Set beside one of the world’s finest harbours, HALIFAX has become the financial, educational and transportation centre of the Maritimes, with its population of just under 400,000 making it almost four times the size of its nearest rival, New Brunswick’s Saint John. This pre-eminence has been achieved since World War II, but long before then Halifax was a naval town par excellence. Founded by British settlers led by Edward Cornwallis in 1749, Halifax was primarily a fortified navy base well into the nineteenth century with most Haligonians, as the locals are known, at least partly employed in a service capacity. Today Halifax retains a compact, thriving centre, with artists, street performers and students from prestigious Dalhousie University adding a grungy, alternative balance to the bankers and fashionistas. Workaday office blocks reflect the city’s new commercial success, tumbling down to the harbour from the Citadel, the old British fortress that remains the city’s most significant sight. The city’s other attractions – most notably the Art Gallery, the Maritime Museum and the Georgian Province House – huddle together in the lower part of town beneath the fortress. The waterfront, once at the heart of Halifax commercial life, is now lined by a series of shops and tourist attractions linked by the traffic-free Harbourwalk.

The Halifax “donair”

What is the Halifax “donair”, and why does it have (sort of) cult status? The donair is much like a typical doner kebab, but uses fresh, lean ground beef and a slightly sweet milk-based garlic sauce. Legend has it that it was created in a small tavern in Greece, and introduced to Canada in 1973. Today you can order donair pizza and donair subs in addition to the original – hard to believe, but Nova Scotian expats often experience severe homesickness for this eastern Mediterranean delight. See what the fuss is all about at these illustrious locations:

King of Donair 1580 Grafton St t 902 422 0000, w kingofdonair.ca. The mini-chain that claims to have started the donair craze back in the 1970s still knocks out some of the best ($4.99–10.99), as well as donair pizza (from $9.99). Mon–Wed & Sun 10am–2am, Thurs–Sat 10am–4am.

Tony’s Donair & Pizza 2390 Robie St t 902 404 8669, w tonysdonair.ca. Tony has provided friendly competition since 1976, with donairs from $9.95. Mon & Tues 11am–2am, Wed & Thurs 11am–3am, Fri & Sat 11am–4am, Sun 2pm–2am.

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