The capital of Nova Scotia is so much more than kilts, lobster, and the Atlantic Ocean, even though traditionally that’s what most tourists spend their time admiring. Celtic traditions aside, Halifax holds its own as a small but lively urban centre.
Being from Nova Scotia but having lived elsewhere for the past 7 years, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the city has changed during my recent visit. While local businesses downtown are not happy about increasing development, I personally noticed a lot of positive change happening in the city – gentrification of previously sketchy areas, an increase in new small businesses, and progressively shifted attitudes. Changes that appeal to a young, creative demographic.
Without further ado, I present to you a one-day guide on how to experience Halifax like (somewhat of) a local. Please see the bottom of the post for the more traditional-type tourist recommendations.
9am – Get Caffeinated at Lion & Bright
Venture to the up-and-coming North End of Halifax to indulge in coffee and a light breakfast at Lion & Bright. Café by day, wine bar by night, they use only fresh and local ingredients, make carefully crafted cocktails (I recommend their Bourbon Sour if visiting for drinks later in the day/night), provide select wines, and have an impressive array of rotating local craft beers.
If you happen to have some work to tackle, I’d recommend bringing along your laptop. This hip spot is a great space for inspiration. Beautiful rustic-industrial interior design, raw-edge slab tables, and loads of natural light make Lion & Bright a perfect spot for getting shit done. It also makes for great Instagram pictures. Just saying.
11am – Architecture and Views at Halifax Public Library
Halifax’s Public Library used to be a place that you simply didn’t go to, unless you absolutely had to. In fact, very few people I know had ever stepped foot inside there. Even I hadn’t ever been inside. Thankfully, the new Halifax Public Library is quite the opposite. In fact, it’s an architectural masterpiece that everyone, book lover or not, can appreciate.
Atlantic Canadian firm, Fowler Bauld & Mitchell (FBM) partnered with highly-regarded European firm, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects on this stunning building that has been designed for minimal environmental impact, while providing residents with state of the art library services and amenities. My personal favourite being the top floor of the building, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and waterfront from a large rooftop patio, seek out solitude and comfort in the sun-lit lounge, and enjoy amazing coffee and treats at Pavia. It’s easy to see why this award-winning space has quickly established itself as a civic landmark in Halifax.
1pm – Lunch at Wild Leek
Lunch time. Back to the North End we go!
As a vegetarian (who wasn’t previously vegetarian while living in Nova Scotia), I was nervous about finding good meatless options in Halifax. I ended up pleasantly surprised and found that there were multiple worthy options to choose from.
I recommend stopping by Wild Leek for a lunch time fix, where everything is vegan and delicious. If you have never had a Halifax-style donair, you must not leave without trying it. Wild Leek makes this possible for vegetarians and vegans, as Wild Leek offers a vegan Halifax-style donair. And it’s
pretty really damn good. Their house-made seitan and vegan donair sauce definitely hit the spot. If you can’t (or don’t, no judgement here) eat gluten though, go for the Thai Cashew Curry – filling, and the perfect amount of flavour.
3pm – Visuals at Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Open since 1908, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is a staple for the province’s art scene. The gallery lies on the edge of Downtown Halifax, and is hosted in beautiful brick heritage buildings that are classic to the area. The permanent collection contains over 17,000 works, and a regular rotation of temporary exhibits.
If you need another coffee fix mid-afternoon, Pavia also has a location here.
6pm – Dinner at Edna
Eat, drink, nourish, always: EDNA. And again, we’re going back to the North End. Sorry not sorry.
A hot-spot for brunch, EDNA is also known for their dinner offerings. The small, 60-seat dining room provides a great atmosphere and something for everyone (including vegetarian options). Similar to Lion & Bright, their menu focuses on fresh, local produce, and offerings include perfected cocktail and wine lists, and a variety of local craft beer.
Important to note is that they do not accept reservations, so I would advise on calling ahead to check on volume if you are a larger group.
8pm – Waterfront Walk at Point Pleasant Park
A day in Halifax just isn’t complete without a little bit of the Atlantic Ocean.
Located in Halifax’s South End, Point Pleasant Park is 75 hectares of pure beauty with 39 kilometres of trails and paths. While the walk along the shore is relaxing, like the rest of Nova Scotia’s seaside land it can be quite breezy. Bring an extra layer incase and you’ll be just fine.
The entire path is beautiful, however, the east part of the trail will lend itself best to sunset views, and good photo opportunities.
While the park is generally safe, it is not advised to be in the park alone past dusk. Being in parks alone past dusk is really never a good idea though, so this should go without saying. Play smart, play safe.
Of course there are countless other notable things to see and do in Halifax, and I left almost all of the typical tourist ones off of this particular list. On purpose. However, if you’re interested, some of the most popular stops are:
- Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
- Halifax Public Gardens
- Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market
- Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
- Halifax Common
- Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk
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