To visit Halifax is to experience the sensation of a big city magically shrunk to small town proportions. One may experience a good deal of the seaside city’s nuanced atmosphere, diverse neighbourhoods, and cultural offerings during even a relatively short weekend getaway.
The Prince George Hotel’s luxurious amenities, downtown location, and acclaimed Gio restaurant have contributed to its status as a sophisticated local institution for 15 years. Settle in, then venture out to order an espresso from Pavia, located within the nearby Halifax Central Library. The city’s award-winning stacks earned designers both the Lieutenant Governor’s Design Award and the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, making it an excellent spot to take in breathtaking Hali-views with your coffee.
Then, take a walk. Newly pedestrianized Argyle Street won the distinction of being named one of Streetsblog’s Best Urban Transformations of 2017. The once hectic two block stretch is now a curb-less, pedestrian-friendly boulevard flanked with pubs, eateries, and shops. Enjoy a snack of fresh oysters in Lot Six’s gorgeous atrium, then check out quirky independent local fashion boutique Biscuit General Store—it’s over 20 years old, and boasts an unmissable painted façade. Regional Neptune Theatre, the largest professional theatre company in Atlantic Canada is also located on the Argyle thoroughfare; pop in and see what’s playing tonight.
From there, meander up Queen Street’s Vintage Row. Even if the sequined hats and sixties prom dresses for sale at character-rich shops like Elsie’s Used Clothing and Neighbourhood Witch aren’t quite your thing, each building down the strip is painted a bright, pastel hue, making for plenty of Instagram opportunities.
When you’re shopped out, grab a pint and play a game of backgammon at Tom’s Little Havana, a homey pub with live music and a great craft beer menu, before climbing the 110 metres up the Halifax Citadel, a national historic site once used to protect the city from attacks, and now an ideal spot to catch the sunset. Round out this quintessential Halifax evening with a waterfront stroll and dinner at Morris East, a hip and friendly little pizza spot serving plenty of Nova Scotian wines.
Roll out of bed and head straight to the Seaport Farmers’ Market for a Wholly Crepe breakfast of savoury crepes—a local specialty—and to peruse in-season produce, fresh seafood, and handicrafts.
From there, head up to the North End’s au courant Agricola Street, home to local music selections at Obsolete Records, and curated vintage at Sattva Boutique, Lost & Found vintage, and Makenew. Further north is the beloved Hydrostone District, a charming English garden suburb. Pop into artisanal shops and mini art galleries, then pull up a stool at Kitsune Food Co.’s counter for a Japanese meal of sushi, karaage, or curry.
Visiting the Africville Museum is crucial to the North End experience. The museum features a stunning replica of Africville’s treasured church, which was destroyed, along with the entire historic Black Canadian community, in the sixties “to make way for industrial development.” The museum was funded and built in 2010 as part of a formal apology from the city and celebrates the universal “resilience and survival of the African Nova Scotian community.”
On Gottingen Street, check out indie theatre hub Bus Stop Theatre, find housewares at Independent Mercantile Co., or root through oddities at Plan B Merchants Co-Op. The most delicious chocolatines are at LF Bakery, and incredible cocktails and snacks (try the donair steamed buns—inspired by the city’s garlicky official food) are to be found across the street at Field Guide HFX. Eclectic selections of live local bands or DJs can be enjoyed at the Seahorse Tavern, an essential Hali establishment for the younger set.
A public transit ferry boat is one of Halifax’s cutest features, so drop the $2.50 fee and sail 12 minutes to downtown Dartmouth. Known as the Brooklyn of Halifax, this is the place to order for flights of East Coast craft beer at Battery Park Beer Bar and Eatery, then check out the vinyl selection at New Scotland Yard, Canadian musician Joel Plaskett’s record store/cafe/barber shop. For a true local treat, climb the winding staircase to Yeah Yeah’s Pizza and order garlic fingers and donair sauce (especially if you have a hangover, which, given it’s Sunday in Nova Scotia, is likely).
Back in Halifax, grab a final dose of Atlantic Canadian wilderness in Point Pleasant Park, and walk trails that weave through forest and shoreline and past crumbling military fortresses. Dinner at the Prince George Hotel’s Gio suits a celebratory last night, then wrap up your weekend in the itsy bitsy big city at Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs with live music and a $5 bourbon.
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