Halifax’s architecture is a great blend of modern, Maritime, and old-timey buildings. It gives you a lot of variety when you explore the city. Halifax owns that aesthetic with pride, and there’s many places to choose from. The following are some of the most beautiful buildings and architecture in the HRM.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica This cathedral looks like a castle tucked away in downtown Halifax. St. Mary’s is the second Catholic cathedral built in all of Canada (construction began in 1820), and in 1950 Pope Pius XII gave it the title of Basilica. The outside is a stunning classical cathedral front with lovely stained-glass windows above each door. Once you’re inside, you’re greeted with a grand hall with more beautiful stained glass and stunning acoustics. If you have a chance to hear a concert here, I highly recommend it.
Address: 5221 Spring Garden Road
Old Town Clock
This clock tower is simple and beautiful, sitting on the side of Citadel Hill. Built for the garrison on Citadel Hill in 1803, it keeps perfect time with the noon cannon. The Old Town Clock is one of the most recognizable buildings in all of Halifax, and the view even from the deck of downtown is gorgeous. If part of your trip includes Citadel Hill, make sure you walk past the clock.
Citadel Hill, Brunswick Street side
The Historic Properties are a collection of buildings that represent all aspects of the Halifax aesthetic I described in the introduction. They were once warehouses during the city’s bustling harbour heyday, and now they house a collection of stores, restaurants, and services. The buildings have been preserved beautifully, so they have all the old aesthetic with modern conveniences. Walking through them feels like you’re caught between times, especially later in the evening. You are brought back to the present, though, by the presence of a Subway.
Address: 1869 Upper Water Street
The Halifax World Trade Centre was a nice enough building, but Halifax outgrew it. After many years of work, the new Convention Centre was opened on Argyle in December 2017. It was well worth the wait; it’s an elegant building with lots of curves and floor to ceiling windows. As a convention centre, it’s great, but it’s also nice to look at. You’re allowed to go into the public spaces (they have free Wi-Fi), and you can get an interesting view of the immediate area of downtown. They’re also right across the way from several excellent restaurants and bars, the most recent being a Five Guys.
Address: 1650 Argyle Street
This is another famous image of Halifax, though perhaps more locally. The Sir Sandford Fleming Park is right on the Halifax Arm, an ocean inlet of sorts where people boat and swim. The park itself is lovely, with a walking trail, a playground, and picnic tables if you want to make a day of it. Overlooking it all, though, is the tower itself. It’s a beautiful stone tower, with bronze lions guarding the entrance. The interior is hollow except for the stairs that lead to an absolutely spectacular view of the Arm.
Address: 260 Dingle Road
The Government House is mainly the home of the current Lieutenant Governor (The Honourable Arthur J. LeBlanc), but it is occasionally open to the public for special events. The inside is lovely; renovations were done in 2009 and it does a great job of blending the traditional with more modern accents. If your visit doesn’t line up with one of the public openings, it’s still worth a look from the outside. The Georgian building is set back from the busy Barrington street, with some trees and bushes softening the edges of the imposing property.
Address: 1451 Barrington Street
Province House is where the Nova Scotia legislature sits. Another Georgian building, a statue of the Honourable Joseph Howe stands outside in the small park. While here, you can observe sittings of the Legislature, explore the Legislative library, or simply take a tour of this historic building. There are beautiful paintings, the library is gorgeous, and if you’re in Halifax around Christmas the decorations are beautiful too.
Address: 1726 Hollis Street
Grand Parade Square If you go right down the hill from the Old Clock Tower, you will come upon Parade Square. It is the oldest open public space in Halifax (laid out in 1749), and was once used by the military to practice drills. St. Paul’s Anglican Church stands on one side, and not far from it stands the Cenotaph, which is a memorial to Haligonian solders who gave their lives in World War One, World War Two, and the Korean War. Today, the Square is mainly used for large gatherings of people for everything from protests to ringing in the New Year, and the Square tends to be dressed for the occasion. Whatever time of year, it’s a lovely place to walk through or just to sit and enjoy the Square’s energy. Watch social media to see if anything exciting might be coming to the Square during your trip!
Address: 1790 Argyle Street
Everything about the Central Library is wonderful, and it has been recognized worldwide as a top-notch library. Its design has gotten the most attention, with several articles written about it on architecture sites and winning awards like the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture. From the outside, it looks like a glass stack of books, casually piled on top of each other. Venture inside and look at the spaces, designed expertly for their purpose (the children’s section is phenomenal). If you go up to the 5th floor, you can stand on the patio in the summer or go to the Reading Room the rest of the year and look down on downtown Halifax. You can actually see a few other buildings on this list from here!
Address: 5440 Spring Garden Road
By: Adrienne Colborne