In April 2013 I decided to give myself a three day adventure in Haifa. I wanted to see interesting things while making sure to keep within a tight budget.
The trip ended up costing me around 400NIS in total (including travelling to/from Jerusalem) and I had a wonderful time. I found Haifa to be a beautiful mix of urbanity and au naturale. It’s a place where you get to see interesting and pretty things while feeling the calmness of the mountain, the forest and the sea. It was lovely.
This post includes tons of information regarding places worth seeing, including dry details like contact information and entrance fees. It’s based on the extensive research I did for myself before embarking on my adventure. I didn’t find any other resources as comprehensive as this and so, while it is not a complete list (only almost), I hope you’ll find it useful.
The attractions are mainly bunched by area. The bold writing represents details like directions, contact information and price.
In case you thought otherwise, I’m not responsible for any decisions you make, ever, whether regarding your relationship with your boyfriend or your decision to take my advice. :) In other words, double check, don’t blindly follow and I’m sure you’ll be fine.
Also please stay tuned for a photo album from my trip coming shortly.
Public transportation on Google Maps and Wikipedia as my guide
I can’t tell you enough how amazing it was using Google Maps on my smartphone throughout my trip. It now offers public transportation information in Israel and I used that option many times every day. I also used a regular (paper) map that I got at the hostel and the two together were perfect.
One bus/subway ride in the city costs 6.60NIS. The ticket is a transfer for 90 minutes.
Also, often when I’d arrive somewhere, I’d look up the place online and read about it on Wikipedia. It was a great way to learn on the go!
Port Inn hostel
I stayed at the Port Inn and would be happy to stay there again. I slept in a women’s dorm room with eight beds. The whole place was comfortable, friendly, clean and neat.
You can go to their site to learn about their different sleeping options.
I paid 105NIS/night (non-Israelis pay less) +10NIS to rent a towel.
Port Inn is not centrally located but neither is it far away. And it’s very convenient getting around from there since it’s very close to one of the subway stations (more about the Carmelit below), close to many bus lines and a three minute walk from the Merkaz Hashmona train station:
The Maritime Museum, Elijah’s Cave, cable car, gorgeous walk up the mountain and Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery
The National Maritime Museum
I didn’t go there in the end but I want to mention the National Maritime Museum. Outside, of the museum is a memorial for the Dakar. The Dakar was an Israeli submarine that mysteriously disappeared in 1968 on its way to Israel. The remains were only found in 1999.
The museum is on 198 Alenbi St. This is approximately across the road from the beach and the bottom of the cable car (more info on that below).
The 114 bus goes there. 04-853-6622, 04-911-5746, email@example.com, 30 NIS entrance fee.
My favourite day
My favourite day was spent going to Eliyahu’s Cave and then walking up stone stairs carved into the mountainside to get to the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery.
First I took the 114 to the area (approximately the place marked on the Google Map below – Haaliya Hashniya 94. Or if you’re asking people for directions, you can mention either the cable car or the Yotvata restaurant, both of which are in the same building):
Elijah’s Cave is free to visit.
It’s a little confusing finding it but rule number one is to keep in mind that it doesn’t look anything like a cave. It just looks like an interesting building.
Basically you walk away from the sea, cross over the highway on a pedestrian bridge (you can see it on the left in the Google Map right above), cross another main street and then walk up a bunch of stairs.
I went inside the building and hung around for a while, drinking my tea and watching the people.
I liked Elijah’s Cave but I can’t say exactly why. Maybe it was the cookie that one of the women gave me. But I think more possibly, it just feels like a place with a unique story. Yes, possibly including Elijah being brought up to the heavens in a chariot from that exact spot. Hey, why not? :)
Take the cable car or the picturesque stairs up the mountain to the Stella Maris Monastery
The cable car: website, 04-833-5970
It makes sense to take the cable car from Elijah’s Cave up the Carmel Mountain to the Stella Maris Monastery. But Elijah’s Cave put me in an anti-cable car mood. And so when I saw beautiful mysterious stairs heading up into the forest-y mountain, I couldn’t resist. I wasn’t entirely sure it would take me where I was trying to go but it ended up being a gorgeous walk and indeed, I arrived at the Stella Maris Monastery!
How do you find the stairs? Right near Elijah’s Cave is a small gravel road (if I remember correctly). When you are standing on it with your back to the sea, Elijah’s Cave is slightly to your left and the stairs should be slightly to your right.
On the way up I got to enjoy butterflies, wild flowers:
Climbing stairs that are carved into the stony mountain:
And, of course, gorgeous views of the city and the sea:
It was stunning, still and solitude. Highly recommended.
Stella Maris Carmelite Monastary
04-833-7758, reachable by cable car or bus. Free to enter. The bathroom costs (I think 2NIS). Some information about the monastery.
I read Wikipedia on the monastery while sitting in the chapel. This place didn’t really do anything for me but I found the history explained in Wikipedia interesting.
The San Fransisco viewpoint is also nearby if you’re interested.
Downtown – the German Colony, the Israel Railway Museum, vegetarian shwarma, Mizrahi desserts and more
In Haifa they mean it when they say “downtown.” Downtown is the lower part of Haifa altitude-wise. it is the part closer to the sea.
The German Colony
The German Colony is centered around Ben Gurion Avenue. It’s a fixed up area with buildings from the German Templers from around the mid-1800s.
It creates a very straight line with the Baha’i Gardens which is cool to see but I didn’t find I had much to do there besides walk through and read signs here and there about the history and architecture.
It’s around a 17 minute walk from Port Inn.
I read that it’s possible to do walking tours of the German Colony and Wadi Nisnas (a quaint area of Arab stores). I didn’t do it this time but would want to. Otherwise I sort of feel like I’m missing the point. The website about German Colony and Wadi Nisnas walking tours, 04-853-5606, extention: 101
The Israel Railway Museum
I had a small list of museums I was considering visiting but went to none of them. But on the last day I decided to choose one to visit and since I love trains, I chose the Israel Railway Museum. It’s a sweet place built in an old train station where you learn about the history of the land through the history of the railway, which is cool. There is also a movie they can show you in one of the cars.
I’m happy I went because you get to see all kinds of interesting trains of historical significance, but I would have gotten more out of it with a guide.
Price: 30NIS, תחנת הרכבת חיפה מזרח, רחוב חטיבת גולני 1, חיפה, בסמוך לכיכר פייסל
It’s confusing getting there but once you get to the area there are signs and then the guard at the entrance to the grounds can explain about the whole going over the bridge part (you can see the bridge in the picture above).
My second night in Haifa I really needed a good vegetarian meal. Some friends told me about this vegetarian shwarma place which is a 15 minute walk from Port Inn on the same street.
It’s at 136 Yaffo Road (in an area with lots of other “regular” shwarma places) and it costs around 25NIS for shwarma in a baguette (the option I chose). There are whole wheat options too.
The serving was huge. I ate half of my baguette for dinner and saved the other half for the next day. It was very good but actually I found that I liked it more after it had sat.
Almuchtar – Mizrachi desserts
On the afternoon of my last day there, I needed one last adventure and so when I saw an Arab bakery on my way back to the hostel, I decided to give it a try.
Inside, behind glass, there were many huge trays with a wide variety of tiny bite-size desserts. I was curious what kind of fat they used and I found out they use butter. Yum.
I asked her to just give me around 5-6 pieces. She picked them up one by one and explained what she was giving me: Almond flavour, walnut, pistachio, etc.
I took them back to the hostel and ate them there. They were so delicious. Seriously. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of them. Or even better, someone should have recorded me eating them because I must have looked like I was in heaven.
Some other places in the lower part of the city that I didn’t get to
Boat ride – Kishon Fishing Harbour, Sunday to Thursday 08:00 to 16:00, 04 841 8765, 40NIS
The Turkish Shuk – 17:00-23:00, right by the Kikar Paris Carmelit station.
Uptown – the Carmelit subway, Yaffe Nof Street and other views, the Baha’i Gardens, and museums
The Carmelit subway
I had to take the Carmelit while in Haifa because it’s the only subway in Israel. What I didn’t know was that because it takes you up such a steep hill, it’s built as stairs, as are the stations. It’s a tiny little thing, I think two cars long. It’s a surprisingly unique experience, considering that you’d think it’s just like any other subway. There are six stops and from what I could see, it is comprised of two trains which take turns going up and down all day long.
Check out the Carmelit’s website.
The subway stops: Merkaz HaCarmel (at the top), Bnei Tzion, Metzada, HaNvi’im, Solel UBoneh and Kikar Paris (at the bottom – near Port Inn). The cost is 6.60NIS/ride and the ticket is a transfer for public transportation in the city for 90 minutes.
The Baha’i Gardens
Obviously if you go to Haifa, the Baha’i Gardens are a central part of the visit, if only because you can’t help but notice them almost everywhere you go. There are three main ways to see the Baha’i Gardens (besides from the outside, all over the city) and I made sure to do all three:
1) The tour
On this free tour you get to go right inside the gardens and walk down around nine of the 19 floors. There is one 50 minute tour a day in English and one in Hebrew (there are also tours in Russian). Call the number to find out exactly when it is: 04-8313131. You can also look at the schedule here. There are no tours on Wednesday.
Make sure it’s happening the day you intend to go since sometimes they are closed for holidays and such.
I found the tour to be interesting, learning about the meaning behind the aesthetics of the gardens and the history of the Baha’i religion.
2) Going inside the shrine
In the middle of the gardens is the Shrine of the Bab. It’s a majestic building and people are welcome to enter one simple room.
This is possible during the hours 9:00-12:00 on regular days (double check ahead of time). You must cover your shoulders and knees to go into the gardens around the Shrine and into the Shrine itself. To enter you’ll need to take off your shoes and you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside.
Going into the shrine is an interesting experience. It’s a little awkward because a Baha’i person accompanies you inside and then solemnly stands on the side as you try to figure out what to do there. You’ll probably find yourself wandering around the small space, reading what you can and then leaving after a few minutes. It’s an experience.
3) Walking freely around three small part of the gardens
From 9:00-17:00 every day, there is a small area on the top and a small area on the bottom that is open for people to walk around freely, without a guide.
The truth is that I went to the gardens every day in order to do all of these things. The first day I saw the gardens from the outside (from the bottom and then the top). The second day I went on the Hebrew tour. And on the third day I went to the Shrine.
I can’t help but respect the Baha’i for founding a new monotheistic religion so recently (in the 19th century) and particularly one that, in Persia (now Iran), at that time, called for gender equality.
Views, views everywhere and they all mean the same thing
I had a list of around three places in Haifa that were recommended for their views, only to learn that they’re all the same place. So don’t worry, you can see them all at once.
Yeffe Nof Street (the name means Beautiful View) is the street that runs perpendicular to the Baha’i Gardens from which is the top entrance to the gardens. Walking along there is very pretty. Above it, parallel to Yeffe Nof Street, is the Louis Promenade. It’s often the same view from a different perspective. I’m not complaining but if you aren’t hugely a view-lover, you might have enough after walking along just Yeffe Nof or the promenade.
This is one of the places I thought I’d go but didn’t in the end. The Mane-Katz Museum is on Yeffe Nof Street, which means it has a gorgeous view. It was the home of the artist Mane-Katz where he created his art during his lifetime. The house is now an exhibit of his Judaica collection and his own art.
30NIS entry fee, 89 Yeffe Nof Street, 04-9119372, firstname.lastname@example.org
A few other places
Madatech – the science museum
The Sculpture Gardens Gan Hapsalim, (Sderot Hatziyonut)
I heard there is a beautiful view from Dan Carmel hotel. Not sure if anyone will be able to enjoy it. I didn’t try in the end. 85-87 Hanassi Avenue, Haifa, 04-830-3030
There are some interesting things to do near Haifa. I didn’t get to any of these on this trip. I have understood that there are buses by Egged that go to these places.
Yad Lebanim in Daliyat El Carmel – a memorial for Druze soldiers who have lost their lives protecting Israel.
Isfiya – a Druze village (spelled עוספיא in Hebrew)
Ein Hod – an artists village
Bet Oren Riding Stables (20 min. south of Haifa)
About the Carmelin area (Hebrew)
In the comments please write about other places you recommend (or don’t recommend) seeing while touring around Haifa. Also, please write if you see any mistakes in the info provided here. I’ve done my best.