A Peaceful Stroll in Haifa

While on your Holy Land pilgrimage, make sure to visit Haifa! The city is known just as much for its spectacular observation points as it is for its rich modern culture and arts scene, science and high-tech centers, hopping nightlife and the world famous Haifa Film Festival as it is for its for its historical sites: Elijah’s Cave, Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the Bahá’í Gardens, to name but a few.

So let’s walk through some of Haifa's most charming spots, from the Louis Promenade on Mount Carmel to the German Colony at the foot of the mountain.

Our day in Haifa starts with the Louis Promenade, on Yefe Nof Street, with 435 yards (400 m) of gorgeous vantage points of the Port of Haifa and the whole bay area, all the way to Acre and Nahariya in the north. On a clear day you might even see Rosh Hanikra and Mount Hermon. This is one of the most beautiful promenades in Israel, the perfect place for a stroll, or a little rest on benches, under the shade of the pergolas and next to the lush vegetation. If you can, do come back at night. The adventurous or curious among you can also opt for one of the staircase paths leading down towards lower Haifa.

From the promenade, go down the slopes of Mount Carmel towards the Bahá’í Gardens - the grand cascade of hanging gardens and opulent buildings of the Bahá’í faith, one of Haifa's most recognized symbols. At its center stands the Shrine of the Báb, crowned by a golden dome. This, the final resting place of the prophet and founder of the Bahá’í faith, also affords a breathtaking view of the city and the bay. Flanking the shrine are 19 terraced and immaculate gardens, dotted with fountains and walking trails. The main axis of the gardens turns towards Acre, another city with great historic and religious significance for the Bahá’í.

The gardens are open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, except for Bahá’í holidays, Yom Kippur and rainy days. The inside gardens, closest to the shrine, close at noon. Entrance is free.

From the Bahá’í Gardens, walk down some more and visit the Sculpture Garden, another little gem with 29 bronze sculptures by Ursula Malbin, resident of the Ein Hod artists' village, who donated her works to the city and landscaped the garden. Most sculptures are human figures, women, men and children, and walking among them in this natural setting is both enchanting and a welcome respite from the bustling city.

The Sculpture Garden is hidden at the corner of Hatzionut Avenue and 2 November Street, and is open daily until 6 PM. Entrance is free.

A few minutes' away from the Sculpture Garden is the Carmelite convent Our Lady of Mount Carmel, home to dozens of nuns from around the world, who make their living from Christian tourism, the sale of religious souvenirs and a small agricultural plot within the convent. Our Lady of Mount Carmel was founded in 1882 by three nuns from France, and tradition has it that a small shrine for the Virgin Mary has stood at this very spot since early Christianity. On the façade of the church is the Madonna and Child, and the beautiful interior is decorated with marble columns, carved capitols, and a large mosaic of Prophet Elijah, kneeling on Mount Carmel and worshipping the Virgin Mary, who is standing on a cloud above the sea.

The convent is open daily from 9:00-11:30 AM and 3:00-5:00 PM, and the visit includes a presentation on the convent's history and daily life of the nuns, who will gladly answer your questions.

Come evening, if you've still got time and energy, you can take a leisurely stroll in the German Colony, with its trademark reconstructed red-roof houses. The colony was founded in 1868 by members of the German Temple Society (Templers). Many of the houses have since been converted to shops and galleries, as well as restaurants, pubs and cafés – offer you a terrific way to end the day.