8 Reasons Why Haifa is Worth Knowing About
About a month ago, I moved Israel. When people asked me where I would be living, most were surprised when I told them Haifa, not Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, and they would generally pause, trying to recall if they’d heard of the city. To spare them any more pain, I would explain that Haifa is the third largest city in Israel, up north near the border of Lebanon, right on the Mediterranean Coast.
I am here to tell you that Haifa is worth knowing about. Whether you’re just passing through Israel, coming for a long-term stay, or touring for a week or two, Haifa is a gem you must see shine. Here’s why you should visit this beautiful and diverse Israeli port city.
You walk a few blocks in any direction and there it is: the bright turquoise Mediterranean Sea before your eyes. You can see the sea from almost any vantage point in the city, as Haifa is located on Carmel Mountain. Whatever neighborhood you live in, however high up the mountain you are, you can catch a glimpse of the sea on your daily commute, trip to the store, or stroll. And I promise, it never gets old.
Israel is full of strife. It is rare that the word “coexistence” arises when talking about anywhere in the Middle East, let alone in Israel. However, in Haifa you will see both Arabs and Jews alike, living peacefully, integrating, and coexisting. This is one of the main attractions of Haifa, for both foreigners and Israelis. You can walk down to Wadi Nisnas, an Arab neighborhood (home of the best falafel in Israel!), then a few blocks down the road you are in the German Colony, originally built by German settlers.
Haifa is known as a city of coexistence, and you see people all over the city in various traditional outfits, from the most Orthodox of Orthodox Jews to a woman fully covered except for her eyes in a traditional Burka, to a teenager in short shorts and a midriff-showing shirt.
The landscape of Haifa is extraordinary, with the whole city terraced into the mountains. The streets zig-zag down the Carmel, making the morning bus commute a bit more than your average ride! It’s sometimes led me to fear I’d taste my breakfast again. But I digress, it is beautiful.
Israel is a beautiful country, with diverse landscapes and bright sun. However, unlike metropolitan Tel Aviv full of tall apartment buildings, jam-packed streets, and little room for the wind to cool you off in the hot summer, Haifa is spacious and natural. Houses are shrouded in greenery, the streets lined with flowers and trees, and there are lush gorges, water, and forest throughout the city. Having a city vibe yet still being close to nature is the best of both worlds.
Have I mentioned that Haifa is a mountain? Take the bus five stops down the road and you can start a hike right there! Urban hikes are plentiful around the Haifa. One minute you can be standing on a busy sidewalk, the next down a wilderness trail. It feels like falling down a rabbit hole into the dense forest.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Baha’i Faith’s World Center is located right in the heart of Haifa. The Baha’i faith is one of peace, and promotes being one with nature and balance. The symmetry of these gardens and beauty of the view down the terraces and beyond the shrine to the sea reflects these values. It truly is a sight to behold. As a staple in Haifa’s landscape and attractions, the gardens definitely promote a vibe of coexistence that is so rich throughout the city.
Aside the fact that they will give you a killer behind, Haifa’s stairs are a defining feature of the city. There is a whole hike dedicated to the stairs that intersects with the streets all the way up the mountain. Remember the zig-zag roads I mentioned? How awful would it be to have to walk back and forth all the way down the mountain if you decide to take the scenic route and walk to your destination in the Lower City? There is a long network of stairs that connect the streets from the top of the mountain to the bottom. There are all sorts of surprises hidden in the stairwells: parks, beautiful green pathways, and fancy houses that you can only dream about living in. Get some exercise, take the stairs!
I’m not going to lie to you: I’ve sweated more this summer than I have in my entire life. But the Mediterranean sun is the most invigorating thing. I have been in Haifa for over a month now and I have not seen one rain drop. Every day is bright, mostly sunny, and breezy. The breeze is a lifesaver on the mountain, especially in the Middle Eastern heat. The few times I’ve visited Tel Aviv or elsewhere all I’ve wanted was to get back to my mountain and its refreshing wind.