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.
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.
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.
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 on the history of the citadel. 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.
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.
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.
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