Haifa is a portal to the rest of Israel, an industrial, well-connected city where passengers on a cruise to Haifa, Israel can easily book excursions and tours of Tel-Aviv or the Jordan River. It’s not well-known as a tourist destination, but the city boasts impressive museums and outdoor attractions like the beautiful Baha’i Gardens or the Haifa City Museum. In its own right as a destination, Haifa has a growing arts scene and areas like the German Colony are bustling commercial areas where travelers can grab a bite, rest from the day’s exploration, and catch views of the glittering Mediterranean Sea.
Haifa’s proximity to religiously sites for those practicing Jewish and Christian faiths makes the experience particularly meaningful for travelers passing through on their Mediterranean cruise. These days, Nazareth isn’t the small village depicted in the Bible—it’s a full- grown, modern city—but its role in the life of Jesus Christ makes it an important religious site. You can stand at the crossing of the Jordan River, only a little over an hour from Haifa. The Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is believed to have been delivered is merely an hour east, too.
The Port of Haifa is one of three ports in the area, and the one closest to the center of the city. The other two ports are the Port of Ashdod, and the Port of Eilat. The port services both cruise traffic and cargo. Within the terminal are souvenirs, duty-free shopping, areas for currency exchange, and free WiFi for passengers. The port easily connects passengers with the Haifa Center Railway Station. There’s also a subway that can take you to the top of Mount Carmel.
This ancient city located just south of Tel Aviv can trace its roots back to the Bible. Jaffa is said to have been named for Noah’s son, Japhet, who constructed the beautiful city walls and winding corridors after the Flood. And it is from here that Jonah embarked on his adventure with the whale. This once thriving port has played host to the Roman and the Ottoman civilizations. Steeping the area even further in lore, Saint Peter performed miracles here, and Richard the Lionheart and Napoleon both laid claim to it. Jaffa is also the city from where the founders of Tel Aviv originated.
From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Old Tel Aviv Port acted as Israel’s primary gateway to the sea. Day in and day out, ships brought merchandise to Israel’s shores from all over the Mediterranean, as Israeli exports increased. Since the port closed in the ’60s, major revitalization efforts have turned this area into one of the most exciting entertainment districts. Today, the wooden docks support cozy cafes, trendy shops, delectable restaurants and seaside bars.
It’s easy to see why walking and biking are the preferred modes of transportation here: With a 3-mile-long beachside boardwalk to cruise, taking a taxi or a bus just feels like a missed opportunity. Tel Aviv’s Tayelet – a pedestrian-only street – runs along the Mediterranean from the Old Tel Aviv Port to Jaffa, offering bikers and strollers spectacular views of the sea. On the inland side, the Tayelet grants easy access to Tel Aviv’s prime hotel areas, as well as numerous restaurants and nightlife venues. On the other side of the promenade, you’ll find beautiful beaches, including hot spots like Gordon Beach.
Visit the Shrine of the Bab, a pilgrimage site built in 1953. It’s said to hold the remains of the Bab, the spiritual predecessor to the Baha’i faith’s prophet Baha’ullah. Canadian architect William Sutherland Maxwell unified Middle Eastern and European styles here. Then, visit the symmetric Baha’i Gardens with their 19 steep terraces.
Monks called this ornate monastery home during the 19th century. A tour won’t take long, and you’ll learn more than ever about the Carmelite monks and their significance in the area. You can take a cable car to get to the monastery from the Bat Galim promenade as well. You’ll see an overarching view of Haifa from the summit of the hill the monastery is perched on.
Address: 1 Kibuts Galuyot Street, Haifa, Haifa District, Israel
Abu Marun is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm seven days a week, and it serves traditional Israeli dishes in a casual atmosphere and a moderate price. Word on the street is that this place has the best hummus in Haifa. They serve handmade spicy fries, pickles, pita, and other classics.
Address: 14 Horesh HaAlonim Street, Ramat Yishai, North District, Israel
If you’re traveling to Nazareth from Haifa, try Limousine Steakhouse, which is one of the only steakhouses in Israel that’s not in a major city. They offer sirloins, filets, lamb chops as well as veal and burgers with conventional sides like fries or salad.
Address: 38 Sderot Ben Gurion, Haifa, Haifa District, Israel
While you’re in the German Colony district of Haifa, you can sit outside at the terrace garden, where you’ll see the beautiful greenery and lights of the Baha’i Gardens in the distance. Get the hummus platter, the fattoush the place is named for, tabouli, shawarma, or try one of their many varieties of pie.
Address: 58 Moriya Boulevard, Haifa, Haifa District, Israel
Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of options at Cafe Louise, which is located near Mount Carmel. Smoothies will give you the boost of fruits and veggies you need to keep exploring. Try the sweet potato and lentil with yoghurt sauce. They’re also known for one of the area’s best brunch menus.
Haifa’s history dates back to over 3,000 years ago, and the city is the third-largest behind Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. Claims have been made to Haifa by various groups throughout the centuries like the Canaanites, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, the British, and others. When the State of Israel formed in 1948, Haifa became governed by its own municipality. Haifa historically has been a major industrial city for Israel, so it’s not as built up as a tourist destination as a result, but the nearby religious sites drive a lot of traffic and interest into the area each year.
Culturally, the area is a mix of Jews Christians, Muslims, Ahmedi, and other faiths including the Baha’i, and Haifa is renowned for its effortlessly blending multiple cultures into the fabric of the city. Every year, one of Haifa’s biggest events is the International Film Festival which lasts for a week in September. When you tour religious sites in Haifa and other parts of Israel, be sure to wear clothing covering your shoulders and knees to respect the religious practices of the region.
Indoor shopping malls are popular in Haifa, like the Panorama Center in Carmel. South of Haifa, there’s an artists’ village called Ein Hod where local artists sell pottery jewelry, blown glass, and more. One of the shopping malls you can check out while on your cruise to Haifa, Israel is called the Grand Canyon, where hundreds of shops and big chains can be found. It’s about a 15 minute drive from the port of Haifa to the mall. There are also flea markets in Haifa where leather goods, handmade bags, and bargains await.
The official currency of Israel is the shekel (NIS), and you can also use credit cards while you’re in Haifa. The policy for tipping while you’re in Israel varies, but restaurants, bars, and cafes should receive a tip between 10% and 12%, or more at your discretion if the service was excellent. Locals don’t tip in taxis in Haifa, so taxi drivers don’t exactly expect a tip. Keeping a little cash on you is good so that you can tip in cash rather than adding to the bill, which is how restaurants prefer tourists to tip while they’re visiting Israel.