Discover what makes Halifax Citadel a unique place to visit. Plan a minimum of two hours to explore, or spend the day taking in all that the Halifax Citadel has to offer!
The Citadel's Living history program brings to life the 78th Highlanders and the 3rd Brigade, Royal Artillery, with activities such as sentry changes, the noon gun, performances of the pipes and drums and rifle and cannon firing demonstrations.
1. Information Centre
Begin your visit here for an overview of site activities and programs.
Nova Scotia’s military past is presented through soldiers’ stories and an extensive exhibition of artifacts, photographs and documents dating from the First World War to the present day. The exhibit spaces cover the Great War (The Road to Vimy and Beyond); the Second World War (Trail of the Canadian Army 1939-1945); the Korean War, and more modern peace operations; as well as the War in Afghanistan.
3. A Harbour Worth Defending (15 minute film)
A 15 minute film telling the entire story of Halifax as a key British and Canadian naval base. Presenting the story of the four Citadels that have occupied this hill, and how they protected Halifax, this 15-minute film reveals the city’s strategic role as a British and Canadian naval base. Located at the Information Centre.
4. Soldiers' Barracks (10 minutes)
They were cramped, damp, sparsely furnished, and, sometimes, the only privacy you had was a grey army blanket. Conditions in the barracks of the 19th century were anything but glamorous for members of the 78th Highland Regiment and their families. Step inside to see for yourself. Try on the soldiers’ famous headgear. Lift their heavy packs from their modest steel-frame beds. Or open their kits to see how they kept themselves and their uniforms crisp and clean for inspection. These artifacts will give you some insight into what life was like at the Halifax Citadel many years ago.
Facilities and services in the Cavalier Building
Regimental shop: Find historical souvenirs and locally sourced gifts at the regimental shop.
Coffee Bar and Soldiers' Library: Visit our warm welcoming café. Stop in for refreshments or a light meal or choose to take your lunch ‘out’ and find your Perfect Picnic place within the walls of the fort or on the grassy hillside. No pre-ordering required. Closed until further notice.
Cavalier building elevator: Located on the main floor inside the Information Centre. Use this elevator to access the Army Museum located on the second floor.
The fort has three levels:
- Dry ditch level
- Parade Square level (ground level)
- Ramparts level
5. North Viewing Platform (5 minutes)
A clear view of the naval dockyard which the Citadel was built to protect. Ground zero for the 1917 Halifax Explosion is also visible, marked by the farthest suspension bridge.
A great place to explore the Halifax at War in 1944: A Lifeline for Europe virtual experience.
6. Warden of the North (20 minutes)
This award winning exhibit tells the story of the Halifax defences and their influence on surrounding community, region, and the Canadian landscape.
It’s an experience more than two hundred years in the making. Explore the development of Halifax’s defences from modest wooden forts to the mid-20th century. Models and artifacts reveal the many influences that shaped the history of this military and naval port. And you’ll see the crucial role the Halifax Citadel played in the Halifax Defence Complex.
7. Seven-inch Rifled Guns (2 minutes)
In the 1870s, the Citadel re-armed with these massive rifled muzzle-loading guns, which had a range of over a mile and were capable of sinking the ironclad warships of their day.
8. Guard Room & Main Gate (5 minutes)
If you had business at the Halifax Citadel, you came here first to see the Sergeant of the Guard. If he determined you had reason to be here, he gave you a pass so you could continue on your way. The guardroom was also an exceptional spot for keeping watch over the Halifax Citadel’s sentry points. Today, you can watch the sentry change every hour on the hour and then visit the lock-up where troublesome soldiers were held.
9. Engineer Store (2 minutes)
This is the room where the royal engineers stored supplies and spare parts for the various buildings of the Halifax Citadel. Find out what the Royal Engineers kept on hand to ensure
the Citadel was maintained in good repair.
10. Orderly Room (5 minutes)
If you were a soldier at the Halifax Citadel in the 19th century, your orders for the day came from this room. Everything from what you wore, to your duties, to punishments for your infractions, was decided here. Today, you’ll find a dip pen, fresh paper and India ink on-site waiting for you to write out your own commands.
11. Tailor Shop (10 minutes)
The tailor shop kept the regiment clothed. The tailor was responsible for keeping the soldiers in style with their MacKenzie tartan kilts and bright red doublets. Visitors are invited to delve into the craftsmanship that went into these impressive uniforms.
12. Noon Gun (2 minutes)
Noon in Halifax is announced by the firing of the Noon Gun, a tradition that has continued every day since at least 1865. The spectacle begins at 11:50 am daily, arrive early to get the best views.
This reproduction 1809 12 pounder gun is used as the Citadel’s traditional daily “Noon Gun,” and also for firing artillery salutes at other times.
13. Sally Port No. 1 (Entry/Exit to Dry Ditch) (10 minutes)
Follow the sally port, a long tunnel through the Citadel’s thick main wall, to the dry ditch, which served as an obstacle to potential attackers.
14. Musketry Gallery (5 minutes)
Explore this dark tunnel that was built to allow soldiers to fire into the dry ditch while under cover.
15. South Ravelin (2 minutes)
This triangular outlying fort, one of three, protected the Citadel’s walls from artillery fire and was another potential obstacle for an attacking army.
16. Sally Port No. 2 (Entry/Exit to Dry Ditch)
One of six tunnels under the Citadel’s walls that allow access to the dry ditch.
17. Shaping the Hill (15 minutes)
Examine the detailed scale models and exhibits that tell the story of the Four Citadels.
18. Signal Post (2 minutes)
Imagine what it was like to send a message to someone before the invention of the Internet and cell phones. The signal flag display will transport you back to the days when this was the main means of communication between the Halifax Citadel and York Redoubt. Not only were flags used to send coded messages, they also announced the arrival and departure of commercial ships in Halifax Harbour. Find out how the Citadel’s tall masts were used for sending coded signals to both the citizens of Halifax and to the other forts that protected the harbour.
19. South Viewing Platform (2 minutes)
Take in the spectacular view of the harbour mouth and of McNab’s Island, location of Fort McNab National Historic Site, and the smaller Georges Island, location of Fort Charlotte, both key harbour defences.
A great place to explore the Halifax at War in 1944: A Lifeline for Europe virtual experience.
20. Expense Magazine (2 minutes)
Explore this tiny dark “bomb proof” room where cartridges for the artillery were stored. Cool, dark and dangerous, this earthen, underground room is where the explosive charges for the Halifax Citadel’s cannons were stored. Here, soldiers filled the charges with gunpowder, and placed them in tins to keep them secure.
21. Defence Casemates and Garrison Cells (10 minutes)
Descend the thirty-three steps to these dank rooms that were designed to allow cannon to fire into the citadel’s defensive ditch, but were also used to house military prisoners.
It catches your eye as soon as you enter the room – the cannon pointed at the window. It is a reminder that the casements were built to protect the Halifax Citadel. In the event of an attack, these guns would fire into the Halifax Citadel’s ditch.
When there were no threats, these casements served as prison cells. Soldiers convicted of minor offences, such as drunkenness and cursing, were held here.
For more serious offences, such as theft and attempted murder, soldiers were sent to Melville Island, located in Halifax’s Northwest Arm.
22. 32-pounder Gun Battery (2 minutes)
More than thirty of these large smoothbore guns comprised the Citadel’s primary armament from the 1830s to the early 1870s.
23. South Magazine (5 minutes)
The gunpowder for the Halifax Citadel’s armaments had to be stored in a safe, dry place. This magazine is where the barrels were kept, which made it the fort’s most dangerous spot. You had to be very careful handling the barrels. One spark was enough to set them off, resulting in more damage than any enemy attack could cause. That’s the reason why soldiers stationed here wore wooden shoes, buttons and buckles. Count the barrels in this reinforced structure.
24. School Room (10 minutes)
Come in and take a seat. Class is about to begin. Today’s lesson will explore what education was like for soldiers and their children in the 19th century. We’ll be covering British history, math and moral conduct. We also have slates for you to write on, and a counting ball (or abacus) for solving math problems. And remember, if you have any questions, just ask the schoolmaster. See a “Magic Lantern” show.
25. Fortress Halifax: A City Shaped by Conflict (New Exhibit) Under construction
Explore the history of Halifax and the role it played on the world stage through the lens of the four forts that have stood on Citadel Hill.
Discover Canada’s role in the Battle of Normandy in this special exhibit developed for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings on June 6, 1944.
27. Path to Garrison Grounds & Additional Parking
Entrance/Exit: There are two entrance/exits into the Halifax Citadel:
- The front entrance/exit is located on Southeast portion of the Citadel facing the Old Town Clock and Brunswick Street.
- The back entrance/exit is located on west side of the Citadel facing Ahern Avenue and Bell Road.
Washrooms: Located across from the Cavalier Building near the front entrance/exit.
Elevator to ramparts: Located behind the Cavalier Building near the back entrance/exit. Use this elevator to visit upper level attractions.
Parking: Accessible from the back entrance/exit and located in the ditch or lower level of the Halifax Citadel.
Accessible parking: Located at the front entrance/exit near the front entrance kiosk.
First aid and security: Located across from the Cavalier Building near the front entrance/exit.
Regimental shop: Find historical souvenirs and gifts at the regimental shop.
Coffee Bar and Soldiers' Library: Visit our warm welcoming Café. Closed until further notice.
WiFi hotspot: Available on the Parade Grounds within the walls of the Halifax Citadel.
The Halifax Citadel is a 19th-century fortification with steep masonry walls surrounded by a dry ditch up to 9 metres deep.
To have a safe visit, please observe the following:
Please use North and South viewing platforms to enjoy the site’s most impressive views.
The top of all earthen walls, stone inner walls, and gun openings are “do not enter” spaces based on the high level of falling risk they present, especially when wet.
Watch out for low doorways, steep stairways, water gutters, and uneven ground and floors.
Site requires all young children to be under close adult supervision at all times.