Haifa - Israel

The revered holy sites are the foreword to Israel’s third city, backed by an array of beachfront boutiques cafés that rival its better-known destinations, says Harry McKinley

Travel Time 6hrs 30min

Why go?

Rolling down the slopes of Mount Carmel before flowing outwards along a dramatic Mediterranean coastline, beguiling Haifa is Israel’s third most populous city. Its inhabitants showcase a spirited diversity and there’s a compelling history and culture to explore, influenced in part by the extraordinary natural setting. Balmy November days are ideal for tackling the vertical city’s many winding staircases without the summer heat to slow you down.

What to do

Start your day flitting between the laid-back cafés and trendy boutiques of the German Colony (a restored historical district). Slip on some sensible footwear as from here you can start your climb up the pristinely manicured terraces of the Bahá’í Gardens. Reason enough for many to warrant a visit the Capital of the North, it’s home to the tranquil Shrine of the Báb – one of the holiest sites in the Bahá’í faith and an impressive landmark on Mount Carmel. Soak up the breathtaking views of the city unfurl below, then snake your way to the nearby 19th-century Stella Maris Monastery built by the Carmelite order that was established on its namesake hillside by hermits in the 12th century. From here, cable cars arrive every 15 minutes, ready to whisk you down to the Bat Galim waterfront, with its neat stretch of sandy beach and leafy promenade. Later, take in Haifa’s pulse in Hadar, a diverse neighbourhood that’s home to bric-a-brac stores, second- hand bookshops and graffiti-lined Masada Street.

Where to stay

Ensconced by trees on a quiet street off the upper city’s main drag, boutique hotel Carmella 00 972 4 376 0228, is set within a lovingly restored building of the Templers (19th-century German Protestant settlers). It oozes character, is dotted with local art and has a number of rooms with balconies and sea views. In the German Colony, Golden Crown 00 972 4 639 3000, goldencrown.co.il is a modern gem with well- equipped rooms, sweeping views and smashing breakfasts. Part of a chic Israeli hotel group, Bay Club 00 972 4 811 9700, atlas.co.il serves up art deco grandeur on an intimate scale, and keeps your glass topped up with delicious local wines during its nightly happy hour. In Akko, about 25 minutes’ north of downtown Haifa, The Efendi 00 972 74 729 9799, is a stylish address formed of two historic houses with12 rooms, an excellent food offering, spa and a terrace on which to enjoy cocktails and sunset views.

Where to eat and drink

While Tel Aviv and Jerusalem may garner the lion’s share of headlines for their progressive food scenes, Haifa has quietly been establishing itself as a key destination for gastronomes. In the increasingly cool port area, Venya Bistro 00 972 4 671 6272 showcases the city’s knack for bringing an informal air to quality dining. Grab a seat at the bar and allow the knowledgeable staff to wax lyrical on the menu, a seasonally evolving array of Mediterranean-meets-Middle Eastern plates. At Fattoush 00 972 4 852 4930 in the German Colony, roll up your sleeves and surrender to the appetising chaos of stacked sharing plates. Beyond the namesake salad, discover the regional equivalent of soul food: houmous topped with mushrooms and garlic, cooked okra in a rich tomato sauce, and spiced minced veal, baked in the oven and drowned in tahini sauce. Perhaps the closest to traditional fine dining, at Hanamal 24 hanamal24.rest.co.il chef Ran Rosh fuses French cooking techniques and local flavours: think smoked roast aubergine with purple calamari, ground lamb truffles or artichoke salad with caramelised almonds. More unexpected is Haifa’s burgeoning cocktail scene. At Vesper inventive creations are served with a dash of theatre. Don’t miss the locally distilled, wildly aromatic Akko Gin.

Time running out?

Visit the small but characterful Wadi Nisnas market, chat with the more personable stallholders and get to grips with the region’s plentiful array of local produce first-hand.


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the New Israeli shekel (ILS). Haifa is 2 hours ahead of GMT. Flight time from London to Tel Aviv is around 5 hours. From here, Haifa is a 40-minute train journey or a 1.5-hour drive.

Getting There

El Al offers multiple direct flights daily from London Heathrow and Luton to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. elal.com

easyJet provides regular flights to Tel Aviv from London Luton, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester. easyjet.com


GoIsrael is the country’s official tourist board site, with tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of a visit. goisrael.com

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

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