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With a population of just under 400,000, Halifax is a compact city where it’s easy to scout out fun things to see and do. To get you started, our Forbes Travel Guide editors have compiled this list of the top five activities that visitors to Halifax shouldn’t miss.
1. Visit the Citadel. Your exploration of Halifax must start at the Citadel, the star-shaped fortress that’s the city’s geographic heart. Perched on a giant hill, overlooking the harbor and bisecting the downtown, the fortress was the reason the British originally settled Halifax. Today, the Halifax Citadel is Canada’s most popular National Historic Site. Costumed workers take visitors back in time, as bagpipes skirl. Each day, troops fire the historic cannon to mark noon, the boom echoing through downtown Halifax as it has for centuries. On a sunny day, Citadel Hill’s green slopes are the ideal place to picnic and watch the ships go by.
2. View paintings at The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Down the hill on Hollis Street, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia boasts one of the world’s best collections of folk art, including several pieces by acclaimed Nova Scotian painter Maud Lewis, alongside innovative contemporary pieces and visiting collections from around the world.
3. Walk the waterfront. Halifax being a seaside town, much of your adventure must center on the waterfront. Begin at the South End of the Harbourwalk at Marginal Road, where you’ll find Canada’s Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Known as “Canada’s Ellis Island,” this museum is on the site of an old immigration shed, where tens of thousands of immigrants first entered Canada.
4. Shop and eat on the Harbourwalk. You can easily spend a summer afternoon meandering along the Harbourwalk. As you proceed north, you’ll find trendy shopping at Bishop’s Landing, a surprising “urban beach” park (The Sands at Salter), Casino Nova Scotia and dozens of restaurants, pubs and patios. Often you’ll see historic sailing ships moored along the walk. For five days in July, sailing ships from around the world (including the American Coast Guard’s Eagle) visit for the Tall Ships Challenge.
5. Go on a whale-watching trip. Stop midway at Cable Wharf for what will certainly be the most memorable experience of your trip. From there, the tour company Murphy’s on the Water offers mind-blowing whale-watching tours. The two-story boat is enclosed and heated, comfortable for landlubbers. Beyond the mouth of the harbor, you’ll idle on the waves as majestic fin and minke whales broach just feet away, close enough for you to make eye contact and get some once-in-a-lifetime photos.