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.
This is one of Haifa’s most visited sites, attracting tourists from all over the world to witness the unique gardens. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Baha’i Gardens honor the Baha’i faith. The ornate, gilded shrine was built to commemorate the prophet Bab, whose missionary work spread the faith, which now is practiced by 7 million people. Take a free tour to the summit of the gardens, where a panoramic view of the gardens and Haifa unfolds below you. A guided tour provides extra context and history of how the gardens came to be.
In 1868, German Templars constructed a settlement in Haifa, and today it’s a bustling area filled with cafes, shops, and restaurants. What once were 19th century homes were restored and repurposed to turn the German Colony district into a cultural center of Haifa. The German Colony is now surrounded by the Baha’i Gardens, and provides a signature view of the architecture of the area from the top. While on your Haifa cruise, this is a good place to grab a bite, relax after exploring the historic sights, and maybe find some exciting nightlife.
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.
In Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith, the prophet Elijah took refuge from Jezebel in this cave, which you can now tour while on your Haifa cruise. It’s a short walk from the Stella Maris Monastery to the cave, and signs will indicate where to enter. Those interested in historic sites will enjoy Elijah’s Cave for its religious significance to these groups.
In downtown Haifa, the Museum of Art is Israel’s third largest art museum and places a particular focus on contemporary art. So many of the sights in Israel are ancient and history, so the Haifa Museum of Art provides a glimpse into modern Haifa.
Tour the area where it is believed Jesus’ Sermon of the Mount was delivered. The Mount of Beatitudes will offer a view of the Sea of Galilee on one side and striking cliffs on the other. The Mount of Beatitudes’ significance to the Christian religion means many flock to the site, and you should expect crowds.
If you want to take a trip outside of Haifa, you can be in Nazareth in a quick 45 minutes via car or taxi. Nazareth, like the Mount of Beatitudes, hold special religious significance for Christians. According to the New Testament, the Virgin Mary encountered the angel Gabriel here and found out she would give birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Today, Nazareth juxtaposes its role as an ancient religious site with new expansion as a tourist destination. Visit the Basilica of the Annunciation or Nazareth Village while you’re stopping through.
The Jordan River is a significant site for both the Jewish and Christian faith as both the place where the tribes of Israel crossed to reach the Promised Land as well as the river in which Jesus Christ was baptized. Via train or car, it takes about an hour to reach the Jordan River from Haifa.
A perfect activity for kids is a tour of the Haifa Zoo, where you’ll see lions and tigers as well as sea turtles and peacocks. It’s outdoors but mostly shaded, and kids will get excited to see the animals up close. The seasons affect when the Zoo is open, so be sure to check their hours before you go.
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.
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.
Haifa itself is a hilly but walkable city. The Port of Haifa will place passengers right in the city center once your Haifa cruise ship docks. Across the port is a railway station, where you can immediately catch trains to Akko and Tel Aviv. Buses run through the city’s neighborhoods, and of course taxis and private cars are an option for travelers.
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.