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Haifa is Israel’s third largest city and one of the country’s most beautiful. The city of Haifa lies on the slopes of Mount Carmel and offers stunning vistas of the sparkling Meditteranean Sea. It’s home to the famous Bahia gardens, a zoo, excellent museums, and beaches where visitors can unwind. You can also find Israel’s only metro system in Haifa. Above all, it’s best known as a city where Jews and Arabs peacefully coexist. Here’s your guide to Haifa, Israel.
Soak in the View From Mount Carmel
Head to the top of Mount Carmel and soak in the stunning view of the Port of Haifa. You’ll spot many locals at the top doing the same thing. The Mount Carmela mountain covers around 15 miles of Israel’s Mediterranean coastline and is also home to several other cities, alongside Haifa. While it’s only around 1,804 feet in height, the view is nonetheless spectacular as you can see how the scenery changes from mountains to the Meditteranean coast. The mountain area receives a high level of rainfall, meaning the mountains are lush, green and covered in pine forests.
Ride Israel’s Only Subway
Haifa is home to the only subway in Israel — beating the country’s larger cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to it. The subway, known as Carmelit, travels up and down the Mount Carmel mountain, making getting around super easy. The Carmelit is one of the world’s smallest subway systems, with only four cars stopping at six stations up the mountain. The most popular stop to visit is Carmelit station, which is close to the city’s famous zoo, galleries, shops, and hotels. Hop off and wander around.
Hit the Beach
At the bottom of Mount Carmel, you can find some excellent beaches, including Kiryat Haim Beach and Carmel Beach. Both are home to sandy strips and warm Mediterranean waters. You can also find cafes and beach restaurants serving up delicious Middle Eastern cuisine here. The best thing to do is to hire a car and explore the coastline. You’ll find long sandy strips and smaller coves that offer privacy. It’s easy and cheap to hire a car in Israel.
Find Out More About Haifa’s German Colony
Haifa is home to a large German colony that was first established in 1868 by German Templars — not to be confused with Knight’s Templars. It’s located right beside Bahai Gardens, and the traditional buildings and houses have been well restored. Today, it’s lined with cool cafes, restaurants, and shops and draws a younger crowd. German Templars settled here in the 19th century and it was the first of several colonies that were established by German Templars in the Holy Land.
Visit Haifa’s Famous Gardens
Haifa’s Bahai Gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a truly beautiful spot. The gardens, which are located in the Wadi Nisnas and Hadar HaCarmel neighborhoods, are a place of pilgrimage for those of the Bahai faith. The gardens, otherwise known as terraces, are hanging gardens that lead towards the shrine of Báb on Mount Carmel. The gardens are split into three sections and are over half a mile in length. They are filled with flowers, ponds, water fountains, and sculptures, and it’s best to experience the gardens with a guided tour. The picturesque gardens are one of the most visited tourist attractions in Israel and you should add them to your list if you’re backpacking or exploring Israel.
The Bahia faith is relatively new in the history of religion, only being established around 200 years ago. It was founded by Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, living in then-Persia, who declared himself to be the prophet Bab, which means “gate” in Arabic. The religion focuses on teaching the essential worth of all religions and the Bahia faith has faced much persecution and scrutiny. Founder Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi was executed after being shunned by the Shia, and today tens of thousands follow his movement.
Explore the Madatech Science and Technology Museum
The Madatech Museum of Science is an excellent place for adults and kids alike. The museum is home to interactive displays detailing the history of science and technology. Much of the museum’s displays are translated into English. Some of its displays include astronomy exhibitions that take a look at the relationship between humans and space; a planetarium; and a science park split into themed sections related to some of history’s most prominent scientists, including the likes of Archimedes, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, and Galileo Galilei.
Haifa International Film Festival
The Haifa International Film Festival runs for one week each year in either September or October. The city is transformed and draws an international crowd, keen to see one of the hundreds of films that are shown. It was the first international film festival in Israel. Today, around 300,000 people are involved in the film festival and there are close to 300 film screenings across all genres.
Haifa Educational Zoo
The city’s famous Haifa Educational Zoo lines on Mount Carmel. It’s home to over 100 different species, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, as well as rare plants.
Some of the zoo’s most popular residents include lemurs, brown capuchin monkeys, Bengal tigers, leopards, Syrian brown bears, and cheeky baboons. If reptiles and amphibians are more your thing, the zoo has a reptile house with pythons, vipers, and there are even anacondas.
The National Maritime Museum
The history of shipping in the Mediterranean maritime basin can be discovered at the National Maritime Museum. There are changing exhibitions that cover tales of pirates, superheroes of the sea, shipwrecks, and much more. The museum covers the history of over five millennia of maritime history. There are also archaeological treasures on display, such as Egyptian canopic jars and Roman artifacts.
Stella Maris Monastery
The Stella Maris Monastery lies on the Mount Carmel Holy Land and was built in the 19th century. From the monastery, you can see spectacular views of the Meditteranean.
Sample Haifa Street Food
No trip to Haifa could be complete without sampling its incredible street food scene — something that Israel is generally known for. From perfectly crispy falafel, through to hummus, shwarma, and delicious salads, there’s plenty to get stuck into.