Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, Halifax
When Halifax was founded in 1749, a fort was immediately built by the British Empire on the hill overlooking the harbour. It was replaced by a bigger one and another bigger one until finally in 1856, the Halifax Citadel was completed. It was built to defend the city and the harbour against American attacks, but such a threat never materialized. At the turn of the 20th century, the Citadel's major role was to provide barrack accommodations, which were used during the First and Second World Wars. Today the Citadel is no longer in use for military purposes and is operated by Parks Canada to give visitors an insight into early military life in the country. Guided tours of the barracks and fortifications are offered regularly and there's a small canteen for lunch that offers simple but delicious meals.
A fort has existed on the site of the Halifax Citadel since 1749. The current fortress is the fourth to occupy the site and you can view the previous designs through a series of models they have on display near the entrance. The fourth fort was built and occupied by the British Army until 1906 to defend the country against a possible attack from the United States. The fort was later used by the Canadian military as barracks during World War I and II.
The hill the fort is situated on overlooks Halifax harbour and the view is stunning.
I found the signal masts especially fascinating. They look like the masts from ships; flags were raised and lowered to send messages to the merchants in the town that their ship delivery had arrived. Citadel staff and guides dress in period costumes, I felt a sorry for the poor guys shivering in their kilts.
Don't miss firing of "the Noon Gun" at 12:00 p.m. from the Citadel--a very loud cannon shot, traditionally used for the ships and citizens to keep accurate time. Bring your jacket if it's at all cool outside --the wind is very strong at the top of the hill.
See my Halifax Travelogues for more photos of the Halifax Citadel.
The impressive star-shaped Citadel stands sentinel over the city much as it has since its completion in 1856, some 28 years after work in it commenced. The strategic hill on which it was built was the site of three previous incarnations dating back to the city's inception in 1749, detering all potential invaders. This last one was to thwart an possible US invasion. Though the area is well worth exploring and ranks as the one must see in the city, I found that CAN$9 entrance fee to be a bit steep and as a thorn in my side, this being a National Historic Park and not just a National Park, it was not included on their National Parks pass that I had purchased earlier in the trip. But we did get lucky with the Hurricane Juan in one sense: the Citadel was free for a couple days after the storm due to decreased staff, not all building were open.
It is open from 9:00-6:00 in summer and till 5:00 the rest of the year. CAN$9 entrance.
Historic Properties is perhaps the city's top attraction after the Citadel. Juan seriously damaged this area and it was roped off so that tourists could not walk too closely to it. I found that there were many interesting areas of the city just as old and atmospheric and from the number of people milling around, I imagine this is a bit of a tourist trap in high season.
This is Canada's most visited national historic site. The huge Citadel is an interestingly shaped fort on top of Halifax's big central hill which is within easy walking distance from the city. Construction of this place began in 1749 with the founding of Halifax. The final version which we see today was built from 1818 to 1861. During the summer to early autumn, there are guided tours which explain the fort and its history. As for the fort, it is opened all year round and is free, with very good views of the city and its harbour. This place is a must visit when you are at Halifax, more photographs are at the travelogue section of this VT page.
This is a small museum within the Halifax Citadel that gives an overview of the military history of Halifax, from its days as a main British seaport in North America through the essential role Nova Scotia played during World Wars I and II.
It talks about Nova Scotia, its importance militarily and the contributions of Nova Scotia units.
Unless you are really interested in military history its not essential, but it is thorough enough to be interesting yet not so big that you start dwelling in minutiae.
Construction of the Citadel began in 1828 in response to fears of an American land invasion. There is a small exhibit inside the Citadel showing the ideal positioning of the Citadel, with the water approaches basically cut off it was fairly easy to defend.
Interestingly, the Citadel, like the other forts that were constructed in Halifax, never saw action. By the time it was finished in 1856 it was basically considered obsolete due to advances in weaponry.
An interesting feature of the citadel is is architecture, it is constructed as a star shaped fortress, quite different from the square, boxy types of fortresses that were constructed earlier. Realistically, the fortress would been difficult to attack with this shape.
Today the Citadel has been restored to its original shape.
The Old Town Clock of Halifax is one of the city's famous landmarks and is located at the top of George Street at Citadel Hill. This clock has been keeping time for more than 200 years. Apparently, the inner workings of the clock arrived in Halifax in 1803 after being ordered by Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent.
Halifax has a restored military fort called the Citadel which is on a hill in the center of the downtown area. There are some tall buildings that get in the way of the view of the harbour but there are restrictions in place as well. The fort is actually quite interesting and they have free walking tours around the site. There is an Army Museum on the second floor of the historic barracks building that's well worth a look. Lots of interesting things to see. There's a coffee shop and a gift shop as well.
There is an entry fee and a small parking lot at the top of the hill with more parking at the base of the hill. The view from the walls and the hill surrounding is pretty good. At noon every day, a small cannon is fired off to mark 12:00, aka "The noon gun" and you can watch the procedures if you're inside the fort.
Also on the hill is the old town clock, built at the turn of the 19th century.
Halifax's citadel is the most prominent landmark of the city. Located close to downtown, it served Halifax well when enemies attempted to invade the city - they never made it. As a matter of fact, the defense system was designed so perfectly that enemies would have been under heavy attacks far before they would reach the actual city.
Halifax Citadel today is no longer in use apart from being a must-see for tourists. Thus, dressed-up guards will await the visitors and try to look as stoic as those at the Tower of London. Unfortunately, they are too easily distracted and love to start a conversation. They can tell you many interesting facts about the citadel and its history. My recommendation for visiting it would be to first check out the casemattes where all the cannons stand. You've got a nice view on parts of the city from up there and you can imagine to aim some of the cannons on the ships passing by down in the bay. Then you should not miss the museum with its overview of the citadel's history. Another must on the grounds is the film "A Harbour Worth Defending" which tells you the story of Halifax and all the wars it went through by highlighting the role of the citadel - a very interesting experience. At the end of your visit you might want to grab a souvenir in the information centre in the middle of the grounds.
It is literally impossible to go anywhere in downtown Halifax and not notice the Citadel as it is the most prominent feature in the city, set on a height which, I suppose, is why it is there in the first place as an easily defensible and militarily advantageous place. The Citadel (why it is called that I have no idea) is situated on a large hill that dominates the entire city and gives excellent views over the seafront a few blocks down. You really could not pick a better place to build a fort in the 18th century and that is exactly what the British did.
The Citadel was first established in 1749 during a period of British / French tension in the region and subsequently reinforced many times to meet increasing military pressure on it from the French, the Acadians (Catholic French settlers in the region) and even the local Mi'kmaq tribe. The quite magnificent structure you see today is actually the fourth incarnation of the Fort and was completed in 1856 after no less than 28 years construction. Regrettably, after all that effort, it was soon obsolete as weaponry moved from the smooth bore musket to rifled weapons and artillery became much more powerful but the Citadel wasn't finished yet.
Despite having been reinforced, Fort Geroge (as the Citadel is officially called) was not what was required in an ever-changing military landscape but it did serve as a British Army base until 1906 and thereafter as a Canadian Forces base. It was utilised as an internment camp for foreigners suspected of being German sympathisers during the First World War and it even had a minor role as an anti-aircraft control centre on the Second World War.
I have mentioned in other tips on my Canada pages that it is a relatively "young" country with a history much shorter than, say, Western European countries (native peoples excepted obviously) but the history it has it presents so well. There are a number of re-enactors here, all ostensibly from the 78th Regiment of Foot who were stationed here from 1869 - 1871. Even before you get to the ticket office, there is a young "soldier" in period dress, kilt and all, at the gate. Once inside, there are re-enactors being Quartermaster Sergeants, ordinary soldiers, pipers and just about anything else you care to name. The thing is, you don't sit down and get a lecture from a prepared script, you just talk to these people and ask them the most obscure question and they will give you the answer. I have no idea what training they must undergo to get a summer job here.
A small example here. We were wandering round the ramparts and there were two young lads standing about in period dress uniform, one with a set of pipes. They were quite happily posing for photos with tourists from all over the world and explaining the intricacies of the pipes (drones and so on) to people and then the piper just took off and played a tune brilliantly (Flowers of Edinburgh if I recall correctly) to maybe a dozen people standing there. I also ended up having a discussion with another re-enactor about the subtle differences in drill procedures in the 18th and 20th centuries and the guy knew what he was on about although I have no reason to think he had ever worn a "real" uniform in his life. This is what sets this place apart, you don't get preached at, you really do interact with the "soldiers" and it is a joy.
I should mention here that there are several excellent military nuseums in the Citadel which I spent some time in, slightly to the annoyance of my travelling companion but she knows what I am like around swords, guns and the other appurtenances of warfare over the centuries. Thankfully, there is a very nice coffee shop (just beside the soldiers library) which she ensconced herself in whilst I looked at guns!
If I had one fault to find with this excellent historical site it would be this. I am fully aware of equal opportunity law etc. but having female re-enactors is just wrong. I know that history tell us of a very occasional female that joined the British Army in those days disguised as a man but it was very rare and, knowledgeable and pleasant as they were, the concept of female re-enactors in this context detracts from the whole experience, it is just incongruous.
Do not, however, let this put you off as it really is a "must see" in Halifax and is apparently one of the top 5 most visited historical sites in Canada. Should you want to visit, and I strongly suggest you do, here are the logistics.
May 4 to June 30th - 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
July 1 to August 31 - 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
September 1 to October 31 - 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
November 1 to May 6 - The grounds and washrooms are open from 9:00am until 5:00pm.
Daily - Peak Season
Adult $ 11.70
Senior $ 10.05
Youth $ 5.80
Family/Group $ 29.40
Commercial Group, per person $ 10.05
School Groups, Entry and a Heritage Presentation Special Program, per student $ 4.90
June 1 to September 15.
Daily - Shoulder Season
Adult $ 7.80
Senior $ 6.55
Youth $ 3.90
Family/Group $ 19.60
Commercial Group, per person $ 6.55
School Groups, per student $ 2.90
May 7 to May 31 and September 16 to October 31.
Adult $ 29.40
Senior $ 25.00
Youth $ 14.70
Family/Group $ 73.60
This really is recommended, it is a great day out and, if you have children with you, they will simply love it. You have absolutely got to go here if you are in Halifax..
A well known fact that no building in halifax can be raised higher than the hill. The guards on the citadel must be able to see the harbour, to protect it of course from invaders!
The citadel is must to get a nice view of halifax, and offers decent photographic panoramas. As of late, they also offer a cinematic historical 15-min movie giving you halifax's history in a nutshell. You are allowed to wander around the whole complex, including on the elevated impregnable guard walls where the canons are still fixed, and spy holes through which you can see the harbor and pretend to fire canons at the ships. actually every day at noon canons are fired in commemoration.
The story is told that the clock was put there to resolve the tardiness of the local garrison. Today it serves more as a landmark,maybe today people can afford their own watches. In any case, the Prince ordered the clock made in London.
The building is a 3 story octagon and is one of the most immediately recognizable landmarks in Halifax.
Since we visited the Citadel during the winter months, no employees were around. However the citadel was still open to walk through. The stairways to go on top of the walls were closed off so me and the guys asked the commissionaire on duty if we could go up to have a look. He had no problem with it saying "just don't hurt yourself". The Citadel really is an amazing structure with some wonderful views. It was used as a military base a very long time ago to protect Halifax ( I know very little in regards to the history). I will definitely be back during tourist season to see the inside and inform myself about the history.
Since Halifax was founded in 1749 Citadel Hill has served as the site of four different forts. The current building was completed in 1856 and took 28 years to construct.
There is lots to see for yourself or there are guided tours. Check out the website for lots of information.
Well worth a visit.