With a population of around 300,000, Haifa is Israel’s third largest settlement and the major city of the north. It is known as one of the most tolerant cities in the Middle East, in which a wide ethnic mix of Jews, Arabs and minorities live side-by-side with little conflict. Protruding into the Mediterranean, the thumb-shaped Haifa is home to Israel’s most significant port, around which much of the city’s industry is centred. As the saying goes, “Tel Aviv prays while Jerusalem prays. But Haifa works!” Also the location of two universities, the University of Haifa and the prestigious Technion, it is a popular destination for students and tourists.

Haifa stretches up the side of Mount Carmel, actually a 16 mile-long mountain range. The Lower City lies at sea-level, around the port, whereas the more exclusive and expensive Middle City and Upper Carmel are higher up.


As an ancient city with a diverse population, Haifa has many attractions for visitors. The most visible of these is the Baha’i shrine with its stunning, near-perfect gardens, the 19 terraces of which stretch 750 feet up the mountain. The complex is the international centre of the Baha’i faith, which was founded by Baha’u’llah in Iran towards the end of the 19th century. Known as the “Eighth wonder of the world”, the gardens are exactly 530 miles west of Babylon, where the original hanging gardens were once situated. These ones were reopened in 2001 after a $250 million renovation project; entrance is free.

Gan Ha’Em (“Mother’s Park”) is situated in Central Carmel. The park offers promenades and botanical gardens, as well as the Haifa Zoo and the Museum of Prehistory. The zoo has been designed to give visitors close access to the animals and there is a petting zoo with small animals for children.

Haifa is an important location for Elijah, the Old Testament prophet also revered by Muslims, Christians and Baha’is. Muhraka (“place of burning”), at the top of Mount Carmel, is the traditional location for his famous showdown with the prophets of Baal in the 9th century BC – a decisive moment for monotheism. The site is marked by an imposing statue of the prophet and a Carmelite monastery. The highest point of Carmel (around 1,800 feet), Muhraka also offers incredible views across the city and the Jezreel Valley. Elijah’s cave, where the prophet was supposed to have lived and established his school of prophets, is found on Allenby Street near the Stella Maris church and another Carmelite monastery.

Also on Allenby street is the National Maritime Museum, with exhibits recording over 5,000 years of shipping history. The Hecht Museum, at the University of Haifa, hosts art and archaeological exhibits. The Museum of Ancient Art covers both of these subjects together, displaying artefacts of artistic interest from Greco-Roman, Coptic and other ancient Mediterranean cultures.

Haifa’s sandy beaches lie on three sides of the city and are numbered among Israel’s best. The free municipal beaches are clean and well-tended. Scuba-diving, windsurfing and other water sports are all catered for.


Haifa is well-known in Israel for its large and modern shopping malls, typically including cinemas and a range of entertainment alongside a diverse range of food courts and other shops. Grand Canion is the biggest mall. The shopping and arts centre Castra, at the south of the city, has an enormous mosaic wall depicting Adam and Eve, as well as further works of art based on the Old Testament.

Higher up Carmel, there are a few local shopping districts with a range of smaller shops. Massada Street (in the Upper Hadar area) is perhaps the most famous example of these. Here, you will find antique and bric-a-brac shops, cafés, art galleries and other curiosities.

Nightlife and Eating Out

One of Haifa’s liveliest areas for nightlife is the German Colony at the foot of the Baha’i gardens. The colony was settled towards the end of the 19th century by members of the German Templar Society. Now, it is a thriving centre of shops, restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs, open for business day and night. The main street, Ben Gurion Avenue, begins at sea level and runs up the mountain to the entrance of the gardens. At night, when the lights are turned on, the shrine is an incredible sight.

In the lower city, nearest the port, there are many cheap restaurants and snack bars selling the ubiquitous falafel, shawarma and other local dishes. Further up the mountain, Central Carmel has a broad choice of medium-price restaurants and bars. Moriah Avenue is a well-known bars and clubs area, very popular with young people.

Tourist Information

Haifa Tourist Association48 Ben Gurion St.The German ColonyHaifa

Telephone: +972 (0)4-8535606Website: www.tour-haifa.co.il

Sun-Thu: 9:00am – 5:00pm Fri: 09:00am – 1:00pmSat: 10:00am – 3:00pm


The relatively small Haifa Airport serves local flights to Eilat (in the far south of Israel) and Tel Aviv – although this is only a short trip by car. International destinations include Jordan, Cyprus and Turkey.

Israel’s main airport is Ben Gurion, 10 miles southeast of Tel Aviv and around 50 miles from Haifa (follow road no. 1 towards Tel Aviv and then no. 4; for the coastal road to Haifa turn onto no. 5 at the Morasha Junction, then take no. 2).

Ben Gurion serves a huge number of airlines and destinations all over the world, including London Heathrow and Stansted. Expect security to be tight, particularly on the Israeli national airline El-Al.