Welcome to the magical city of Haifa, the third largest city in Israel, and the largest in the north. Haifa has always been known for its diversity. The cultural hotchpotch of Jews, Druze, Bahai, Arab and Christians come together to blend into a city that 'works' on every level.
Its Residents are proud of Haifa, People visiting are surprised by Haifa, and possibly the greatest surprise of all is how much it is underplayed when reading guide books and travel sites.
For me personally, this is one of my favourite cities. I base that on a number of reasons, Over the years the city has changed profile to become much more of an alternative stay choice for people visiting Israel.
Aside from the thriving hub of cultures, there are numerous historical sites to see as shown below, along with some of the country’s most beautiful verdant scenery.
Built along the Mediterranean and overlooked by the Carmel Range, Haifa is dripping with greenery and natural flora and fauna anywhere you look.
Since ancient times and even up until today, Haifa is one of the country’s two main port towns, with much of the Israel’s imported goods passing through its gates.
Haifa City itself is mostly flat and is surrounded by a hilly backdrop, getting steeper as you head up towards the Carmel. It is usually divided into two parts: Uptown and Downtown though within that split you do get the various mix of neighbourhoods.
Each area of Haifa is very easily and uniquely defined - the city’s downtown district, close to the port , is much more industrial, rough around the edges and mostly the commercial centre. You will however see a plethora of the city’s best restaurants, pubs and night clubs all within easy walking reach. It is also true to say that this is also the area with the fastest growth of trendy nightlife and a more intimate café and bar scene.
Betwixt the new buildings you'll notice many superb old but sadly neglected and often abandoned buildings, some of which date back to the Ottoman Empire.
Heading towards the city's uptown district, one can enjoy the stunning scenery of Haifa’s gorgeous Bay.
To summarise, don't dismiss Haifa if you are planning to tour the country by car. There is certainly a lot to see here including: The Bahai Gardens & Temple, German Colony, A busy seafront promenade with numerous facilities, several notable museums, a fun cable car amidst the backdrop of the verdant Carmel Mountains.
These stunning gardens may well be the most visited tourist attraction in Haifa, but with good reason. The maintenance alone costs millions and an army of Baha'i faith volunteers come to Haifa every year to ensure they are always kept at their best. Everything you will see in the garden represents the main elements of the Bahai faith - the unity of religions, the unity of humanity and the beauty and unity of God's creation. The golden domed Shrine of the Báb is the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, This stands proudly in the centre of the tired gardens and looks out to sea.
The German Colony is one of the city's main tourism and cultural hotspots. From the verdant top where it meets the Baha'i to the bottom close to the port area, You will see a tree lined boulevard lined with café bars and restaurants. It is a popular area for locals to walk along and come relax for a coffee and a catch up. For a little inspiration and assistance drop in to the tourist information office, also located long here. It was the German protestants who'd developed and built up this area in the early 1900's and prior to that the Templars. The atmosphere is lovely and you'll get some superb city shots and ones of the Baha'i Gardens.
This is a very significant site and is said to be the location where the prophet lay to rest and pray before his encounter with the Ba'alists on the peaks of the Carmel. Elijah had set a challenge to the priests to prove they could light flames under their sacrifices, but when they failed Elijah called to the Lord above and the flames instantly ignited. This called into question the credibility of the Ba'als who were then slaughtered and paganism rejected. The site is also know as The Grotto of the Madonna. This is because it is thought that Mother Mary, Joseph and Jesus took refuge here to rest travelling from Egypt.
Haifa’s transparent cable car rides are a popular way to see the city and enjoy a novel couple of hours. Large see-through large spheres, travelling from their starting point in pretty Bat Galim all the way up towards the Carmel Ranges, and then back again. Passengers can enjoy a beautiful birds-eye view of the city, sprawled out across the sweeping blue bay, and disappearing into the top of Mount Carmel. The total travel time each way is just over five minutes, and on your return you may opt to walk down the toward Elijah's Cave. At the top of the cable car dock you can enjoy a selection of restaurants, but don't forget that you can also visit Stella Maris church. It really is worth it if only for the stunning views.
Don't underestimate the quality of the beaches around Haifa. The water can be a joy for bathing and surfing is is especially popular when the waves are on your side. As with most beaches throughout Israel, regional municipalities have gone to great lengths to ensure that beaches are well maintained and equipped with enough services and facilities to ensure that a trip to the beach is a pleasure for people of any age.
Kiryat Haim Beach: This lovely large expanse of sandy natural beach area is especially known for the well kept surroundings, as well as numerous kiosks, and varied dining options. Its a lovely spot for taking a picnic or just winding down for an hour or two by the sea if you have a car for exploring.
Bat Galim Beach: One of my personal favourites, this beach is perfectly located in the Northern part of the city just a few block from the Haifa Cable Car station. It is a small beach by comparison to most but certainly enough waves to satisfy windsurf enthusiasts and has a delightful promenade with a number of gelaterias, café bars and snacks. Follow the promenade into the city to one side and to the other a beautiful unspoilt walk along a peaceful sea front pathway. If you are a real surfing guru, then Surfur's Beach as it is known, a little further along is the perfect location and is an award wining destination favoured by surfers from all around the world. The winds are often at the perfect level needed for ideal surfing conditions.
Carmel Beach: Loved by everyone, it is is arguably one of the most popular of the beaches in this part of the town. Named after the Carmel mountain itself, it also serves as the bridge to the other nearby beaches of D'or and Dado. via the lovely long promenade. If like me you adore long walks then you can spend a lazy day just lapping up the Haifa coastline and sliding from busy beachfront facilities to natural rugged coastal walks enveloped by a plethora of wild flora. There are plenty of facilities particular in the area by the large seafront hotel 'Leoardo' that range from fast food and cafe cuisine ice creams and snacks to meals. It can get especially busy here at weekends and especially around lunch time.
Haifa offers a good mix of shopping options from the more traditional market and smaller private shops to the new large scale malls of which many appear to have sprung up over the last few years.
Shuk Talpyot (Talpyot Market) offers the standard colour explosion of fruit and vegetables interspersed with sweets, meats and spices but on a smaller scale to those of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The atmosphere however is just as electric and it is a great opportunity to top up on some herbs and spices to take home. but not only, given the diversity of Haifa's population, you will find a range of other produce perhaps not as commonly found in other markets and i'd say that price wise you may also find it a little cheaper. Do try the Kunefe here and falafel, cheap and delicious and is just the treat with one of the local beers.
The Hadar district is the central hustle and bustle 'go to' location for all those little privately owned shops that burst with character and where you can still find someone to repair that watch for you, someone to fix those shoes and get that cracked smart phone cover repaired for a fraction of the price back home. the kind of place where everyone is an unqualified specialist but fantastic at what they do! This is the place to feel the heart of downtown Haifa and try a little street food too. If you prefer to do a little more 'high street' style shopping with large brand items then Haifa will not disappoint either. Although there are many 'drive to' malls, A notable one to try would be the Grand Canyon Shopping Centre. Not only does this commercial centre have a massive selection of shops but is the largest in Northern Israel, so if you are searching for something specific, chances are you'll find it here.
For something a little more original, you could try the Dalia Al Carmel market
which is located in the heart of the Druze village heading towards the Carmel ranges, great if you're searching for some unusual crafts and souvenirs. You can also have a bite to eat and certainly be welcomed with a smile.
Haifa is an interesting place for eating and I mean that in a good way This is because of the eclectic mix of cultures fused together to bring an array of different culinary experiences from Romanian, Russian and of course some wonderful Israeli themed dining too. Over the years there has been an explosion in the number of new venues opening and every time I am in Haifa and out with family I always hear the words ' A great new place has just opened'. So you won't be disappointed. There is choice, there is variety and above all there is quality. The following are a list of diverse restaurants options selected as a taster, but this is just a small selection from a very good list. I have yet to be disappointed when eating out here.
The Carmelit is the only underground train in Israel and it is funicular. It really is a great way for getting around the main points of the city and discovering the sights. Even if you use it once, it is a great experience. The whole thing from start to finish is no more than 8 minutes and with such an efficient service, you'll get from A to B in no time. The other benefit is that you can combine tickets so you can also purchase day passes that will encompass travel on bus too! Carmelit
The Train: There are several train stations throughout Haifa and distances are short so you'll never be spending too long having to travel anywhere. For example a journey from Haifa Central to Haifa Bat Galim takes just 7 minutes or thereabouts. A journey further afield is just as simple and the online booking process is quick and easy. Haifa Central to Ben Gurion Airport is just 90mins. Here is the link for booking and planning your train journeys. Israel Railways
The Buses are a great way to get around, just train yourself to be calm and don't let loose queues annoy you because they are a surely the best and cheapest way of getting about and the buses are clean, efficient and of course cost effective. Egged is the main bus company, it operates numerous amounts of inner city routes. Nateev amongst others offer services to nearby satellite towns and suburbs. Check out here a range of routes and services: Bus Lines
This beautiful monastery sits on the Carmel range overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Known as Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) It is also referred to as the Monastery of Our Lady - Mount Carmel. It serves as a centre of spirituality for the Carmelite around the world. It has a very colourful history that started right back to the 12th century during the time of the crusaders. The dome is especially beautiful and this can be reached via cable car from Bat Galim.
A very poignant & significant museum. The focus is the plight of the Jews returning to Israel during the British Mandate and their enduring struggles. From there the museum follows a detailed Maritime history of Israel and the Navy and its challenges over the years from the early thirties right up to present day It encapsulates much of the history and explains many unanswered questions. I love this museum!
The Louis promenade, is perhaps one of the most picturesque observation points in the whole city. From this beautiful elevated area you can see the expanse of the entire city from the rolling Baha'ï Gardens, Haifa Bay, the stunning coastline down to Bat Galim and beyond, on a clear day even as far as Mount Hermon. For sure this is where most of your best photo shots of this city will be captured and be sure to get some of sunrise and even better sunset.
The Haifa Museum Of Art is housed in a beautiful old stone build. The works housed here range from local and international artists showcasing works depicting contemporary culture of the 20th century. The museum itself is the third largest museums of art in Israel and sprawls over approximately 3,500Sqm and resides in three floors. The museum is an institution & attraction for artists & theorists who explore the topics of the history of Israeli and international art. Official Site
The Bat Galim Boutique Hotel is perfectly located close to the sea front and promenade for those wonderful early morning walks by sunrise or romantic strolls by sunset! Charming, This privately owned and run hotel offers a friendly and comfortable stay and is a popular choice for a perfect time in this lovely city.
Come spend your day walking, exploring, and eating your way though beautiful Haifa, Israel with local food expert and trained chef Jessica Halfin! They specialize in all tour types, & give you an insider's perspective on the city's renewed vibrance, thriving cultural scene, & rich history, in between generous bites at the city's best street food establishments.
A perfect (and free) way to spend time absorbing the surroundings, and yet one that can easily overlooked. The Tel Shikmona Promenade spans the Haifa coastline but here you'll experience the wonderful sights & smells of the wild flowers, gorgeous panoramic views & some quality 'me time' sitting and admiring the natural surroundings.