1. Where to Stay
The clean but creaky Waverley Inn (from $119) bares no resemblance to New York’s same-named bastion of fabulousness. But the 34-room hotel—replete with antique beds, enormous windows, print wallpaper, and baked beans on the breakfast buffet—is perfectly placed just a ten-minute stroll from the pubs and clubs in the town center.
Even closer to the action, the smartly updated Halliburton (from $124) tacks a private garden and sundecks onto three historic townhouses a block from the waterfront. Rooms are exceptionally comfortable and decorated with well-chosen antiques; request number 113 for its working fireplace and skylight.
The closest thing in Halifax to a four-star business hotel, the Prince George Hotel (from $170) is centrally located near the Citadel, a mid-nineteenth-century British naval fort. After a boozy night out, let the midday firing of the fort’s guns be your wake-up call.
2. Where to Eat
Dive into a multi-course seafood feast (and an impressively long wine and beer list) at Five Fishermen, housed in a pair of 1816 buildings in the heart of downtown. Opt for the house-cured salmon gravlax drizzled with blueberry wine from nearby Lunenburg County, or really go for it at the all-you-can-eat mussel bar.
To sample the outer limits of Haligonian chefs, head to the polished Gio in the Prince George. Trend-savvy chef Ray Bear stuffs his scallops with foie gras and does an equally skilled job with everything from wild boar to monkfish.
There’s nothing trendy about the stone walls, exposed beams, and fireplaces at the Press Gang. The building went up in 1759, and the restaurant has a suitably old-school menu, featuring oyster fritters, sautéed Digby scallops, and roasted Atlantic salmon.
Taste Haligonian cuisine at its bare-bones best with a bowl of fresh fish chowder or a basket of fish-and-chips at the Captain John’s Fish Company stall in Harborside Market.
3. What to Do
The capital city of Nova Scotia (Latin for “New Scotland”), Halifax claims more pubs per capita than anywhere else in Canada. They’re all squeezed into the city’s compact downtown, none more than a ten-minute walk from the other. Crawl through designated hot spots like Split Crow and Lower Deck, both clamoring with Celtic bands, locally brewed beers like Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, and a fall crowd that’s more local than tourist. The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse serves a hearty fish cake of smoked mackerel and salmon and has possibly the best Guinness pour this side of the Atlantic. (The cries of “Sociable!” you’re hearing are just Haligonian for “Cheers!”)
For something more sophisticated, try the Economy Shoe Shop, a labyrinth of four connected theme bars (Shoe, Backstage, Diamond, and Belgium). Seven Winebar and Restaurant has a loungy look and usually a bevy of blondes in little black dresses at the bar. Stay up late enough and you’ll likely end up at the Pizza Corner (Blowers and Grafton Streets), where three fluorescent-lit joints offer greasy slices and kebabs for anyone who’s still awake.
4. Insider’s Tip
Regardless of how late your night was, spend Saturday morning at the Halifax Farmer’s Market. Located in the nineteenth-century Keith’s Brewery building on Lower Water Street, it claims to be the oldest farmer’s market in North America. Get there early if you want your pick of the best produce before it’s bought out by voracious city chefs. Sample single malts from Cape Breton island, eat freshly made crêpes at Crêperie Mobile, and buy organic cheeses (at Ran Cher Acres), artisanal breads (at Mary’s Bread Basket), and the best smoked salmon this side of Zabar’s (at Mike’s Fish Shop).
5. An Oddball Day
Another way to clear the beer from your brain? Seaside exercise. In the fishing village of Lower Prospect, 30 minutes southwest of downtown, East Coast Outfitters leads four-hour ocean kayak trips ($65 per person) through the gin-clear waters of the Canadian Atlantic. The paddling is relatively easy, and the scenery—bursting with ospreys, loons, and seals—is so rugged, it makes Maine look like Malibu.
For a different perspective on this wild coast, stroll over to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which houses a major collection of paintings by Maud Lewis, the Grandma Moses of Nova Scotia. Most impressive is the Painted House, a twelve-by-thirteen-foot wooden shack where Lewis once lived and worked, decorating every inch. It was later disassembled and permanently installed inside the museum.
6. Related Links
Look to the alternative weekly, The Coast, for complete nightlife listings.
Halifax Info is a prime source for restaurant and bar listings.
The Experience Halifax tourism site has loads of information about local culture and events.