The Best Things to See and Do in Akko, Israel

Akkos cityscape blends several distinct architectural styles. Here, the Franciscan Church of St. John can be seen in the background
Akko's cityscape blends several distinct architectural styles. Here, the Franciscan Church of St. John can be seen in the background | © eFesenko / Alamy Stock Photo

Israel writer

The Old City of Akko (Acre), on Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast, is an enchanting mix of Arabian street markets, storied Crusader hideouts, renowned hummus joints and even better fish restaurants, such as the famed Uri Buri.

Akko’s cobbled streets have seen Byzantine, Crusader, Islamic and Ottoman rulers come and go. It’s one of the oldest port cities in the world with some buildings dating right back to the Hellenistic period. Today, colourful souks sit beside boutique hotels and unbeatable Israeli eateries. Just 90 minutes by train from Tel Aviv, Akko’s Old City is a gem that is not to be missed.

1. Stroll through the Baha'i Gardens

Bahá'í Temple, Park

A beautiful shot of well-groomed Bahai Gardens of Bahji in Akko, Israel
© Wirestock Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

When visiting a new city, it’s a good idea to scout out quiet pockets of calm for when the busy streets and honking car horns get too much. The Bahá’í Gardens is one such serene spot to stroll around; the historic resting place of Baha’u’llah, a founder of the Bahá’í community. Located on the outskirts of Akko, it’s free to enter and meander around the orderly, geometric gardens filled with bright blooms.

2. Push your limits at the Extreme Park

Amusement Park

Get ready for family fun to the extreme. This park houses the highest climbing wall in the Middle East at 32m (105ft), which was designed in France especially for the park. Bungee jump off the top before you navigate elevated sky tracks measuring 7m (23ft) for beginners and children and 15m (49ft) for the brave, with sweeping views of Akko the higher you go.

4. Spot wildlife at Hai Park Kiryat Motzkin

Park, Zoo

This was taken at a zoo in Israel
© bensmith999 / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Opened in 2002, this zoo houses hundreds of animals including giraffes, elephants, orangutans, exotic birds and reptiles in addition to many other species, all within glorious parkland. Enjoy camel and pony rides in addition to guided tours and performances. The whole area is flat and easily accessible for all, including wheelchair users.

5. Discover the Templars’ Tunnel

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

Rear view of woman walking in tunnel, Templars Tunnel, Acre, Israel
© Keith Levit / Alamy Stock Photo
Back in the 12th century, the Knights Templar were a military-monastic order who protected pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. Templars’ Tunnel is a 350m (1,148ft) underground passage built to allow the group to secretly move goods and money from the port to their fortress near Akko’s lighthouse. It was discovered by accident in 1994 and today visitors can walk it from end to end.

6. Get lost in the Old City’s main market

Restaurant, Market, Israeli, Middle Eastern

The Arabic suq in the historic old city of Akkon, Israel, Middle East.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Surrounded by the fascinating ancient architecture of the Old City, the main market of Akko offers a chance to travel back in time. Take in the freshly caught fish, scrumptious Arab pastries and the lingering smell of hookah. No plan or route is necessary; simply amble through, explore its charming alleyways and see where your nose takes you. Stop off along the way for some freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, followed by a bowl of hummus at the legendary Hummus Said.

7. Treat your taste buds in the Turkish Bazaar

Bazaar

The gozinaki, made of nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, colorful lokum and sweet halva in the stall of the Turkish Bazaar, Acre
© eFesenko / Alamy Stock Photo
Built in the 1700s, the Turkish Bazaar was restored in 2011 and is now a charming attraction in the Old City. Here you will find small galleries and shops selling artsy, handmade souvenirs as well as coffee shops and some seriously great food. It’s one of the oldest covered art and dining markets in the world, with over 400,000 visitors a year. Make sure you stop off at Mercato, an intimate, highly rated spot serving up delicious Italian dishes with a touch of Middle Eastern flavour.

8. Walk along the city's walls

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

ACRE, ISR - APR 21 2015: Arab couple visit at the walls of Akko.Old Acre is one of the few cities in the world whose walls have remained standing despite attacks by large powerful armies several times
© Rafael Ben-Ari / Alamy Stock Photo

These remarkably well-preserved walls surround the Old City are one of Akko’s defining features, reflecting the city’s long and tumultuous history. First built by the Cairo-based Fatimid Islamic Caliphate in 950 CE, the walls have been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions, most recently by the Ottomans in the early nineteenth century. Amble along the ramparts and take in the stunning views of both the Akko skyline and the adjacent Mediterranean.

9. Step inside the Al-Jazzar Mosque

Mosque

View Of The Interior Of Al-Jazzar Mosque (The White Mosque) In Acre (Akko), Israel
© Wojtkowski Cezary / Alamy Stock Photo
Built by the Ottomans in 1781, this is the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem (and one of the most beautiful), dominating the city’s skyline. You can’t miss the lime green dome and sandstone-coloured minaret. Dress modestly – shoulders to knees should be covered while women must cover their hair with a shawl. Note that the mosque closes five times a day for prayers. There’s a reasonable entrance fee and you’re sure to encounter someone offering a guided tour for a (flexible) price.

10. Unwind at the Ghattas Turkish Bathhouse

Spa

Ghattas Turkish Bathhouse
Courtesy of Ghattas Turkish Bathhouse
This luxurious spa sits in the heart of ancient Akko in an original Ottoman building. For owner Emil Ghattas, born and bred in Akko, it took six years of hard work to transform this spot into an authentic bathhouse. The best part is that each visit is entirely private; you’ll get two floors – including a steam room, dry sauna, jacuzzi and massage table – all to yourself for two hours. Add in a scrub and a Turkish massage for a truly indulgent afternoon.

11. Dine at Uri Buri

Restaurant, Seafood

Uri Buri fish restaurant in the old city of Akko (Acre), Israel.
© Y Levy / Alamy Stock Photo

Uri Buri is widely considered one of the finest fish restaurants in Israel. You wouldn’t know it from the outside though, an unpretentious exterior hiding the gastronomic institution within. Located a stone’s throw from the sea, Uri Buri serves creative seafood dishes along with over 100 fine Israeli wines. Owned by Uri Jeremias, a cult figure in Israel’s culinary scene, this restaurant is a must for fish lovers.

12. Marvel at the Knights' Halls

Building

Israel Acre The subterranean crusaders knight s halls in old Akko
© PhotoStock-Israel / Alamy Stock Photo
This Unesco-listed site was once the headquarters of the Crusaders in Akko. Characterised by its stone walls and towering arches, the citadel has been used for a variety of purposes throughout its history, including as a prison for Jewish resistance fighters during the British mandate period. If you’re lucky, book tickets to a concert performance in one of the hallowed halls.

Judy Cogan contributed additional reporting to this article.

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