Halifax Nova Scotia: Halifax's Top Local Attractions and Historic Sites information, listings and links
The Halifax Regional Municipality has diverse cultures and rich history, numerous art galleries, provincial and local museums, historic sites and parks. Enjoy the colourful heritage and appreciate the city's long military past.
Halifax has a wide variety of fascinating historic properties that date back to 1749, when Halifax was founded. Many of the restored buildings from the original settlement of Halifax, particularly along the storied waterfront, can be toured by visitors. By day, you may walk along the water or shop in nearby boutiques. At night, stroll beside the water, enjoying both the romance and the pubs, restaurants, and nightlife.
Between Hollis and Lower Water Sts.
A popular Saturday market takes place at this sprawling stone complex where Alexander Keith once brewed the beer that still bears his name. You can browse stalls laden with hand-dyed silk scarves, leatherwork, paintings, and stone carvings. Culinary temptations include Chinese and Indian snacks, farm cheese, and home-smoked sausage. Golden mountains of freshly baked bread; colorful displays of fresh local fruits and vegetables; and stalls with lambs, rabbits, and big brown eggs make this a true farmers market. Sat. 7 AM-1 PM
Cathedral Church of All Saints
1320 Tower Rd., Halifax
Opened in 1910, this south end landmark is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. Visitors are welcome to tour the church, well known for its stained-glass windows and the woodcarvings of its pulpit and chancel. Open 1 to 3pm for visitors, Mon. to Fri., May to Sept., and by appointment year round.
Queen Victoria granted the letters patent for the Dean and Chapter in 1865. After decades of fundraising and building, the gothic-style structure-which has been compared in size and style to the cathedrals of England-opened in 1910. Visitors are welcome to tour the church, known for its stained-glass windows, the beautiful woodcarvings of its pulpit and chancel, and hand-done needlework on the kneelers and bishop's stall. Duration of visit: approximately half an hour. Open by appointment year-round
Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows
Holy Cross Cemetery (South and S. Park Streets)
This small chapel was built in a day, on August 31, 1843, by 2,000 men and features stained glass windows, some dating back to 1661, and some carvings daring back to 1550.Open Mon-Fri 8:30 am to 5:50 pm.
50 Wentworth St. (at Ochterloney St), Dartmouth
The oldest church in Dartmouth, built in 1817, this registered heritage building exemplifies Georgian architectural design. The weather vane atop the steeple depicts Haley's Comet. Open seasonally, Mon.-Fri. 10am-4pm.
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm
471 Poplar Drive, Cole Harbour, Dartmouth B2W 4L2
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum showcases large gardens, heritage buildings (dating back to the early 1780s), live animals and a tearoom onsite. The site adjoins numerous walkways through a natural marsh and woodland walk. Free parking, free admission and picnic area. Take part in crafts or farm-related activities and demonstrations. Young people will enjoy seeing the various animals, adults learn about the local history. Open May 15 to Oct. 15, Mon-Sat 10-4 , Sun&Holidays 12-4
Cornwallis Street Baptist Church
5457 Cornwallis St.
This heritage property is the mother church of the African United Baptist Association. Since its founding in the 1830s by Rev. Richard Preston, a former slave, this church has served as a touchstone for Halifax's black community. Visit by appointment.
Fleming Park, on Dingle Rd
This tower was built in 1912 by Sir Sanford Fleming (inventor of time zones), to commemorate the 1758 convening of the first elected assembly. The tower overlooks the Northwest Arm and the western slope of the peninsula. Allow 30 minutes. Open daily 8 am to 5 pm from May to September. Free admission.
3720 Windsor St.
This cemetery is the final resting place of 121 victims of the Titanic. The graves can be easily located in a graceful arc of granite tombstones. One grave - marked J. Dawson - attracts particular attention from recent visitors. It's not Jack, the fictional Minnesota artist in the blockbuster film, however, but James Dawson, a coal trimmer from Ireland. Nineteen other victims are buried in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, and 10 in the Baron de Hirsch Jewish Cemetery. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has an exhibit about the disaster.
Eastern Passage, off Rte. 322
This working fishing village offers a variety of 'access to the ocean' activities only 15 minutes from downtown Halifax. The shops offer local marine crafts, aboriginal jewellery, folk art, fine art paintings, paper tole, unique candles, woodworking and more. The Cove also has a seafood restaurant, ice cream parlour and diner. Enjoy the 1.5 km boardwalk, tours to McNab's and Lawlor's islands and deep-sea fishing. Interpretive Centre closed from January through March. April through May, open daily. Until October 15, open daily 10 am to 7 pm. October 15 through December open 10 am to 5 pm. Allow two hours
Fort Needham Memorial Bell Tower
Located on Union Street, near Novalea Drive.
The tower overlooks the North End of Halifax, the section most devastated by the Halifax Explosion, which took place when the Belgian relief ship Imo collided with the French munitions vessel Mont Blanc on Dec. 6, 1917. The tower pays tribute to the 2,000 who died in the largest man-made explosion ever to be recorded before the A-bomb. Today, Fort Needham is an active park with a sports field, tennis courts, wading pool and playground. Allow half an hour.
If you take the ferry to Dartmouth, look out toward the harbour entrance to the nearest island, with the small lighthouse on it. It played a key role in the harbour's defence system for almost 200 years. Although not yet open to the public, it's a National Historic Site, and its fortifications are currently undergoing restoration by the federal heritage department.
Corner of Barrington and Bishop streets.
Built for Governor Sir John and Lady Francis Wentworth between 1799 and 1805, Government House is one of the oldest official residences in Canada. Today the home of Nova Scotia's lieutenant governor, it's not open to the public.
Destroyed by fire in 1859, the buildings on this block at the end of Granville Street were rebuilt in the Italianate style by some of the city's most prosperous merchants. Today, it features an attractive plaza with a fountain and benches, along with a collection of restaurants, pubs and shops. When the Delta Barrington Hotel was built on the west side of the plaza, the original building facades were disassembled and then carefully restored in order to preserve the symmetry and historical significance of this space.
Halifax City Hall
Duke Street, at Barrington and Argyle.
This noble Victorian structure has stood guard over the Grand Parade (the symbolic centre of Halifax) since 1888.
Halifax Public Gardens.
Bounded by Sackville, Summer, and S. Park Sts. and Spring Garden Rd.
Main entrance is at the corner of Spring Garden and South Park.
This 7 heactare (17 acre) park is the oldest formal Victorian gardens in North America, this city oasis had its start in 1753 as a private garden. Its layout was completed in 1875 by Richard Power, former gardener to the Duke of Devonshire in Ireland. Gravel paths wind among ponds, trees, and flower beds, revealing an astonishing variety of plants from all over the world. The centerpiece is a gazebo erected in 1887 for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Park has historic fountains, statuary, duck pond, tree-shaded walks and summer 2 pm Sunday afternoon band concerts, set among colourful flower beds and magnificent specimen trees. Open to the public from May until November, dawn till dusk. Allow 30 minutes.
1869 Upper Water Street
The Historic Properties are located on Halifax's waterfront and represent Canada's oldest surviving group of waterfront warehouses. The restored buildings dating back from 1800 to 1905 now offer unique specialty shops and boutiques, excellent restaurants and bars, boardwalk and entertainment. The Historic Properties are open year-round.
Hydrostone Market, 5515-5547 Young St.
Along with the human tragedy of 1917's Halifax Explosion (see Fort Needham Memorial Bell Tower), 325 acres- almost all of north-end peninsular Halifax-were destroyed. Rebuilding began immediately after and included 328 houses in the area bordered by Young, Agricola, Duffus and Gottingen streets. The houses were built from "hydro-stone" cement blocks and--unusually for the time--had treed gardens in front, and modern plumbing and electricity. This area, known as the Hydrostone, is still considered one of the more desirable residential areas of Halifax and has recently been declared a National Historic Site. Check out the shops of the Hydrostone Market.
J.W. Johnston Building
Corner of Granville, Prince and Barrington Streets
Recently restored, the J.W. Johnston Building again has the original charm of this 1928 structure, home for Eaton's department store. The ground level is now given over to the Centre for Craft and Design, where regular exhibits showcase the finest talents of Nova Scotia's craftspeople, from present day to the past. Government offices occupy the upper floors.
Little Dutch (Deutsch) Church
Brunswick at Gerrish Streets, Halifax
The Little Dutch Church was built at this location in 1756, the first Lutheran church in Canada. This round church was built of logs by German Lutheran settlers who came to Halifax in 1750. It is the oldest Lutheran church in Canada. "Dutch" doesn't refer to nationality but is an English mispronunciation of the German label "Deutsch." By the end of the 18th century, the congregation had outgrown the little church and begun construction of an architectural masterpiece down the street (see Saint George's Round Church).
Reached by ferry from Eastern Passage or charter boats from Cable Wharf
This island, just inside the entrance to Halifax Harbour, was once an important part of the harbour defence system. It now offers recreation in the form of picnicking and hiking. Trails lead past the island's lighthouse, ruined fortifications, sand beaches and old homesteads where once-carefully tended gardens now grow wild..
Old Burying Ground
Barrington Street, at the foot of Spring Garden Road
The first burial here followed a day after the arrival of Edward Cornwallis, who established a settlement in 1749. The earliest surviving gravestone dates from 1752. The entrance is dominated by the lion-topped Parker Welsford Monument, which is the only North American memorial to the 1837-1840 Crimean War. The site has been restored, and visitors are welcome to ramble through Halifax's past, with the help of an on-site interpretation centre.
Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel
Holy Cross Cemetery, South Park and South Streets, south end of Halifax. On Aug. 31, 1843, more than 1,800 people gathered to build this charming little chapel - in just one day. The French stained-glass windows date to the 16th and 17th centuries. Open April to Oct., Mon. to Fri. 8:30am to 4:30pm.
Peggy's Cove is located on Rte. 333, a half-hour drive south of downtown Halifax
This rugged fishing community is dominated by its famous lighthouse, perched atop spectacular granite boulders worn smooth by the pounding waves. The breathtaking power and beauty of nature has made this spot one of Nova Scotia's premier tourist attractions. The huge granite boulders and debris were left by receding glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. Use caution, however, when traversing the rocks-the crashing waves are dangerous. Peggy's Cove and nearby Indian Harbour have many quaint restaurants, craft and souvenir shops and accommodations. Allow two hours.
1726 Hollis St, Halifax
This 1819 National Historic Site was proclaimed by Charles Dickens (in 1842) to be a "a gem of Georgian architecture." Built to house Britain's first overseas self-government, the sandstone building still serves as the meeting place for the provincial legislature. Summer visiting hours, July and August: Mon. to Fri. 9am to 5pm, Sat., Sun. and holidays 10am to 4pm. Remainder of the year when legislature in session: weekdays 9am to 4pm. Allow 30 minutes. Free admission.
Saint George's Round Church
Brunswick at Cornwallis Streets, Halifax
Saint George's was built in 1800 (the only remaining round church in North America) by the congregation that outgrew the Little Dutch Church. This National Heritage Site was designed under the supervision of Edward, Duke of Kent (father of Queen Victoria) and is an elegant wooden example of a circular Palladian church. While damaged by a 1994 fire, it is currently being restored in a $4.6-million project, supported by donors including Prince Charles. Visitors welcome.
Saint Mary's Basilica
Spring Garden at Barrington, Halifax
The original 1820 design for Saint Mary's was for a much smaller Georgian church; but over its construction ending in the 1860s and 1870s, the building was transformed into the grand Victorian Gothic style. The highly embellished fašade was designed by New York architect Patrick Charles Keely, who had designed more than 500 churches around North America. The spire is the tallest polished in North America, rising 128 feet above the roof
St Matthew's United Church
1479 Barrington St.
In 1749, the Church of England started St. Paul's Church, though Congregationalists dissenters from New England were allowed to worship there until they had their own place of worship. Mather's Church, later to become St. Matthew's, at the corner of Hollis and Prince streets. Relocated in 1859 to Barrington St., St. Matthew's is the oldest United (Non-Conformist) Church in Canada and celebrated its 250th anniversary last year. Renovations to the sanctuary and a complete rebuilding of the grand pipe organ have been completed. Guided tours by appointment, take about 20 minutes.
Saint Paul's Anglican Church
1749 Argyle St., Grand Parade, Halifax
Founded in June 1749, St. Paul's is the oldest Protestant church in Canada and Britain's first overseas cathedral, originally serving settlements from Newfoundland to Ontario. The burial vault holds the remains of many illustrious British colonial notables of the period. It is said to have more memorial tablets on its walls than any other church building in North America. The 1917 Halifax Explosion is memorialized in the wooden sill embedded in the wall over the memorial doors. The church faces the military parade ground from the earliest days of the town, which is still a central gathering place. The cemetary, 3 blocks south, features some of the city's founders and has a cenotaph commemorating those who served fell in the world wars and the Korean conflict. It also has the only monument honouring the Crimean War in North America. Open Mon. to Fri. 9 am to 4 pm. Sun. services at 9:15 am and 11 am. Communion service Wed. 11 am. ours June to August.
Sir Sanford Fleming Park (The Dingle)
Dingle Road, off Purcell's Cove Road, on the Northwest Arm, Halifax
A 95-acre park has two major walking trails through four natural habitats: second-growth woodlands, a heath barren, a saltwater habitat and a frog pond.The park also has a sandy saltwater beach (supervised in season) and the Dingle Tower, guarded by bronze lions at the foot. Rhe 10-storey Tower dedicated in 1912 to commemorate 150 years of representative government in Nova Scotia, is open for climbing in summer.
Located at Ochterloney and Crichton, in Dartmouth
This artificial pond in the heart of Dartmouth was built as part of the Shubenacadie Canal system. The Pond is now a civic park and serves as a temporary home for hundreds of migrating waterfowl, and is surrounded by landscaped lawns and trees, with a bandstand at its centre, The totem pole here was carved by the Kwakiutl of the West Coast. It was presented to Dartmouth as a token of friendship by the government of British Columbia during the Canada Summer Games that were held here in 1969.
World Peace Pavilion
Ferry Terminal Park (0n the waterfront), Dartmouth
Conceived by Metro Youth for Global Unity, the triangular-shaped monument incorporates rocks and bricks from countries all over the world. Contributions on display include a portion of a brick from the Great Wall of China and a 75-kilogram piece of the Berlin Wall from Germany. The pavilion also acts as a place of inspiration, reflection and education. The pavilion is open year-round.