Haifa

Travel Guide Middle East Israel Haifa

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Introduction

Haifa (Hebrew חֵיפָה Heifa; Arabic حَيْفَا Ḥayfā) is the third largest city in Israel and the largest city in the north of the country with a population close to 300,000. The city is located on Israel's Mediterranean shoreline, on Mount Carmel and at its foot. Haifa is an important transportation, industrial and cultural center and one of Israel's most important maritime trade centers. Haifa is the second holiest city in the Baha'i Faith. The Bahá'í sites in Haifa were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008 and serve as one of the city's leading tourist sites.

Haifa is first mentioned historically around the 3rd century CE as a small town near Shikmona, the main Jewish town in the area at that time and a center for making the traditional Tekhelet dye used for Jewish Priests' temple cloth. The archaeological site of Shikmona lies southwest of the modern Bat Galim neighborhood. The Byzantine ruled there until the 7th century, when the city was conquered — first by the Persians, then by the Arabs. In 1100, it was conquered again by the Crusaders after a fierce battle with its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants. Under Crusader rule, the city was a part of the Principality of Galilee until the Muslim Mameluks captured it in 1265.

In 1761 Daher El-Omar, Bedouin ruler of Acre and Galilee, destroyed and rebuilt the town in a new location, surrounding it with a thin wall. This event is marked as the beginning of the town's modern era. After El-Omar's death in 1775, the town was under Ottoman rule until 1918, except for two brief periods. In the years following, Haifa grew in terms of traffic, population and importance, as Akko suffered a decline. The development of Haifa increased further with the arrival of members of the German Protestant Temple Society in 1868, who settled a modern neighbourhood near the city, now known as the "German Colony". The Templers greatly contributed to the town's commerce and industry, playing an important role in its modernization.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Haifa had emerged as an industrial port city and growing population center, reflected by the establishment of facilities like the Hejaz railway and Technion. At that time Haifa District was home to approximately 20,000 inhabitants, comprised of 82% Muslim Arab, 14% Christian Arabs, and 4% Jewish residents. The Jewish population increased steadily with immigration primarily from Europe, and by 1945 the population had shifted to 38% Muslim, 13% Christian and 47% Jewish.

Today, Haifa is home to Jews, Muslim and Christian Arabs, as well as small communities of Ahmadis (in Kababir), Druze (in nearby Isfiya and Daliyat al-Karmel), Bahá'ís, and others. Haifa is characterised as a mosaic of peaceful coexistence between the communities. It is also the second-holiest city in the Bahai faith.

The phrase "Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, and Tel Aviv plays" refers to Haifa's reputation as a city of workers. A generation ago Haifa's image was that of a serious—and somewhat dull—labor city because of its factories and port. It still has an industrial area to its north, where one of Israel's two oil refineries is located. But it also has a world-class high-tech strip in its south, in the "Matam" technology park along the beach. The park includes blue-chip tech firms such as Intel, Philips, Microsoft, and Google as well as some of Israel's largest tech firms, Elbit, Zoran, and Amdocs. IBM has an R&D center on the top of Mount Carmel at Haifa University and HP has a lab at the Technion, Israel's leading technological university.

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Neighbourhoods

Coastal Districts

  • Downtown (East Downtown, Central Downtown, West Downtown) - The main center of Haifa is on a plain area adjacent to the northern part of the Carmel ridge. Haifa's downtown area is the main commerce area of the city. Prominent tourist attractions in Haifa's downtown area include The Bahai Gardens, the German Colony, Wadi Nisnas, and several prominent museums.
  • Haifa Bay (Halutzey HaTa'asiya, Lev Hamifratz, Haifa Port-Kishon Port) - Haifa's main industrial area which has amongst other large industrial complexes and also includes the main location from where Haifa's shipping industry operates. Prominent tourist attractions in this part of Haifa include several shopping centers, entertainment complexes, and nightclubs.
  • West Haifa (Bat Galim Beach-Kiryat Eliezer, Shikmona Beach, South Beach) - The western coast of Haifa which is characterized by long beaches. Prominent tourist attractions in this part of Haifa include archeological and historical sites such as the Cave of Elijah, Stella Maris, Haifa El-Atiqia and Tel Shikmona. Additional tourist attractions include two proiminent museums (the National Maritime Museum and the and the Naval Museum), and several parks.
  • Kiryat Haim- Kiryat Shmuel (Kiryat Haim East, Kiryat Haim West , Kiryat Shmuel) - Two suburban neighborhoods on a plain in northeastern part of the city. The neighborhood has a predominantly secular Jewish population and has a distinctly secular character.

The Carmel Ridge Districts

  • Carmel (Carmelia-Vardia, Central and Western Carmel, Carmel Tsarfati) - Includes several residential neighborhoods on the north-western part of the Carmel ridge. This has a very impressive panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea and Haifa Bay. This area of the city has some of the best educational institutions in the city as well as the most affluent population in the city.
  • Hadar (Hadar West, Upper Hadar, Central Hadar, Hadar East) - An area at the center of the northern slope of the Carmel ridge, with a particularly diverse population. The most prominent tourist attraction in this part of Haifa is the Baha'i Gardens that descend towards the Haifa's downtown.
  • Neve Sha'anan (Mordot Neve Sha'anan, Neve Sha'anan, Yizraelia, Ziv-Ramat Alon, Remez-Sapir) - Residential neighbourhoods on the eastern part of Mount Carmel. The Technion - one of the most important and oldest universities in Israel - is in Neve Shaanan. Neve Sha'anan is the most populated area in Haifa.
  • Ramot HaCarmel (Romemot, Ahuza, Tsir Horev, Tsir Abba Hushi) - Residential neighborhoods at the southwest part of the Carmel range. The University of Haifa, which is at the southern part of this area, is one of the most prominent universities in Israel.

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Sights and Activities

  • Bahá'í Gardens and World Center, ☏ +972 4-831-3131, fax: +972 4-831-3132. Th-Tu. The gardens and world centre on Mount Carmel's northern slope area a must-see for any visitor to Haifa. Comprising the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, terraced gardens and administrative buildings, the World Centre is the holiest site of pilgrimage for the members of the Bahá'í faith, as well as the faith's central administrative center. The gardens are stunning and well worth visiting if you are in Haifa. Only parts of the site can be accessed freely without joining the tour – this includes the bottom entrance and the level at the dome. The tours are free and no reservation is required, unless you are a group of 25 or more. Check their website to find out when the tours take place.
  • Cave of Elijah (follow the stairs up on Siderot HaHagana). Elijah is considered a prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Carmelites have a tradition that they were founded by Elijah at this time. According to tradition, Elijah lived in a cave on Mt. Carmel during the reign of King Ahab. The site itself may disappoint many tourists as it's a very simple site. One enjoyable and scenic option for good walkers is to walk down to the cave from Stella Maris (monastery) at the top of Mt. Carmel.
  • Stella Maris. A French Carmelite church, monastery and hospice. This is the founding place of the Carmelite Order, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. The present monastery and church, built over what the Carmelites believe to be a cave where Elijah lived, dates from 1836 after the previous buildings were destroyed in 1821 by Abdullah, pasha of Akko. It's worth visiting the church to view the beautiful painted ceiling which portrays Elijah and the famous chariot of fire (in which he ascended to heaven), King David with his harp, the saints of the order, the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel and David, and the Holy Family with the four evangelists below. A small adjoining museum contains ruins of former cloisters dating from Byzantine and Crusader times.
  • German Colony, Centered around Ben-Gurion Blvd. All hours. In 1868 members of German Templer Society (not to be confused with the Knights Templar) purchased land that was far from the city and set out to build the first planned agricultural community in the Holy Land. Many of the original templar houses have been preserved and have undergone restoration in the last decade of 20th century. Now the main street of the former colony (Ben-Gurion Boulevard) is a promenade, with many restaurants and coffee shops. Some examples of good places in the German Colony are Havana Plus, a hookah bar with a full service bar; Milagro, a restaurant that provides great beer on tap and live music after 8PM; and Isabella, one of the finer restaurants in the area. The City History Museum and the local Tourist Board are also located here. Free.
  • University of Haifa. At the top of Carmel, the campus was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the architect of Brasilia and UN building in New York City. Newer buildings were added later. The top 30th floor of the Eshkol Tower provides an incredible view of almost the entire North of Israel. The campus is also home to the Hecht Museum with its rich archeology and art collections. Entry to both of these attraction is free.
  • Wadi Nisnas. Haifa's largest Arab neighbourhood with a bustling pedestrian zone and outdoor art. "Holiday of the Holidays" is held there between December and January.
  • Tel Shikmona. An important coastal city from the 15th century BCE until the Byzantine period; some of the ruins can be observed now.

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Getting There

By Plane

Haifa Airport (HFA IATA). Serves flights to Eilat and Larnaca, Cyprus. People flying from anywhere else should use Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV IATA) near Lod, where flights arrive from all over the world. It's less than two hours to drive from Ben Gurion Airport, and buses, trains, taxis and shuttles operate on this route. The best way to get to Haifa from the airport is to take the train leaving from the airport terminal.

By Train

Haifa is well connected to Tel Aviv, Akko (Acre), Beer Sheva, Nahariyya and the Ben Gurion International Airport by a train line operated by Israel Railways. The trip takes a little over an hour and during peak hours there are as many as 3-4 services hourly. There are four train stations in Haifa, three of which are open 24 hours excluding the Sabbath (Friday night & Saturday daytime).

By Car

From the south, route 2 is the coastal highway which links Haifa with Tel Aviv. This journey takes up to one and a half hours. Route 6, the inland toll road, is a bit quicker for accessing eastern parts of Haifa.

Other more minor roads link Haifa to the East and North, although chances are, if you're up there, you've come close to or past Haifa to get there in the first place.

By Bus

You can take buses from Tel Aviv (910), Jerusalem (940, 960), Ben Gurion International Airport (947), Afula (301) or almost any city in the region to Haifa. During the Sabbath, you'll have to resort to a shared taxi (sherut), most of which leave from near Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station.

The train is more comfortable and convenient than the 910 bus, except on Friday afternoons when the train stops running several hours before the bus, and you are forced to take the 910. For Jerusalem, you should take the 940/960 bus, but if you missed the last one, get to Tel Aviv and take a bus/train from there to Haifa.

Don't take the 947 bus from Jerusalem! It is extremely slow and makes numerous stops, so you will arrive late and carsick. Better to wait even an hour for the 940/960. It is OK to take the 947 from Netanya or Raanana to Haifa, as this skips the slowest part of the route.

From Haifa (the Hadar neighborhood, i.e. the uphill part of downtown), other sherut lines provide cheap frequent service between here and the cities of Akko, Nahariyya, and Karmiel, as well as to various neighborhoods and suburbs of Haifa. They generally follow the routes of the bus lines.

By Boat

While the port is intended primarily for freight, Haifa is gradually becoming a popular destination for many major international cruise lines and is the home to local Budget cruise line Mano serving Southern Europe and other Mediterranean destinations. Periodically, there are also ferry boats from Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. In 2016, a regularly scheduled ferry began operating between Haifa and Akko.

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

Haifa's local bus system includes three "Metronit" (BRT) routes, and a large number of "normal" routes. Buses in Haifa run regularly between 5AM and midnight. Unlike most cities in Israel, local buses (but not the Carmelit subway) run on the Sabbath (Friday afternoon to Saturday evening) and Jewish holidays; however, they only operate minimal and highly infrequent services during these hours. The "sherut" (taxi van with fixed routes and prices) lines also run on Saturdays in parallel with some bus routes, and are much more frequent. A night bus route runs from midnight-5AM and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30PM-5AM. During the peak period (summertime) this route runs every night, but in the off-peak season it only runs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Some buses operated by Dan North are branded "metronit" and thus marketed as a "bus rapid transit" system. The Metronit system consists of three lines (blue, red and green) and some of the buses are bi-articulated.

Haifa has a subway: the Carmelit funicular, which is the only subway in Israel. It is useful for getting up or down the mountain from downtown, but it only covers a small part of Haifa. If you need to go further, you can buy a ticket which includes a transfer to a bus for the remainder of your journey, though it's probably more convenient to just take a bus the whole way. However, the Carmelit is worth taking for fun, to see its weird angled structure (steps in the stations and train cars, made necessary by the steepness of the mountain). The Carmelit has few riders, so you'll always find a seat.

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Eat

Haifa is not a gourmet center like greater Tel Aviv, but it still has plenty to offer.

Falafel and other street food. Some good falafel can be found in: Falafel Michel and Falafel HaZkenim, both in the Wadi Nisnas area; Falafel HaNasi (locations in the Carmel Center and Horev Center); and at Paris Square, the lowest Carmelit station. Wadi Nisnas has many restaurants and food stalls for shawarma, falafel, and Middle Eastern sweets like baklava and knafe.

There is a huge concentration of falafel and shawarma stands downtown on Yafo Street, near the old Bat Galim Central Bus Terminal building (about 400 m from it). The food is cheap and authentic (about ₪10-15 for a falafel, and around ₪20-22 for a shawarma in a pita).

Another cheap street food is the Bureka—a Turkish phyllo dough, filled pastry—which is almost as common as falafel. Price is also cheap, and it usually comes filled with cheese, potatoes, spinach and feta, or meat.

Further up the food chain are the Middle Eastern/Arabic restaurants. Most are located downtown: Abu-Yousef (there are two with no relation), Hummus Faraj, Hummus Abu-Shaker (on HaMeginim St.), Abu Maroun (in the flea market), Matza (a good place 10 minutes walking distance from the shopping mall "Grand Canyon"). They are all famous for their high quality hummus (which is regarded as the "best of the best" in Israel). Expect to pay ₪50-80 per person for a complete meal.

There are several Romanian-style restaurants; in actuality this is a hybrid of Middle Eastern and Romanian cuisine. Most are located downtown: Ma'ayan HaBira (beer fountain), Cafe (coffee) Glida (icecream) Younek. Expect to pay ₪50-100 per person for a meal.

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Drink

Central Mount Carmel offers a decent selection of mid-class cafes and bars. Popular cafes are Greg and Tut (Strawberry), which are right next to each other in Kikar Sefer.

Closer to the Horev Center, 'Frangelico' and 'Barbarossa' are considered to be the most popular bars. They are often very crowded, but if one can't get in, there are many other bars in close walking distance, such as Brown, Levinsky, Maidler, and Duke.

The beautiful street of Yefe Nof also boasts a cluster of pubs, including a popular Charliebar and Irish-style pub.

Downtown there are some more pubs, including the legendary old-fashioned 'Maayan HaBira', which is more popular among adult crowd; the "Martef" (Basement), where you might also catch an open-mic night; and up the street from HaMartef is Jack and the Beanstalk, a more intimate pub with a great selection of appetizers. Another downtown happening place is the Syncopa bar.

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Sleep

  • Port Inn, 34 Yafo Rd (in Old City), ☏ +972 4-852-4401, fax: +972 4-852-1003, ✉ port_inn@yahoo.com. Check-in: Noon, check-out: 11AM. A restored Arabic building offers apartments, private rooms and dormitories. Lounge area with a multilingual satellite TV, a small kitchen with free coffee and tea available all day, and a flourishing garden. Member of ILH. ₪90.
  • Al Yakhour Hostel, Ben Gurion 24, German Colony, ☏ +972 77-657-0928. Highly rated and conveniently located at the foot of the Bahai Gardens. Dorm bed from ₪76.
  • Bethel Hostel, 40 Hagefen St, ☏ +972 50-7481789, ✉ bethel.hostel.reservation@gmail.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A Christian hostel in the German Colony. Bethel offers accommodations and facilities for Christian groups and individuals. ₪100.
  • Rutenberg Institute, HaNassi Avenue 77 (in Merkaz HaCarmel), ☏ +972 4-838-7958, fax: +972 4-838-7865, ✉ info@rutenberg.org.il.
  • German Colony Guest House, Derech Yafo 100, ☏ +972 50-686-6010. ₪120.
  • Haddad's Guest House, 26 Ben-Gurion Ave, German Colony, ☏ +972 52-235-4283, fax: +972 77-201-0618. Family-run guest house.
  • Hotel Beth Shalom, 110 Hanassi Blvd, ☏ +972 4-837-7481, fax: +972 4-837-2443. ₪240.
  • German Colony Guest House, 105 Yafo St, ☏ +972 4-855-3705, fax: +972 4-851-4919. Check-out: 10AM. Very clean and comfortable rooms. Run by the Rosary Sisters (Roman Catholic nuns) who seem to take great care of the guests. A free breakfast is included and it's a very central location near the Haifa HaShmona central railway station and the Haifa port. The only downside is that you have to be back in the guesthouse by 10PM. ₪180 including breakfast.
  • Bat Galim Boutique Hotel, 10 Yonatan St., ☏ +972 4-6037800, ✉ res@batgalim-boutique-hotel.co.il. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. from US$90.
  • Crowne Plaza Haifa, 111 Yafe Nof St. (on Mount Carmel), ☏ +972 3-539-0808, ✉ hi.gmsec@hiil.co.il. Health club has a covered pool, wet and dry sauna, Jacuzzi and gym. ₪600.
  • Dan Carmel Haifa Hotel, 85-87 Hanassi Ave, ☏ +972 3-520-2552, fax: +972 3-548-0111, ✉ Reservations-T.DanCarmel@DanHotels.com. Haifa's first luxury hotel. Panoramic views of the bay and the city of Haifa, with private gardens.
  • Dan Panorama Haifa Hotel, 107 Hanassi Ave, ☏ +972 3-520-2552, fax: +972 3-548-0111, ✉ Reservations-T.PanoramaHaifa@DanHotels.com. Rises high above Mount Carmel, offering good views of Haifa bay and miles of coastline. The hotel is directly linked to a shopping mall.
  • Templars Boutique Hotel, 36 Ben Gurion Blvd (German Colony), ☏ +972 50-520-9695, ✉ info@templars.co.il. Next to Baha'i Gardens.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Keep Connected

Internet

Israel is a technologically advanced society, and internet cafés are widely available in most cities and towns. The regular price for paid internet cafés is about 15 shekels per hour but you can get it for about 10 shekels in some of the more local places. Free Wi-Fi access is common in cafés (check individual articles). All branches of 'Aroma Espresso Bar', 'Arcaffe', 'Café Café', 'McDonalds' and 'Yellow' convenience stores have free Wi-Fi access, though in some you will have to approach the staff for a password.

Recently, the "Jerusalem Wi-Fi" project started. This government started project aims to cover the entire Jerusalem area with Wi-Fi although at the moment the only areas covered are in the city center. A similar project has started in Tel Aviv and in Karmiel in the north. Some other cities are following suit.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international country code for Israel is 972. Emergency numbers include 100 (police), 101 (ambulance) and 102 (fire). 112 is supported in mobile networks.

Currently Israel offers support for all the available networks including GSM/UMTS (Pelephone, Cellcom and Orange), CDMA (Pelephone) and iDen (Hot Mobile). In any case, you must check with your carrier about the roaming option and the compatibility of your device in advance. A valid suggestion otherwise is to turn off data services.

You can rent a cellphone for use in Israel either before your trip or once you arrive from several firms. You can also rent smartphones with sim cards included sometimes for lower than the cost of renting just a sim card. Vendors such as Israel Phone Rentalsoffer the advantages of a sim card rental without having to worry about bringing your own phone to Israel. If you have a GSM cellphone without a SIM-lock, you can buy a SIM-card. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Pelephone (Talk & Go), Cellcom (Talk Man) and Orange (Bigtalk) phone stores throughout Israel. Almost all shopping malls will have a Pelephone, Cellcom or Orange kiosk or store.

There are many public phones scattered around. Public phones can be always found at hotels, post offices, central bus stations and train stations. These phones use a Telecard, which, today, is a pre-paid calling card that works only with pay phones and can be purchased at post offices and some stores, as well as ordinary calling cards. Some phones also accept credit cards, usually those in hotels and post offices.

Post

The Israel Post is the national postal service of Israel and generally has fast, reliable and affordable services. Efficiency means that letters and postcards send by airmail just take about 3-7 days within Europe, a few days more to the USA and Australia. Express Mail Services (EMS) is available, with which you are guaranteed to have the postcard or letter delivered within 72 hours anywhere in the world. You can buy stamps at post offices, or newspaper stands/kiosks or some souvenir shops and hotels. The main post offices are usually open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Sunday to Thursday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Friday, though some might keep longer hours. Branch offices and post offices in smaller towns keep shorter hours, usually with a break from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and on Wednesday and Friday only during the morning. Parcels can be send by the regular post offices or with companies like TNT, UPS, FedEx and DHL.

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Accommodation in Haifa

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This is version 12. Last edited at 14:14 on Jul 3, 19 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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