advertisement

The Citadel is the perfect introduction of Halifax: It provides a good geographic first look at the city, and anchors it in history, as well. Even if a big stone fort weren't here, it would still be worth the uphill trek to this site just for the astounding views -- the panoramic sweep across downtown, the city's harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean make for some great sightseeing. And the ascent to your goal quickly makes it obvious why this spot was chosen for Halifax's most formidable defense: there's simply no sneaking up on the place. Four forts have occupied this same hilltop since Col. Edward Cornwallis was posted to the colony in 1749, but today the Citadel has been restored to look much as it did in 1856, when the fourth and final fort was built out of concern over American expansionist ideas. Yet the fort has never been attacked, perhaps a testament to its effectiveness as a deterrent.

The architecture is basic: Sturdy granite walls topped by grassy embankments form a star. In a sprawling gravel and cobblestone courtyard, you'll find convincingly costumed interpreters in kilts and bearskin hats marching in unison, playing bagpipes, and firing a cannon at noon. The former barracks and other chambers are home to exhibits about life at the fort. If you have questions, just stop a soldier, bagpiper, or washerwoman and ask. Don't expect to be alone -- this National Historic Site is the most heavily visited in all of Canada, and it's not hard to see why. On the plus side, you won't need more than 45 minutes or an hour to see everything here, probably, unless you want to linger afterward and snap lots of pics of the tableau below you.