Traveling to Israel? I bet Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are already included in your itinerary, but what about Akko? Also known as Acre, this city located along the northern coast of Israel is an absolute gem. An UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s guaranteed to stun your senses with its mysterious crusaders halls, exotic market and amazing views of the mediterranean. If you’re planning a trip to Israel, do yourself a huge favor and add a day in Akko (Acre) to your itinerary.
Living in Israel, we’re privileged to have this world-class historic city within driving distance. Akko offers a thrilling mix of archeology, mystery, the blue mediterranean sea and some delicious ethnic food. We always take our guests there and they LOVE it, so here I am today, sharing the top things to do in Akko. I’m going to cover some of the most amazing things we like to do while visiting this ancient Arab-Jewish city and then tell you a little bit about how to get there and where to stay.
- 9 Awesome Things to Do in Akko, Israel
- 1. Walk through the Halls of the Knights
- 2. Visit the Medieval Market
- 3. Follow the underground Templar tunnel
- 4. Breath in the sea air on the city walls
- 5. Taste the local food in the market
- 6. Visit the Hammam
- 7. Enjoy a break next to the fountain
- 8. Climb the Ottoman cannons
- 9. See a museum
- 10. Enjoy the Akko Festival
- How to get to and around Akko
- Where to stay in Akko
9 Awesome Things to Do in Akko, Israel
1. Walk through the Halls of the Knights
A thousand years ago the crusaders invaded the holy land to conquer Jerusalem back from the hands of “the Saracens” – the term used at the time to describe the local Arabs. This was an age of romance and chivalry, when a knight in shining armour was a very real thing. In Akko, you can experience life in a crusader’s town like nowhere else in the world.
These knights built their own small town in Akko, complete with lively streets, thriving markets and a majestic fortress. They lived in Akko for a couple of centuries until the Saracens – lead by Sallah A Din – sent them back to Europe. Their cherished settlement was then covered in dirt and remained hidden from sight for centuries. It was only in 1990 that the city of Akko decided to excavate the ancient town and bring it back to light. This ever continuing extensive excavation and preservation project allows us to experience the amazing medieval town of the crusaders in a truly thrilling way.
As a visitor, you’ll enter The Kingdom Of The Knights through this humble gate.
Armed with an audio guide and a map, you are free to roam the excavated streets and alleys. Sounds and colorful moving images bring the streets back to life all around you for a unique multimedia experience.
One of the tour highlights is seeing the great Dining Halls of the knights. You can actually have a wedding here these days, hence the huge tables and benches, medieval style. The original stone pillars and the colorful banners of the knights that surround you make it easy to imagine you’ve traveled back in time. Kids and grownups alike love these halls!
2. Visit the Medieval Market
Your visit to the Crusaders’ Fortress will take you to a beautiful reconstructed market area where artisans engage in medieval crafts and arts. You can buy their art or just spend some time looking at them work. You are within the excavated city so the location couldn’t be more perfect.
They even have game boards (rather than board games!) for the complete medieval market experience!
3. Follow the underground Templar tunnel
Indiana Jones meets the Da Vinci Code! Have you heard about the secret order of the Templars? They too were here during the crusades and true to their secretive heritage they left their mark in the form of an underground tunnel connecting the fortress with the beach.
The tunnel was discovered in the 1990’s and has since been fully excavated and made safe for visiting. There is sea water in the tunnel but fortunately they put in a wooden deck so you don’t have to get your feet wet. You enter one end near the fortress and walk along the tunnel –
Coming out to this view –
Which brings me to the next recommendation –
4. Breath in the sea air on the city walls
Akko is an historic port city of strategic importance. During the 18th and 19th century, its Ottoman rulers fortified the city with a strong stone wall built around it. Today you can walk along the wall for amazing views of the Mediterranean. It’s not always very clean but the breeze and views are worth it.
Make sure you stop in one of the many observation points along the wall. Originally made for soldiers to shoot through, they now provide perfect photo opportunities. Try this suggested route along the Wall of Akko.
5. Taste the local food in the market
Akko is famous for its Old City bazaar. It’s absolutely worth a visit in its own right, so make sure to immerse yourself in the colors, sounds and scents of this fishing port’s market.
Sa’eed’s Hummus place is famous across the country and offers delicious fresh hummus with extras served with warm homemade pita bread. Yum! This is a popular lunch joint that can get crowded but that’s part of the charm of this local experience. Don’t be too late. Once they run out of hummus, they close for the day.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat! Street vendors offer a variety of homemade authentic candy. These will preserve quite well so you can get a few pieces as gifts for your friends back home.
For a healthier option, try the variety of caramelised nut-based sweets. Every type of nut and seed is available, all baked in delicious caramel!
6. Visit the Hammam
The beautifully reconstructed Hammam is one of Akko’s historic gems. Hammam means Turkish bath and this one was a center of local social life for centuries –
Yup, today the only ones enjoying a traditional back rub are these statues. The Hammam was turned into an interactive museum. A virtual guide takes you from one room to another telling you all about this establishment and the people who have operated it through the centuries.
7. Enjoy a break next to the fountain
Need a break from all the walking? Looking for a place where you can sit down in the shade and nibble on the sweets you got at the market? Try the magical garden right by the visitors center (near the entrance to the Crusaders’ Halls).
This is where your tour of Akko will likely begin and end. Sit by the small fountain under the canopy of old trees and just relax. There’s a small cafeteria, vending machines and bathrooms nearby too.
8. Climb the Ottoman cannons
Across the road from the visitor’s center, you’ll see another piece of the Old Wall. This one has real cannons too! Kids love climbing on these authentic cannons that date back to Napoleon’s time. These metal weapons actually saved Akko from being taken over by the French emperor!
9. See a museum
Akko has several art museums and galleries that are well worth a visit. If you want to stick to the historic perspective, the Treasures In The Wall museum is your best bet. These rich collections of crafts and objects from various periods are on display literally within the old wall (hence the name of this museum). For modern art, try the Okashi Museum.
10. Enjoy the Akko Festival
Yes, I know, this post is supposed to offer you nine awesome things to do in Akko. Here’s a bonus tenth item! This one is very seasonal, so maybe it should be numbered “nine and a half”?
Getting to the point, Akko is the home of the Israeli Festival of Fringe Theatre. Every year during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the city turns into a local Edinburgh. The shows themselves are usually in Hebrew but there are many street performances outside too. The exact dates change each year according to the Jewish holiday calendar but if you’re planning on visiting Israel during September or October find out if you can catch this very special festival.
How to get to and around Akko
I hope you’re convinced by now that you should add Akko to your itinerary! It’s really easy to get here and to get around town.
Traveling by car?
Akko is a short half an hour drive from Haifa or an hour and a half from Tel Aviv. There’s ample parking by the visitors center where your visit begins at a reasonable fee of $5 a day. There’s some free parking in the area but you could find yourself driving in the alleys of the Old City – a slow and nerve wracking experience you probably want to avoid. The address for your GPS is: 1, Weizman street, Acre.
Using Public Transportation?
If you don’t have a car, you’ll find that Akko is one of the easiest places to get to using public transportation. Not only are there frequent busses coming in from Haifa, there’s even a train station. You can easily board a train in Tel Aviv in the morning and be in Akko at around 10AM to start your fun filled day and return back to Tel Aviv in the late evening. The train station in Akko is about a mile away from the Old City. Easy enough to walk but you can also get bus or a taxi if you prefer.
And now, you can even take the ferry to Akko! The ferry can take you from Haifa to Akko and back. It goes out twice a day in each direction. At only 55 shekels (around $14) each way, it’s a great way to sail the mediterranean too.
Getting around while in Akko
Once in the Old City, just use your legs! Distances are short and with so much to see and do on the way, there’s no point in getting any transportation. Most visitors choose a round route, getting to the walls by the sea via Templar Tunnel and returning through the busy colorful bazaar. Start at the visitor’s center where they’ll give you a map and help you with instructions. Don’t worry about getting lost a little, it’s part of the fun!
Where to stay in Akko
Your first question is whether or not to stay in Akko. It’s a great day trip destination from Haifa and even from Tel Aviv. It can also be worked into any itinerary of the Western Galilee. That said, it’s entirely possible to spend two or three days in the city to really soak up the atmosphere and add more museums and other attractions to your Akko trip.
If you decide to stay in Akko, there are many options to choose from. Backpackers and low-budget travelers should check out the Akko youth hostel that’s perfectly located right by the visitors center. It’s clean, spacious and comes highly recommended. If you can’t find a room there, try the Akko Gate Hostel as another affordable option.
For families or couples, look into getting a vacation rental. They’re a whole lot cheaper than what you might think and many are now available through Booking.com. I prefer working with Booking, as it allows me to keep my reservations in one place and work directly with a reputable company.
Here are some fantastic vacation rental options in Akko. Click through to see images, reviews and prices for your dates. Or just search Booking on your own.
Sweet Little House – Located less than half a mile away from the Old City, yet in a quiet residential neighborhood this small vacation rental gets excellent reviews.
Acre Two Wells Zimmer – A romantic place for couples within the Old City, right by the walls and the seaside. Modern amenities along with a fully renovated authentic interior – complete with two wells!
Four Hearts – Acre’s Sea Side Suite – A magnificent rooftop apartment with a luxurious interior complemented by amazing views of the mediterranean.
There’s a lot to see and do in Akko and even more around it. If you have any questions I’d love to try and help, just leave me a comment here. Or just let me know what you think of Akko, if you would like to visit someday or have visited and have your own tips to share!
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