Halifax: the city with the most bars and pubs per capita in North America. A young, artistic city....a vibrant city. A city where everybody buys locally and support local companies. That's the reason why the city also has so many breweries. It's a city where all these young people do whatever they like to do. They are artists, poets, write plays, work in cafés, and/or rent out appartments. It's a city that is different and that's why I fell in love with Halifax.
Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, right on the Atlantic coast in Canada. No matter where you stand in the province, you're never more than 56 km away from the ocean. I mean...how amazing is that? The province is rich in bays and fishing villages. I was there in October 2013 and I loved, loved, LOVED all the different colors of the leaves. I was lucky and the weather was almost every day sunny and warm. Of course summer must be even more amazing, but if you want to see a true indian summer you must go there in autumn. The landscape is so vast and so beautiful. It's breath taking. You just cannot stop taking pictures.
If your stay in Nova Scotia includes one or two days in Halifax, make sure you don't miss out on these:
01 | Halifax Seaport Farmers Market
Start your morning in Halifax with a light breakfast and coffee before you walk to the harbor. On the way there you probably walk by 'The Halifax Commons' or, as locals call it
"The commons". It's the local's park, rather than Halifax public gardens. It's a 10 minute walk from downtown and arguably it's not terribly
exciting, but you pass it anyway so it's good to stop and hang out for a few minutes. There are some walking paths and you may often see people playing baseball.
From there you walk to Pier 20 (just below Lower Water Street) to Halifax famous Seaport Farmers' Market. This is the place where locals go and meet for food, drinks or just to hang out and listen to buskers. It's a typical thing to do on a Saturday morning. The Farmer's market is basically a big hall where you find fresh vegetables, meat, all different kinds of dishes, delicious pastries, and not to forget: coffee and good, local beer. So it's up to you whether you go for another round of breakfast, lunch or desert. You'll find it all in one place. If you need a break, sit on the staircase, watch people and listen to buskers. Usually there is someone playing a guitar and sings for the crowd.
Take your time to stroll through the booths to see if you find some nice souvenirs (wooden bowls, art, handmade pots, and so much more). If you have time and space in your tummy for a dessert, you should eat it upstairs on the rooftop of the Farmers market and enjoy the view of Georges Island.
02 | Take the Dartmouth ferry
You're already at the pier (which, by the way, is the longest wooden waterfront boardwalk in North America) so why not go out on the water? I went on a whale watching tour which was nice, but quite expensive and we didn't seen any whales. So, I can recommend you to take the cheaper version and just catch the Dartmouthferry. The view is sure to be just as nice and the cost is much more affordable.
Back on land, enjoy a coffee somewhere at the pier with the buskers. Or, if it's a sunny afternoon, take your coffee to go and walk up the streets towards Citadel Hill. It's the highest natural point of the city. On top is Fort George and the town clock. From there you have a nice view over the city and if you're there at noon, you'll be able to experience the noon cannon.
When you walk back down, stop by at the antique shop close to the harbor. They have some great stuff. For example I found some spoons in there which I absolutely fell in love with.
03 | Peggy's Cove
In the afternoon, rent a car and drive to Peggy's Cove. It's only 42 km from downtown Halifax. Why you should get out of Halifax, you might ask? Well, Peggy's cove is one of the most important tourist attractions in Nova Scotia. Although I am not a huge fan of the very typical tourist things, this is an amazing place one should not skip. It's the main attraction of the lighthouse trails. Why people called it Peggy's cove is still not absolutely clear, most likely it's the short version of Maragaret (St. Margaret's bay). Today, only 50 permanent residents live there and still fish for lobster. Since World War II tourism is the main source of income for the village.
It's obvious, but I am going to tell you anyway - the lighthouse of Peggy's cove is classily painted in red and white. It's probably one of the most pictured buildings on the atlantic coast of Canada and maybe even in the world. Walk around the cliffs. Take your time to sit and just enjoy the view of the lighthouse and the ocean. Let the wind play with your hair. Don't go out too far though, there are several warnings because the wind is quite strong. If you want to sit on a cliff, go a little bit away from the lighthouse to be by yourself. There you can hear the lighthouse whispers.
When you leave Peggy's Cove, make a quick stop 1 km northwest. There is a monument for the Swissair Flight which crashed into St. Margaret's bay in 1998. All of the people on board were killed. The monument is designed in a way so that facing the stone points to the crash site. It's a sad place, but it's worth it to go there and take a moment to remember the dead and see the view.
04 | Dinner & Concert
When you get back to Halifax, do yourself a favor and go out for dinner. Halifax has a great restaurant scene and the food is so delicious. Try either Brooklyn Warehouse or Edna (my personal favorite). But, I really liked both of them. I also heard the Shoe Shop is supposed to be great, a friend recommended it to me, but I haven't been there yet. If you love burgers and want to see a very unique spot where lots of young people hang out, go to AC Burger. They have the best burgers in town. It's a good place before you go to a concert. In the evenings they also host concerts.
For me, Halifax is the city of young and artsy people. After dinner you should take the opportunity and see a concert. I have seen one at The Company House. It's a small, nice place and offers a very intimate concert. There are also so many other places. Just ask locals or check out a few websites.
05 | Breakfast at the epicurious morsels
If you're lucky enough and one of your days in Halifax is a Sunday, do not miss out a breakfast at 'The Epicurious Morsels'. I loooved my choice: stuffed french toast with strawberries and a cappucino. So delicious! There is no better way to start a new day of vacation than with such a breakfast.
If you're not in Halifax on a Sunday morning, go to Dee Dee's instead for breakfast burritos. To me it sounded weird, but it's super delicious. I loved their café, everything is homemade and they have the best ice cream in town with lots of local flavours.
06 | Last word bookstore
If you like books like me, you should scout out the 'Last word bookstore' on Windsor street (around half an hour walk from Dee Dee's). The owner is a nice, older gentleman who has traveled a lot by himself and mostly sells used books. I have no idea how long I spent inside, but I came out with lots of books...so, you get the idea ;) I really loved the atmosphere in there and the conversation about travel that I had with the owner.
07 | THE OVENS NATURALPARK
Around lunchtime, take your car and drive to The Ovens Naturalpark. From Halifax it takes around 1.5 hours to get there. If you have a navigation system, type in Ovens Road. If you don't have one, just keep on looking for signs to "The Ovens". The last part of the drive will be along a rustic, dirt path. I was there in October when peak season was over and the restaurant and camping site were both closed. For us, it was great as there was no other person walking the trail; we had it all for ourselves. Take the cave trail walking tour along the cliffs to see see the famous sea caves. It will take up to an hour maximum. At the end of the trail you will find the cannonball cave.
Walk down the steps and if you're lucky, you will see how the water shoots out of the cave like a cannon. We waited for quite a while and we were not lucky enough, but my friend told me she has seen it and that it is worth waiting for.I expect that your chances probably depends on the season and the tide. But, no matter if the cannon shoots or not, the cave itself is really beautiful to see. It's exciting to stand there and to wait and watch how the water fills the cave and to hear the noises. You feel like a little child waiting for Christmas Day.
08 | Lunenburg
Around 15 km from The Ovens Natural park is a cute, small harbortown called Lunenburg. It is Canada's oldest German settlement where the citizens are very active in fishing and building ships. Lunenburg is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The old town of Lunenburg has a multitude of historic wooden houses which are painted in different colors. To be honest, I didn't do much sightseeing. Sometimes I just love to walk through the town and duc in to little shops (Lunenburg has some really cute ones). I found some really nice souvenirs there from stores that had all different kinds of art and gifts. After a while, it got cold so we just sat in a café and watched people passing by on the street. Something I always really enjoy.
On your last evening make sure you say goodbye to the city in the best way possible. Go out for dinner and spoil yourself or stay home with new friends that you just made through Airbnb or Couchsurfing. I stayed at an airbnb host and we became friends after such a short period of time. She invited friends over and we made her a typical austrian dinner with Wiener Schnitzel and potato salad. As a desert we made baked apple rings. And let's be honest, is there a better way to spend a night in a city than socializing with new friends over good food and drinks?
What did you do while you were in Halifax? Or perhaps you are planning a trip there? Or you want to discover Nova Scotia? Let me know in the comment section below and I can give you some advice.