful Halifax Public Gardens in a lovely area.
Otherwise, Hotel Halifax is a very popular option in the north end of Downtown.
If you’re planning a trip to Canada and want to explore more of the East Coast, check out these travel guides:
- How to Spend One Perfect Day in Halifax
- Where to Stay in Halifax: Areas & Accommodations
- How to Go From Halifax to Lunenburg
And there you have it – our guide on things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia! Of course, this list doesn’t cover everything – but it’s a pretty solid mix of top attractions and lesser-known gems to get you out there exploring this East Coast Canadian city.
As always, Happy Waddlin’,