Oh Akko, what a special place. You see, I love Middle East and Roman history. And with a rich history that spans thousands of years, Akko is a city just for me.
Did you know that it was the only enter port into holy land and was the city longest controlled by crusaders? Now you do! Thank me later.
The best things to do in Akko are filled with fascinating cultural, religious, and delicious food, you'll dream about it for the next 6 months after you leave. And it's all in my list of top 10 things to do in Akko. I've put there also extra 2 stops, both being about 30 minutes away from the city. Sunglasses on, pita in hand, and let's get started.
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Oh, not yet actually, I've almost forgotten I have a very important tip for you. Before you start your sightseeing, go get an Akko Ticket. It's a city pass, that saves you money and time—it costs 49 NIS (13 USD) and includes an entrance to the most important and beautiful monuments, four from my list included. It's a great deal and you can buy it almost everywhere or get it online.
Hotel tip: Even though I loved the city, I actually didn't find many hotels in Akko I would like to spend the night at. However, I can recommend staying at Crowne Plaza in Tel Aviv. It's about a 1.5-hour drive from Akko and I had a divine sleep there. Because—hold on to your hats—they had a pillow menu! Aka a list of pillows they offer with descriptions and who they are best suited for. I mean, what a great idea! Every hotel should implement this, it's a gamechanger!
My co-traveler commented, “Well, it's a really nice place considering it's just a big cellar.” That's exactly what it is, and it's still the best thing to do in Akko. Especially if you are crazy about history like me, the Knights Halls shouldn’t be missing on your Israel itinerary.
The Hospitaller Fortress was built in the 12th century but was hidden for another 800 years. The Ottomans built a citadel on the remains of the former fortress in the 18th century, and excavations in the 1990s revealed something unbelievable—a complex of hidden halls and corridors, well-preserved and ready to tell their story.
The Knights Halls are divided into several chambers, each with its own unique features. The first chamber is the Dining Hall, a large room with a high ceiling and impressive acoustics. It's said that the knights would gather here to hold important meetings. Or just drink liters of beer, eat wild boar, and share stories about who killed more people—I mean, introduced Jesus to them—on their crusade. Ahh, simple Medieval times.
Another chamber that was super interesting to me was the Crypt. The area features a series of underground tunnels and passageways. It's believed that the knights used this chamber for secret meetings and as a hiding place during times of war.
Khan-ak-Umdan, the Citadel of Akko and me
But the visit wouldn’t be complete without exploring the Citadel as well. The Citadel of Akko, also called the Khan al-Umdan, used to be the main gateway to the city and served as a strategic military base for centuries.
When you enter the citadel, you'll be surprised at how large the inner courtyard, filled with pillars and arches, is. Once upon a time, it was used as a marketplace. Today, it's just a spot for taking photos and enjoying the stunning architecture. But while walking around, I could almost hear the clinging of horseshoes and the sound of carriages driving the court ladies around.
The whole visit was incredible. There are plenty of interactive parts full of educative history that especially kids—and me—enjoyed! All the interesting information is written on multilingual signs on the walls, but I recommend taking the audio guide. It took me a while (about 3 hours), but it's worth it, I swear. And it's not just because I had so much fun playing Medieval games on interactive screens!
This place will take you literally on the edge... of Israel, and yours if you are afraid of heights. Rosh HaNikra is a stunning natural wonder located on the Mediterranean coast, close to the border with Lebanon. And the best way to explore it? By riding the cable car, of course! Rosh HaNikra is a bit off the beaten path, and I probably would have missed it if I hadn't done my research beforehand. Luckily for you, I did, so I can offer you not only a picture of me being handsome there, but also some nice and helpful tips.
As I said, the cable car will take you there. It's supposed to be the steepest one in Israel, which on one hand gives you an ultimate view, but on the other hand can induce a panic attack like it did for the lady sitting next to me. If you are that kind of person, bring a little bag to breathe into with you.
Paradise on Instagram AND in real life.
But focus more on the breathtaking views of the turquoise sea and the coastline with white rocks. It's a ride you won't soon forget! You know I hate those places that look like paradise on Instagram pictures, but when you arrive there, you see it's all lies and Photoshop—and the dreamy beach looks more like the backyard of your neighbor's house. Well, this one is the real deal. I went to see it twice—that's how pretty it is! And I never go see something twice, so that has to mean something.
You have to explore the grottoes, a series of sea caves carved out by the waves over thousands of years. They are filled with crystal-clear water, and the colors and shapes of the rocks are going to entertain you for a while. I would say about an hour, even if you walk through the caves along a designated path at a sloth's pace.
However, I have one warning for you about something that could make your experience slightly uncomfortable. Before I went, I've read how the lines for the cable car are huge, and people don’t give a damn if they cut in front of you or not. Other visitors can be very rude and act like kids who couldn’t wait. But I'm one lucky fella and there were no lines while I was there. Probably because life loves me or the fact that in winter there are not that many tourists in general (mark that down, it’s one of my tips before you go to Israel).
Don’t forget to buy tickets beforehand to make your suffering more bearable.
Akko’s Old City will give you the ultimate feeling that you've entered some kind of portal and traveled back hundreds of years. The ancient port city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you can see some of the most well-preserved Crusader-era architecture in the world there.
The central part of the Old Town is very compact and walkable. You can just wander through the narrow, picturesque streets and alleyways and take in the sights and sounds of this historic place. I couldn’t help but imagine what life must have been like during the Crusader period. Would I be Prince Charming or a court jester? Too hard to tell as I am both incredibly handsome and funny. Too hard to tell...
Here’s proof that I’m incredibly handsome
The main catch for me were the fortified walls leading to the coast. They are not exactly part of the Old Town anymore, but as long as you're walking and discovering the nooks and crannies of the city, you should take the few extra steps and go admire that great Israel walls! They were built by Turks in the 18th century to protect the city. But I would say, they definitely look like they have seen a fight or two.
The Bahai Garden
The Bahai Garden in Haifa is just 30 minutes away from Akko, so hop in the car and make no excuses. It's on the way from Akko to Tel Aviv, where you’ll go anyway. You are about to enter an oasis of peace, calm and serenity. And that’s what I call a bargain!
The gardens are a physical expression of the spiritual teachings of the Bahai faith, which emphasize the unity of all religions and the harmony between humanity and nature. And that's exactly how they make you feel. So, great work of the architect—mad respect.
Even though I came just for an Instagram pic—need to feed those followers with top content, am I right?—I couldn’t leave right after that. I have to say I'm not exactly a spiritual person and I can’t be swayed by any voodoo mumbo jumbo, but spiritual is exactly how I would describe the feeling there. The gardens suck you in and won't let you go.
Whether you want to visit a piece of nature and escape the city rush, you are a spiritual seeker, or can simply appreciate the beauty of well-designed gardens, visit the Bahai Gardens in Haifa. We spent not even an hour there and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee while being surrounded by stunning nature. I felt almost as relaxed as after visiting the next place on the list.
Turkish Bath House in Akko
Okay, are you ready for some serious relaxation? I've been to a hammam in Istanbul before, so I had some idea of what to expect. But I was super curious to see if Turkish baths in Israel would be the same. Well, they were not. So, if you've visited a hammam in different country and enjoyed it, you shouldn’t skip even the ones in Israel.
The museum is housed in a restored 18th-century Turkish bathhouse with various rooms and chambers. You'll learn about the history of hammams in Israel through interactive and extremely cringe videos, some of which are problematic, and I would even say offensive. But don't let that ruin your visit. The bathhouse is very nice and full of colorful tiles and cool sculptures.
We spent about 45 minutes there.
The exhibits and displays also take you through the history and culture of Akko and the surrounding region. So, you'll learn about the city's ancient past, its role in the Crusader period, and its importance as a trading hub throughout the centuries AND get a massage. Sounds fair to me! You can experience the traditional Turkish bath ritual yourself. From a series of cleansing and steaming to massage treatments—you're in for some well-deserved relaxation.
Treasures in the Walls Museum
Let's be real here for a sec, okay? You know I love museums, and no vacation is complete without visiting at least one. And that means my bar is set pretty high, and every museum goes through rough validation. But the Treasures in the Walls Museum in Akko passed with straight A's! After all, this place is like a time capsule of cool stuff, with surprises hidden around every corner.
First of all, the building itself is seriously ancient. We're talking 700 years old, people. That's older than your grandma's grandma's grandma. And once you're inside, you'll feel like you're in your grandma's grandma's grandma's house. So many interesting artifacts make the museum a literal maze of treasures.
The exhibits are arranged thematically, with different rooms focusing on different aspects of Akko's history. You can admire all the weapons, pottery, coins, and textiles there—basically all the cool stuff you wish you'd learned about in history class.
There are some surprises hidden in the museum's clutches. Like, did you know there's an underground crypt that was used as a burial site? It has many intricate stone carvings and unique architectural elements, and it's basically the closest you'll ever get to being Indiana Jones. Minus the Nazis and boulders.
Now it's time for some Instagram-worthy pictures. Let's head up to the rooftop observation deck! Just drop your jaw, not your phone, okay? From that height, it would probably be the last time you see it.
The Templar tunnels are a network of underground tunnels that were used by the Templar Knights during the Crusades. The knights used the tunnels to move around the city undetected, and also to store supplies and weapons. Basically, the Templars built them to avoid people—I can relate to that.
As you make your way through the dimly lit passages squatting and leaning almost the entire time, you'll feel like you're on a secret mission. It's seriously cool, but sometimes seriously challenging. I could have skipped leg day after the visit with no regrets.
Probably the main thing that makes the Templar Tunnels so interesting is their architecture. The tunnels were dug by hand, and the walls and ceilings are made of stone arches that are both beautiful and functional.
You can almost see the knights scurrying through the tunnels, their torches flickering in the darkness while carrying all the weapons to kill more people... I mean introduce Jesus and faith to them, gosh I did it again! Oh, and speaking of torches, it gets dark sometimes in there, so mind your step!
Just look at those details! @ Or Torah Synagogue
In Israel, you'll find plenty of beautiful synagogues—in Jerusalem literally on every corner. In Akko, I would recommend you visiting Or Torah Synagogue, as it's an absolute must-see. This stunning synagogue is over 200 years old, and it's a true masterpiece of design and craftsmanship.
One of the things that makes the Or Torah Synagogue so special to locals is its history. The synagogue was built by Jewish immigrants from Morocco in the late 18th century, and it has played a significant role in the history of Akko's Jewish community to this today. It has gone through many changes over the years, but it has always been a place of worship and community for them.
What adds to the grandeur of synagogue are the soaring ceilings, intricate carvings, and beautiful stained-glass windows. All of those perfectly detailed elements work together to create an atmosphere of awe and reverence. The stunning architecture is why the Or Torah Synagogue was one of my favorite places in Akko.
Al Jazzar Mosque
Al-Jazzar Mosque is a vital part of Akko's rich cultural heritage and also of the city’s skyline. It was constructed in the late 18th century by the Ottoman governor of Akko, Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, hence the name. Not weird at all to name a mosque after yourself, quite modest actually. Real Jan move. The mosque is an exquisite example of Islamic architecture and design, its exterior ornated with many carvings and colorful tiles lurs many visitors in.
With an interior of the mosque, it's no different. The ornaments, tiles and intricate work of details are as impressive inside as they are once you see them outside. The centerpiece and star of the show of the mosque is the central dome. The mosque's courtyard is also a highlight that will provide you with a short and peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can climb up the mosque's minaret. You'll be rewarded with some top-notch views of the city with people looking like little ants. No, but for real, visiting the Al-Jazzar Mosque was a feast for the eyes and a peaceful retreat for the soul. Look at how poetic I've become!
The ports of Akko
When it comes to seaside charm and historical significance, the Akko ports are hard to beat. They used to be an important hub for bargaining and dealing, and place for fisherman, travelers, and traders to meet and do the ol' biz. From poetic to cringe faster than I thought... However, I'll leave my bars out of it–for now.
Today, the two important ports of Akko are lively and vibrant places that offer a plenty of activities, from exploring the local market on the hunt for the best hummus to just chilling and letting your inner beach bum channel out at one of the Akko beaches.
But if you are not a foodie and don’t want to spend more hours at the fish market around many stands full of weirdly looking sea creatures than necessary, go check out the Akko Walls. You can't not see it, as it towers above the whole shoreline and offers stunning views of the sea and the city.
If you're just looking to explore the main attractions in the Old City, you could probably cover everything in a day. But if you want to dive deeper into Akko's history, culture and amazing food, you might want to plan for a longer stay. For me, one day was a perfect amount of time and I enjoyed my visit splendidly.
As I said in my tips for visiting Israel, the best time to visit Akko and Israel in general is winter. If you want to visit in summer, remember it's the peak tourist season and expect larger crowds and higher prices.
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