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Halifax, NS, Canada

Halifax is the capital city of Nova Scotia and the largest city in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. The city's origins and rich maritime history derive from a strategic location and one of the world's great natural harbors. In the 19th and early 20th century, Halifax was the entry point for European immigration to Canada. Today, Halifax is a busy Atlantic seaport and the economic and cultural hub of Eastern Canada.
 
Halifax is the provincial and regional hub of Nova Scotia. It is still, however, a smaller city by North American standards. Rather than feeling relegated to 'second-fiddle' status, this dichotomy is celebrated by residents who take pride in their slower pace and warm hospitality.

History

While the area around Halifax has been inhabited by native Mi'kmaq for millennia,... Read more

Halifax, NS, Canada

Destination:
Halifax is the capital city of Nova Scotia and the largest city in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. The city's origins and rich maritime history derive from a strategic location and one of the world's great natural harbors. In the 19th and early 20th century, Halifax was the entry point for European immigration to Canada. Today, Halifax is a busy Atlantic seaport and the economic and cultural hub of Eastern Canada.
 
Halifax is the provincial and regional hub of Nova Scotia. It is still, however, a smaller city by North American standards. Rather than feeling relegated to 'second-fiddle' status, this dichotomy is celebrated by residents who take pride in their slower pace and warm hospitality.

History

While the area around Halifax has been inhabited by native Mi'kmaq for millennia, modern Halifax was founded on June 21, 1749 as a British military outpost. Easily defended and featuring the world's second largest natural harbor, Halifax proved its worth during the Seven Years' War against the French and later in the American Revolutionary War, and as the base grew in size and importance, a significant population of merchants and other civilians sprung up in its wake.
On December 6, 1917, the collision of a munitions ship loaded with 2,500 tons of explosives resulted in the Halifax Explosion, which killed over 2,000 people and leveled the northern half of the city.
The city was quickly rebuilt and World War II saw Halifax busier than ever, with British supply convoys assembling to start their perilous journey across the Atlantic as German U-boats lurked offshore. After the war, over a million immigrants to Canada passed through Halifax.

Orientation

The city of Halifax is on the Halifax Peninsula, on the west side of the harbor, with Dartmouth to the east. The main landmark is the Halifax Citadel, on a high hill above the city, and it conveniently divides the city into three districts: the South End, representing the older, wealthier urban core south of the Citadel; the North End, the grittier northern suburbs destroyed by the Explosion; and the largely residential West End. The downtown core is sandwiched between the Citadel and the sea, making navigation a snap. Inhabitants of the city are known as Haligonians.

Climate

Extreme cold or hot temperatures are rare, as Halifax is located next to the ocean. Also, the Gulf Stream helps to make the winters milder. Typical for an oceanic climate at these latitudes, there will be a lot of rain or snow throughout the year. Summer and early autumn are weather-wise the best seasons to visit the city. In the autumn months, hurricanes affecting the North American east coast may occasionally move all the way up to Halifax.

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Halifax, NS, Canada: Port Information


The Halifax Seaport greets cruise liners of all sizes and offers great facilities for cruise travelers.

Cruise liners dock at piers 20 and 22 located close to the downtown area.
There's a market in the port, where you can buy local handicrafts, gifts, souvenirs, etc.
Tour buses and taxis are available.

Get around Halifax, NS, Canada


Halifax has a tendency to sprawl somewhat. Public transit is limited and mostly impractical outside the downtown area. The downtown shopping and attractions will engage the average traveler for a day or two at most. Beyond this time frame, a car rental will significantly open up the surrounding area.

By car

There are no photo radar or red light cameras in Nova Scotia. If you are caught, it'll be by a live officer. At some lights, there is an "advanced green", or flashing green light, which means that you can proceed left, straight, or right at your leisure. Green arrow lights are rare. Pedestrians are king. People will often cross a road in the middle of the block, and cars stop for them. U-turns are legal (de facto anywhere a left turn is allowed, de jure), barring a no U-turn sign.

It's very important that you give buses the right of way, give them enough room to turn in intersections, and avoid passing them on one-lane streets like Barrington.

By bus

Halifax Transit. Halifax Transit (formerly called Metro Transit) is the public transit provider for the municipality, encompassing Halifax and surrounding areas. The fare gives you access to all buses and ferries, excluding the long-distance commuter buses marked MetroLink and MetroX. Transfer tickets are free, are valid for 90 minutes, and can be used at any bus stop or ferry terminal (i.e. return journeys are possible on one fare). The agency has teamed up with Google to provide an online trip planner through Google Maps, however, all transit maps and schedules can be found on their website as well.

By taxi

There are a number of taxi services in the city, although flagging a taxi down may be difficult in certain areas. Calling and reserving cabs is rarely an issue. If you are a bar or club bound for the evening, be aware that catching a cab back from downtown after the last call may be difficult.

 

What to see in Halifax, NS, Canada


  • The Halifax Citadel. An old fort on a hill overlooking the city and the harbor. Presently, the citadel is a national historic site and home to a museum and a small ceremonial garrison. A must see, especially during Canada Day (1 July) celebrations. The museum is open only May-Oct, but the grounds are open all year round (for free in this case). The famous 'Noon-Gun' fires at noon every day of the year (except Christmas) as it has since the 1830's. Visitors are welcome to watch the firings at any point through the year.  
  • Pier 21 (Canadian Museum of Immigration), 1055 Marginal Rd, ☎ +1 902 425-7770. May-Oct: 9:30 AM-5:30 PM daily; Nov: 9:30 AM-5 PM daily; Dec-Mar: Tu-Sa 10 AM-5 PM; Apr: M-Sa 10 AM-5 PM. Canada's equivalent of New York's Ellis Island, this historic waterfront building processed over a million immigrants. Now converted into a modern museum with extensive exhibits related to Canadian immigration. Typical visit 90 minutes including 30-minute film and 30-minute free guided tour.
  • The

    Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

    (located on the downtown waterfront). The collection includes exhibits and artifacts related to the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the devastating 1917 Halifax explosion. The CSS Acadia, a hydrographic survey ship built in 1913, is an ongoing conservation project. The Acadia is moored a few meters from the museum building; tours are available during the summer. Also, located behind the museum is the HMCS Sackville, the last remaining Flower Class escort Corvettes from the convoys of WW2 (also open for guided and non-guided tours).  
  • Old Burying Ground, Barrington St and Spring Garden Rd. The graveyard was in use from 1749 to 1843 and there are moderately informative plaques and signs throughout.  
  • St. Paul's Anglican Church

    (Historic St. Paul's on the Grand Parade), 1749 Argyle St (across the street from the Old Burial Grounds), ☎ +1 902-429-2240, e-mail: office@stpaulshalifax.org. open to the pub­lic for self-directed vis­its from 9 AM-4:30 PM. St. Paul's is the old­est build­ing in Hal­i­fax and the old­est exist­ing Protes­tant place of wor­ship in Canada. Founded by procla­ma­tion of King George II in 1749, the build­ing was erected in the sum­mer of 1750. On Sep­tem­ber 2, 1750 the Rev­erend William Tutty held the first ser­vice inside what was, accord­ing to Mr. Tutty, "not com­pletely fit­ted up." The archi­tec­tural plans were based on St. Peter's Church, Vere Street, Lon­don which was designed in 1722 by James Gibbs, a pupil of Sir Christo­pher Wren. The resem­blance between the two churches is remark­able despite the addi­tion of St. Paul's vestibule and steeple, 1812, the side wings, 1868, and the chan­cel, 1872. The tim­bers of St. Paul's were cut in Saco, Maine and shipped to Hal­i­fax. Most of the mate­ri­als includ­ing the bricks to line the walls were made locally. Over two and a half cen­turies later, the orig­i­nal wooden struc­ture remains as sound as the day it was built. Charles Inglis, first over­seas Bishop of the Church of Eng­land, arrived in 1787 mak­ing St. Paul's his cathe­dral. Until the con­struc­tion of a gar­ri­son chapel in 1844, St. Paul's was also the first gar­ri­son church in Hal­i­fax. Free. 
  • Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 1723 Hollis St, ☎ +1 902 424-5280. Tu-W, F-Sa 10 AM-5 PM, Th 10 AM-9 PM, Su noon-5 PM. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is moderate in size but does a fine job of highlighting the works of famous local artists such as Maud Lewis (folk) and Alex Colville (hyperrealist), in addition to Mik'maq (aboriginal) art. Check the website for traveling exhibitions.
  • Province House, 1726 Hollis St, ☎ +1 902 424-4661. Jul-Aug: M-F 9 AM-5 PM, Sa-Su and holidays 10 AM-4 PM; rest of year M-F 9 AM-4 PM. Home to Canada's oldest provincial legislature and of Britain's first overseas self-government. A fine example of Georgian architecture, the building first opened in 1842. Visitors can learn about the history of the site and the current Legislative Assembly through guided tours, displays and an audio-visual presentation. Province House is open year-round. Free.  
  • Halifax Central Library, Spring Garden Rd and Queen St. After decades of planning, the new Central Library finally opened in December 2014. The striking architecture, said to resemble a stack of books, garnered international attention. The building is unique in Halifax for its bold modernity, standing in attractive contrast to the stately School of Architecture and Planning building next door. Visitors can enjoy a bite at the cafes housed within, peruse the local history section, and enjoy views of both Citadel Hill and Halifax Harbour from the freely accessible rooftop patio.

Parks

  • Halifax Public Gardens, Spring Garden Rd and South Park St. A beautiful Victorian-era garden occupying a large city block, open May to October. There are ponds, flowers, ducks, geese, and sometimes music in the gazebo. Free.  
  • Point Pleasant Park (Most southern point of the city's main peninsula, Bus 9). Dawn to dusk. A large peaceful park that serves as a vantage point to see the mouth of the harbor and into the Atlantic ocean. Was once a dense woods has since been left with patches of devastation and clear-cut from Hurricane Juan in 2003. It still remains a popular place to walk dogs and stroll. The park contains some preserved historic military fortifications such the 18th century Martello tower, as well as ruins of several other fortifications. Free.  
  • York Redoubt. A sprawling complex of forts from the 1790s to 1940s. Plan to spend hours exploring tunnels, caves, cliffs, cannons, bunkers, trails, and views of the harbor. 1-hour bus ride from downtown. Free.  
  • Halifax Common, Quinpool and Robie. A large public space open to everyone. In the summer, you can find residents and visitors playing sports, picnicking, and exercising. A permanent skating oval has been installed for public use.

What to do in Halifax, NS, Canada


  • Waterfront. A boardwalk with a great variety of historic buildings, shops, restaurants, and other entertainment. Theodore Tugboat, a WWII era Corvette, and other ships line the harbor. During the summer months, there are many harbor boat tours that launch from here. 
  • Harbour Hopper. Guided tour of Halifax and harbor in an amphibious vehicle. Very informative and highlights major points of interest in the city in a fun-filled hour.  
  • Boat Tours, ☎ +1 902-420-1015. Open seven days a week May-October. Murphy's the Cable Wharf is in the heart of the Halifax waterfront and offers a variety of boat tours including nature and whale watching, tall ship sailing, deep sea fishing, historical harbor tours, and dinner cruises. 
  • Canoe the Northwest Arm (St. Mary's Boat Club), 1641 Fairfield Road (off Jubilee), ☎ +1 902 490-4688. Saturdays and Sundays (11 AM-7 PM). Take a trip up the beautiful Northwest Arm to see the historic Dingle tower in Flemming Park, watch the numerous sailboats out for a weekend cruise or catch a regatta if you're lucky. Gawk at some of the mansions that line the water or for the ambitious, head all the way up to Point Pleasant Park, where the Northwest Arm meets Halifax Harbour. While swimming in parts of the harbor was briefly possible due to the installation of sewage treatment plants, they are down for repair and swimming is again not recommended unless a trip to the hospital after is desired.
  • Watch ice hockey. The Halifax Mooseheads Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team plays from October to April at the Halifax Metro Centre. Rough, highly skilled games are combined with a near-NHL level of presentation. 
  • Watch basketball. The Halifax Rainmen Halifax's National Basketball League of Canada team plays from November to March at the Halifax Metro Centre. With many of the players coming from NBA teams or from division one colleges and universities in Canada and the United States, the Halifax Rainmen are Nova Scotia's only professional sports team. Tickets are available at the Metro Centre box office. 
  • Alexander Keith's Brewery Tour, 1475 Hollis Street. Immersive tour of Alexander Keith's original brewery as it supposedly was in 1863, complete with tour guide actors in period garb singing songs, dancing jigs and relaying a bit of the history of the brewery and Keith himself, as well as promoting the crisp, refreshing taste of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale. You do get the chance to sample two mugs of the stuff at the end. Tours on the hour and half-hour but limited opening hours outside summer, check the website for details. If you are an Air Miles collector, you can redeem your miles here for free tickets.  
  • Dartmouth Ferry. The Halifax-Dartmouth Ferry dates back to 1752. For the same cost as bus fare, one can take the ferry back and forth between Dartmouth and Halifax. Make sure to get a transfer (valid for 90 minutes).  
  • Hiking Trails. Halifax has lots of the great outdoors. Scenic urban parks, protected areas, and coastline trails are all close to the city. Some are well known, others are off the beaten track, all are beautiful.

What to eat and drink in Halifax, NS, Canada


Eat

Seafood is generally not much cheaper in the Maritimes than elsewhere and many restaurants in Halifax specialize in seafood dishes. The exception to seafood being the same price in Nova Scotia are mussels. They are generally good quality, cheap, and found on many appetizer menus. Another seafood worth having is scallops, as they are generally higher quality than the ones you get in many parts of North America (note that good scallops are the size of a golf ball or larger, and do not taste fishy). "Sea pie" is often a good deal when available, as are hearty eats like fish and chips or seafood chowder. Lobster in a restaurant will be expensive, so your best cheap bets are to buy one at the store and cook one yourself, or attend any of the numerous lobster dinners that are hosted by churches and community groups throughout the warmer months. Buying lobster from the various fishermen's markets or directly from the fisherman themselves (who will often sell street side out of a car) will get you the best deal.
A plethora of foods that are native to Nova Scotia are easy to find in Halifax: one is the Halifax donair, which is similar to but distinct from the doner kebab. It is prepared using thinly sliced beef meatloaf and a sweet condensed milk sauce and garnished with diced tomatoes and white onions. Other specialties include hodge podge (a creamy soup of fresh baby vegetables; rarely found in restaurants); blueberry grunt (blueberry baked with a sweet dumpling topping); and deep-fried pepperoni (a bar snack often dipped in honey mustard sauce). Restaurants in Halifax and indeed Atlantic Canada offer a donair pizza featuring all the Halifax donair ingredients served on a pizza crust. In addition, one can normally find donair meat used in such offerings as donair sausage; donair egg rolls (an egg roll casing stuffed with donair meat); donair pogos (donair meat on a stick, battered and deep-fried, similar to a corn dog); donair calzones/panzerottis; and in donair poutine (an Atlantic adaptation of the Quebec snack dish). It is customary for bar and pub-goers to flock to pizzerias once all the bars, clubs, and pubs close on Friday and Saturday nights for a bite of pizza, or especially donair.
Garlic fingers are an Atlantic Canadian dish similar to a pizza in shape and size and made with the same type of dough. Instead of the traditional tomato sauce and toppings, garlic fingers consist of pizza dough topped with garlic butter, parsley, and cheese, cooked until the cheese is melted. Bacon bits are sometimes added. They are typically eaten as a side dish with pizza and often dipped in donair or marinara sauce. They are presented in thin strips (or "fingers") as opposed to triangular slices.
Both garlic fingers and the Halifax donair are relatively unknown outside the Maritimes, but can sometimes be found in restaurants in other provinces.


Drink

There are a large number of good cafes, pubs, and other eateries all throughout downtown. Of particular note are those on Granville St.
Liquor purchases for private consumption are regulated by the provincially owned liquor monopoly called the NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation). Stores can be found in stand-alone locations, malls, and grocery stores. Selection is often surprisingly large, but be prepared to pay. Most stores close at 10 PM Monday to Saturday and 5 PM on Sundays. Stores are closed for holidays. The exception has been the sole drive-through outlet near the in Dartmouth end of the MacDonald Bridge; it is frequently open holidays, but for drive-through service only. Port of Wines and several other micro-breweries are also permitted to sell their products from their outlets.

Shopping in Halifax, NS, Canada


Shopping Areas
  • Barrington Street (between Cogswell and Morris). Barrington Street is an up and coming area right in the heart of the Central Business District. Beautiful buildings mixed with the growing amount of new stores make this definitely a nice place to 'hit up.'
  • Brewery Farmers' Market, 1496 Lower Water St. This is the former site of the Halifax Farmers' Market prior to their relocation to the newly constructed Seaport building at Pier 20. However, some vendors have remained or have opened a second location here open Saturdays from 7 AM-1 PM.  
  • Quinpool Road (between Connaught and Robie). Quinpool Road is lined with streets selling bicycles, tropical fish, dresses, movies, and more. The definite Main Street of Central Halifax. 
  • Seaport Farmers' Market, 1209 Marginal Rd. M-F 8-5, Sat 7-4, Sun 8-4. This is the new location of the oldest running farmers' market in North America. The market relocated to this building by the waterfront in 2011 and had brought most of the vendors, customers, and energy with it. It runs year-round. Saturdays are by far the busiest with the most vendors, but the market is open every day of the week. Along with local produce, milk, bread, meat, and preserves, you'll find a diversity of local and ethnic prepared foods, plants, artwork, clothing, and all sorts of other interesting stuff that you may not expect for find at a Farmers' Market. Buskers play music both inside and out of the building.  
  • Spring Garden Road (between Barrington and Robie). Definitely the city's main shopping district and is full of all kinds of unique stores and in buildings from all kinds of eras. Definitely very lively and a must see!

Specific Stores

  • Black Market Boutique, 1545 Grafton St, ☎ +1 902-423-5724. M-W 10 AM-6 PM, Th-Sa 10 AM-7 PM, Su 11 AM-6 PM. A variety of interesting trinkets, accessories, textiles, and items from around the world.
  • Bookmark, 5686 Spring Garden Rd, ☎ +1 902-423-0419. M-F 9 AM-10 PM, Sa 9 AM-6 PM, Su 11 AM-6 PM. The last independent general interest (new) bookstore on the peninsula. A huge selection in a small space; special orders are their specialty. 
  • Canook Trading, 1669 Barrington St, ☎ +1 902-420-1297. M-W 10 AM-6 PM Th-Sa 10 AM-8 PM, Su 11 AM-5 PM. High-end clothing made and designed in Canada. 
  • Cucina Moderna, 1535 Dresden Row (in City Centre Atlantic, off Spring Garden), ☎ +1 902-423-9562. Local independent high-end kitchen store. Great selection of cookware, knives, etc. for gourmets.  
  • Dress in Time, 5670 Spring Garden Rd. Often referred to wrongly as Dressed in Time, located in the district of Spring Garden Road, sells quality vintage, quirky, and unique clothing at reasonable prices.  
  • Fifty Hats, 1086 Queen Street. A humble and interesting collection of used items. (Hats are in particular abundance!)  
  • Freak Lunchbox, 1729 Barrington St, ☎ +1 902-420-9151. Su-Th 10 AM-11 PM, F-Sa 10 AM-midnight (open at 9 AM M-Sa during summer). A quirky and unique store with an array of candy (by weight), unique and hilarious trinkets. 
  • Mary Jane's Smoke Shop, 1549 Grafton St, ☎ +1 902-492-8653. M-W, Sa 10 AM-8 PM, Th-F 10 AM-9 PM, Su noon-6 PM. Small head shop on Grafton Street.
  • Rock Candy, 5189 Prince Street. An assortment of (especially rock- and pop-related) music items: shirts, pins, stickers, buttons, and more.  
  • Strange Adventures, 5110 Prince St, ☎ +1 902-425-2140. M-Tu, Th-F 10 AM-6 PM, W 10 AM-8 PM, Sa 10 AM-5 PM, Su noon-4 PM. Iconic, quirky store that sells comics, toys, board games, et al.  
  • Sugah!, Lower Water Street. A unique chocolate store selling a variety of interesting treats.  
  • Venus Envy, 1598 Barrington St. Specializes in books and other items pertaining to gender and sexuality.

Safety in Halifax, NS, Canada


Halifax is a generally safe city. The North End, including the Gottingen Street area, is relatively safe by international standards but has something of a rough reputation locally. In most cases, common sense should suffice.
Pedestrian crosswalks are highly respected by drivers in Halifax, and crossings can occur just about anywhere. This provides a double danger: for drivers to keep on the ball watching out for pedestrians and for pedestrians to not be lulled into a false sense of security while crossing.
Rapidly changing weather means that black ice abounds in winter, and it's particularly nasty when combined with the city's hilly topography. Choose your steps and drive carefully.

Language spoken in Halifax, NS, Canada


English and French are the official languages.

LOCAL TIME

10:01 pm
September 20, 2019
America/Halifax

CURRENT WEATHER

16.56 °C / 61.808 °F
sky is clear
Sat

16.02 °C/61 °F
broken clouds
Sun

21.55 °C/71 °F
scattered clouds
Mon

23.35 °C/74 °F
overcast clouds
Tue

16.45 °C/62 °F
light rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

CAD

1 USD = 0 CAD
1 EUR = 0 CAD
1 GBP = 0 CAD
1 AUD = 0 CAD

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