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Halifax History: A Walk Around Nova Scotia’s Capital

Photo by Ann Baekken

A day walking Halifax, one of Canada's most interesting cities

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Halifax is one of Canada’s oldest and most historic cities. It offers more than enough to keep even the most well-traveled history buff interested in learning more about the people and events that have shaped this city’s past. Much of Halifax’s history has been based on its status as a vital strategic port and military base, but a miscellany of famous historical figures also have left their mark. These include Captain Cook, who walked its streets from 1758 to 1762, and Winston Churchill, who did the same almost two centuries later. Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, lived in Halifax for five years with his famous mistress Julie.

Follow in their footsteps and beyond by visiting the city’s essential historical sites. These are within easy walking distance of each other and can be covered in a long day. This walking tour starts at the Halifax Citadel then proceeds downhill for most of the rest of the way. The total distance is less than 2 kilometers.


From the Citadel to Brunswick Street

Start with Canada’s most visited National Historic Site, the Halifax Citadel, can be reached on foot via the stairs off Brunswick Street.

On the way down from the Citadel by way of the steps to Brunswick Street, stop by the Old Town Clock which has been a recognized symbol of the city since the Duke of Kent donated the money for it as a parting gift in 1800.


The Grand Parade

Continue down Carmichael Street, which leads to the Grand Parade which has been used for ceremonial occasions since the very foundation of the city in 1749. On the right is St. Paul’s church, the oldest Protestant Church in Canada and a marvel of early colonial wooden architecture, inside and out. Be sure to look for the mysterious silhouette of a man’s head in one of the outside windows – nobody knows for sure how or when it came to be.

On the left is Halifax City Hall, an imposing structure with a seven-story clock tower that is yet another of the city’s many National Historic Sites.

Look back up Argyle Street and find the Five Fisherman Restaurant (a great lunch spot), which is housed in an old building where Anna Leonowens finished her teaching career after becoming famous for teaching the children of the King of Siam and later the inspiration for the musical The King and I.


Province House to the Old Burying Ground

Just below the Grand Parade is the imposing Province House, considered to be the best example of Georgian architecture in Canada and the site of its oldest government legislature. It is well worth exploring inside and out for its statues, chambers and library, all of which are open to the public at no charge.

The last stop on this tour of historic Halifax was also the last for many of its early residents. The Old Burying Ground is considered to be one of the most important cemeteries in Canada. The gravestones, many of which have been restored, are works of art in themselves as is the imposing Welsford-Parker Monument, a tribute to two Haligonians killed in the Crimean War.


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