Halifax, the capital and the largest city of Nova Scotia (where a third of the province’s two million inhabitants live) is situated rather smashingly on the shores of a deep inlet, the second largest and the deepest natural port in the world. It’s still a large port and a very studenty city, with a noticeable bit of a rough edge, but what still seems like a fun place to visit or stay for a while if perhaps not live permanently (the Maritimes are the poorest provinces and have famously high unemployment).
Halifax’s attraction are also predominantly maritime and colonial in flavour, with the chief being the prettified and turistified promenade by the harbour.
It is all very maritime indeed, some of it tourist-industry-regeneration, some very genuine. People are friendly straightforward, with a soft west country like accent. It’s also astonishingly British: seems like mock-British and it’s hard to tell which is "real" (whatever real might mean) and which is for the US tourists enamoured of all things imperial and historic. This Britishness has a Caledonian flavour: a kilt shop is touted on a billboard; they hold Highland Games here and even have a Gaelic college (though not in Halifax). But ultimately, the imperial wins over the Scottish and it’s the Union Jack and not the Saltire that flies over the city, while a British Gardener advertises his (or her) services in the local free newspaper.
The main two tourist attractions of Halifax connect to the imperial and maritime strands of city’s identity.
The Maritime Museum sits on the harbour-front promenade, flanked by historic sailing and motor ships and even a cartoon-derived tugboat with a smile and a red cap (none of these operate during our April visit, though).
The Citadel, a grim and imposing 19th century fort, sits squarely above the city. In the summer, it has all kinds of attractions, from the changing of bekilted guards to museum displays. At the time of our visit, it’s cold, windy, empty and atmospheric. It must have been a hard post, serving here on the Atlantic edge of the Empire.
The views over the harbour and the city are excellent, and as we walk down the grassy hill we get a good look at the wooden city clock, another Halifax landmark.
There is a commuter ferry for pedestrians across the inlet from Halifax to Dartmouth: nothing interesting in itself, but as it’s part of city’s public transport network, it’s a great way to have a look at the harbour, Halifax’s skyline and breath even more sea air.