things to see halifax waterfront

Halifax, Nova Scotia. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The overwhelming feedback I received from friends who’ve been there was positive. “Ahhh, Halifax (map) is like Vancouver but on the Atlantic coast, without the mountains and a lot more British”, was a remark that stuck. Well, I soon discovered that Halifax is a lot more than that, and the only similarity with Vancouver I could see was the harbour and the Halifax Waterfront (Halifax has a stunning location at the edge of one of the largest natural harbours in the world). Halifax definitely has a very British feel – from the fortress on Citadel Hill to the many pubs and the historic Victorian era buildings – but as I soon discovered, simply calling it ‘British’ doesn’t do the city much justice. Halifax has a lovely cosmopolitan vibe that stems from the many immigrants from around the world who have settled in the city throughout the city’s colourful history.

A British welcome at the Halifax citadel

Things to see at the Halifax Waterfront

Halifax owes much of its history to its strategic harbour so when I arrived, one of the first things I did was head down to the Halifax Waterfront to get my first ‘taste’ of the city. The harbour was the scene of numerous wars between the British, the French and indigenous Mi’kmaq people. It also played an important role in the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and was the site of the Halifax Explosion of 1917, the second-biggest man-made explosion (after the Horoshima nuclear bomb), when a French munitions ship collided with a Norwegian ship in the harbour. The resulting explosion caused a tsunami in the harbour and flattened large parts of the city, killing about 2,000 people.

Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

I started my walk at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market. Before entering the market, I paused at the statue of Samuel Cunard (the great shipping magnate), one of the city’s most famous sons.

The statue of Samuel Cunard

Markets are always a great place to get a feel for a city and its inhabitants and the Farmers Market was no different. Friendly and boisterous Haligonians manned their stalls with great gusto, selling all sorts of (organic) produce, from fresh flowers and vegetables to seafood, cheeses and chocolates.

The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market
Fresh produce from Nova Scotia
One of my favourites: the seafood corner!

As I walked around and looked at the names of the stalls and the products, I couldn’t help but notice the variety of European influences: English, French, German, Dutch, Russian, Polish and others. It was clear that Halifax is a melting pot of cultures. The French showed off their local wines and cheeses whilst the Germans and Dutch flaunted their fresh vegetables, cheeses and meats. I started chatting with one of the Dutch farmers but being a second-generation Haligonian, he could manage only a few words in Dutch. He introduced me to his father who spoke fluent Dutch and we had a lovely conversation about Holland, where he’s originally from and how they settled in Nova Scotia.

I continued my walk around the market and discovered many little gems. There were stalls selling all sorts of cupcakes, macaroons and beautiful handicraft.

Macaroons and cupcakes
Gorgeous Nova Scotia handicraft

Halifax Harbour Walk

I continued my stroll along the waterfront. It was a beautiful day and the harbour sparkled in the sun. I followed the scenic Harbour Walk, occasionally peering into the water to spot fish and starfish.

The Halifax Harbour Walk

My nose stopped me in my tracks again – this time at Rum Runners. I entered and sampled their rum and chocolate rum cakes and purchased a few of those.

The delicious chocolate rum cake

Cable Wharf

I continued my walk past the Maritime Museum to Cable Wharf, a colourful, bustling area which is also the embarkation point for harbour tours.

The Halifax Harbourfront
Cable Wharf

This was a great spot to sit in one of the brightly coloured chairs and watch locals and tourists pass by.

Loved these chairs!

Lower Water Street

My stroll ended at the end of Lower Water Street, with many restaurants and cafés housed in Victorian era heritage buildings; an absolutely charming corner of the harbourfront.

Charming Victorian era buildings at the end of Lower Water St.

This area was the perfect spot to end my walk along the Halifax waterfront. I grabbed a chair, ordered a local brew and enjoyed the sunshine in my face. With a pint in my hand, I pondered about the ethnic weave of the city and how each community has shaped Halifax. At first glance, Halifax does feel very British but take a closer look and you’ll easily discover many colourful layers… and the Halifax waterfront is the perfect place to start!

Read about Lunenburg and the wines of Nova Scotia.


Note: a big thank you goes to Destination Halifax for your wonderful hospitality.

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