Israel's third-largest city isn't like Jerusalem or Tel Aviv; life here is more laid back and open-minded, the politics more progressive and tolerant -- in Haifa, Jews and Arabs work and live side by side. The sightlines alone are serene: Haifa's hilltop perch, Mt. Carmel, soaks in the sun while presiding over a sweeping panorama of turquoise seas, verdant slopes and cypress stands. The golden beaches to the south are a local secret -- but the push is on to transform these unspoiled stretches of sand into an Eastern Mediterranean Riviera.
Things to Do
Walk the German Colony, the remnants of a 19th-century settlement. Pass historic ochre and burnt-red buildings and sit a spell in an outdoor cafe along the city's main thoroughfare, Ben-Gurion Avenue. Stroll the Arab Market in Wadi Nisnas, the Arab and Christian quarter. The Baha'i Gardens are a holy shrine of manicured cypresses, stone peacocks and eagles that gently unfurls down the slope of Mt. Carmel.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Party high above the hills; the upper and lower terminals of the Aerial Cable Car are enjoyable places to stop on an evening out, with restaurants, bars, and dancing; you can ride the cable car most of the year until midnight. Israeli folk dancing sessions meet at Haifa University and at Bet Ha-Student at the Technion. International Folk Dancers gather Thursday at Bet Rothschild, to the side of the Haifa Auditorium on Ha-Nassi Boulevard.
Restaurants and Dining
Mediterranean flavors and ingredients prevail on the Haifa menu: citrus (often lemon), garlic, pistachios, and cumin. For an earthy experience, try Abu Yusuf, a no-frills restaurant with a Lebanese twist. Specialties include kubbe, hummus with meat, grilled heart (delicious), and roast chicken. The salad bar of 20 Middle Eastern appetizers, the fresh pita bread and a shot ("jot") of anise-flavored arrak brandy is worth the trip.
Haifa's great secret is its beaches. Bat Galim, at the foot of Mt. Carmel, has good surfing waves but is often strewn with refuse. Head farther south instead for the more beautiful Dado and Zamir beaches, where miles of golden sands are dotted with changing facilities and simple beach cafes. Set out a towel and luxuriate in the warm turquoise seas as you watch the sun set over the Mediterranean at afternoon's end.
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