Earth : Asia : Middle East : Israel : Israeli North Coast : Haifa
Haifa  (Hebrew חֵיפָה Ḥefa; Arabic حَيْفَا Ḥayfā) is the third largest city in Israel and the major city in the north of the country with a population close to 300,000. It is a seaport located on Israel's Mediterranean shoreline, below scenic Mount Carmel.
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.
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 many factories. 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.
Haifa has its own airport, Haifa Airport which serves flights to Tel Aviv and Eilat, although the closest and only international airport is Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, where flights arrive from all over the world. From Ben Gurion, you could connect on a flight to Haifa, although, chances are you'll have to transfer between terminals, or even airports, to Sde Dov Airport. The better option is to travel straight on to Haifa. It's less than two hours to drive, and buses, trains, taxis, and shuttles, operate on this route. The best way to get there from the airport is to take the train leaving from the airport terminal.
Haifa is well connected to Tel Aviv, Akko (Acre), Beer Sheva, Nahariyah and the Ben Gurion International Airport by a train line. The trip takes a little over an hour and during peak hours there are as many as 3-4 services hourly. There are 4 train stations in Haifa 3 of which are open 24 hours excluding Sabbath (Friday night & Saturday daytime):
- Hof ha-Carmel (24hr) — close to the Dado beach, Haifa Mall, Castra Mall and to the Hof HaCarmel bus terminal that serves the lines connected to the cities south of Haifa and local buses.
- Bat Galim — close to Bat Galim Beach, Elija's Cave and the cable car to Stella Maris Carmelite monastery.
- Haifa Merkaz - Ha-Shmona (24hr) — near city downtown district, port terminal for cruise ships and Carmelit underground funicular.
- Lev ha-Mifraz(24hr) — close to the Cinemall Shopping center and Lev HaMifratz bus terminal that serves the lines connected to the North areas of Israel.
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. 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 or taxi
Alternatively, you can take Egged buses from Tel Aviv (910), Jerusalem (940,947), 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.
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.
A high-resolution map of Haifa is available . The map is in Hebrew.
Unlike other major cities in Israel, local buses (but not the Carmelit subway) run on Friday nights (between 10.30pm and 5am) Saturdays and other Jewish holy days; however, they only operate minimal and highly infrequent services during these hours. The "sherut" (taxi van with fixed routes and prices) also runs and Saturdays in parallel with the more central bus routes, and is much more frequent.
Haifa has two main bus terminals where passengers can switch between inter-city buses and trains to the local routes operated by Egged bus company.
The two stations are:
- Mercazit HaMifratz — (bay area hub) connecting Haifa with the Krayot (northern suburbs) and the Galilee. Located near Lev HaMifraz train station.
- Mercazit Hof HaCarmel — (Carmel coast hub) connecting Haifa with southern destinations, like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Located near Hof HaCarmel train station.
Bus in Haifa run regularly between 5am and midnight Sunday to Thursday (stops at around 4pm on Friday) and cost 6.40 nis per journey. Connecting bus fare is included if used within an hour and twenty minutes (ask for "kartis ma'avar").
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.
If you intend to use the bus regularly ask the driver for a "Cartisiyah" punch ticket (51.20 nis) which gives you 10 journeys for the price of 8. There are also monthly passes available if purchased during the first few days of the month, but there are no week or day passes.
Haifa has a subway: the Carmelit funicular. It is the only subway in Israel. It is useful for getting up or down the mountain from downtown, but it only extends to 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.
The Carmelit has six stations listed here as they go downhill:
- Gan Ha'em — in the Carmel Center, adjacent to the Haifa Zoo, the Louis Promenade (with a beautiful view of the Haifa Bay, the Haifa Auditorium and Cinematheque, and many shops and hotels.
- Bnei Zion — in Golomb street, near the Bnei Zion (formerly known as Rothschild) Hospital and the Bahá'í World Centre (see below).
- Massada — Upper Hadar HaCarmel, home to an up and coming artists' neighbourhood with many antique shops, second-hand book stores, bars and coffee shops. Also not far from Nordau Street, a pedestrian mall which has seen its better days. Close to the National Science Museum.
- HaNevi'im — near HaNevi'im, Herzl and HaHalutz streets, and their shops, offices. Close to the Haifa Museum of Art and Wadi Nisnas pedestrian area.
- Solel Boneh — near Ha'atzmaut park, and the Haifa city hall.
- Kikar Paris (Paris Square) — downtown. Near government buildings and courthouse, Ha'atzmaut street, walking distance to Haifa Merkaz train station and Haifa port.
Haifa is largely a modern city.
- Bahá'í Gardens and World Center, ☎ +972-4-831-3131 (fax: +972-4-831-3132), . Every day but Wednesday. 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. 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: http://www.ganbahai.org.il/en/tours/#currenttimetable.
- Cave of Elijah. 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. 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. Located atop Mount Carmel, there is a hiking trail connecting it to the Cave of Elijah below.
- German Colony, Centered around Ben-Gurion Boulevard. All hours. In 1868 members of German Templar Society (not to be confused with the Knights of the Templars) 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. Located at the top of Carmel, the campus was originally designed by the architect of Brasilia and UN building in New York City, Oscar Niemeyer. 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 a home of 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.
Museums and Galleries
- National Museum of Science - MadaTech, 12 Balfour Street, ☎ +972-4-861-4444, . Established in 1984, MadaTech - the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology and Space is housed in two historic landmark buildings in mid-town Haifa. Designed, at the turn of the century, by renowned German Jewish architect, Alexander Baerwald, these were home to the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel’s first institution of higher education.
- National Maritime Museum, 198 Allenby Street, ☎ +972-4-853-6622.
- Haifa Museum of Art, 26 Shabtai Levi Street, ☎ +972-4-852-3255.
- Hecht Museum, University of Haifa campus, ☎ +972-4-825-7773 ([email protected], fax: +972-4-8240724), . Featuring large archaeological exhibits and an art wing with 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture, including works by Corot, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Van-Gogh, Soutine and Modigliani. Free.
- Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, 89 Hanassi Ave., ☎ +972-4-838-3554. The museum was founded in the year 1959, at the joint initiative of Felix Tikotin, a known collector of Japanese art. The museum present rotating exhibitions of old and modern Japanese art.
- Marc Chagall Artists' House, 24 HaTziyonut Street, ☎ +972-4-838-3482.
- Mane Katz Museum, 89 Yafe Nof Street, ☎ +972-4-852-2355.
- Haifa Zoo and Botanical Gardens, .
The beach. The best beaches are right next to the Hof Hacarmel bus and train stations. Just get off the train/ bus and walk straight onto the beach. Haifa has many kilometers of beautiful beach on its southwest side. Part of the beach has a boardwalk with cafes and restaurants that are always bustling -- day or evening. The beach has its own unwritten segments. Families with kids come to the area along the boardwalk. Younger singles hang in the strip just south of there (with no boardwalk, stores). The locals call it "Students' Beach."
Haifa's mountainous location makes it quite unfriendly for the pedestrian, therefore shopping avenues are not as common, though there are a few, such as the Hadar area and the Carmel Centre. In the old downtown/ city center, where it is flat, there are inexpensive shops. Of course, Haifa also has shopping malls. These include the Kiryon, Horev Center, Kastra Center, City Centre Mall (Lev HaIr), Kanyon Haifa and Cinemall. In addition, the 'Grand Canyon' is the newest and biggest mall. It has international brand names such as Armani, Lacoste, Benetton and Zara as well as local brands and a large food court. "Kanyon" is Hebrew for mall, and the "Grand Canyon" is in a deep valley in central Haifa, hence the pun in its name.
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 400m from it). The food is cheap and authentic (about 10-15 Nis 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.), 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 50-80NIS 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 50-100NIS per person for a meal.
Jacko - one of the best fish restaurants (on Moriah Street and downtown near Natanson Street). It was a working-class restaurant until it became famous, and increased its prices a bit (80-120NIS per person).
Isabella is a restaurant at the entrance of the German Colony. Isabella provides great seafood that caters to a western palate at a mid-range price. Their house wine is pretty good and overall the service is good.
- Hanamal 24, Hanamal St 24, ☎ 04-862-8899, . One of the top cuisine restaurants in Haifa. Serving excellent (though high priced as expected) food, desserts and service. Highly advised place for a gourmet dinner. 150-200.
Restaurant and cafe clusters
Moriah Avenue, starting from Horev center (shopping center) all the way to the Carmel center along Moriah Avenue. Some good places alongside this 3km stretch include:
- Frangelico  (sushi bar)
- Café Louise  (organic)
- Sinta-bar (meat)
- El Gaucho (steaks, kosher)
- Meat In and Out (steaks)
- Canibar (hamburgers)
- Agadir (hamburgers)
- Lechem Erez
- Giraffe (Asian fusion)
- HaBank (cafe with good food)
- Pasta Carolla
- Isabella Bar
- Shipudei HaTikvah (traditional meats and salads, kosher)
- Pomodoro (pizza and pasta, kosher)
- Jacko (seafood)
- Japanika (reasonably-priced sushi, Fridays: reservations advised)
- Greg (cafe restaurant)
- Mandarin (cafe)
- Voila (Swiss-French)
You can find good food in the local bars around Moriah Avenue, for example: the Duke, Brown, Barbarosa. Good traditional restaurant is Ma'ayan Habira, where home style dishes are served.
Ben-Gurion Avenue, right below the Bahai Gardens. (at a straight line below it, thus completing an imaginary line from the Gardens into the sea. The street is downtown near the port). This cluster holds some good restaurants,including:
- Rak Bassar ("Only Meat")
- Ramsis Restaurant
- Captain Nemo (seafood)
- Taiwan (Chinese food)
Stella Maris, at the San Francisco Observatory. Several restaurants with spectacular views:
- Golden Coral
HaNamal, the Port.
- Jacko (seafood)
- HaNamal 24 (fancy)
Dado Beach. Last but not least is the beach strip cluster which has several restaurants. The food is OK, but the real reason to go there is to relax while enjoying views of the beach (only 15 meters away), or for people-watching.
- Shaltieli (kosher)
All these clusters of restaurants are very vibrant with youth at about 9PM further into the small hours of the night, almost at any day of the week, but on Fridays, it may get too crowded on the most popular places. Unfortunately the medium priced places usually take the 'all the people you can squeeze in' approach, thus you might get a noisy crowded place, and service may not be as good.
Tipping is customary. The normal rate is 10% at all places that you sit down and are served. Don't tip at falafel, shawarma, and bureka stands. If you feel the service was poor, tip less, if it was outstanding tip a little more.
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, and closer to the Horev Center, 'Frangelico' and 'Barbarossa' are considered to be the most popular bars in the city's chic Carmel area. 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 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.
- Tambayan (Ate Lisa), 2 Balfur, Hadar (Near McDonalds), ☎ +9724-866-9996 052-878-9990. 10AM-12PM. 6 Computers, wireless, Karaoke bar
- Many cafes offer free internet (just ask or look for the Wi-Fi sign).
- Port Inn, 34 Yafo Road (in Old City), ☎ ++972-4-852-4401 ([email protected], fax: ++972-4-852-1003), . checkin: Noon; checkout: 11:00. A beautifully restored Arabic building in downtown Haifa. Offers apartments, private rooms and dormitories. Lounge area equipped with a multilingual satellite TV, a small kitchen with free coffee and tea available all day, and a flourishing garden.
- Rutenberg Institute, HaNassi Avenue 77 (in Merkaz HaCarmel), P.O.B. 6015, 34642 Haifa, ☎ +972-4-838-7958 ([email protected], fax: +972-4-838-7865), .
- Haddad's Guest House, 26 Ben-Gurion Ave.- German Colony, 052-235-4283, fax 077-201-0618, . Family-run guest house.
- Hotel Beth Shalom, 110 Hanassi Blvd, ☎ +972-4-837-7481 (fax: +972-4-837-2443), . From US$60.
- Dan Gardens Haifa Hotel, 124 Yefe-Nof St., ☎ +972-3-520-2552 ([email protected], fax: +972-3-548-0111), . The Dan Gardens Haifa is a modern bed and breakfast hotel for guests who want to enjoy Haifa's special charms and stay within budget. Set on Mount Carmel in an exclusive neighborhood featuring richly wooded areas and a tranquil ambience, the hotel offers dramatic views of Haifa Bay.
- German Guest House, 105 Yafo Street, ☎ +972-4-855-3705 (fax: +972-4-851-4919). checkout: 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. ILS 180/night including breakfast.
- Crowne Plaza Haifa, ☎ +972-3-539-0808 ([email protected]), . On Mount Carmel, near Carmel Center and the Bahai Gardens. Health club has a covered pool, wet and dry sauna, Jacuzzi and gym. 600 NIS/night.
- Dan Carmel Haifa Hotel, 85-87 Hanassi Avenue, ☎ +972-3-520-2552 ([email protected], fax: +972-3-548-0111), . The Dan Carmel has panoramic views of the bay and the city of Haifa. Private gardens, verdant hillsides and endless coastline.
- Dan Panorama Haifa Hotel, 107 Hanassi Avenue, ☎ +972-3-520-2552 ([email protected], fax: +972-3-548-0111), . Contemporary in style and young in spirit, the Dan Panorama rises high above Mount Carmel, offering good views of Haifa bay and miles of coastline. The hotel is directly linked to a mall.
- Templars Boutique Hotel, 36 Ben Gurion Blvd., The German Colony, ☎ +972-50-520-9695 ([email protected]), . The Templars Boutique Hotel Haifa, which brushes the breathtaking Baha'i Gardens, is located in the heart of Haifa's German Colony, an area teeming with buildings that have been preserved and renovated in the spirit and feeling of the Templar period.
Haifa is the gateway to Israel's north. Take a few hours in Akko, just north and on the other side of Haifa Bay. Explore the Galilee: Nazareth is just 40 minutes away. Druze Villages: 30min by service taxi (monit sherut) or longer by bus, line number 37א, to the closer village of Isifya or the more distant village of Daliyat el-Carmel. The tourist-oriented bazaar has inexpensive shops and you can top off the visit in one of the excellent Mid-Eastern restaurants.
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