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Haifa 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.
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Points of Interest in Haifa
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: .
- Cave of Elijah (follow the stairs up on Siderot HaHagana). 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 as it's a very simple site. 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. The present monastery and church, built over what the Carmelites believe to be a cave where Elijah lived, dates from 1836 after the previous buildings were destroyed in 1821 by Abdullah, pasha of Akko. It's worth visiting the church to view the beautiful painted ceiling which portrays Elijah and the famous chariot of fire (in which he ascended to heaven), King David with his harp, the saints of the order, the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel and David, and the Holy Family with the four evangelists below. A small adjoining museum contains ruins of former cloisters dating from Byzantine and Crusader times.
- 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. "Holiday of the Holidays" is held there between December and January.
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. ₪45 for students.
- Clandestine Immigration & Navy Museum (just next to the large bridge over Sderot HaHagana). This may sound a bit bland but it's actually quite fascinating and worth a visit. The museum deals with the successes and failures of the Zionists' illegal attempts to infiltrate into British-blockaded Palestine in the 1930s and '40s. The centrepiece of the museum (quite literally - the building has been constructed around it) is a boat, the Af-Al-Pi-Chen (Hebrew: Nevertheless), whose hold carried 434 refugees to Palestine in 1947. ₪15.
- National Maritime Museum, 198 Allenby Street, ☎ +972-4-853-6622. deals with the history of shipping in the Mediterranean area. The collection contains old maps, models of ancient ships, navigation equipment and bits and pieces of sunken ships.
- Haifa Museum of Art, 26 Shabtai Levi Street, ☎ +972-4-852-3255.
- Reuben & and Edith Hecht Museum, University of Haifa campus, ☎ +972-4-825-7773, fax: +972-4-8240724, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. houses a fine collection of archaeological artefacts relating to Jewish history before the Diaspora. There is plenty of ancient pottery, weapons and even a pair of 2100-year-old petite-sized sandals. The museum highlight is a 5th-century-BC Greek ship found near Caesarea in 1984. It has been carefully rebuilt and placed in a specially designed annexe of the museum.An art wing upstairs contains sections on French Impressionist and Jewish art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the works are paintings by Monet, Pissaro and Van Gogh. 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. It features everything from 14th-century Buddhist scroll art to pottery, metal work and newer exhibits on Japanese animation and even Pokémon.
- 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 Railway Museum (follow HaPalyam Ave past the mosque - the museum is a few minutes walk further, on the left), ☎ +972-4-8564180, +972-4-8564293, fax: +972-4-8564310. Housed in the old Haifa East train station, The Railway Museum features a collection of stamps, photographs, tickets, timetables and rolling stock. Old timetables remind you that you could at one time travel from here by train south to Cairo or north to Beirut or Damascus.
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.
- The (student's) beach (Hof Ha'studentim - חוף הסטודנטים) (Near "Hof Ha'Carmel" train and bus stations). 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." Free.
- Cable car (Near "Stella Maris" (top station)or "Bat Galim" promenade (buttom station)), ☎ +972-4-8335970. Rides between Bat-Galim promonade and Stella Maris. The ride offer spectecular views of the city, beach, port and Haifa bay.
- Carmelit. A subway rides between Carmel center and downtown Haifa. 6.60 per ride.
- Holiday of the holidays (Ha'Chag Shel Ha'Chagim - החג של החגים), German Colony and Wadi Nisnas. A festival celebrating holidays of Christianity (Chrismas, New year), Islam (Ramadan), and Judaism (Hanukkah). The festival happens mainly on weekends, and include free entrance to museums, public shows, fair and colorful market. Free.
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.), Abu Maroun (in the flea market), 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 3 km stretch include:
- Charliebar (meat, seafood, hamburgers)
- 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 15% 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 Charliebar and 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.
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), is a flat area close to the seaport, 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.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Haifa on Wikivoyage.