A city guide to Halifax, Nova Scotia
The constant traveller: Halifax
Words— Kaitlyn McInnis
An eastern peninsula swimming with history, culture, and a vibrant art scene, Halifax is much more than its caricatured seaside fishing town. While, yes, you’d be doing yourself a disservice to opt-out of the fresh seafood and seascapes while you’re in town, there’s also handfuls of world-class architecture, shopping and dining to be done in the city.
To cut through the noise, we’ve pulled together a list of the must-visits on the East Coast. Consider this your insider’s guide to exploring Canada’s ocean playground.
Where to Eat
Halifax has been going through a sort of culinary revival over the past few years, and Bar Kismet is no exception. The seafood- and more restaurant, tucked into bustling Agricola street, is equal parts cozy and refined. Make sure to make a reservation—the 30-seat restaurant fills up quickly.
If vegan fare is more your style, don’t sleep on enVie. The "vegan kitchen" is easily one of the best options for plant-based food in the city, boasting everything from fresh-pressed juices and salads to chilli “cheeze” fries and vegan charcuterie boards.
The Ostrich Club
Tucked into the Hydrostone Market (which is worth visiting before or after your meal), The Ostrich Club is one of Halifax’s most recent additions to the culinary scene. Try the lobster roll or the namesake ostrich burger (made from ostrich meat), or opt for the Nova Scotia seafood chowder if you’re in the mood for serious comfort without sacrificing taste.
The Press Gang Restaurant and Oyster Bar
Whether you’re in town for a weekend or a day, make sure to try a plate of fresh oysters while on the East Coast. The Press Gang boasts a counter brimming with fresh shellfish that you can select and have shelled right alongside your drink.
Where to Drink
Natural wine has made its way to Halifax in a big way—and Little Oak has one of the best wine lists in the city. The intimate wine bar is decked out in a warm oak and huge windows and boasts some of the best sharing dishes in the city.
Halifax has a distinctly European flair that comes out in the nooks and crannies of its impressive number of Irish pubs. Be sure to catch a live "trad" music show at Durty Nelly’s, an Irish pub that was completely designed and built-in Dublin before commuting across the Atlantic and being reconstructed in Halifax.
Get ready to learn the ins and outs of craft beer over a pint at Stillwell. The unpretentious bar changes their kegs on a daily basis and showcases the best of Nova Scotia’s craft beer community. Be sure to order a snack or two with your brew, which comes in the form of playful, reimagined takes on classic bar fare.
Galleries and Museums
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia takes visitors through modern and classic art from prominent Nova Scotia artists, including a wide variety of works from Nova Scotia’s best-known artists, Maud Lewis. Be sure to stop at the Maud Lewis house, which is the fully restored and protected home of the well-loved artist.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Tucked into the Halifax boardwalk, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is Canada’s oldest and largest maritime museum. The museum will transport you back to the Battle of the Atlantic, the Halifax Explosion of 1917, and Nova Scotia’s role in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster.
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History is home to one of the province’s most beloved residents: Gus, the oldest known gopher tortoise, who is just shy of 100 years old. Visitors can say hello to Gus in the lobby, before embarking on the museum proper, which boasts a life-sized replica of a Sei Whale, a wide collection of rocks from across the province and from around the world, and a deep dive into Netukulimk and Mi'kmaq culture.
Things to See and Do
Halifax Central Library
Voted one of the most beautiful libraries in the world by Wired.com, a stop at the Halifax Central Library is well worth it—whether you bring your library card or not. Grab a coffee at the resident cafe and make your way to the rooftop, which boasts panoramic views of downtown and the Halifax harbour.
Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market
One of the best ways to get to know the true pulse of a city is to visit its farmers’ market and the Seaport market is no exception. Tucked into the edge of the Halifax Waterfront, the Seaport market boasts unparalleled views of the harbour and of George’s Island National Historic Site. Grab a coffee and spend the morning exploring the stalls while getting to know the city’s local fare.
Crystal Crescent Provincial Park
If you spend most of your visit in Halifax proper, it can be easy to forget the fact that you’re right on the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. If time permits, hop in the car and drive the coast to Crystal Crescent Provincial Park. In the summer, the beaches are ripe for swimming and soaking up the sun, while the winter months (albeit chilly) boasts jaw-dropping, moody seascapes.
Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery
You’ve probably had your fair share of this East Coast IPA, but visiting the brewery is a whole different experience. The brewery was founded in 1820 by Alexander Keith, who immigrated from Scotland three years prior. These days, it’s owned by Anheuser-Busch but the nineteenth-century property has been preserved since its beginnings and feels like stepping back in time.
Where to Shop
Black Market Boutique
The owners of this endearingly quirky hole in the wall make quarterly trips to India and Indonesia to work directly with artisans, who curate the shop with some of the most unique jewelry and home decor in the city. Stepping into the store feels unlike anything else in Halifax, with thousands of carefully curated treasures peeking out from every nook and cranny.
If big names and luxury is more your speed, head to RCHMND. The designer clothing store on Granville Street boasts everything from limited edition Stan Smiths and Off-White to Acne and Comme des Garçons, all housed in an impossibly minimalist space.
Pick up some consciously-made housewares, hair care, and clothing at Sattva Boutique. The elegant shopping destination aims to provide shoppers with environmentally-friendly, unique items that are just as stylish as they are sustainable.