A Haligonian’s Guide to Halifax

I only moved to Halifax a few years ago, but the warmth and friendliness I've experienced here instantly made it feel like home.

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Halifax Attractions - Tall Ships Festival
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An early morning at Halifax Harbour during the Nova Scotia Tall Ship Festival.

Must-See Halifax Attractions

A Newfoundlander once told me that Maritimers were so generous “they’d give you their backside and never sit down again.” As silly as that sounds, it’s true. Halifax might be the biggest city in the Maritimes, but the generous-spirited people make it feel like a small town.

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Halifax Harbour nightlife
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Bustling nightlife at Halifax Harbour.

Bars and Live Music in Halifax

Halifax is famous for the number of bars it has to cater to its relatively small population (around 417,000). The bar scene here is unique because there is very little snobbery: everyone drinks together no matter what their age, or how expensive their clothes are. Also unique is the amount of live music in the bars, which means that there is always a “Ceilidh” (pronounced “kayli” and Gaelic for “musical celebration”) happening somewhere.

On any given night you’ll be able to choose from a variety of musical genres. Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs has consistently great visiting and local blues musicians almost every night. The Seahorse Tavern has showcased live bands since 1948.

There are a lot of talented covers bands in town, which allows for plenty of singing along in bars such as the Split Crow and the Lower Deck. What’s different (and rather sweet) about these bands is that they’ll often add a Celtic twist to their repertoire of rock classics. So you might sing along to Tom Petty’s “American Girl” but be accompanied by a fiddle.

Various festivals throughout the year contribute to the sense of fun. The brilliant Halifax International Busker Festival attracts up to half a million people, and all the action is centred around the gorgeous waterfront of this working harbour.

These great day trips from Halifax are worth adding to your itinerary.

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Halifax attractions - Citadel aerial view
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An aerial view of the Citadel.

Halifax’s Historical Sites

Because it’s such a small and walkable city, you really can see a lot of Halifax attractions on foot. Visitors should check out the Citadel, an impressive star-shaped fort built in 1856, which is on top of Citadel Hill and provides a superb view of the city and beyond.

For more of a sense of Halifax’s history, take an Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour, where guides in period dress host a multimedia tour that ends with traditional songs and the drinking of beer. Some of the oldest structures in town are to be found on the cobbled streets of the Historic Properties, a cluster of galleries, shops, restaurants and bars.

The Pier 21 Immigration Museum is a tearjerker of a place that tells the stories of war brides, orphans and immigrants from all over the world. If your relatives landed in Halifax between 1928 and 1971, there’s a record of it here (and volunteers to help you find those records).

Check out more historical landmarks every Canadian should visit.

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Things To Do In Halifax Restaurants
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Halifax Attractions for Foodies

Whatever their budget, Haligonians eat rich thanks to an abundance of seafood and locally grown produce. We have world-class dining at upscale restaurants like Stories, which has perfected East Coast fusion dining and is the perfect place for a special dinner. Scallops and lobster are on menus everywhere, from the classiest joints to hole-in-the-wall places, at incredibly reasonable prices.

Brunch here is epic. There are plenty of places where you can still score a substantial three-dollar breakfast, but restaurants like Jane’s on the Common and Coastal Cafe offer mouthwatering gourmet breakfasts that are well worth lining up for (which you’ll have to on a weekend). You can pick up great local fare at the Farmer’s Market, perfect for picnics and eating on the go.

These stunning pictures of Nova Scotia will have you packing your bags.

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Halifax Attractions - The Citadel
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The clock tower on Halifax’s Citadel Hill.

Travelling to (and Around) Halifax

If you can do it, take the time to come to Halifax by train. The scenery is lush, especially in the fall. It’s a beautiful overnight journey from the west, and gives you a window on how gorgeous Nova Scotia is. There is so much to do in Halifax, but if you get a chance to head out of the city you’ll find incredible sandy beaches, historic lighthouses, woodlands and pretty coastal towns. I live in a beautiful place and I’m proud to be able to call Halifax my hometown.

Now that you know the must-see Halifax attractions, check out more essential experiences on the east coast of Canada.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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