Haifa is Israel’s third-largest city, often referred to as the “Capital of the North”. Slowly but surely, it is emerging from the shadows of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to become a tourist destination in its own right. From sumptuous street food and a dynamic cultural scene to religious diversity and stunning Mediterranean coastline, here are the best things to see and do in Haifa, Israel.
The Best Things to See and Do in Haifa, Israel
Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery
The present Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery was built in 1836 and is noted for its lush frescoes portraying St. Elijah.
The interior also contains paintings of scenes of the lives of the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and has a cedar figurine of the Virgin known as the Madonna of Mt. Carmel.
The Carmelite order was founded on Mount Carmel in 1150 as a hermetic Catholic sect. When the order sided with Napoleon during his battle against the Ottoman Turks in 1799, the Carmelite monasteries were destroyed. In front of the building is the tomb of the French soldiers who were killed during the battle.
Ride the Haifa Cable Car
The Haifa Cable Car is the easiest route up the steep hill to the Carmelite Stella Maris Monastery and by far the most enjoyable.
There are excellent panoramic vistas of the city and its main attractions, making this a great activity for photographers.
Even if you’re not interested in visiting the monastery itself, the views from the hilltop lookout point, over Haifa and the Mediterranean, are well worth the hike to the top.
Opposite the Carmelite Stella Maris Monastery, a path leads down to Elijah Cave at the foot of the headland. Visitors who don’t like walking down the hill can enter the cave at Allenby Street.
Believers believe that the Prophet Elijah hid here after killing the priests of Baal.
It was an important pilgrimage site for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, who all valued Elijah.
If you plan to visit, be sure to dress modestly to respect the pilgrims who may be visiting the site at the same time.
Ben-Gurion Street is the former main street of the German Protestant colony founded here in 1868 by members of the Temple Society, who believed that settlement in Palestine would bring return. The society continued to exist until the Second World War.
The old houses with tiled roofs were all degraded, very typical of that period. The street is currently Haifa’s best place to eat and shop.
This cemetery of fervent settlers is to the northwest, at 150 Jaffa Street, next to a British military cemetery of World War I.
Enjoy Arab delicacies in Wadi Nisnas
Nestled between the German Colony and the recently renovated downtown area is the small Arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas, home to about 8,000 residents. Head to its authentic shuk bar and sample the delicious food on offer, including stuffed eggplant, hummus and Arabic pastries.
Hang Out on Haifa’s Beaches
Haifa has two main beaches for sand surfers.
Bat Galim Beach is a favorite spot for water sports enthusiasts. Windsurfers and kitesurfers splash in the waves on sunny days, and you’ll find watersport operators here renting equipment and teaching.
Hof HaCarmel Beach is generally more about sunbathing and relaxing walks and is a favorite haunt for local families on sunny weekends.
Both beaches have excellent facilities, with beachfront cafes and sun loungers and sun loungers for rent.
Mane Katz Museum
This wonderful, well-curated museum is a must-stop for any art enthusiast. It contains paintings and sculptures by Mane Katz, an influential 20th-century Jewish artist.
As well as his Expressionist art, Katz is an excellent collector, and his personal collection of Judaica and antique furniture is displayed here.
There is a great view of Haifa from the on-site cafe.
Just down the street is the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art (89 Hanassi Avenue), which displays Japanese art from the 14th century to the present day.
Ursula Malbin Sculpture Park
This lovely public park is filled with beautiful bronze statues and is a great place to relax after a morning of sightseeing.
All the statues are made by German-born artist Ursula Malbin who lives part of the year in Israel.
If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love exploring the well-maintained trails through the park and spotting quirky monuments.
In the early evening, a lot of Haifa locals come here for a walk so it’s a great place to people watch and explore local life.