Halifax is the provincial capital of Nova Scotia, serving as the centre of commerce for Atlantic Canada. It sits on one of the largest natural harbours in the world and has long been an important maritime centre.
Halifax Harbour is home to North America's oldest yacht club, Northwest Arm. Two toll bridges span the harbour and a passenger ferry connects Halifax and Dartmouth, which lies across the Bedford Basin.
Founded in 1749 by the British, who sought to strengthen their presence in the North Atlantic, the city retains its British military air. Many historic stone and wood buildings have been preserved, particularly in the restored waterfront area that has become a major tourist attraction. The locale offers shopping, nightlife, restaurants and entertainment.
Halifax is the cultural hub of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces as a whole. It has a number of art galleries, museums, theatres, and other entertainment facilities. It's also home to the Nova Scotia Symphony and many cultural festivals like the Nova Scotia International Tattoo, Shakespeare by the Sea, The Halifax International Busker Festival, and the Atlantic Film Festival.
Visitors can find out more about the city's culture from its free alternative arts weekly magazine, . The city also offers a range of recreation sites, such as parks, beaches, walking trails, and some living history experiences like the firing of the noon day gun at the Halifax Citadel and the working locks of the Shubenacadie Canal.
One of Halifax's military history heritage sites, the citadel was built between 1828 and 1856 and is regarded as a fine example of a bastioned fort of the 'smooth bore' era. It is built in a star-shaped design and features vaulted rooms, a dry defensive ditch, a musketry gallery, and offers an inspiring view of Halifax and its harbour from the ramparts. Visitors can watch an audio-visual presentation about the defences of Halifax and visit the soldiers' library, barrack rooms, powder magazine, and garrison cell. The site also has exhibits about communications and the engineering and construction of the citadel. Guides at the site wear the uniform of soldiers of the Royal Artillery and the 78th Highlanders of 1869 and conduct tours in English and French.
This site in Clam Harbour Road, Lake Charlotte, is owned and operated by the community. It features 13 rescued and restored buildings illustrating rural village life in Nova Scotia in the 1940s. Local people demonstrate traditional skills like rug hooking for visitors while the cookhouse offers typical 1940s cookhouse meals, completing the feeling of immersion in a coastal 1940s community. This interesting living museum is award-winning, filling a few hours with fun for the whole family.
This museum has one of Canada's finest collections of both ship models and ship portraits, as well as the world's largest assemblage of wooden artefacts from the Titanic. In addition to a collection of about 24,000 marine photographs often dating back to the 19th century, there's also examples of rare and beautiful unique Nova Scotian boatbuilding traditions with its small craft displays. The exhibition includes shipwreck treasures, naval World War II convoys, steamboats, and the opportunity to explore the 1913-built ship CSS Acadia at the dockside. The museum also has a large collection of genealogical resources, including journals, diaries, ship's logs, shipping registers, and a library containing more than 5,000 books relating to shipping.
Its position on the coast ensures that Halifax experiences less extremes in its climate compared to inland Nova Scotia. Summer temperatures average between about 57°F (14°C) and 75°F (24°C). Spring arrives in April, marred by rain and fog, but as summer moves in conditions warm up and balmy ocean breezes blow the damp away. Autumn is a beautiful season, the days warm, nights cool, and the foliage taking on spectacular hues. Winters are cold and wet, with both rain and snow, and average temperatures between 17°F (-8°C) and 37°F (3°C).
Central Halifax is walkable, but visitors who want to explore more widely should hire a car. That said, Metro Transit provides a bus service in the city and to surrounding areas, and runs passenger ferries from various city-based terminals. Free transfers are available from the ferry to buses. Cabs can be hailed in the downtown area and there are taxi ranks at the largest hotels and shopping centres.
Halifax's waterfront is a tourist playground of pubs, shops, museums, craft markets and outdoor concerts. In fact, the city's student population ensures a lively pub and bar scene well beyond the waterfront district.
Visitors will encounter plenty of history too, such as the graves of about 150 victims of the Titanic disaster, Pier 21, which is where immigrants were once processed for entry to Canada, and the Halifax Citadel. Visitors who enjoy maritime history should stop at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
Most tourist attractions are located downtown and can be reached on foot. Visitors who want to explore more widely should consider booking a tour or hiring a car, as the public transport system is not comprehensive. Travellers should note that some attractions only open in the summer months.