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Although Halifax is the largest city in Canada's Maritime Provinces—and a major economic engine for the country—the harbor city often feels more like a seaside resort town than a bustling metropolis. Established in 1749 and named after the second earl of Halifax, this capital city of Nova Scotia has grown into a top vacation spot for those seeking crisp Atlantic Ocean air, charming boutiques and plenty of cold beer.

Thanks to the city's position in a protected harbor, Halifax has been a significant port city since its founding. An ideal starting point for Halifax attractions is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, situated on the waterfront next to the downtown area. Exhibits include artifacts from Nova Scotia's sailing history, but the most popular items hail from the doomed Titanic, which sank relatively close to Halifax. Many Titanic victims are buried in the city's cemeteries, and the museum showcases items like a deck chair, a log from a wireless operator and part of the infamous ship's staircase.

Just a short stroll from the museum is another top Halifax attraction, the Halifax Citadel. Perched on the city's highest hill, the 19th-century landmark is Canada's most-visited historic site. Built for defense, and boasting a moat and fortified ramparts, the Citadel's main cannon is still fired at noon every day. Visitors can amble through the barracks and parade ground, or simply enjoy the stunning view of the harbor and its nearby islands.

Continue that leisurely pace of exploration a few blocks east, along the Halifax boardwalk. The pedestrian path winds past numerous shops and restaurants, with ice cream vendors and street performers competing for attention. The Seaport Farmers Market provides a lively, community atmosphere and features goods from local growers, ranchers and artisans.

On the boardwalk, stop at Murphy's Cable Wharf, a popular Halifax restaurant specializing in just-caught seafood. On the dock outside the eatery, travelers can catch a boat tour for whale watching and wildlife education. On-board naturalists provide narration as dolphins, minke whales, seals and tuna are spotted.

Back on dry land, wet your whistle at one of Halifax's welcoming bars. Canadians love their beer, and the city showcases many local favorites, all served in a convivial atmosphere. For a historic slant to the evening, pop into Split Crow, first established in Halifax in 1749. Located near the waterfront, this popular Halifax pub offers comfort food, but most come for the daily beer specials and live music by local artists. Another prime spot with locals is The Economy Shoe Shop, a café and bar with an intimate, European-style flair and an impressive wine and beer list. The bar's basement-level live music space focuses on hip-hop and funk.

With a marvelous harbor and a resort-town feel, Halifax is a top vacation spot. Whether enjoying an ice cream cone during a walk along the boardwalk or listening to a local band while finishing up a Canadian beer, travelers can always find a wealth of attractions in Halifax.