Acre (sometimes also referred to as Akko) is one of the main attractions in northern Israel, located only 25 km north of Haifa and more 100 km from Tel Aviv. Despite being much smaller than Haifa, Akko is clearly the better tourist destination. Here we will explore all the best things to do in Acre, plus the best time to visit, what to eat and where to stay in Akko.
Despite having so many cool things to do and having such a long, intricate history, Akko is somehow out of the main tourist trail. This means that you’ll see some tourists and have a tourism infrastructure but rarely becomes overcrowded.
Best things to do in Acre
#1 Explore the old town
The old city of Akko has gone through so much history and has seen so many historic events that a walk around it it’s real pleasure. Naturally, it’s a UNESCO world heritage site.
As per UNESCO ” Acre is a historic walled port-city with continuous settlement from the Phoenician period. The present city is characteristic of a fortified town dating from the Ottoman 18th and 19th centuries, with typical urban components such as the citadel, mosques, khans, and baths. The remains of the Crusader town, dating from 1104 to 1291, lie almost intact, both above and below today’s street level, providing an exceptional picture of the layout and structures of the capital of the medieval Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem.”
Today, the old city of Akko is mainly Arab, though the city as a whole has a jew majority. Roaming around Akko is very pleasant and discovering the small alleys, the old houses and the landmarks is delightful. Everything is within walking distance, so we would suggest you just wander through the old city and try to discover the biggest landmarks.
#2 The walls of Akko
The walls of Akko enclose completely the old city and are the most prominent landmark of the city. The original walls were built around 950, and since then they have been destroyed and rebuilt several times.
- The walls were renovated in 1071 before the Seljuk invasion;
- And again ahead of the Crusader conquest in 1099;
- the Crusaders renovated the walls of Acre and in the early 13th century, adding new walls, building new towers and making the existing higher.
- In 1291, the Mamluks conquered the walls totally destroyed the city wall.
- In 1750 the walls were rebuilt.
- Between 1775 and 1799 reinforced, but they were partially destroyed during the Napoleon invasion.
- Between 1800 and 1814, the El-Jazzar were built around Acre.
The ramparts of Akko are the most noticeable of the landmarks in Akko, and one of the coolest to visit. You can walk on this huge piece of history for free. It’s possible to do the whole circuit and get great views of the sea, the town, the marina and so much more. We really enjoyed our time on the walls. Plus, it’s a free activity which in Israel is rare.
#3 The Market of Akko and the Turkish Bazaar
Markets are some of our favorite places to visit in most cities. You get to see the locals, buy souvenirs, food and wander around checking things. In Israel, and all the middle east, most cities have markets selling lots of goods, but the market in Akko was probably our favorite. It has so many things to try, particularly spices, teas, and herbs. The smells and colors are just wonderful, a real feast for your senses.
Close to the Market, there’s also the Turkish bazaar which was created in the late 18th century as a municipal market serving the local population. The market was abandoned after 1948 but it recently opened as crafts and miniature art market. The bazaar now features small shops specializing in the sale of souvenirs and tourist artifacts. It’s also very fun to see and has some nice artifacts.
#4 Hospitallers fortress
The Hospitallers fortress is one of the major landmarks of Akko. It’s a huge and impressive building with a lot of history and rooms to explore. While visiting the hospitallers fortress you can explore one of the most important times in the history of Akko – the crusaders time.
Who were the hospitallers? They were a military and religious order who cared for the sick and secured the safety of pilgrims in the holy land, particularly in Jerusalem and Akko. During the 11th -12th centuries, they grew so important that they were given the property of the city of Akko.
This is a tremendous building with many halls and rooms that you can visit and be impressed by. It’s a mandatory landmark for anyone visiting Acre / Akko. Besides visiting the impressive fortress, during the visit, one can also learn a lot of the history of Akko, particularly by crusaders, the Christian and Arab conquests and the pilgrimages to Jerusalem. There’s no better way to learn than being in the place where it all happened.
#5 Turkish baths – Hamam Al-Basha
The Turkish Baths are the first of two very surprising tourist attractions in Akko. It’s quirky, fun and very interesting to visit. Hamam al-basha was built in the 18th century by the legendary Governor of Acre, Jazzar Pasha. Today we can visit the Hamam, but not use it. You can see how things were back in the day, through a very interesting approach.
The visit follows the story of a fictitious family who ran the baths with a series of videos, images, and sounds. We get to go through the baths and it’s a very intriguing but fun and informational visit. We highly recommend it. The visit goes to 3 mains spaces: the Summer dressing room( where the Hamam visitors got undressed), the four intermediary rooms(various treatment and activity rooms), and the hot rooms – the core of the Hamam.
#6 The templars tunnel
The second unique attraction in Akko is the templars tunnel. This templars tunnel is a 150-meter tunnel that stretches from the templars fortress in the town to the city ports in the east. The tunnel was an important underground passage that connected the palace to the port, avoiding crossing the city and the Pisan quarter. The lower part of the tunnel is carved in the natural stone while the upper part is made of hewn stones covered with a semi-barreled dome.
The tunnel was completely lost with time, and no one knew about its existence until it was discovered in 1994. It was then cleared, made available to visitors, and now, you can cross it. It’s a very weird experience, as you can listen to the water draining around you. We can even say that’s a little claustrophobic, but it’s also one of our favorite things in Akko. The idea and construction of the tunnel, the story of being lost and the experience of crossing it creates a unique and fun tourist attraction.
#7 Al-Jazzar Mosque
Al-Jazzar mosque was built in the 18th century by Al-Jazzar Pasha, the ruler of Acre. It’s an impressive mosque, the biggest in Israel outside Jerusalem and the biggest built during the Turkish period. The mosque dominated Akko’s Skyline.
There are other mosques in Akko, but this is the most important and the one you should visit if you like to explore mosques and religious buildings.
#8 The Marina and Port
The Port and Marina of Akko played a big part in the importance of Akko. It was the port where the pilgrims arrived from Europe. During this time the port was essential to the very existence of the city but after the conquest of the ottomans, the port, and the city lost much of its relevance.
Today you can walk in the Port, and walk on the walls from where you get beautiful views to the Port, Marina and the Sea. It’s very pleasant and has some nice bars and restaurants. This is where the famous Uri Buri is. The Uri Buri is one of the best fish restaurants in Israel, and if you have the opportunity, you should go there, while staying in Akko.
#9 Go to the Beach
Despite being right on the shore, Akko is much more famous for its history and port than for its beach. Akko isn’t a beach resort town, but it does have a beach where you can have some fun.
Argamon Beach is the best beach in Akko’s vicinity and it’s conveniently located south to the old town and Port. We didn’t actually go to the beach because it was very windy and not very inviting to stay there, but we have read that’s a very good Mediterranean beach.
#10 Go to nearby Haifa
Haifa is a much bigger and even more famous city than Akko, though as a tourist destination it isn’t as interesting. It’s not even a close contest… Yet, it has one very cool tourist attraction, the Bahai Gardens. The Bahai Gardens, by themselves, are worth the side trip from Akko to Haifa.
The gardens are the most important religious site of the Bahai and a UNESCO Heritage site. The best view of the gardens is of the viewpoint from the top of Mount Carmel where you can see them. However, if you want to visit you need to go on one of the organized tours from the Bahai. There is no other way of visiting them.
The Bahá’í Gardens contain a staircase of nineteen terraces on the northern slope of Mount Carmel. At the heart of the complex stands the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb – the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith. The different sections of the gardens offer different experiences, with graveled paths, hedges, flowers, and trees. The gardens also offer incredible panoramic views of Haifa, the Galilee Hills, the Mediterranean Sea, and even Akko.
#11 Eat some amazing food
Akko is a great foodies destination. Well, all of Israel is, but Akko is particular offers great experiences for foodies. Besides the widely famous fish and seafood in Uri Buri that we mentioned earlier, you can have some amazing food on the market and other street food joints.
We are huge fans of street food, and we usually have at least one street food meal every day. In Akko, we had the best Baba goulash of our lives, but the Hummus, the falafel, and Shawarma were also pretty good.
Unfortunately, Israel food tends to be on the expensive side, but falafel and hummus in the market are very budget-friendly and in Akko, you have many stalls selling those. There you’ll also find many of the famous middle eastern sweets like baklava, kanafeh or halva.
Best time to visit Akko
The climate in Akko is mainly Mediterranean with hot and dry summers, while winters are mild and more humid. In Summer the highest temperatures are in August and reach an average of 30º C while during Winter the lowest average is in January wit 17º C.
So, Akko is an all-year-round tourist destination. It’s never too cold and despite winters being wetter, it doesn’t rain that much. However, if you want sun and hot, then Summer is your best bet.
Finally, we need to mention that Akko is a popular destination, but not too much. Even during peak season in Summer, you won’t get those unpleasant crowds of tourists – maybe avoid Summer weekends (Friday and Saturdays), if you have flexibility. Though we wouldn’t worry too much about it.
where to stay in Akko
Akko has a rather small city, so you can easily stay in the center and walk everywhere. Or if you want to use the beach, you can stay in one of the hotels by the beach and then walk to the center.
Best hotel in Acre- close to the beach
If you want to stay by the beach, the hotel we recommend is Palm Beach hotel, which right by the beach, it was great facilities and a very good breakfast. If you are driving, it’s very well located too as you can easily park there. Check prices here.
Best budget hotel in Acre
The Akko gate hostel is probably the best budget option in Akko. It’s probably the cheapest option and the rooms are fairly good with climatization, WIFI, and private bathroom. Another good option is the HI – Akko knights hostel. Akko has many great things for a traveler but budget accommodation isn’t one of them. There are very few budget options, so if you find a good deal, take it!
If you are now happy with any of these, you can have a look at some of the best hotels in Akko on booking.com.
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