The Israeli port city of Haifa has more than 50 calls by cruise ships every year. "Biblical" destinations such as Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem and Bethlehem are particularly on the agendas of the cruise companies. Haifa and the historic crusader city of Akko (Akkon), 25 kilometers away, are neglected by the visit programs. In our opinion, both cities have enough sights to make a one-day stay in Haifa informative and varied. Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are particularly worth seeing: the shrine of Bab and the old town of Akko.
Attractions in Haifa
The port and industrial city of Haifa is a large city with 285.000 inhabitants. Israel's third largest city is located between the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Carmel. The sights of Haifa are easy to explore. Under Discover Haifa on foot let's describe our tours through Haifa.
The Shrine of Bab with the Bahai Gardens - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Eight million people follow the teachings of the 19th century Iranian religious founder Bahāʾullāh. The founder of the religious community was exiled to Akko in what was then Palestine in the second half of the 19th century. The city with around 50.000 inhabitants is located 25 kilometers north of Haifa.
The Bahai Gardens as seen from Ben Gurion Boulevard
In Haifa, on the slope of Mount Carmel, the religious community established the “Bahai World Center”, the administrative and religious center of the religion. The sanctuary of the Baha'i with the shrine of Bab, the archive as well as the administrative building and accommodation for the pilgrims are located in a fairytale-like garden, which extends in 18 terraces from the lower town up to the Louis Promenade. The shrine, exhibited under a gleaming gold dome, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. Visitors who do not belong to the Baha'i Faith are allowed to visit the garden as part of organized tours. Access to the shrine is permitted to all interested parties.
The German settlement
The German settlement goes back to Christians who emigrated from Württemberg to Haifa in 1869 in order to establish a pietistic rural community at the foot of the Mount Carmel. The settlement is currently a representative residential area with stone houses, some of which still have German names. The neighborhood is home to art shops, cafes and restaurants. The main street of the settlement is the wide Ben Gurion Boulevard leading from the harbor to the Bahai Gardens.
Haifa - German settlement
The Louis Promenade
On the upper slope of Mount Carmel, the Louis Promenade leads through a narrow park. Passers-by enjoy fabulous views of parts of Haifa, its harbor and the Baha'i gardens. Visitors can comfortably reach the promenade with the underground Carmelit subway. The train is actually an underground funicular railway.
It is a maximum of 10 minutes from the cruise ship terminal to the bottom station of the Carmelit subway in Paris Square. Get off at the Gan Ha'em terminus. Steep streets and stairs lead back into town.
Stella Maris Church and Monastery
According to legend, the biblical prophet Elias lived in a cave on Mount Carmel in the second quarter of the 9th century BC. In the early 17th century, monks of the Carmelite Order founded a monastery on the site where the Prophet's cave is said to have been. The current church and adjoining monastery opened in 1836. Three years later, the Pope gave the church the honorary title of Basilica Minor.
Stella Maris Monastery
The Mizpor Shalom sculpture garden
The Mizpor Shalom (Perspectives of Peace) park, comprising 29 bronze figures, is located on the slope of Mount Carmel. The creator of the works of art is the German-born artist Ursula Malbin. The sculptor fled Berlin to Switzerland in 1939. She later settled in the artist village of Ein Hod near Haifa. Since 1978 she has presented her partly life-size works in the spacious park: women, young men, children and animals.
Address: 112 Zionism Avenue
Mizpor Shalom sculpture garden
An important sight in Haifa's vicinity
The old town of Akko - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Akko / Akkon is nicknamed the "capital of Galilee". The city, 25 kilometers north of Haifa, was Palestine's most important port from ancient times until the 19th century. The port was first mentioned in the 6th century before the turn of the century. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans ruled Akko. However, the place experienced its heyday after the conquest by the Crusaders in 1104. They fortified the city above and below ground. Hospitallers made Akko the impregnable military center of the Crusader Kingdom.
Old City of Akko
In 1291, Akko fell to the Egyptians, then to the Ottomans. For hundreds of years the city was meaningless. With the establishment of the State of Israel, knowledge of the original rank of the fortress city returned. In 2001, the great old town of Akko was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The UNESCO area covers 63 hectares.
Akko - fortress by the port
There is a lot to see in Acco's old town. After Jerusalem, Akko is the most visited city in Israel. The underground fortress city of the Crusaders is spectacular. It has huge representation rooms, dining rooms, a prison, a crypt, latrines and a branching system of corridors. The most impressive underground passage is the 350-meter-long tunnel carved into the rock at the instigation of the Knights Templar, which connects the fortress with the harbor.
The mighty fortress walls of the port region, the El-Jazzar mosque, the Al-Omdan caravanserai, the citadel and the Turkish bathhouse are fascinating above ground. Tourism advertisers recommend several ways for visitors to discover the charms of the old town. The small port and the spacious bazaar are also worth seeing. Essentially, the Old City is inhabited by Israelis of Arab origin.
We report on Akko at Shore excursion to Akko.
Update January 2021