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Many international travelers to Nova Scotia arrive via air and their first order of business is to clear Canadian customs. It’s a good idea to have your eta Canada organized before you travel. Then it’s off to Halifax, the province’s capital, and named one of the top 10 global destinations by Tripadvisor in 2018. Founded in 1749, the city is a history buffs dream and many of the historic sites and museums in downtown Halifax are within an easy walking distance of each other.
Before you begin your walk treat yourself to a delicious meal at the iconic Bluenose II Restaurant located a few minutes from the Halifax waterfront at 1824 Hollis St. They’ve been serving up authentic Nova Scotia cooking since the 1950s. I highly recommend the lobster roll. I can easily say it’s the best I’ve ever had.
After you finish eating head down to the waterfront to Pier 21, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration. Between 1928 and 1970 one million immigrants entered Canada through Pier 21. The free guided tour is a must. You can also check the genealogy centre for any of your relatives who may have immigrated to Canada. Hours of operation and cost of admission is here.
Make your next stop St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Barrington St. in downtown Halifax. It’s less than a five-minute walk from Pier 21. Simply walk up one of the nearby side streets (away from the harbour), and you can’t miss it. St. Paul’s is the oldest Protestant Church in Canada, opening its doors in 1750. The church is open to visitors year round, and during the summer there are free guided tours. Be sure to walk around to the right of the building and have a look at the silhouette in the second-floor 1917 Halifax Explosion Window. Who the head belongs to remains a mystery. Believe it or not, when the window has been replaced the silhouette has reappeared. How strange is that? The church is often referred to as the “Westminister Abbey of Canada” because of its many stained glass windows.
Halifax: What to do in Halifax
Walk south for a few minutes and on the corner of Barrington Stree and Spring Garden Road, the longest street east of Montreal’s St. Catherine Street, you’ll find yourself at the Old Burying Ground, where you will find gravesites dating back to 1749. The graveyard became a National Historic Site in 1991; the first in Canada. The cemetery is open every day from dawn until dusk and admission is free.
Walking directly across the street and you’ll find yourself in front of the Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor’s residence. The Lieutenant Governor is the Queen of England’s representative for the province. During the summer guided tours of the residence are available, and there are beautiful views of the Halifax Harbour from its windows. The free guided tours are available during July and August. Find out the full details here.
Once you’ve finished peaking around the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, and I hope you got to tour the inside, head back towards Spring Garden Road. You’ll walk past St. Matthew’s United Church, the oldest United Church in Canada. I recommend you drop in to admire the stained glass and the pipe organ. The church is open to visitors every day and free to enter.
Halifax: What to see in Halifax
Let’s finish our walk of historic downtown Halifax with a stroll up Spring Garden Road to the Halifax Public Gardens, one of the finest Victorian style gardens in North America. You may want to stop at a cafe along the way to grab a coffee and enjoy the Spring Garden Road vibe.
The gardens are open daily and free to enter. If you happen to be close by on a Sunday afternoon during the summer months, drop by the bandstand for a free live concert. This is a popular Sunday afternoon pastime for the locals. It’s not uncommon to see a few of them dancing to the music. Finally, grab an ice cream cone at the garden’s cafe and do some people watching.
Many visitors to our lovely province begin in Halifax and then move on to other parts of the province. Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail is not to be missed.
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