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Faulous fun in a pretty port city

Halifax is fairly compact and easily reconnoitered on foot or by mass transportation. The major landmark is the Citadel — the stone fortress that looms over downtown from its grassy perch.
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Halifax is fairly compact and easily reconnoitered on foot or by mass transportation. The major landmark is the Citadel — the stone fortress that looms over downtown from its grassy perch. From the ramparts, you can look into the windows of the tenth floor of downtown skyscrapers. The Citadel is only 9 blocks from the waterfront — albeit 9 sometimes steep blocks — and you can easily see both the downtown and the waterfront areas in one day.

A lively neighborhood worth seeking out runs along Spring Garden Road, between the Public Gardens and the library (at Grafton St.). You'll find intriguing boutiques, bars, and restaurants along these 6 blocks, set amid a mildly Bohemian street scene. If you have strong legs and a stout constitution, you can start on the waterfront, stroll up and over the Citadel to descend to the Public Gardens, and then return via Spring Garden to downtown, perhaps enjoying a meal or two along the way.

The Waterfront
Halifax's rehabilitated waterfront is at its most inviting and vibrant between Sackville Landing (at the foot of Sackville St.) and the Sheraton Casino, near Purdy Wharf. (You could keep walking, but north of here the waterfront lapses into an agglomeration of charmless modern towers with sidewalk-level vents that assail passersby with unusual odors.) On sunny summer afternoons, the waterfront is bustling with tourists enjoying the harbor, business folks playing hooky while sneaking an ice-cream cone, and baggy-panted skateboarders striving to stay out of trouble. Plan on about 2 to 3 hours to tour and gawk from end to end.

The city's most extensive parking (fee charged) is available near Sackville Landing, and that's a good place to start a walking tour. Make your first stop the waterfront's crown jewel, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

In addition to the other attractions listed, the waterfront walkway is studded with small diversions, intriguing shops, take-out food emporia, and minor monuments. Think of it as an alfresco scavenger hunt.

Among the treasures, look for Summit Place, commemorating the historic gathering of world leaders in 1995, when Halifax hosted the G-7 Economic Summit. There's North America's oldest operating Naval Clock, which was built in 1767 and chimed at the Halifax Naval Dockyard from 1772 to 1993. You can visit the Ferry Terminal, which is hectic during rush hour with commuters coming and going to Dartmouth across the harbor. (It's also a cheap way to enjoy a sweeping city and harbor view.) The passenger-only ferry runs at least every half-hour, and the fare is C $2 (U.S. $1.60) per adult each way, cheaper for seniors and children age 5 to 15.

The waterfront's shopping core is located in and around the 3-block Historic Properties, near the Sheraton. These stout buildings of wood and stone are Canada's oldest surviving warehouses and were once the center of the city's booming shipping industry. Today, the historic architecture is stern enough to provide ballast for the somewhat precious boutiques and restaurants they now house. Especially appealing is the granite-and-ironstone Privateers' Warehouse, which dates from 1813.

If you're feeling that a pub-crawl might be in order, the Historic Properties area is also a good place to wander around after working hours in the early evening. There's a contagious energy that spills out of the handful of public houses, and you'll find a bustling camaraderie and live music.

On the Water
A number of boat tours depart from the Halifax waterfront. You can browse the offerings on Cable Wharf, near the foot of George Street, where many tour boats are based. On-the-water adventures range from 1-hour harbor tours (about C $12/U.S. $9.60) to 5-hour deep-sea fishing trips (about C $40/U.S. $32).

Murphy's on the Water (tel. 902-420-1015) runs the most extensive tour operation, with three boats and a choice of tours, ranging from a cocktail sailing cruise to whale-watching to tours of historic McNab's Island, located near the mouth of the harbor .

Peggy's Cove Express (tel. 902-422-4200) operates 4-hour scenic boat and bus tours from Cable Wharf to the popular fishing village of Peggy's Cove; a walking tour of the town is included as part of the adventure. Cost is about C $70 (U.S. $56) per adult.

Finally, the Harbour Hopper (tel. 902-490-8687) amphibious craft crosses both land and sea during a tour costing C $23 (U.S. $18) adults, C $20 to C $22 (U.S. $16-$17) students/seniors, C $14 (U.S. $11) children ages 6 to 13, C $7.95 (U.S. $6.50) children under 5. Families of four can travel for C $66 (U.S. $53).

The Citadel & Downtown
Downtown Halifax cascades 9 blocks down a slope between the imposing stone Citadel and the waterfront. There's no fast-and-ready tour route; don't hesitate to follow your own desultory course, alternately ducking down quiet streets and striding along busy arteries. A good spot to regain your bearings periodically is the Grand Parade, where military recruits once practiced their drills. It's a lovely urban landscape — a broad terrace carved into the hill, presided over on either end by St. Paul's and Halifax's City Hall. The sandstone city hall was built between 1887 and 1890, and is exuberantly abristle with the usual Victorian architectural gewgaws, like a prominent clock tower, dormers, pediments, arched windows, pilasters, and Corinthian columns. Alas, there's not much to see inside. If the weather is nice, the Grand Parade is also a prime spot to bring an alfresco lunch and enjoy some people-watching.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed attractions, visit our online attractions index.

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