Much of Halifax's history is wrapped up in its maritime past. With its location on the water, the city has held strategic importance during many conflicts.

Prior to the infiltration of European settlers, the Halifax area was home to the Mi'kmaq people, who used the shores of harbor as hunting and fishing grounds during the warmer months. The first Europeans to settle in the area were the French, who developed farms in the area. The original city of Halifax was established in 1749, when Edward Cornwallis was sent from Great Britain to gain control of the region from the French. The city was named "Halifax" in honor of Cornwallis' sponsor, Lord Halifax. Halifax grew greatly in size and importance during the Seven Years' War (aka the French and Indian Wars) with France that lasted from 1756 to 1763. Halifax's population increased once again following the Revolutionary War, when many colonists loyal to Great Britain left what was to become the United States for Halifax.

Halifax's economy and population grew during the nineteenth century, and the city was an important trading post between North America and Europe. The harbor was also an important hub for immigrants to the area, and many settlers arrived from Europe and beyond during this time period.

During World War I (the Great War), Halifax was a troop depot, and many soldiers stopped off in Halifax on their way to and back from the front lines of Europe. Tragedy struck during this time period, when on December 6, 1917, a collision in the harbor led to the explosion of the Mont Blanc, a munitions ship. The explosion led to the death of over 1900 people, and the entire north end of the harbor was flattened.

Halifax was again an important naval hub during WW II, as it served again as a troop depot as well as a naval port for ship-rebuilding. Following WW II, what had been a booming economy during the war began to slow down. While the navy continued to be an important part of the economy, other industries, including health care, research, and education began to edge out to the forefront.

Today, Halifax is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, as rebuilding and restoration projects along the harbor have helped to support a continually growing tourism industry.