11 surprising things you didn’t know about Haifa
From world-renowned gardens to some of the best falafel in Israel, this city is a must-visit.
Haifa is the third largest city in Israel, the home of the country’s famed Technion Institute, which is one of the most innovative universities in the world. The city is also home to a number of technology startups. But there’s a lot more to Haifa than technology and academia.
Here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about this growing Mediterranean city.
It’s a hipster hotspot
Musicians perform at a street corner in Haifa. (Photo: Svarshik/Shutterstock)
Thanks in part to Israel’s booming startup scene and a laid-back vibe, Haifa has become a major hipster hotspot in the Mediterranean. Masada Street is the epicenter for the social scene with its cafes and bars, live music, art and street parties.
There's a really large aquarium ... in a home
Haifa resident Eli Fruchter installed a 10,000-gallon aquarium in his living room. It's so big he can actually swim in it with the fish. Filled with 150 fish of 30 different species, the Israeli businessman built the aquarium in 2012 to realize a childhood dream.
It’s home to the world’s oldest living man
Israel Kristal is the world’s oldest living man according to the Guinness Book of World Records. He was born on Sept. 15, 1903 in Poland – he celebrated is 113th birthday last fall. He’s made his home in Haifa since 1950.
There’s a German Colony
The center of culture and tourism in Haifa is located along Ben Gurion Boulevard in the city’s own German Colony. The neighborhood dates to the 1868 when it was established by the German Templers. Today the historic homes and buildings have been restored, and the area is the center of Haifa nightlife full of cafes, boutiques and restaurants.
It’s got great falafel
As a university town with a large working class, Haifa is a haven for great low-cost street food. Falafel Hazkenim has long been the leader in this department serving up falafel balls coated in creamy tahini sauce – it may just be the best falafel in the Mediterranean. The line is regularly out the door, but it moves quick and is worth the wait – don’t miss the special hot sauce!
There’s great hiking
If you’ve never been to Israel, you might not know that the country is spectacularly green. Mount Carmel is Israel’s largest national park and offers stunning views of the water along with miles of hiking trails through forests of pine, eucalyptus and cypress.
You can see Japanese art
The Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art is a rare find in the Mediterranean. The museum was established by architect Felix Tikotin, a renowned collector of Japanese art, and houses his collection along with thousands of additional pieces.
It boasts the best gas station restaurant ever
Habokrim Steakhouse, located in the gas station near the Haifa mall and convention center, is a replica of a 19th century American Gold Rush-era eatery. Owners Hana and Yossi Tochner opened Habokrim, which is Hebrew for "cowboys," after a Jeep tour across Arizona. The restaurant was declared to be the “best gas station restaurant ever” by a TripAdvisor user.
Haifa is a beach town
Haifa is known for having some of the best beaches on the Mediterranean Sea, including with sparkling white sand spilling into the deep blue of the sea. The city is situated on a small peninsula, which means it’s basically surrounded by water on three sides. Carmel Beach on the southern end of Haifa is one of the most popular beaches, while Dado Beach opposite Hecht Park is the local favorite.
It’s got great surfing opportunities
Haifa doesn’t just attract beachgoers; the world’s best surfers show up to ride the waves. Locals say the best swell is in the winter, after the rainstorms. Head to Backdoor and Casino on Bat Galim Beach, located on the southern tip of Haifa Bay. Haifa’s own Ariel Samin is on the National Surfing Team and a possible contender for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
It's home to the beautiful Bahá'í Gardens
The Bahá'í Gardens was built as a shrine to the Bahai faith and comprises a staircase of 19 terraces extending up the northern slope of the city's Mount Carmel. It is perhaps Haifa's most iconic tourist stop, and in 2008 UNESCO took notice and named it a World Heritage Site.
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