Large enough to keep you busy for a week, but small enough that you don’t feel overwhelmed — Halifax may just be the perfect sized capital city. There are many must-visit places in Nova Scotia, and Halifax is one of them!
Wander aimlessly down the picturesque streets, while stopping to sip on tasty craft beers and dine on scrumptious seafood. Relax in one of the many green spaces, or visit a museum to learn about the history of the city, and Nova Scotia as a whole.
Whatever you’re interested in, you’ll find it among the many things to do in Halifax. We spent 5 nights in the city and could’ve stayed much longer. If you’re wondering what to do in Halifax during your trip, read on for my 15 best recommendations.
Don’t Miss The Video of Things To Do in Halifax
1. Walk the Waterfront
This picture-perfect spot is the prized possession of Halifax. The waterfront walkway is a pedestrian-only zone, making it a great place to get away from traffic. Watch the locals fishing off the wharf, gawk at a docked superyacht, or pop in for some tasty snacks at the colourful outdoor food eatery.
Insider tip: try the beaver tails, poutine and locally made ice cream! And, don’t miss the Stubborn Goat beer garden.
This is a great place to walk any time of the day but is especially nice during the morning and around sunset.
2. Go To a Festival or Event (one of the best things to do in Halifax)
There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Halifax, and attending one of the many events and festivals is one of them. Whether you’re a foodie, a sports fan, a music lover, or are into the arts, there’s an event for you in Halifax.
If you’re in the city in July, try to time your visit for the TD Halifax Jazz Festival. During the beginning of July, many venues around the city are turned into outdoor concerts. We were lucky enough to visit on a night when American artist, Common and local artist, Shad were performing at the TD stage near the waterfront. What an incredible concert!
This jazz festival is the largest in Atlantic Canada and keeps growing in popularity year by year. Tickets are affordable at around $45 CAD per concert, or you can buy a pass for the duration of the festival ($189 CAD).
Other events you don’t want to miss in Halifax:
- The annual Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo (the world’s biggest yearly indoor show).
- Ribfest which is around the end of June.
- Pride Festival which is held in July.
- Busker Festival in early August.
- Seaport Beerfest in August.
…and so many more.
3. Cross The Harbour to Dartmouth
There are numerous neighbourhoods in Halifax. If you have a chance, get out of the downtown area and check out some of the other parts of the city. In particular, hop on a short 10-minute ferry ride ($2.50 return) from downtown Halifax across the harbour to Alderney in Dartmouth.
Don’t miss the cool street art, fun craft beer bars, waterfront park, and the 3 km harbour walk trail. However, one of the best things to do in Dartmouth is to simply wander around and enjoy the quaint downtown vibes.
4. Eat Seafood
By far one of the best things to do in Halifax (and Nova Scotia as a whole) is to eat seafood. This province is known for its abundance of lobster, scallops, and salmon and you can’t leave the city without dining on a tasty meal.
There are numerous seafood restaurants in Halifax, but I recommend checking out the Bicycle Thief and sampling the lobster roll. This is a great meal for lunch, as a snack or for dinner. Basically, chunks of rich lobster are tossed in a light mayonnaise, citrus, and herb sauce and placed in (and on top of) a grilled, buttery hot dog bun. Very tasty.
Another must-eat meal is at The Five Fishermen. Go for a plate of lobster with a side of garlic butter for dipping and you won’t be disappointed.
For non-lobster lovers, you can always opt for a piping hot bowl of seafood or corn chowder or a fillet of salmon grilled to perfection. Plus, there’s always the classic fish n’ chips available!
5. Hop On The Harbour Hopper
Admittedly, at first glance, this vehicle looks pretty touristy. However, once you’re aboard, you realize just how informative and fun the ride is. These LARC-V amphibious vehicles were used by the Americans during the Vietnam war to transport soldiers and supplies — they were able to carry 5 tons!
These days, unused vehicles have been sold to various countries to provide a unique tourism opportunity. Joining the Harbour Hopper tour is one of the top things to do in Halifax if you want to learn about the history, and enjoy a different vantage point of the city.
The narrated tour takes you through the city’s streets to see some of the major sites and parks (including the Citadel), before converting itself into a boat and floating along the coastline! This is Atlantic Canada’s most popular tour, so make sure you get your tickets early.
The trip is only about 1 hour long, yet is very informative. Don’t forget your sunscreen, camera, and a jacket (it can be windy on the water). Click here to learn more about the Harbour Hopper and to purchase tickets online.
6. Go North
While many people focus on Downtown Halifax, the North End is a cool, trendy district that you don’t want to miss. Home to an African Nova Scotian population, gentrification has crept in (as it does in so many cities worldwide), and these days the North End is now predominantly a university student area.
With gentrification, you’ll now find hip craft beer bars, fusion yoga and pilates classes, an up and coming restaurant scene, and cute boutique shops. This is a hipster area for sure with many musicians, writers, and artists calling this place home. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the city’s second-oldest building, the Little Dutch Church.
Hopefully, new emerging businesses will be mindful of hiring locals from the community, or host events that welcome everyone.
During the Halifax Explosion (the largest man-made explosion in the world before the use of nuclear weapons), the North End was hit hard, with much of the area being flattened, and numerous lives lost. Don’t miss the Halifax Memorial Public Library which was built in memory of the victims.
Needless to say, the North End is a very interesting place.
Look for bus number 320, 52 or 7 to take you from Downtown to the North End. It’s a 45-minute walk or a 20-minute bus journey.
7. Relax In a Park
While city life is great, sometimes it’s nice to chill out in a green space for a while. Luckily, there are many spots in Halifax where you can do just that.
Visit the 16 acre Halifax Public Gardens, which is a very well-manicured green space. In fact, it’s the oldest Victorian Garden in North America. Apart from relaxing with a good book or a picnic, you can often find events in the park as well.
Nearby, you’ll find the Halifax Common (The Commons) which is the oldest urban park in all of Canada — it’s more of a sports and activities park. The Commons offers a baseball field, tennis courts, soccer field, and a skate park.
Finally, check out the large, 185 acre Point Pleasant Park which sits at the very southern tip of the Halifax Peninsula. This is a great spot to do some walking, cycling or running on one of the many gravel trails — with amazing ocean views! Bring a picnic and enjoy the afternoon.
8. Sample The Official Food of Halifax
Have you ever tried a Middle Eastern doner kebab, shawarma or a Greek gyro? The donair is similar to that, but with a Halifax twist.
In the 1970s after running a pizza joint, Greek brothers Peter and John Kamoulakos tried to get Haligonians interested in traditional gyros, but it fell short as the city wasn’t keen on the yogurt sauce or lamb meat. So, they put a spin on it and invented the donair.
Using Lebanese bread rather than Greek pita, beef and chicken instead of lamb, and creating a sauce from evaporated milk, garlic, parsley, vinegar, and sugar (as opposed to the yogurt-based one), the donair was born. Luckily, Haligonians took to this creation and the donair is now the official food of Halifax.
There are a few places to sample them. Johnny K’s is located on Pizza Corner which is a late-night hangout or try them at King Of Donair.
**Don’t tell any Haligonians this, but I prefer the yogurt sauce!
9. Visit a Museum
With so much history in the city, make sure to check out one, or two, of the museums. Pier 21 is a museum showcasing immigration in Nova Scotia — both past and present. From 1928 – 1971, nearly one million people arrived at the Halifax Seaport. At the museum, you can even search the database for your own ancestors!
During the high season, May 1 – October 31, The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is open 7 days a week from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Admission is $14.50 for adults.
Another must-visit is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which houses numerous artifacts, ships, and a collection of items found from the sunken Titanic.
In 1912 when the Titanic sunk, Halifax was the closest major port and played a huge role in the collection of bodies and wreckage. One hundred and twenty-one victims of the sinking are buried at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, while many of the artifacts recovered are in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
In the high season, May 1 – October 31, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is open 9:30 am – 5:30 pm, seven days a week, except for Tuesday when it’s open from 9:30 am – 8:00 pm. Adult tickets cost $9.55.
*Insider tip: visit the museum on Tuesday from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm when admission is free.
10. Try The Local Craft Beers
Halifax is making a name for itself in the craft beer scene. And, based on my personal research, I can say that sampling the beers on offer is one of the top things to do in Halifax! Whether you’re into hoppy IPA’s, heavy stouts, or light lagers, there’s a beer for you.
Garrisons brewing is located near the Pier 21 Immigration and the Seaport Farmer’s Market, making it a great pit stop during sightseeing. If you’re into IPAs, I recommend the Propeller Galaxy IPA, a foggy, hoppy delight (try it at the Stubborn Goat beer garden). You can find Propeller Brewing Co. a few blocks north of the Citadel.
Many of the other breweries are located in the trendy North End, or across the harbour in Dartmouth.
Head to Battery Park in Dartmouth to sample the Belgian inspired beers at North Brewing Company, or the small-batch production at Nine Locks. If you’re visiting the North End, check out Unfiltered Brewing, or the Good Robot Brewing Company — which offers a taproom, pub, and events.
11. Visit The Farmer’s Market
The Seaport Farmer’s Market is the oldest, continuously running market in all of North America. Here you’ll find around 250 vendors selling a mix of produce, plants, homemade crafts, cheese, bread, jewelry, cooked meals, and more. To see the market at its liveliest, make sure you visit on a weekend, in the morning.
Note: many of the vendors appreciate it if you pay by cash.
12. Go On a Day Trip
Some of the best places to see in Nova Scotia are located just an hour or so from Halifax, making the city a great place to base yourself. And, since Nova Scotia is quite compact, getting around is a breeze.
There are lots of day trips from Halifax, here are a couple of suggestions:
Peggy’s Cove: This stunning community and lighthouse is just a 50-minute drive from Halifax. There are a few ways to get here, either by car, taxi or tour. The drive takes you along the picturesque Lighthouse Route while stopping to enjoy the hidden bays and coves along the way. Either rent a car or join a day trip from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove. Another option is to join a tour that covers both Halifax and Peggy’s Cove (plus a lobster roll lunch!).
Lunenburg: The UNESCO listed fishing town is a great place to visit. If you have time, spending the night is best, but many people choose to join day trips from Halifax to Lunenburg. It’s about an hour’s drive from Halifax.
Mahone Bay: Known for its 3 picturesque churches, this town offers great restaurants, a craft beer brewery, and many specialty shops. It’s a little over an hour’s drive to reach Mahone Bay, making it another great day trip from Halifax.
Wine Country: Further afield than the above 3 options, you’ll find the Annapolis Valley. Many day trips from Halifax head out to wine country on a longer tour — around 8 hours. Enjoy tastings at the wineries, a gourmet lunch, and visits to other nearby sites. Click here for details.
13. Join The Free Walking Tour
Many cities around the world offer free walking tours, which are typically run by university students. One of the top things to do in Halifax is to join the walking tour.
Starting at the top of the Citadel, you’ll meet up with your guide who will show you around the city. While walking and enjoying the sites, you’ll hear personal stories from the guides, and learn about history. Make sure you ask for their recommended restaurants and bars at the end — local advice is always the best.
From June 1 – September 1, tours run twice a day at 10 am and 3 pm. While the tour is advertised as “free”, as with anywhere in the world, it’s based on donations/tips. Typically, $10 per person is the going rate, but feel free to pay what you think is fair.
14. Watch Glass Blowing
If you’re wondering what to do in Halifax to spend a few minutes, head down to Nova Scotian Crystal and be mesmerized by the glass blowers there.
When we passed by this shop, we were immediately drawn in and ended up spending around 30 minutes just watching the whole process.
Irish immigrants brought their European glass blowing techniques with them and passed them down to the next generation. This is the only place in Canada that makes hand-cut, mouth-blown crystal items.
The colourful melted glass is spun, blown and molded into beautiful crystal glasses, bowls, office items, wedding gifts, sculptures and more. This is one of the most fascinating things to see in Halifax.
15. Get Active
If running, walking or cycling aren’t your thing, you could always try your hand at bouldering. Located just a little bit north of the citadel, Seven Bays is a fairly new indoor bouldering gym/cafe. This is definitely a popular spot to visit in Halifax.
They offer climbing for all levels, and actually, since the walls are just 13ft high, when you’re done, you just jump down onto the thick padding or climb down the wall — no harnesses or ropes are used here.
If climbing really isn’t your thing, their cafe is a great place to grab a cup of coffee and they offer vegan and vegetarian items on the menu as well.
Where To Stay in Halifax
If you’re keen to do lots of sightseeing, your best base would be the Downtown area near the Waterfront. If trendy, hipster vibes are more your scene, then the North End might be more for you.
We stayed at the Westin Nova Scotian which is located right near the Waterfront, Pier 21, Seaport Farmer’s Market and Garrisons Brewing. The newly renovated room was great and offered an amazing view of Georges Island and the Waterfront. The staff at this historic hotel are very friendly and helpful, there’s (paid) parking available, and you can dine at the onsite restaurant and bar.
Plus, the hotel has a fitness center, pool, salon and spa, and the Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club is located in the lobby. We enjoyed our stay here (the huge breakfast buffet was delicious).
On our second visit to Halifax, we chose an Airbnb in one of the historic homes near the waterfront. Since we had been dining at restaurants for almost 3 weeks straight, we were looking forward to cooking a couple of meals for ourselves, which is a great perk of Airbnbs. Don’t forget your Airbnb coupon code.
To search for places to stay in Halifax on Booking.com, click here.
Ready For All The Things To Do in Halifax?!
Nick and I spent 5 days in the city and easily could have spent 10. With so many cool neighbourhoods to explore, restaurants to dine at, and craft beers to sample, you’ll never be bored here.
Visiting in the summer months will ensure you’ll be able to catch a festival (or 3), while the off-season means you’ll have the city and locals all to yourself. Enjoy your trip to Halifax and let me know what I missed in the comments below.
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