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 significant populations of Jews, Muslim and Christian Arabs, Ahmadis (in Kababir), Druze (in Daliyat al-Carmel), Bahá'ís, and others, and has often been characterised as a mosaic of peaceful coexistence between the communities. The city has an industrial area to the north, where one of Israel's two oil refineries is located, and a high-tech south, where R&D Centers are located for a large number of Israeli and international hi-tech companies including Intel, Elbit, Zoran, Microsoft, Philips, Google and Amdocs. IBM has R&D labs on top of Mount Carmel at Haifa University and HP has a lab at the Technion, one of Israel's leading technological universities.
Haifa has its own airport, Haifa Airport which serves flights to Tel Aviv and Eilat, although the closest 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 straigt on to Haifa - its only about a maximum of two hours to drive, and buses, trains, taxis, and sheruts, operate the route.
Haifa is well connected to Tel Aviv, Akko (Acre), Beer Sheva 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:
- Hof ha-Carmel — close to bus terminal that serves the lines connected to the cities south of Haifa and local buses.
- Bat Galim — close to Elija's Cave and the cable car to Stella Maris Carmelite monastery.
- Haifa Merkaz - Ha-Shmona — near city downtown and Carmelit underground funicular.
- Lev ha-Mifraz — close to bus terminal that serves the lines connected to the North area 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.
From Haifa (the Hadar neighborhood, i.e. the uphill part of downtown), sheruts provide cheap frequent service to the cities of Akko, Naharia, and Karmiel, as well as to Haifa and its suburbs.
A high-resolution map of Haifa (in PDF vector format) is available here. The map is in Hebrew.
Unlike other major cities in Israel, local buses (but not the Carmelit) run on Saturday and other Jewish holy days. However, they don't operate on Friday evenings. 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 Ha-Mifratz — (bay area hub) connecting Haifa with the Krayot (northern suburbs) and the Galilee. Located near Lev ha-Mifraz train station.
- Mercazit Hof Ha-carmel — (Carmel coast hub) connecting Haifa with southern destinatons . Located near Hof ha-Carmel train station.
Haifa has a subway, the Carmelit funicular. It is a must-use if you want to get up or down the mountain from downtown. However, it only extends to a small part of Haifa. If you need to go further, you can buy a train ticket which includes a transfer to a bus for the remainder of your journey.
The Carmelit has 6 stations listed here as they go downhill:
- Gan Ha'em — in the Carmel Center, adjacent to the Haifa zoo, a panoramic promenade, the Haifa Auditorium, and many shops and hotels. It's the only subway in Israel (so far...)
- Bnei Zion — in Golomb street, Near the Bnei Zion (Rothschild) hospital and the Bahá'í World Centre (see below).
- Massada — upper Hadar Hacarmel, near Massada st. and Nordau st., with their galleries, antique shops, cafes and restaurants. Close to the National Science Museum.
- Hanevi'im — near Hanevi'im, Herzl and Hachalutz streets, and their shops, offices. Close to the Haifa Museum of Art and Vadi Nisnas pedestrian area.
- Solel Boneh — near Ha'atzmaut park, and the Haifa city hall.
- Kikar Pariz — downtown. Near government building 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.Tours are Free but MUST be booked in advance.
- Cave of Elijah. Elijah is considered a prophet by both Judaism 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 preserved and undergone restoration in the last decade of XX century. Now the main street of the former colony (Ben Gurion Boulevard) is a promenade, with many restaurants and coffee shops. Some example of good place in the German Colony are; Havana plus is a Hooka bar with a full service bar. Milagro is a restaurant that provides great beer on tap and live Music after 8PM and Isabella is one of the finer restaurants in the area. The City History Museum and the local Tourist Board are located here.Free.
- Haifa University. Located at the top of Carmel, the campus was originally designed by the architect of Brasilia and UN building in New York, 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.
- Druze Villages. 30min by sherut or longer by bus to the top of Mt. Carmel. The tourist-oriented bazaar has inexpensive shops and you can top off the visit in one of the excellent Mid-Eastern restaurants.
Museums and Galleries
- National Museum of Science - MadaTech, 12 Balfour Street, ☎ +972-4-8614444, . 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, ☎ +972-4-8536622.
- Haifa Museum of Art, 26 Shabtai Levi Street, ☎ +972-4-8523255.
- Hecht Museum, University of Haifa campus, ☎ +972-4-8257773(firstname.lastname@example.org, 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., ☎ +972-4-8383554. 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.
- Haifa Zoo and Botanical Gardens, .
Go to the beach. It's right next to the Hof Hacarmel bus and train stations. 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.
Haifa's mountainous location makes it quite unfriendly for the pedestrian, therefore shopping avenues are rare. The shops that are found in the city center offer a cheap and essential variety.
On the other hand, Haifa has a well known reputation for its wide variety of malls and shopping centers such as the Kiryon, Kastra Center, Kanyon Haifa and 'Lev Hamifratz'. In addition, the 'Grand Kanyon' is considered to be the newest and biggest mall, including international brand names such as Armani, Lacoste, Benetton and Zara as well as local brands and a wide food court.
Although Haifa is not known for fancy foods ( like herzelia ), Haifa has plenty to offer. The recommended places are :
Starting from the cheap street falafel / schwarma restaurants which can be found almost anywhere ( practically any mall, any big/medium sized commercial area ). Some good falafels are : orion (at hadar & ziv), hazkenim, michel (at wadi nisnas), and at Paris square, the lowest Carmelit station. There is a huge concentration of falafels & schwarma at yafoo st. downtown, near the egged bus terminal building (about 400m from it). The prices are usually fair ( about 10-15 Nis for a falafel pita, and around 20-22 for a schwarma ). Another cheap street food is the burekas which is almost as common as the falafel. Its prices are also cheap, and it usually comes filled with cheese or potatoes.
Further up the food scale are the eastern/arabic restaurants. Most are located downtown. Naming few are Abu-Yousef (there are two with no relation ), Humus Farage (on Hameginim St.), Maza (a good place in a gas station near the grand kenyon), and more. They are all famous for their high quallity Hummus (which is thought of as the best of the best in israel). Expect to pay 50-80 per person for a complete meal
There are several romanian restaurants, most are locaed downtown, naming few are Ma'ayan habira (beer fountain), Cafe (coffee) Glida (icecream) Younek. Expect to pay 50-100 per person for a meal.
Jako - one of the best fish restaurants (Downtown near Natanson St.). It was a working class restaurant until it got famous, and increased the prices a bit, but its still at large. ( 80-120 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 was good. I ordered a plate of grouper with rissoto and two glasses of wine for 109 Shekels.
Haifa is also known for a large cluster of restaurants and coffee-restaurants offering a vast range of food - sea-food, japanese, chinese, italian, burgers etc. This clustering is located on Moria St., starting from Horev canyon to the Carmel center, named 'Moriyah' street. Some good places alongside this 3km road are: Tatami (oriental japanese), frangelico (sushi bar), sinta-bar, kanibar (burgers), lechem erez (bread oriented, but gourme foods), mandarin (coffee), giraffe(oriental), litchi (mixed japanese/thai), habank (coffee). You can find good food in the local bars around Moria St., e.g: the Duke, Brown, Barbarosa. Good tradistional restaurant is Ma'ayan Habira, where a home style dishes are served. Another cluster is at 'shderot ben guryon' which right below the bahaii gardens. ( at a straight line below it, thus completeing an imaginary line from the gardens into the sea. the street is at the downtown near the port ). This cluster holds some fancy restaurants ( hashmura, isabela ) and some ordinary mixed styles of restaurants: captain nemo (seafood).
Last but no least is the beach strip cluster (DADO beach) which holds several restaurants. The food is ok, but the reason to go there is to relax while looking at the beach from 15 meters away...
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 prices places usually take the 'all the people you can squeeze' approach, thus you might get into noisy crowded place and your order may take a long time.
TIP is 10% at all places that you sit down and get served. (falafel, shwarma, and burekas stands/small restaurants do not usually get tipped, unless you request somthing more than just a drink and a menu item) 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 restaurants, cafe's and bars, such as Fusion noodle house 'Giraffe', Japanese 'Tatami' and trendy cafe's such as 'Greg' and 'tut'. 'Frangelico' and 'barbarossa' Nipples are consindered to be the most popular bars in the city's chic carmal area while the legendery old fashioned 'Maayan Habira' on the lower part of it city is more popular among adult crowd
- Tambayan(Ate Lisa), 2 Balfur, Hadar(Neer McDonalds), ☎ +9724-8669996, . 10am-12pm. 6 Computers, wireless, Karaoke bar
- Port Inn, Yafo Road (in Old City), . 70 NIS/night w/o breakfast, for a dormatory room bed.
- Rutenberg Institute, Hanassi Avenue 77 (in Merkaz HaCarmel), P.O.B. 6015, 34642 Haifa, ☎ +972-4-8387958(email@example.com, fax: +972 - 4 - 8387865), .
- Haddad's Guest House, 26 Ben Gurion Ave.- German Colony, 052-2354283, fax 077-2010618, . Family run guest house.
- Dan Gardens Haifa Hotel, 124 Yefe-Nof St., ☎ +972-3-5202552(Reservations-T.DanGardensHaifa@DanHotels.com, fax: +972-3-5480111), . 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. With its compact size and highly personalized attention, the Dan Gardens Haifa welcomes guests in true Dan Hotels tradition which means Israel's finest hospitality.
- Hotel Beth Shalom, 110 Hanassi Blvd, ☎ +972-4-8377481(fax: +972-4-8372443), . From US$60.
- Dan Carmel Haifa Hotel, 85-87 Hanassi Avenue, ☎ +972-3-5202552(Reservations-T.DanCarmel@DanHotels.com, fax: +972-3-5480111), . The Dan Carmel commands unforgettable panoramic views of the bay and the city of Haifa. Come and be charmed by this classically elegant hotel with its private gardens, verdant hillsides and endless coastline. An unmatched location on the crest of Mount Carmel, gracious service and an atmosphere both luxurious and soothing, provide an extraordinary setting for enjoying the beauty of Haifa and the Galilee. See Dan Carmel Haifa Virtual Tour See also Video Tour Of Dan Carmel Haifa.
- Dan Panorama Haifa Hotel, 107 Hanassi Avenue, ☎ +972-3-5202552(Reservations-T.PanoramaHaifa@DanHotels.com, fax: +972-3-5480111), . Contemporary in style and young in spirit, the Dan Panorama rises high above Mount Carmel, offering thrilling views of Haifa bay and miles of coastline. Ideally located for business travelers, the hotel is directly linked to a stylish mall. Its convenient location also makes sightseeing so easy, such fun. With a myriad of things to do and see in Haifa - and with the Galilee and Arab villages close by - all you have to do is go. See Dan Panorama Haifa Virtual Tour See also Video Tour Of Dan Panorama Haifa.
- Holiday Inn Haifa, ☎ +972-3-5390808(firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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.