Akko(עכו), also known as 'Akka( عكّا) and to Westerners as Acre, lies on the northern edge of the Bay of Acre in northern Israel. On its present site, Akko possesses a long history of various cultures: Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Arabs. Akko is a holy city in the Bahá'í Faith and in spite of its small size has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: (1) the Old City of Acre; and (2) the Baha’i garden of Acre, which is a part of the Baha’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee.
A typical alley in the Old City of Acre
If you found Jerusalem too intense, come to Acre to find a magnificent coastal Old City with a slower pace. There's plenty to see (and hear and taste and smell!) above ground and below. If you're okay with crowds, Acre can make a great place to spend a Saturday, as the Old City doesn't close down and the attractions are open. It's possible to see Acre as a day-trip from Haifa, but to get the full experience, plan to stay a night. If you're looking to take a few days to relax on your trip, Acre makes a great place to slow down for a few days and enjoy the Old City and beaches.
Acre's Old City is populated mainly by Palestinian citizens of Israel (Muslim and Christian), and the New City is mainly Jewish-Israeli. The neighborhoods immediately outside the Old City are mixed. The city as a whole boasts a highly diverse population, and in addition to Arabic and Hebrew, you may hear Russian, Azerbaijani, and Ukrainian spoken on the streets by city residents.
Getting to Akko (Acre) is very simple, as it lays on the north of Haifa and on the main Israeli train track.
- Israel Railways, . Every 20 minutes in peak hours. ₪35.50 from Tel Aviv, ₪13.50 from Haifa. editIsrael Railways, Israel's only train operator, has over 40 daily trains to and from Akko every 20 minutes during peak hours. Most of these trains go all the way to Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport.
- Egged, . ₪11.70 from Haifa and from Carmiel. editIsrael's national bus company, has a slighty slower and cheaper connection to Akko, with bus lines 271, 272 and 251. Lines 361, 262 and 500 connect Akko with Carmiel.
- NTT, . ₪21.50 from Nazareth. editLine 353, operating about once an hour Sunday to Friday morning, speeds you from Nazareth to Acre (or the reverse) in under an hour. Drops you just outside of the Old City. Get off at the Marine Officers School (Beit Sefer L'Katzinei Yam) or if you miss it, Ha'Arba'a Road (Derech H'Arba'a).
Service taxis travel frequently from the Hadar neighborhood of Haifa to Akko. They are as cheap or cheaper than the bus. Look for a sign saying "Akko Naharia" or "Akko Karmiel" in Hebrew only in the front of the service taxi. If you don't know Hebrew, go to Herzl street in Haifa, point an index finger at a 45 degree angle with the ground (the Israeli hitchhiking signal) when a service taxi drives by, and ask where it's going.
Parking in the Old City has become a serious problem on Fridays and Saturdays. If you are staying the night on one of these days, call your accommodation ahead of time to confirm that you need a parking place and they should help to guide you to a suitable location.
The Old City is small and basically pedestrian only. It is a 10 minute walk from the bus station and 15-20 minute walk from the train station. NTT bus 353 to Nazareth drops off on the road into town, a 5 minute walk from the Old City, and the longer Egged bus 343 from Nazareth drops off in the Old City.
The only major site outside the Old City is the Bahá'í shrine. You can take a private cab there, or else a "sherut" taxi going north to Nahariya can drop you off on the road outside the shrine.
From the Old City, walk out to Ben Ami St a couple of blocks into the New City and follow it all the way to Tel Akko (or Tel Napoleon), a Bronze Age-Hellenistic period archaeological site. It is free to visit and worth it if you are looking for some peace and quiet. The site is currently being excavated, so there is little signage, but it has incredible views over the bay, to the south, and the hills of the Lebanon border, to the north.
Walking underground Crusader-era streets
- The wall has a lot of history to offer, and you can walk atop a section dating from the rule of Ahmed Al-Jazzar from the breach at Weizman St to the Land Gate at the sea shore. The wall also houses the Treasures in the Wall Ethnographic Museum. It is fun to walk along, especially the part bordering the sea. In 1750, Daher El-Omar, the ruler of Acre, utilized the remnants of the Crusader walls as a foundation for his walls. Two gates were set in the wall, the "land gate" in the eastern wall, and the "sea gate" in the southern wall. In 1912 the Acre lighthouse was built on the south-western corner of the walls.
- Hall of the Crusader Knights at the Citadel. Under the citadel and prison of Acre, archaeological excavations revealed a complex of halls built and used by the Hospitallers Knights. This complex was a part of the Hospitallers' citadel in the northern area of medieval Acre. The complex includes six semi-joined halls, one recently excavated large hall, a dungeon, a dining room and the crypt of an ancient Gothic church. Some of the buildings and houses around (and including) St. Andrew's Church and the Pisan port have Crusader-era foundations, and most of the roads and squares in the city follow the same layout as the Crusader city. There were also residential quarters and marketplaces run by merchants from Pisa and Amalfi in Crusader and medieval Acre.
Inside the Templar Tunnel which traverses the Old City East-West
- The Templar Tunnel was built by the Knights Templar to provide underground passage between their fortress, which stood near the current lighthouse, to the port on the south-eastern side of the city. The tunnel was recently excavated and access is included on the combined ticket.
- The synagogue of the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) a Kabbalah master. Look for it on the map available for 3 NIS at the ticket office. Knock on the door and there is a friendly interpreter who is usually there during the day to show you around.
- Hammam al-Basha Built in 1795 by Jezzar Pasha, Acre's hammam has a series of hot rooms and a hexagonal steam room with a marble fountain. It was used by the Irgun as a bridge to break into the citadel's prison. The bathhouse kept functioning until 1950. Now it is a tourist site featuring an entertaining video presentation of Acre's past (as told by the hammam's last operator and his ancestors).
- The citadel of Acre and Underground Prisoners Museum is an Ottoman fortification, built on the foundation of the Hospitaller citadel. The citadel was part of the city's defensive formation, reinforcing the northern wall. During the 20th century the citadel was used mainly as a prison and as the site for a gallows. During the British mandate period, activists of Jewish Zionist resistance movements were held prisoner there; several were executed there. The Irgun staged a famous prison break against the citadel in May 1947, which is commemorated by a monument nearby. Famous characters like Baha'u'llah and Israel's prime minister Menachem Begin used to be locked there. Today the site is managed by the Ministry of Defense, so bring your passport if you plan to visit.
- Or Torah, Tunisian synagogue, a meticulously handcrafted spectacle of stained glass and tile mosaic entirely unique to Akko. (located a 3-5 minute walk outside the Old City from the Land Gate)
- Khan el Umdan Old Akko has several large khans (an inn enclosing a courtyard, used by caravans for accommodation) which once served the camel caravans bringing in grain from the hinterland. The grandest is the Khan al-Umdan . Its name means 'Inn of the Pillars', and it was built by Al-Jazzar in 1785. The pillars that give the khan its name were looted from Caesarea. It is a two story structure and the ground floor would have housed the animals, while their merchant owners would have slept upstairs. It is currently part of a real estate dispute and thus usually closed. Peak through the gate from the entrance on Venice (or Fishermen's) Square.
- Okashi Art Museum Around the corner from the Hamman al-Basha is a gallery devoted to the works of Avshalom Okashi (1916-80), an influential Israeli painter and a resident of Akko for the last half of his life. Included in the combined ticket (with Crusader Halls, Templar Tunnel, Treasures in the Wall).
The Great Mosque of al-Jazzar - the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem
- The Great Mosque of Jezzar Pasha was built in 1781. Jezzar Pasha and his successor Suleiman Pasha, are both buried in a small graveyard adjacent to the mosque. In a shrine on the second level of the mosque, a single hair from the prophet Mohammed's beard is kept and shown on special ceremonial occasions.
- The Pisan Port - now occupied by three restaurants on the southern end of the Old City. Impressive Crusader masonry can still be seen.
- The Shrine of Baha'u'llah - the holiest place for the Bahá'ís. The Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh is composed of a central room that has a small garden at its centre, which has trees growing in it and there are layers of carpets around the walls. In the right hand corner of the central room there is a small room where Bahá'u'lláh's remains are laid to rest.
- The Market - mostly local shops with a few oriented toward travelers. A good place to buy spices, olive oil soaps, loofas, coffee, and tea.
Ancient Tel Akko (known locally as Napoleon's Hill)
- Tel Akko - the remains of the ancient city of Acre before it was resettled on the piece of land currently known as the "Old City" in the Hellenistic period with incredible views of the Old City, Haifa, villages to east, and the sea. Take a walk down Ben-Ami Street, past the shopping mall about 15 minutes from the Old City. You'll find a massive hill with a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte on top. The hill, or "tel", results from multiple ancient cities built on top of each other from the Early Bronze Age to the Hellenistic Period (i.e. Canaanites to Alexander the Great). In antiquity, the site was an important trading port with goods being traded between the Levant, the Aegean, Anatolia, Cyprus, and Egypt. Excavations are ongoing, and you might catch some archaeologists if you visit in July. Free, and since few travelers know about it, is well worth a visit if you're craving some peace and quiet.
- The Turkish Bazaar - The newly renovated bazaar in the old city, where several up-and-coming chefs have opened small restaurants. A couple of good souvenir shops with products made in-country too.
- Tomb of Sheikh Izz al-Din - This maqam (shrine) is located on the beach approximately 1.5km north of the old city of Akko. This is a square (4.5m per side) domed building standing in an area of open scrub. The entrance to the tomb is on the south side and is protected with an iron door. There is a window on the west side from which it is possible to see that the floor level inside is considerably (0.5m) lower than the outside ground level.
- Tomb of al-Khader is a Druze shrine in the village of Kafr Yassif near Akko this is the tomb of St.George (on its Muslim/Druze verison and name) according to the Druze faith.
- Tomb of Sheikh Amin Tarif - The tomb of Sheikh Amin Tarif is located in the village of Julis near Acre. Sheikh Amin Tarif was the leader of the Druze community during the British Mandate of Palestine and the State of Israel periods. he was also known for all the Druze worldwide religious activity. he was died in 1993 and buried in his home in Julis. today his home is also a Maqam (Shrine) and many Druze pilgrims visiting his tomb.
- Join the crowd and smoke nargileh (or just have a tea) in the recently restored Khan esh-Shwarda in the evening.
- Do the rounds at all the hummus restaurants of the old city - it might take a couple days, but it's the best around.
- Visit the Turkish Bazaar. On some Saturday afternoons there are lively performances and visiting artisans.
- Take a boat ride around the walls of the old city.
- Watch the kids jumping off the eastern wall into the Mediterranean Sea.
- Get scrubbed down at Hammam Ghattas (advance reservations required)
- AlMadrasa is a school and workshop offering short (1.5 hours) and long courses (up to multiple weeks) in traditional stone carving and stone sculpting. Caters to school groups, professionals, and visitors to the city. (advance notice suggested)
You can buy almost anything along the main marketplace - ask and someone will direct you! Sea sponges, olive oil soaps, spices, tobacco and pipes, perfumes can all be found, usually cheaper than in Jerusalem. Be aware, though, that unless you have excellent haggling skills in Arabic or Hebrew, you will still be paying marked up prices. Settle on your price before you agree to make a purchase to avoid an awkward situation.
You can find delicious hummus throughout Acre, and baklava or knafeh in the old bazaar.
Acre is famous for its fish restaurants, some of the best are located in the port area. Doniana and Abu Christo are classics, a must for anyone who wants to have a great meal in a great location looking over the sea.
Eat everywhere. On Salah ah-Din Street there are bakeries with yummy treats. Foods like this are hard to find. Rough it up and enjoy the experience.
If you are looking for quality upscale dining, options include Uri Buri, located on the lagoon walkway on HaHagana Street, and El Marsa, located at the the marina.
There are some newer, small, and terrific restaurants in the Turkish Bazaar if you come out of the Crusader Halls feeling hungry.
A little far away from the crowds of the old city is the locals favorite Gallery Simaan restaurant, located at Ben Ami street (no. 63)
Marsa Bar, tucked into a back room of El Marsa restaurant at the marina, is the only real bar in the Old City, but it's a good one. Beer on tap and an extensive cocktail menu. It's also possible to order food from the restaurant.
Bader Coffee in the main market sells coffee from around the world. Ask him to grind it with cardamom to get the local flavor. He also brews a good espresso for 5 NIS.
Hummus El-Abed Abu Hmid (under the lighthouse) - in addition to delicious plates of hummus or ful or daily specials you'd normally only find in local kitchens, is a great place to stop for coffee or tea.
Alcohol is served at most of the larger Old City restaurants; most will be happy to serve beer or arak without food. Nothing quite compares to having a few drinks at Abu Christo by the marina at sunset.
- Akkommodation (Hotel Akkommodation in Akko), Saleh el-Basri St. (Enter the Old City from the coast, you see the lighthouse, continue to the left on Saleh el-Basri Street), ☎ +972-544-496-525, . checkin: 3:00; checkout: 12:00. A refurbished boutique hotel at the coast of the old city of Akko with a breathtaking view on the Mediterranean sea. Along the eastern wall of Akko in a picturesque narrow lane across two outstanding restaurants. Uniquely designed rooms with kitchen and private bathroom and eager-to-please innkeepers make it a affordable option in Akko. ₪135 per night. (32.919713,35.068293) edit
- Walid's Gate Hostel which may also be seen as the "Akko Gate Hostel" is dodgy indeed (not asking to see passport, no keys for rooms), but the experience is worthwhile, and very affordable. Backpackers roughing it up will enjoy a roof over their heads for such a low price. Accommodation is provided in a large dorm room with bunk and normal beds. Price is ₪90 per person per night.
- The Acco Guest House of Zippi  in Bilu street, is a warm, family-owned, budget hostel, situated in a walking distance from the Old City of Akko. Suitable for a short vacation or for a long stay for independent travelers, backpackers and families traveling in Akko, Safed and the Galilee.
- Akkotel, Salahudin St. (Enter Old City on Weizman, continue to the left on Salah ad Din), ☎ +972-4-9877100, . checkin: 3:00; checkout: 12:00. A refurbished boutique hotel along the eastern wall of the old city. Uniquely designed rooms with high ceilings and hand made furniture, and eager-to-please innkeepers make it a great upscale option in Akko. ₪600 per night. (32.9221,35.07278) edit
- Rimonim Palm Beach Hotel Acre, Seashore, P.O.Box 2192, Acre (Located on the beach close to the town. Akko station is about 1km from the hotel.), ☎ +972-4-9877777, . checkin: 3 PM; checkout: 11 AM. Hotel situated on the coastal stretch of Israel. The Rimonim Palm Beach Hotel is a unique combination of 127 modern rooms and suites with a health and sports club, a spa and superb conference facilities. The panoramic views of Haifa Bay and Akko are spectacular edit
- Nzar Khoury for Hosting, Old City 11/83, Acre (Walking toward the lighthouse on Ha-Hagana St, look for a house with a dozen or so statues in front. Head up the stairs next to it, and turn left at the top. Look up and you'll see the sign.), ☎ +972-544-622-428, . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. Rooms are basic but comfortable, all with en-suite bathrooms. Spectacular sunset views over the lighthouse and the sea. ₪250 per night. edit
- Sand Hostel, Haim Weizman 1, Acre. That is the closest address there is, in the small streets there are no names. (At the corner of Salah Ad-din street and Haim Weizman Street there is a entrance going towards the Turkish Bazaar going West. After passing the Bazaar on your right the path will split, turn right, there is a sign. Follow the signs and you'll see a green door on your right, walk through and you've made it), ☎ (+972)050-908-3402 ([email protected]). checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. Rooms are beautifully designed with a TV, air-conditioning and storage. All bed rooms have their own bathrooms, while dormitories share a bathroom. Bathrooms are clean and rooms have a special old city atmosphere. ₪80 per night in dorms, ₪250 double, available for family with ₪100 extra for each extra person in the room.. edit
NTT bus line 353 makes access to Nazareth quick and easy for a day trip. From Nazareth there are easy connections to Haifa, and it is also possible to access the West Bank via a 25 minute taxi to the Jalame checkpoint.
Haifa is also easily accessible for day trips either by bus or train. On Saturday, Haifa is also accessible by sherut (shared taxi) from Derech Ha'Arba'a in the New City.