Haifa - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Haifa


The largest city in northern Israel, Haifa is an attractive seaport and one of the most culturally mixed and cosmopolitan cities in the country. The Israeli saying 'Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays' gestures toward the city's blue-collar roots - however, in the 1950s a concerted effort was made to make Haifa more culturally sophisticated, with the Haifa Theatre, the Krieger Centre for Performing Arts and the Ein Hod artists' colony being established. Haifa also hosts an annual (and well-attended) International Film Festival, and the Haifa Rock and Blues Festival, which has attracted performers of genuine calibre over the years (such as Bob Dylan, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, to name a few). The majority of visitors to Haifa go there for the amazing gardens of the Baha'í World Centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), although there are numerous other excellent sights in Haifa, including a wealth of museums, gorgeous temples and mosques, and sunny, child-friendly beaches. For those fascinated with biblical history, Tel Megiddo ('Armageddon' in Ancient Greek) - the supposed site of the end of the world - is located about 20 miles (32km) southwest of Haifa.

Information & Facts

Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel. Most of the population also speak English.

The Israeli Shekel (ILS) is divided into 100 agorot (singular is agora). Money can be changed in the small exchange bureaux found on most main streets, or at banks and hotels. ATMs are prevalent throughout the country and linked to American systems. Most banks are open Sunday through to Friday until noon, and are open again from 4pm till 6pm on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, though commission on these is high.

Once known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, the Baha'i Gardens - taken together with the resplendent Shrine of the Bab perched on Mount Carmel - are not only a UNESCO World Heritage site, but one of Israel's most-visited tourist attractions, seeing over half a million visitors every year. The Baha'i faith, which emphasises the spiritual unity of all humankind, could hardly have a more perfect expression of these beliefs than the magnificent terraced gardens that cascade down from the golden-domed shrine. Constructed in geometric patterns (nine concentric circles), with precious detailing and loving incorporation of the natural features of the surrounding landscape, what is so unforgettable about the gardens is how perfectly and scrupulously they are maintained. Deemed by followers of the Baha'i faith to be a 'gift to all humanity', the beauty of the gardens and the amount of care that goes into their upkeep is both palpable and inspiring. A visit to the Baha'i Gardens must also take in the Louis Promenade (located above the staircase-like terraces), from where you can enjoy unbeatable views of Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea.

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