Six things you didn’t know about the beautiful port city of Haifa, Israel

Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, truly is the gateway to Israel. Situated in Haifa Bay and home to the country’s largest port, Haifa is the main coastal point of access for travellers seeking to discover the magnificent, holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as well as the portal to the thriving city of Tel Aviv, with its golden, sandy beaches and buzzing food scene.

Haifa is becoming a key destination for international cruise lines: the port was recently nominated for the prestigious title of ‘Destination of the Year' in the 2023 Seatrade Cruise Awards. As a stop-off for many cruise ships exploring the area, Haifa’s popularity is soaring, and it can also boast an exceptionally high disembarkation rate, with 85% of passengers opting to leave the ship to explore the city of Haifa or make the most of the great transport links to discover other wonderful destinations such as Nazareth and Galilee. 

Whilst Haifa is a stopover for more well-known destinations across Israel, it is a remarkable destination in its own right. Curtained by the cliffs and slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa boasts over 3,000 years of history, a vibrant culture and exceptional wildlife. Here are six reasons to visit this extraordinary city.

Marvel at Baháʼí Gardens – Haifa is a true melting pot of cultures and faiths, having been inhabited by Canaanites, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Ottoman Turks amongst many others. Today, Haifa is home to the Baháʼí World Centre,one of the holiest sites for followers of the Baháʼí faith, as well as to the impressive UNESCO-listed Baháʼí Gardens, known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, a collection of stunning green terraces spilling down Mount Carmel, with the golden Shrine of the Báb at their centre.

Discover historic Christianity at Stella Maris Lighthouse and Monastery – On the slopes of Mount Carmel,one of the most significant sites in the Holy Land, lies Stella Maris, a Carmelite monastery said to have been built on the spot of Elijah’s Cave, where the Prophet allegedly lived. The views from the site of the surrounding bay are simply breathtaking and visitors can even take a cable-car further up the view to admire the panoramic vistas.

Enter a voyage of discovery at Madatech, the Israeli National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space – Haifa is a city of museums, but one of the finest is Madatech, Israel’s largest science museum, with a courtyard featuring a palm tree planted by Albert Einstein himself! Madatech is a haven for families, friends and children alike, with interactive and engaging exhibits that include the Science Park, an outdoor attraction displaying the finest scientific discoveries from over the centuries.

Ride Carmelit – the only subway system in Israel – Named after Mount Carmel, under which the subway runs, Carmelit is an underground funicular railway, and the only underground transit system in Israel until Tel Aviv’s Metro opens next decade. It is the smallest subway system in the world and serves the main attractions of Haifa, such as Madatech, the Haifa Museum of Art and the Baháʼí World Centre.

Encounter the majestic local wildlife on Haifa’s hiking paths – Haifa sits on the slopes of Mount Carmel, whose steep slopes enjoy higher rainfall than the surrounding land, resulting in lush, verdant vegetation. As a result, the flora and fauna of Mount Carmel is breathtaking, and visitors looking for an active break need look no further than hiking the many routes of the Haifa Trail, where they will enjoy unparalleled views of Haifa Bay. Further out, Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve can be found, conserving endangered species such as Persian fallow deer, wild goats and sheep, mountain gazelles and Egyptian vultures.

Admire the street art and sip on a coffee in trendy Masada Street – For travellers looking to relax after a busy day sightseeing, Masada Street is the place to visit. Easily accessible by Carmelit, this tree-lined residential street is lit up by colourful street art and is the home to some of the city’s coolest cafés. Here travelers can sit in the shade, people-watching and sipping on fresh coffee, or meander down the pavement, taking in the graffiti art and popping into shops and galleries. Elsewhere, foodies should not miss Wadi Nisnas and Talpiot Market, home to some of the city’s best street food, including sticky-sweet baklava, succulent shawarma, creamy hummus and fluffy falafel. 

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