Spilling over the sides of woodsy Mt Carmel, with sweeping views of the sea, twisting roads and one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, Haifa is one of the most picturesque cities in the Middle East. Its cultural fabric as a mixed city of tolerance between Arabs and Jews also makes it something of an anomaly in Israel.
Traditionally a blue-collar city centred on its large port, Haifa’s working class has changed in recent years with the development of a hi-tech industry. The diverse economy has spurred development, bringing office parks and shopping malls to the outskirts, a trend that has sadly had a debilitating effect on the downtown commerce. There are signs of revival, however, thanks in part to the restoration of the old German Colony, now the city’s premier address for fine dining.
Haifa has also spent the past few years developing an arts and culture community, improving museums and the like, but at heart it remains an industrial town, with attractions such as a technology museum and an enormous port-side grain silo.
Haifa’s most striking feature is the Baha’i Gardens, an inspiring slash of green that cuts down the entire length of Mt Carmel. The religiously minded would also want to visit the holy sights of Elijah’s cave and the neo-Gothic Stella Maris Carmelite Church.
Haifa’s central location and good transport links make it a useful base from which to explore the area. There is no great need to lug your bags up and down the coast when Akko, Caesarea and other highlights in the area can be visited on day trips.