Must-Visit Attractions in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax Town Clock was built in 1803 and is a prominent feature in the skyline of the city
Halifax Town Clock was built in 1803 and is a prominent feature in the skyline of the city | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
With the world’s second-largest natural harbor and being the lively hub of Atlantic Canada, Halifax is best known for its historical charm, community spirit, fresh seafood and incredible natural landscapes. Make the most of your visit with these must-visit attractions.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Museum
Pier 21
Courtesy of Destination Halifax
Between the years of 1928 and 1971, nearly one million people from all over the world immigrated to Canada through Pier 21. Guests can visit Canada’s national museum of immigration – the country’s last-standing ocean immigration terminal – to learn more about the Pier’s fascinating history, play dress-up in historical costumes and read first-person accounts of immigrants and the people who welcomed them. The museum is home to a range of archival photos and artefacts, including luggage and personal treasures. It’s located along Halifax’s busy waterfront.
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Halifax Waterfront

Architectural Landmark

Particularly popular during the summer months, there’s always something happening along Halifax’s waterfront. Lined with bars, restaurants, food stalls, souvenir shops and adirondack chairs, there’s plenty to keep you occupied on a leisurely stroll along its 2.5-mi (4-km) boardwalk. This area is also home to two of the city’s must-visit museums – the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Popular dining spots include The Bicycle Thief – serving up Italian cuisine, and the Lower Deck Pub – the perfect spot for a casual afternoon beer.

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Halifax Public Gardens

Botanical Garden

A calm oasis in the heart of the city, the Halifax Public Gardens is a great spot to relax, people-watch and enjoy a treat from the on-site cafe, Uncommon Grounds. Having been open to the public since Canada achieved confederation in 1867, it’s one of the oldest Victorian gardens in North America and its immaculately manicured lawns and gardens frequently act as backdrops for weddings and photo shoots. Flowers and plants from a range of climates line the walkways here. Expect to see a variety of flora, including sweet-smelling roses, towering trees and desert cactus.

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Discovery Centre

Museum

Halifax’s interactive science museum is one of the city’s best attractions for families, featuring four floors of fun, hands-on learning experiences for people of all ages. Experiment in the Innovation Lab, watch live star shows in the Dome Theatre and check out the Featured Exhibit Gallery, home to regularly changing installations and events. Other highlights include live science demonstrations and the Ocean Gallery, where kids can learn more about the ocean and have the chance to meet local sea creatures. The Discovery Centre is located a short walk from Halifax’s waterfront.

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McNabs Island

Natural Feature
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA - Sailboat passes lighthouse on McNabs Island in Halifax seaport harbor.
© Rob Crandall / Alamy Stock Photo
Take a day trip out to McNabs Island and discover the wildlife, nature and history of Halifax Harbour’s largest island, which is part of the McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park. After being settled by Peter McNab in the 1780s, the island has been abandoned since World War II and is now home to the likes of three abandoned military forts and a soda pop factory that ran bootleg booze during prohibition. From Downtown Halifax, the trip takes about 25 minutes. Tours are available through Friends of McNabs Island.
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Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Art Gallery
Celebrating both emerging and established Canadian artists, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia houses over 18,000 pieces of art and hosts regular exhibits and events. Those who have seen the film, Maudie (starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke) may recognize one of the gallery’s popular displays – the tiny painted house belonging to the real-life Maud Lewis, which is perhaps her greatest work of art. Don’t leave without taking a trip to the gallery’s on-site cafe, Pavia, serving up seasonal paninis, healthy salad plates, soup and coffee – made with delicious espresso from a micro-roastery in Florence.
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Emera Oval

Park, Sports Center

Originally built for the Canada Games in 2011, Haligonians were so in love with their new ice-skating rink at the Halifax Commons that they voted to make it permanent. In the winter, you can enjoy the rink while listening to music, before warming up with a hot chocolate and famous Beaver Tail. In summer, take to the rink on roller skates or rent a bike. The Oval is open year-round. Free public skating is offered at specific times of the day and evening, so it’s recommended you check online before visiting.

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Point Pleasant Park

Park

Situated in Halifax’s south end, Point Pleasant is always buzzing with locals walking their dogs, having picnics and enjoying the ocean views. Visitors can experience a variety of coastal ecosystems, take a self-guided cultural walking tour, go for a swim at the beach or watch a performance by the Shakespeare by the Sea theater group. The park stretches over 190 acres (77ha) and is home to 24mi (39km) of winding trails and wide paths, many of which are wheelchair accessible. Those biking can ride designated cycle trails on weekends and during holidays. Washroom facilities are available.

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St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Church
Canada, Nova Scotia, Halifax, St. Paul's Anglican Chruch, b. 1749, interior
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
St. Paul’s Church, founded in 1749, was the first building in Halifax. While it’s still a place of weekly worship, it’s most frequently visited by outsiders for its famous Face in the Window – a ghost-like silhouette caused by the Halifax Explosion in 1917. Legend has it that as a result of the intense light and heat generated by the explosion, the profile of one of the church’s deacons was etched into one of the windows forever. The church is also home to an impressive archive and welcomes history buffs keen to do more research to make an appointment.
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Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market

Farmers' Market, Market, Canadian
Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, which is open seven days a week, is the longest continuously running market in North America. The market is particularly happening on Saturdays when all of the stalls are open, and tourists and locals come out in force. Stock up on coffee, snacks and souvenirs, then enjoy a view of the harbor from the market’s rooftop patio. If you’re looking for a nice spot to have breakfast, Norbert’s Good Food comes highly recommended. Halifax is also home to another popular market, the Halifax Brewery Farmers’ Market, found in the historic Brewery Square.
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Neptune Theatre

Theatre

With a history dating back to 1915, Neptune Theatre is the largest professional theater in Atlantic Canada. Boasting two stages, the theater hosts a variety of productions, including local and Canadian-made plays and musical-theater favorites. The season runs from mid-September to the end of May, but often carries on well into July. Previous productions include Cats, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, and Mary Poppins. Ticket prices vary, with the theater often offering a ‘pay what you can’ scheme to make performances more widely available to the community.

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Halifax Harbour Ferry

Natural Feature

For a quick escape from the city, hop across the harbor to Dartmouth onboard the Halifax Harbour Ferry. Known as the City of Lakes, this vibrant community is bursting with attractions, such as the Harbourfront Trail and the popular Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market. Be sure to head to the Two If By Sea Cafe for giant croissants and locally roasted coffee. The Crobster Rolls at The Canteen and the cider at Lake City Cider on Portland Street also come highly recommended. The ferry service runs every 30 minutes.

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Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Museum
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
© All Canada Photos / Alamy Stock Photo
Discover the city’s extensive maritime history at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, situated in the heart of Halifax Waterfront. During your visit, you’ll have the chance to learn about the 1917 Halifax Explosion, the city’s ship-building past and its role in the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic. The Titanic exhibition, in particular, is highly regarded and home to over 200 artefacts including the ship’s only surviving deck chair. Visitors can also admire Canada’s longest-serving hydrographic vessel, CSS Acadia, which dates back over 100 years and lives at the museum’s wharf.
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Halifax Citadel National Historic Site

Historical Landmark

The fortress on Citadel Hill was created to defend the city from attack, but today, it stands as a lively national site and museum. Tour guides dressed in historical costumes will take you on a fascinating journey through this crucial site in Halifax’s history as you learn about the city’s first settlers, watch the sentry change and even become a soldier for the day. You can also hear ghost stories and bizarre legends on one of the citadel’s popular ghost tours which run from mid-July to late October.

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Seven Bays Bouldering

Cafe, Contemporary

The newly opened Seven Bays is part bouldering gym, part hip cafe. Whether you’re a first-timer or an expert, climbers of all skill levels are invited to tackle the 120ft (36.5m) long bouldering wall. Get in a fun workout at the gym, before taking your pick from a selection of great coffees, local draught beers, smoothies and tasty treats listed on the cafe’s vegan-friendly menu. Climbing shoes are required and are available for rental. Children under 14 are welcome but must be closely supervised by an adult.

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Halifax Central Library

Building, Library
A library may seem like a bit of an odd attraction, but if you take one look at the building, you’ll see why it made this list. The magnificent five-level glass structure which was unveiled in 2014 reflects the diversity and modern life within the Halifax region, and is the second project in Canada by Schmidt Hammer Lassen who also designed the new Highlands Branch Library in Edmonton. The library which is located downtown is home to two cafes, a rooftop terrace and regular free events.
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Peggy’s Cove

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada: A bagpiper plays for tourists near the lighthouse at the popular tourist destination of Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia
© Paul McKinnon / Alamy Stock Photo

Nova Scotia is home to over 160 historic lighthouses, but Peggy’s Point Lighthouse – built in 1915 – is without a doubt its most famous. Located a short drive from Halifax, the lighthouse can be found on Peggy’s Cove, a pretty fishing village along the south shore. Watch as huge waves cover granite rocks surrounding the lighthouse, before wandering along the boardwalk and grabbing a souvenir to commemorate your visit. Peggy’s Cove Boat Tours also offer opportunities for puffin and seal watching, along with the chance to indulge in fresh seafood on a Lobster Dinner Cruise.

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Halifax tours

Natural Feature

Walk, Segway, ride, kayak or sail around Halifax with one of the city’s many tour companies. Popular choices include the Harbour Hopper, an amphibious tour bus that drives you around downtown and then into the harbor; Taste Halifax Tours invite you to sample the best food in the city; and the ghost tours take you to the city’s most haunted spots. Theodore Tugboat is a popular tour choice for families in particular. Kids will learn about Halifax’s harbor before having the chance to meet Theo’s friends, Dispatcher, Tugboat Crew and Benjamin Bridge.

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The Old Burying Ground

Historical Landmark

Halifax’s first burial ground, founded in 1749, also happens to be a National Heritage site. Wander around and you’ll find yourself transported to Halifax’s early history as you pass notable headstones, including that of Major General Robert Ross, who fought in the War of 1812 and was buried with full military honors. At the entrance to the burial ground, you can also see the Welsford-Parker Monument which was built in 1870 to commemorate two Haligonians killed in the Crimean War.

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Alexander Keith’s Brewery

Brewery
Nova Scotia has a growing beer scene and is home to over 50 breweries, including Alexander Keith’s, Halifax’s oldest. Join one of the brewery’s award-winning tours and learn more about the history of Alexander Keith as well as getting a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process before sampling a variety of ales in the tasting room. Musical entertainment is provided in the form of maritime songs performed by Halifax’s most talented local musicians. Small-batch and limited-edition beers are also available to purchase.
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Check out Halifax’s vibrant street art

Shop
The mural was designed by Jason Botkin, adorns the Freak Lunchbox in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
© ATGImages / Alamy Stock Photo

Halifax has a thriving street art scene, with the city’s walls colored in impressive public murals for visitors to discover. Many of the street artists here stay true to the cities maritime theme, but the murals you’ll come across are ever-changing, with new creations frequently sprouting up overnight. One of the best and most photographed is sprawled on the back of candy store, Freak Lunchbox, located in Downtown Halifax. Created by street artist, Jason Botkin (@robotkin), it depicts a vibrant water world, featuring a tangled heron, fish and octopus. Mulgrave Park housing development is also home to several murals reflecting the community’s spirit.

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HMCS Sackville

Historical Landmark

For an insightful experience, climb aboard Canada’s oldest warship and the last of its 123 corvettes, HMCS Sackville. The ship was used during World War II and played a crucial role in winning the Battle of the Atlantic. It has served as a naval memorial since 1983 and invites visitors to learn about its history while exploring its gun deck, engine room and other features. HMCS Sackville is berthed in the Naval Dockyard, about one mile from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic between November to mid-June, before being moved to Sackville Landing from late June to October.

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Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park

Park, Natural Feature

Situated in Sambro Creek, approximately 17mi (28km) south of Halifax, you’ll find a peaceful sanctuary away from the city. Boasting three white-sand beaches in separate coves, Crystal Crescent Beach Park is known for its peaceful, clear waters, accessible hiking trails and ample wildlife viewing opportunities. Venture to Pennant Point on a 5.3mi (8.5km) hiking trail, which starts inland and takes you through barrens, boulders and bogland. You can also see the historic Sambro Island Lighthouse in the distance during your visit, built in 1759. Two of the beaches have boardwalks and toilet facilities.

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The Museum of Natural History

Museum
At the Museum of Natural History, you’ll have the chance to see everything from incredible Mi’kmaq artefacts and a full-sized whale skeleton to the oldest gopher tortoise in living history, Gus. Learn about Nova Scotia’s marine life, geology and history as you browse the museum’s permanent installations which include an exhibition about Sable Island, famous for its shipwrecks and wild horses, and a mammals and birds gallery showcasing some of the province’s native species. There’s also a range of traveling exhibits, live displays and nature talks, walks and children’s programs. The museum is located next to the Halifax Public Gardens.
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Fisherman’s Cove

Museum

Take a peek into Halifax’s maritime history at this quaint restored 200-year-old fishing village. Stroll along the picturesque boardwalk and admire the fishing boats lining the canal, or browse the area’s artsy boutiques and gallery, showcasing local artists’ paintings, prints and cards. Restaurants and seafood shacks here take great pride in the fish dishes prepared using daily catches. Situated around 20 minutes from Downtown Halifax across from its harbor, this waterfront community makes for a relaxing day trip from the city. It can be reached by car, ferry and bus.

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Additional reporting by Emma Gibbins

These recommendations were updated on September 17, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.