In Israel, Tel Aviv is undoubtedly the nightlife hub. Jerusalem takes the prize for historical and spiritual convergence. But the third-largest city and technological capital is not to be overlooked. Haifa boasts what are arguably the loveliest beaches in Israel, a picturesque cityscape perched on the steep hill of the Carmel Mountain, and the nation’s high-tech brain-trust. Here the top five not-to-be-missed sites to see there.
No visit to Haifa would be complete without a tour of this majestic World Heritage Site. Meditative paths weave through the 19 immaculately landscaped terraces, and the hillside location offers visitors panoramic views of the seaside town and harbor. The continuity of the gardens and the design of the shrine reflect the central belief of the Baha’i religion in the oneness of God, of mankind, and the truthfulness of all prophets of the various faiths as messengers of God. The cultural influence of East and West is evident in the myriad plant species and landscape designs. The biological diversity and excellent guided tours will fascinate horticulturalists and religious scholars equally.
The Baha’i gardens are open from 9am-5pm daily and the shrine welcomes visitors from 9am-noon daily. Tours of both should be reserved in advance.
After touring the magnificent Baha’i gardens, head down the hill to the German Colony for the city’s best pubs, restaurants and high-class shopping. The German Colony was established by newly immigrated Christian Templars in the 1860s and the remaining stone buildings are now home to art galleries and cafés. Eat your lunch looking up at the omni-present Bahai’i gardens or out onto the Mediterranean Sea.
After your refreshments, head over to the adjacent neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas, also known as ‘The Wadi,’ for some bargaining practice amongst the winding streets and artisan stalls, and surely the smell wafting from the falafel stands will be enough to re-awaken your appetite!
This attraction is not just for kids! The museum offers exhibits covering topics from local fauna to green energy and flight simulators, as well as installations honoring the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein (who visited the museum in 1927), and Ilan Ramon.
The Madatech campus is housed in and around the original Technion university building, and has among its most popular attractions an outdoor sports science exhibit where visitors can experience the human yo-yo; the ‘The Dark Room’ which demonstrates the magic of lasers, plasma, light and electricity; and the magic room, which explains common tricks with science. The Cinematrix interactive theater is worth the extra entrance fee to experience the sights, smells, water effects and especially the built-in seat ticklers!
The museum website offers information on current exhibits and seasonal hours in Hebrew and English.
Haifa truly wins the prize for urban beaches in Israel, with plenty of beachfront cafés and bars to keep you hydrated and socializing all day long, and a range of watersports for the adrenaline junkie. Lessons in surfing, kite-surfing, wind-surfing, paddleboarding and more are available through KiteClub. Dado beach is the southern shore of Haifa and is served by the Hof HaCarmel Bus and Train stations, making it the go-to sunbathing spot for locals. From Dado, the beachfront continues south uninterrupted into the gorgeous dunes and tide pools of the Carmel Coast nature reserve.
Also perfect for a beach day in the city is Bat Galim, adjacent to Rambam Hospital and accessible via the train. Bat Galim offers a picturesque boardwalk with restaurants galore, and is the departure point for the cable-car, which delivers passengers in style to the fifth and final must-see site in Haifa.
Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery and Elijah’s Cave
Take an exciting ride up in Haifa’s cable-cars (summer: 9am-8pm; winter: 10am-6pm) to one of the oldest monasteries in the world, which has its early roots in the 12th century and a complicated history to date. The decorations are stunning as are the panoramic views of the harbor and city. A short walk down the staircase leads to Elijah’s Cave, thought to be the abode of the prophet so important in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. The cave is now housed in an ornate, domed chapel. Both the monastery and the cave offer visitors guided tours and in-depth historical and biblical references.
Originally hailing from the USA, Jenny has explored some of the world’s most remote locations, climbing and sampling the local cuisine. Her passions are compost, mountaineering, and sourdough baking. Jenny currently makes her happy home in the Galilean hills, participating in local food culture, health initiatives, and travel writing.