I seriously considered moving to Halifax when I received my Canadian Working Holiday Visa so I was pretty happy to go check the city out and experiment for myself the many things to do in Halifax.
When I reached in Halifax on an hot August afternoon, I did not immediately fall in love with the city. Fatigue and probably a certain lack of preparation were to blame, as well as an Airbnb whose photos only partially resembled reality. And yet overall, I really enjoyed my stay in the capital city of Nova Scotia.
Two days were not enough for the many things to do in Halifax and therefore I was not able to see everything I wanted. Three days would have probably been a better choice, in order to add one more tourist attraction in Halifax, either a museum or a walk. Overall, I got a good overview of the city, the places to go, the museums, the terraces and the waterfront. Let’s dive in!
The best things to do in Halifax
Here is my selection of the best things to do in Halifax, in no particular order!
Table of Contents
- The best things to do in Halifax
- More things to do in Halifax
Take a free walking tour of Halifax
Free walking tours are the perfect introduction to any city and I like to start my stay with a guided tour if the concept exists in the city I am in.
In Halifax, free walking tours are offered every day in the summer (June to August) at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The initiative is managed by students.
What did I learn during this walking tour of Halifax?
- Lots of anecdotes on the Citadel
- The history of Halifax
- The story behind the haunted church
- The disaster of the explosion in the port of 1917.
Our attention was drawn to a whole bunch of small details that we would not necessarily notice, like the name of the street hidden in one of the photos above…
Pier 21, the Canadian Museum of Immigration
Pier 21 is the Canadian equivalent of Ellis Island in New York: it is the place where a million immigrants arrived between 1928 and 1971, where the place closed. At Pier 21, the newcomers disembarked after their Transatlantic crossing. They had to do a medical examination and pass a “civic test” before continuing on their journey.
The museum at Pier 21 is extremely well done. It mixes modern testimonies and historical scenes with period objects, always with a way of appealing to the visitor: And you? How would you have answered this question? What would you have put in your suitcase?
There are three sections in Pier 21, and you can take guided tours in both official languages at no extra charge. If a tour is not necessary for the first section on the history of immigration, which can be explored independently, it is quite beneficial for the historical part on Pier 21 itself. The last room downstairs is for temporary exhibitions. Check out the movie, which is pretty neat too, although a bit feel good around the edges (a bit Canadian actually). The museum also has a whole genealogical aspect which must be fascinating to explore. Pier 21 is definitely of the best things to do in Halifax.
Enjoy Halifax’s architecture
Halifax reminded me of my three years in the UK! I felt like being back in St-Helier in Jersey, between sloping streets and pub terraces annexing the sidewalk. Halifax has no shortage of red bricks or pubs, which gives it a very British look.
I love the mix of old and new. And street art too.
Take a walk on Halifax’s waterfront
The entire Halifax waterfront is landscaped. Red chairs, hammocks, restaurants, cafes, ice cream parlors, there is everything, everywhere. I really enjoyed the works of Maud Lewis, which are scattered all along the waterfront. Across the water, on the opposite island, there is a giant park where Shakespeare plays are performed outdoors in the summer (always this British note!)
Do not miss the Acadian Memorial, which has very interesting quantified and mapped explanations of the Grand Dérangement – the deportation of thousands of French-speaking people when the conflicts for ownership of the region were raging between the English and the French.
The Nova Scotia Province House
This is my little pleasure / personal challenge: I am trying to visit all the Legislative Assemblies in Canada. After visiting British Columbia’s, Alberta’s, Saskatchewan’s, Manitoba’s, Ontario’s and the Parliament of Ottawa, I can add Nova Scotia’s Province House to my list.
It’s not your average thing to do in Halifax but I promise, it’s always interesting to learn more about the political intricacies of each Canadian province, with a mix of political explanations and anecdotes. And besides, these places are always free to visit so it’s good if you are visiting Halifax on a budget.
The Halifax Library
Opened in 2014, the Halifax Library has won numerous architectural awards. Its design is fascinating, somewhere between Hogwarts and an Apple Store.
The 5th-floor terrace and café are a perfect stop between two attractions. I wrote my postcards there, enjoying a coffee and a piece of cake.
More to read > Another Canadian city worth visiting is Regina in Saskatchewan!
The ferry and its view of Halifax
If you are going to Halifax, you have to go to Dartmouth. Darmouth is the city on the other side of the bay, the one through which you are likely to arrive. The two cities are in constant rivalry. So why go to Dartmouth? There is a developing culinary scene that is probably worth a look but that’s mostly for… the view of Halifax.
To enjoy this view which is one the best things to do in Halifax, it’s very simple: just take public transport. The ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth (Alderney) is frequent (you will find the timetables on the site ) and cheap . A return trip costs only $2.75!
The Halifax Public Gardens
The Halifax Public Gardens are another perfect place to visit to take a break between sightseeing . Statues, benches, flower beds, small houses, there is actually quite a lot in this park. It was great to sit down and do people-watching, just seeing people enjoying their summer day.
The Halifax Citadel
The Halifax Citadel is perhaps the thing I did in Halifax that I liked the least. The history portion of this visit is nevertheless very interesting: Halifax and its surrounding region have been traded, exchanged, sold between England and France for decades. A defence system was necessary and the star architecture of this fort is reminiscent of Vauban.
The Halifax Citadel is the National Historic Site the most visited in all of Canada. There is a very large military museum there, which summarizes Canada’s participation in all the armed conflicts of the 20th century.
More things to do in Halifax
I wished I had time for things to do in Halifax. I would have visited the Nova Scotia Art Gallery, which houses works by Maud Lewis including the tiny house where she lived and created. I could also have followed a guided route all around the Titanic, with a visit to the Marine Museum and the Fairview cemetery , which has 121 graves of victims of the Titanic sinking. including the one of a certain J Dawson… Does that remind you of something?
That’s it for the things to do in Halifax!