If you’re looking for a charming East Coast city, Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, is a great choice. There are plenty of things to do in Halifax, ranging from historical and cultural attractions to outdoor activities and nightlife.
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The city has a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere and is home to one of the world’s largest natural harbours. Halifax is also known for its excellent shopping and dining scene, with plenty of places to enjoy some incredible food and drinks on your Halifax trip.
While you could easily spend a few days or even a week in and around Halifax, the walkable downtown area makes it easy to visit the city on a weekend trip.
Having recently spent a few great days in Halifax on our East Coast Canada road trip, we found plenty of great spots to check out and activities to fill our days in Halifax. In this guide, we’ll summarize all the unique things to do in Halifax, so you can plan your quick visit to Nova Scotia’s capital.
How to get to Halifax
Drive: If you’re driving to Halifax in Nova Scotia, you’ll most likely arrive on the Trans-Canada Highway. This is the main route connecting the province with everywhere else in Canada and even the US.
Halifax is a long drive from any other major city. The drive from Quebec City to Halifax will take around 10 hours. Driving from Toronto it takes 9 hours, while the drive from Montreal is around 7 hours.
Fly: If you’re flying into Halifax, you’ll arrive at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport It’s located just half an hour from Downtown Halifax and connects Halifax with major Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, as well as international destinations in Europe and the Caribbean.
How to get around Halifax
Halifax is a compact city, and most of the things to do in Halifax are located within walking distance of each other in the downtown area. For eco-conscious travelers, there are cycle paths around the city, allowing you want to explore Halifax on two wheels at a quicker pace.
If you need to get somewhere further afield, Halifax has a good public transportation system.
The main mode of transportation is Metro Transit, which operates buses across the city. There is also the popular Halifax Dartmouth Ferry which connects Downtown Halifax with the neighbouring town of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
If you’re looking to explore outside of Halifax, there are also regional bus services that can take you to other towns and villages in Nova Scotia.
How to Spend 48 Hours in Halifax
If you only have 48 hours to visit Halifax attractions, there are a few must-see sights and attractions we would recommend. There are so many things to do in Halifax, so here is what you can squeeze into 2 days in Halifax.
Day 1: Check-In and Explore the Waterfront
Arrive in Halifax and check into your hotel. We stayed at Lord Nelson, a historic hotel in the heart of Downtown Halifax, within walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions. The hotel has a maritime theme and features paintings and artifacts from Lord Nelson’s naval career. There is an on-site bar and restaurant, which offer great views of the harbour. Parking at the hotel is a bit pricey at $28 per day. So if you are traveling by car, we recommend finding street parking instead.
Check-in times at hotels in Halifax are typically in the late afternoon, so if you arrive early, leave your bags and head out to Halifax’s downtown to explore. You won’t want to waste any time with so many things to do in Halifax!
En Route to the Waterfront
Time required: 1 hour
The first place on your list of things to see in Halifax should be the Waterfront area. Take a detour en route to check out some other Halifax top attractions.
Right in front of the Lord Nelson Hotel, you’ll find Halifax Public Gardens, one of the finest surviving examples of a formal Victorian garden. The garden is home to various plants and flowers, as well as several statues and fountains. In the summer, the gardens host music concerts and flower exhibitions, so if you’re lucky, you might be able to catch an event at the Halifax Public Gardens. Admission is free, and the garden is open year-round.
Take a walk down Halifax’s Spring Garden Road, a popular destination for shopping and dining. The street is home to a variety of stores, restaurants, and cafes, as well as art galleries and theatres. Here you’ll also find a number of souvenir shops selling everything from maple syrup to Canadian t-shirts and hockey jerseys.
The Halifax Central Library is another must-see for any visitor to Halifax. The library is the largest in Nova Scotia and is home to over half a million items, including books, magazines, and newspapers. The library also has a number of special collections, including a children’s library and an art gallery. It’s been listed as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, so if you’re a book lover then it’s a must-visit in Downtown Halifax. The library is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm, and on Sundays from noon to 5pm. Admission is free.
Afternoon: Halifax Waterfront
Time required: 2 hours
Visiting Halifax Waterfront is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Halifax. The bustling working port is also one of the most visited attractions in the area. It’s home to a number of restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as a few shops. There’s also a large park with a playground and a bandstand, as well as a few monuments and statues.
If the weather is kind, we recommend exploring the waterfront precinct on foot. The Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk runs the entire length of the harbour for 2.5 miles (4 km), from Pier 21 at the Halifax Seaport to Casino Nova Scotia.
Along the way, you can stop and visit more Halifax tourist attractions, including various museums, restaurants and boat cruise offices.
Halifax Seaport Farmers Market (on weekends only):
If you’re visiting on Saturday morning, then you can’t miss the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market which runs from 8am to 2pm at Pavilion 23 on the waterfront. The Halifax Farmers Market sells a variety of local produce, meats, cheeses, and flowers. There are also a number of food stalls selling everything from Indian food to lobster rolls. The market is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 6pm. Admission is free.
Afternoon: Visit Museums
Time required: 2 hours or more
Halifax is home to a number of museums, which are all worth a visit when you’re in the city.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the most popular museums in Halifax, and for good reason. The museum is Canada’s largest maritime museum, home to over 30,000 artifacts relating to maritime history, including a large collection of ship models, navigation tools, and shipwreck relics. It’s a great place to visit in Halifax with kids, who’ll especially love the boatbuilding and shipwreck vessel exhibits.
The museum is a great place to learn more about the Halifax Explosion, the largest man-made explosion to occur before the atomic bombs of World War II. For those fascinated by the Titanic, the museum has a brilliant Titanic Exhibit, which many people say is one of the best things to do in Halifax Nova Scotia. Admission to the Halifax Maritime Museum is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for students. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday.
The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is another great stop on the Halifax Waterfront. The museum tells the story of Canada’s immigration history, from the early days of European settlement to the present day. It’s home to a number of interactive exhibits, including a replica of a 1950s Canadian kitchen and a ‘touch table’ where you can explore images of historical immigration documents. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for students. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday.
If you’re interested in art, then the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia should be at the top of your list. The gallery has a permanent collection of over 17,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints. Admission is free for children 6 and under, $10 for students and seniors, and $15 for adults. The gallery is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and on Sundays from noon to 5pm.
Afternoon: Hop Aboard Halifax Harbour Tours
Time required: 1 hour
One of the fun things to do in Halifax is to see the city from the water. There are a number of companies that offer Halifax harbour tours, including Harbour Hopper, Tall Ship Silva, and Ocean Quest.
But our favourite and most sustainable way to see the Halifax Waterfront is on the only fully electrically powered boat with Halifax Harbour Tours. This small group tour lasts 1 hour and takes you around the Halifax waterfront in good company. The tour is narrated by the captain, Curtis, and tour guide, Katie, two locals with a plethora of knowledge about the history and cultural insights of the city. Tickets are $37.50 and seats are limited to just 8 per sailing.
Evening: Grab a Drink in Downtown Halifax
After a long day of sightseeing, there’s nothing better than grabbing a drink and relaxing in downtown Halifax. The options for pubs and bars are endless, but here are a few favourites to get you started.
Some of our favourite places to check out are:
- The Split Crow Pub: Located in downtown Halifax, just a short walk from the harbourfront, the Split Crow Pub has been serving up cold pints and hearty food since 1994, and it’s a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike. The Pub has a relaxed and cozy atmosphere, with exposed wooden beams and an open fireplace. They serve up a wide range of beers, ciders, and whiskies.
- Halifax Alehouse: Located just below the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, the Halifax Alehouse is an energetic tavern with a wide selection of beers on tap, as well as wine and spirits. The Alehouse has a relaxed and casual atmosphere, and it’s a great place to hang out with friends.
- Your Father’s Moustache: Located next to the Halifax Public Gardens, this is a long-standing local pub with outdoor seating and live blues music. The Moustache is voted to have the best patio in Halifax by readers of The Coast magazine. And it is home to the best, and longest-running blues show in Halifax, held every Saturday afternoon.
- Alexander Keith’s Brewery: Founded in 1820 by Alexander Keith, the brewery it’s now the oldest operating brewery in North America. The brewery offers free tours, which give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how the beer is made. You can also sample (and purchase) a variety of beers in the taproom and gift shop.
Enjoy a Nice Dinner in Halifax
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding good food in Halifax. The dining scene is alive and well in the Downtown Halifax area, with lots of seafood restaurants and cozy pubs. Enjoying a delicious meal is one of the best things to do in Halifax after a day of exploring.
There are lots of great restaurants in Halifax, but the local favourites include:
- 2 Doors Down: Set a couple of blocks back from the Halifax boardwalk, this casual restaurant is one of the best eateries in the area. The menu features a variety of dishes, including burgers, salads, pizzas, and pasta. They also have a great selection of desserts, including cheesecake and brownies.
- Bicycle Thief: This intimate Italian restaurant with an outdoor patio overlooking the waterfront tops every list of best restaurants in Halifax. The menu features a variety of Italian dishes, including pasta, risotto, and pizza as well as a wide selection of wine and cocktails.
- The Five Fisherman: If you’re looking for a seafood restaurant in Halifax, look no further than The Five Fisherman. This Halifax institution boasts a swanky bar and restaurant featuring locally sourced seafood and steaks.
Day 2: Hit the Water and Delve into History
There are plenty more attractions in Halifax to explore on Day 2. Now that you’ve visited downtown Halifax, it’s time to go beyond the Halifax Harbour. Here’s what to see in Halifax on your second day in the city.
Morning: Grab a Tea or Coffee
One of the first things to do in Halifax in the morning is to grab tea or coffee from one of the many cafes. While there’s plenty to choose from, Cabin Coffee is an all-time favourite of locals and tourists alike.
The casual coffee shop has rustic decor and comfy couches, with some really great breakfast food. You’ll find delicious coffee, cinnamon buns and breakfast sandwiches to either dine in or take away.
Morning: Get Active on the Water
Time required: 2-3 hours
If you’re wondering what to do in Halifax for active travelers, Kayak Halifax offers fun adventures on the water. This was our favourite activity in the city! Ed, the owner of Kayak Halifax, offers a range of paddle and kayak tours along Northwest Arm and McNab’s Island.
It’s a great way to explore Halifax harbour and get up close to the city’s iconic landmarks. The kayaks are stable and easy to manoeuvre, so no experience is necessary. You can choose from a variety of tours, including the Historic Downtown Tour, the Harbour Highlights Tour, and the Sunset Tour. You’ll get the chance to admire Seal Cove, Sir Sandford Fleming Park, Dead Man’s Island, Fisherman’s Cove, Lawlor Island Provincial Park and McNabs Island.
Morning Alternative: Explore Georges Island National Historic Site
Time required: 2-3 hours
One of the most unique places to visit in Halifax is the newly opened Georges Island National Historic Site. Located in the heart of Halifax Harbour, the island is home to a variety of fortifications and defences from the mid-19th century to the end of the 20th century.
Georges Island is home to a complex system of underground tunnels which played an important role in both the First and Second World Wars. The tunnels were built in the mid-19th century and were used to store ammunition and other supplies. Also, the tunnels were used as a shelter from enemy fire.
The tunnels are well-preserved and are now open to the public. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of Halifax Harbour and feature a variety of ammunition storage rooms, machine gun nests, and officers’ quarters.
You can take the ferry to Georges Island from the Halifax Ferry Terminal. The ferry operates seven days a week, and it offers a variety of departures times. It’s definitely a must-see in Halifax!
Lunch at Black Sheep
When you’re ready for lunch, head to Black Sheep, just a few streets back from Halifax Waterfront. This New American restaurant has modern tavern vibes and offers fantastic food and craft beers, and cocktails on a patio overlooking the city. In the summer, try their lobster ravioli, made in-house with the freshest lobster catch!
Afternoon: Visit Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
Time required: 1-2 hours
One of the standout things to do in Halifax, Canada is to visit the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. With a commanding hilltop position just behind Downtown Halifax, the strategic fort has dominated the skyline since 1749.
The star-shaped citadel hill is where you can learn about the military and maritime history of the city. The national landmark has become one of the most visited historic sites in all of Canada, so it’s definitely worth adding to your Halifax sightseeing list.
Part of a visit can include the barracks, guardroom and grounds, as well as hearing the Royal Artillery command the firing of the gun every day at noon. You’ll also get to see the Old Town Clock at the base of the hill on your way up. It’s a great idea if you’re looking for fun stuff to do in Halifax in the afternoon with kids because they’ll love exploring the fort.
Just down from the historic site, you can also find the Museum of Natural History. This is one of the best Halifax kids activities, so if you have your family in tow, you might want to spend the rest of the afternoon there.
Afternoon: Stop for Some Ice Cream
Halifax Nova Scotia has some great ice cream shops. In our opinion, it’s the one of the best food experiences on any Halifax visit, so you’ll want to spare time for some ice cream.
Just down near the Halifax Commons is family-owned Dee Dee’s Ice Cream. It’s one of the most popular ice cream joints in the city, but there are also a handful of other parlours on the Halifax Harbor to try at any time of the day.
Evening: Drinks aboard Tall Ship Silva
Time required: 1.5 hours
For a special way to end your day in Halifax, we recommend hopping aboard the Tall Ship Silva for a Halifax Harbour Sunset Cruise. Departing from Downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia, it’s one of the most romantic things to do in Halifax.
The 1.5-hour sailing trip explores some of the best Halifax tourist spots from the water. You’ll be able to admire the Macdonald Bridge, Fort George, McNab’s Island, Point Pleasant Park and Historic Properties from the deck.
Enjoy a drink on board and live music while you will discover some of the rich Halifax history and stories behind these iconic landmarks.
Dinner: Try a Halifax Donair
Skip the fancy meal tonight and have a Halifax Donair instead! Eating a donair is one of the top things to do in Nova Scotia and there is no better place to do it than in Halifax. Proclaimed as the official food of Halifax, the donair is a type of sandwich that is made with spiced beef, onions, and tomatoes wrapped in pita bread. The sandwich is then topped with a creamy garlic sauce.
Halifax is well-known for its donairs, and there are a number of restaurants in the city that serve this popular dish. Some of the most popular donair restaurants in Halifax include King of Donair, Tony’s Donair, and Captain Donair. These restaurants offer a variety of donairs, including classic donairs, chicken donairs, and vegan donairs.
Late: Nightlife in Halifax
If you’re keen to explore Halifax at night, you’ll find it buzzing after sunset. There are plenty of things to do in Halifax after dark, whether you’re looking for a cozy bar or a vibrant nightclub.
The nighttime fun in Halifax can be found around the streets that run parallel to the Downtown area, including Hollis, Barrington, Grafton and Argyle Street. In fact, many of the best places lie between St Mary’s Basilica and St Paul’s Church. It makes it easy to enjoy a lively evening in Halifax on foot.
Some of the liveliest Halifax destinations at night include:
- Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub: One of the most popular taverns in the city with a lively atmosphere.
- The Carleton: A trendy bar with frequent live music events and a beautiful patio area.
- The Dome: One of the most well-known night clubs in the Downtown area, it’s a top place for Halifax fun at any time of the night.
Late-Night Alternative: Halifax Ghost Walk
If you don’t want to hit the clubs and bars at night, then a Ghost Tour might be the best alternative option. The guided Halifax Ghost Walk leaves from the Old Town Clock and takes you on a night walk through the streets for nearly 2 hours.
It’s also one of the best things to do in Halifax with kids. They’ll love the spooky but fun nature of the walk. The tour guide will detail old folk stories and historical events that paint a unique picture of the history of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s one of the oldest ghost walking tours in Canada. It’s also a fun way to finish off your 2 days in Halifax.
If 48 hours in Halifax is all you’ve got, we hope that our suggested itinerary will help you discover some of Halifax’s top restaurants, pubs and attractions. Halifax is a city with something for everyone, and it’s an easy destination to come back to again and again!
We know for us, it was the first of many visits to this fun capital in Atlantic Canada. With its historic sites, scenic harbour, and delicious food, Halifax is the perfect place to spend a weekend getaway.
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Disclaimer: We visited Halifax as guests of the Nova Scotia Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own.
1 thought on “48 Hours in Halifax: Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia”
Enjoyed the article, agree with all your recommendations on what to see and do if you stayed for 48 hours only. Your recommendation would certainly make for full and busy 2 days. Note on the parking though. Hotel parking at a rate of $28 per day is actually quite affordable in comparison to the price of street parking. Street parking downtown Halifax is limited and in the Lord Nelson area/zone, it will cost $23.50 for a day, IF you can find a spot that’s close to your hotel or the place where you’re staying. So, for a saving of $4.50 per day, I would suggest to save yourself from a hassle of incessant driving in search of a parking spot on the street and just pay for the convenience of parking at the hotel. 🙂