Best things to do in Haifa
Find out more about those top places in Haifa
Haifa, Israel’s northernmost port city, is the country’s hidden gem with a unique religious history and a myriad of cultures making for an unforgettable experience. Haifa’s main attraction is undoubtedly the Baha’i Gardens, which forms the focal point of the global Baha’i faith that emphasizes the oneness of all religions. The Baha’i Gardens tumble down the lush slops of Mount Carmel while the shimmering dome of the shrine serves as the resting place of the religion’s founder. Influenced by Baha’i religious tolerance, Haifa is Israel’s least segregated city and had been touted as a model of Jewish-Arab coexistence, which can be seen in the vibrant city center and rapidly gentrifying Masada Street.
The 19-tiered gardens of the Baha’i Shrine that line the slopes of Mount Carmel are one of the most picturesque in the Mediterranean world. Tended to by the Baha’i World Center, which is the headquarters of the faith, the gardens are a joy to explore as part of a guided tour that takes you to its best viewpoints and past its most notable sights, including the Baha’i Archives and the Universal House of Justice.
The crowing jewel of the stunning Baha’i Gardens is the shrine to the religions founder, Baha’ullah. The shrine was designed as an eclectic mix of Middle Eastern and European styles to symbolically unify the religious traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Baha’ullah was executed in 19th century Persia for his radical religious beliefs and his embalmed body was finally laid to rest in this remarkable shrine during the 1950s.
The Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery is home to the Carmelite Order, which was founded in the 12th century when Crusader era pilgrims chose to live out their days in hermetic fashion on the slopes of Mount Carmel. The vast monastery is perched on the mountain’s northern tip and much of what you see today dates from the 19th century. Highlights include ceiling frescoes of the Chariot of Fire and a monument in memory of the French revolutionary soldiers who were slaughtered by the Ottomans in Haifa in 1799.
Housing one of Israel’s most remarkable collections of ancient artifacts, the Hecht Museum is a must visit for history buffs. The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly a 2400 year old shipwreck that was dredged from the depths of the Mediterranean in the 1980s. There are also exhibitions on Jewish artists who perished in the Holocaust and the modern history of Israel.
This fascinating museum details the immigration of Jews to Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s before the creation of Israel. Focusing on the role Britain played in blockading Palestinian territory from Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism, the museum is one of Israel’s most harrowing. It is operated by the Ministry of Defense so make sure to bring your passport, as otherwise you will be refused entry.
Holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims, Elijah’s Cave sits at the foot of Mount Carmel and is where the eponymous prophet Elijah prayed before confronting the priests on the mountain above. Men and women enter separately and can peer into the depths of the cave.
The best day tour from Haifa is to the historic port city of Caesarea, which once competed with the ancient metropolises of Alexandria and Carthage for trade. Today, the town is one of Israel’s glitziest with an array of luxury villas, international golf courses and fine dining restaurants. Most of the historic sites are located in Caesarea National Park, which contains a Roman amphitheater and a 9th century city built by the crusading knights.